Various groups from around the country ask me to speak, and I accept as many of the invitations as I can. It’s always fun to visit a new place and meet new people, and my hosts have been uniformly hospitable. But my speaking gig this past weekend is one I won’t forget for quite some time. Jenny and I were the guests of Sundance, Robert Redford’s fabled resort high in the Rocky Mountains of Utah, which sponsors an author series. Last weekend the Sundance lectern was mine, and on Saturday a sold-out gathering greeted me in the Tree Room restaurant to eat lunch and hear me talk about both Marley & Me and my upcoming memoir, The Longest Trip Home. It was a fun event, and I enjoyed meeting so many Marley fans. But the best was yet to come. To show their appreciation, my Sundance sponsors treated us to a dream weekend getaway. They put us up in a charming, cedar-sided cabin beside a roaring, white-water stream. Our windows offered a stupendous view of the mountains, and the fireplace took the chill off the nights. We rode the ski lift up to 7,500 feet, hiked alpine trails, ate great meals, sampled Sundance label wines (I can recommend the pinot noir), herd the call of a rutting elk, and rode horses up to 8,000 feet. Mine was a sure-footed fellow named Donnie — yes, as in Osmond.) In every directions, the scenery was so spectacular as to be almost numbing. And truly humbling.
I had not been to Utah since I was eight years old on a family vacation, and frankly I did not have much curiosity to return. The weekend at Sundance, soaking in the mountain wilds, changed that. Now I want to return with our three kids and hit all the national parks in the state. If I counted correctly, there are six of them, plus the northern rim of the Grand Canyon. What a starkly beautiful, desolate land.
Thank you, Sundance, for inviting me to speak in your series, which this year has included Madeleine Albright, Christopher Hitchens, Maureen Dowd and others. And thank you for such generous hospitality. Special thanks to the efficient and amiable Tracy Waters, who handled all the details and made sure everything went off without a hitch. The only bummer was waking up at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning to head back. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Here is an article and photos that ran in a local paper about my talk: