2019 Running Trip – Day 7 – Salt Lake City

Day 7! The end of each running trip always comes with great emotions. We had a great day planned for Salt Lake City, and I knew the day exploring this big city would feel like many days from past running trips. I was excited to be in a big city, and Salt Lake City is a beautiful one to explore.

We woke up at Rob’s place in Park City and drove downhill to Salt Lake City. The drive between the two cities is a fun one through a mountain pass! We were basically commuting into town with many others. To start the day, we drove west through the city to the Great Salt Lake. You can’t visit Salt Lake without actually seeing the Great Salt Lake right? The sunrise provided us with great scenes.


I thanked my father-in-law Tim Bell for his contribution to the trip. Grandpa Timmy to my kids, we’re lucky to see him often as he jets over to Ames to run errands, drop off his famous baked goods, and treat himself to a delicious Chik-fil-A sandwich. We joined Tim a few months back in Westside, Iowa for the town’s 150-year celebration and had a blast.


We headed back into the city, parked our car, and took off for a delightful morning run. The Gilgal Sculpture Garden was our first stop, a random garden in the city that hosts an eclectic mix of sculptures. I truly enjoyed this particular sculture and its randomness. I thanked my sister and brother-in-law, Anne and Don Davidson, one last time. Anne always likes to sponsor Runner’s Choice photos, because she knows that I get a kick out of finding random stuff for her.


The Salt Lake City and County Building sticks out in the Salt Lake City skyline. It made finding it very easy. I thanked Kyle and Ashley Schilling at the stop. Kyle is an Iowa State Fraternity brother who is from Ames. Kyle & Ashley have two adorable kids and live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The two of them are very philanthropically minded and do much in their local community.


A short jaunt away, we found the Capitol Theatre. I love old city theatres as they always seem to stick out in a unique way. I thanked Dean & Carla Breneman for their ongoing support. My dad and I stayed with the Brenemans in Davenport, Iowa a few years back when we drove the Mississippi River. During the trip I see that Cubs hired David Ross as their new manager. This is a decision I support 100%!


Vivint SmartHome Arena is the home of the Utah Jazz. Throughout the trip, we’ve gotten a kick out of seeing Karl Malone’s name on car dealerships in Utah. The Mailman is apparently doing the car business thing well. Next to Malone and his trusty sidekick John Stockton, I did my best impersonation of my favorite Utah Jazz player (and Cyclone great) Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek always did a random wipe of his face at the free throw line. I thanked my main man Robbie Marsden, a former colleague and sports enthusiast. Ross Roti and I joined Robbie in our run through Philadelphia a few years back and had an awesome time.


Speaking of Iowa State Cyclones playing for the Jazz, we had to find the banner for one of our hometown heroes – Georges Niang. Niang has been an amazing ambassador for Iowa State and Ames, and we Cyclones love seeing him succeed in the NBA.


We stumbled upon this awesome Union Pacific building, and I thanked Shane & Jenna Omann. Jenna and Shane live in Charlotte with their two children that are perfect mixes of the two of them. I don’t get to see the two of them enough, but love running into them periodically over the holidays.


The world headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been located in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah since pioneers settled Salt Lake City in 1847. Mormonism is a big deal in Salt Lake City and Utah in general. It’s been really interesting to learn and witness how the religion has an affect on the region. It’s fascinating. Temple Square is the heart of the city, and all of the really-wide streets in Salt Lake City are named based on their location from Temple Square. Walking through the square is really interesting as you see and interact with missionaries from all over the world who are stationed there. I thanked Jason Brannon for this donation. I need to put together some stats on my donors for these trips, but if it serves me right, Jason has supported me each year. You’re the man Jason!


Our finish line in Downtown Salt Lake City was the State Capitol. It looks like a capitol building, eh? Leading up to the site, we enjoyed the historic houses and beautiful fall scenery. Salt Lake truly is a beautiful city full of energy. I thanked my state capitol loving friend and mentor David Almacy for his donation. A Washington, D.C. resident, political junkie, and former White House staffer under George W. Bush, his landmark selection made a lot of sense. Dave surprised me this fall with one of his father’s hats, a hat from the ballgame when Cal Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. It was an amazing gesture. Thanks Dave!


I also thanked Kevin Marks at the State Capitol. Kevin is a proud member of Phi Kappa Psi and friend of my parents. Dad and I met up with him in Dubuque when we drove the Mississippi River. Thanks Kevin!


We made a random pit stop at Mrs. Backer’s Pastry Shop looking for a coffee. While they didn’t have coffee, they had AMAZING baked goods. We needed a little pick me up, so we enjoyed a few tasty treats.


Leading up to my trip, I received an email from an undergraduate Phi Delt (Scott Michael) at the University of Utah, wanting to plan a small reception during our time in Salt Lake City. I was blown away, and much of our afternoon was spent with a Phi Delt theme. At the chapter house, I thanked a Phi Delt volunteer Will Schick. Will was a regional volunteer for the Fraternity in Pennsylvania and has been an amazing host for many members of our staff when they stroll through town. Thanks Will!


