Guest Columnist Mike Fitzgerald

Man, my head is spinning.

Here’s why: About a year ago I started driving around in one big circle. After one of the local trailer parks here in Moab, where I lived for close to three years, suddenly turned into a shooting gallery, I decided to leave for my hometown of Chicago with my best and fearless friend Barbara.

My Mom still lives near there, along with my brother, aunt and a bunch of old friends. Good call, right? Well, we arrived safely in the $400 van with nearly 300,000 miles on it. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, and then this event called “winter” moved in even faster than usual.

Oh yeah, below zero in December, blinding snowstorms, icy and impassable roads. Where did everyone go? Even my mustache was frozen. And I don’t have one.

Plus, an isolated shooting by a guy who didn’t even live in the Moab trailers seemed like child’s play after witnessing the daily mayhem in Chicago, especially on the South Side where I grew up. No one was hurt in Moab. The bodies sadly pile up in the Windy City.

And Michigan City, Indiana, where my Mom lives, is another dangerous place. They didn’t build the state prison there for nothing.

So, with my winter-savvy Mom’s blessing, we hit the frigid road for a warmer and less-crowded destination and ended up in Arizona? Nah. Southern California? Uh, not really.

Pinedale, Wyoming. Well, it was a lot smaller. And let me try to explain going from cold to even colder.

Pinedale was my last stop in a 32-year newspaper career that spanned 20 locations stretched from Key West to Hawaii. The owners back in Wyo threw me over the side, like many others in the print industry, for financial reasons back in 2009.

But I loved living in Pinedale and made many friends in the town of 2,000 as editor of the weekly Roundup. So on the way from my Mom’s to a beach somewhere, a friend offered us a cheap and nice place to stay in the scenic mountain town. So the next thing we knew the old Caravan was slipping and sliding off Interstate 80 and up Highway 191 (yep, the same one in Moab).

It was a lot of fun. The Cowboy and World Famous Corral bars, two-thirds of the “barmuda triangle,” warmed the body and soul, especially with all the familiar faces.

Yeah, the snow was up to the street sign, but the only shooting around Pinedale was for nearby world-class elk. The town, at 7,800 feet and nestled in the Wind River Mountains, was a real-life Christmas card.

Ice fishing, even with the ice, was a blast and the blustery months soon became a short, but ideal summer, especially on Fremont Lake. There was an August day that even fishermen only dream of – 10 big lake trout.

But early September in Pinedale meant buzzing chainsaws cutting firewood and nighttime temperatures below freezing. It was snowing just after Labor Day and our old bones resisted staying for a full and bitter winter.

Las Vegas would be the final resting place. Why not? I was sports editor of the Las Vegas Sun back in the 1980s. Covered the UNLV Running Rebels, some of the biggest boxing matches of the century and still have many friends there.

Plus, it was warm. In fact it was steaming hot, 100 degrees every day, and to make a long column short, the city was not the same. Visiting the heavily guarded Strip and Fremont Street were one thing during the post “Tark the Shark” era.

But living there, even for one test month, was insane. Better pack an Uzi, let alone a concealed weapon, if you want to live in Las Vegas today. The violent crime is everywhere.

Four former neighborhoods were war zones. The weekly where we stayed seemed like a timeshare for visiting and local gangbangers. There was even a drive-by shooting right in front of the place on Paradise Road.

Las Vegas these days doesn’t need a mayor. It needs a warden.

So we were thankfully back in the old van, still in one piece, none of our stuff stolen, huffing and puffing to where the latest adventure began. Moab, Utah.

This is such a beautiful place in every way and we’re so happy to be living here again. It might even be the last stop.

Mike Fitzgerald is a freelance writer. He loves fishing, watching football and calling his Mom every Sunday.