When talking about the Utah Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta, you won’t get very far before you hear the name Scott Mietchen. Scott is a proud Utahan and past president of the Fraternity who continues to have great influence on the chapter. In my 15 years with Phi Delt, Scott was on the board for 10 of those years. He’s a great friend. One of my favorite memories with Scott was snowmobiling in Wyoming. We met Scott at the house before our lunch and reception, and I had to get a pic with him.


Walking into the chapter house, I was filled with immense pride. The chapter is one of our most engaged chapters with the Iron Phi program. Collectively, their members have raised ~$80,000 through the program. Hanging on the walls are many Iron Phi Chapter banners that showcase their Iron Phi successes. An Iron Phi powerhouse!


We had a small lunch, and I was given the opportunity to address the students, chatting a bit about the running trip, Iron Phi, and philanthropy in general. It was a fun opportunity, and it might be my first in sweaty running clothes. Thanks for the opportunity guys!


The chapter presented Bret and I with Utah Utes mini helmets that will serve as a fun token from the trip. See that picture of J.W. Marriott in the background? He was the Founder of Marriott Hotels and was a member of Phi Delta Theta at the University of Utah!


After lunch, four of the undergraduates joined Bret and I as we hiked the Living Room Hike, an awesome hike that leaves from campus and provides amazing views of Salt Lake City.


At the top, I thanked Josh Ehlen again for his donation. Josh would love this hike. The Living Room name on the hike comes from the rock-formed chairs at the top, where you can sit an admire the views.


Our group of hikers at the top. We really enjoyed interacting with these guys along the way.


And one last photo with my running buddy for the week. It’s been incredible to share this journey with Zim. He’s an awesome dude and a fantastic travel partner. I also want to thank the folks at the Salt Lake Marathon for sending over an awesome shirt to wear throughout our run/hike through the city. Thanks Jennifer!


Zim enjoying one of the chairs.


We had a few more stops to hit at the University. The University of Utah has a beautiful campus. The university attracts students from all over the country. If you love outdoor sports and want a great education, there aren’t many places like the U that can provide both. We stopped at Rice-Ecceles Stadium, the home of the Utah Utes football team and the opening ceremony for the 2002 Olympic Games. At the stadium is the Olympic cauldron where I thanked Mindy Carlson, wife of my great pal Brad. Mindy is one of the more creative people I know, and I always love hearing about her projects.


Speaking of Carlsons, I thanked my little buddy Miles, Brad and Mindy’s adorable son. I was kind of surprised that we could get on the field. I really dig the name Miles for obvious reasons.


At the Student Union, we found the famous U. I love this simple logo! I thanked Mario Villa. Mario is a longtime friend who started his tenure with the Fraternity at the same time I did. I have many great memories with Mario, and he’s the most prideful Texas Longhorn you will find. I love visiting him in Austin.


Our last stop for the day was a local brewery – Squatters. The place was already packed at 5pm, so we took a seat at the bar and enjoyed a brew. Outside of the place, I thanked Andrew McGuire for his donation and was approached by a pug wearing a bumblebee costume. Andrew was a regional volunteer for Phi Delt before moving to the Netherlands to work for a few years. Now that he’s back in the States, we’re going to have to put him back to work.


That evening we enjoyed dinner and many laughs on Main Street Park City with Bret’s friends. The next morning, we left Park City early as we had a 6-hour drive in front of us to catch our flights in Las Vegas. The drive was a smooth one, but we had one last thing to do before going to the airport – Shine up the trusty van! We put 1,821 miles on the van to be exact! To give you a little context on that mileage, we could have driven from Ames, Iowa to Key West, Florida. Thanks trusty van! She deserved a wash. I thanked Ben & Genevieve Wechsler, Joe and Sarah’s children. While it may not be the picture with the most flare, this was an important stop!


Sitting here at the Las Vegas airport, and thinking back at the week, it almost seems like we were traveling for a month. Both of us are excited to get home, and for me, the most important thank you from the trip is the one to my wife, Tillie. The annual running trip always grounds and inspires me in many ways, and Tillie has always been so wonderful to allow me to continue to do it. She’s the best, and I’m a lucky dude. Now my goal is to convince her that we need to bring the kids out to Utah for a week-long camping trip. Might be a hard sell. Love you Tillie.


Utah, you are an amazing state. I hope that my pictures and posts have convinced you that you need to visit if you’ve never been. I’ve never been to a state where you experience something completely different around every corner. Each year, I’m falling more and more in the love with the western states and especially National Parks. They are true treasures. This morning I received a final donation for the trip that resulted in a fundraising total surpassing $4,000. This is a new record for me for a running trip, and I’m very thankful.

Bret and I will be doing a recap “Best of” post in the near future to help us document many of our favorite moments.


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