IN THE FINAL moments of "The Electric Horseman," Robert Redford frees his stallion in what has to be everybody's dream of the perfect Mountain Meadow. The Alpine landscape is so dazzing you leave the movie the movie thinking the scriptwriter gave the horse the very best of the happily everafters.
As Hollywood knows well, the out-of-doors makes a magnificent backdrop, and moviegoers are forever nudging and whispering to each other how much they would like to visit the place they are watching on the screen. This summer, the Utah Media Center is making such a trip possible.
The center, a nonprofit media resource group, has planned an eight-day movie-buff's bus tour to the locales of many of the dozens of movies filmed over the decades in Utah's rugged mountain and red-rock country. It will explore the sites of such John Ford classics as "Stagecoach," "Wagon Master" and "The Searchers" on an itinerary that takes in several national parks and monuments and the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Along the way, travelers will see eight of the movies filmed at the places they are visiting. For example, after a first-day viewing of "Jeremiah Johnson," the story of an early American mountain man again starring Redford, the tour departs Salt Lake City for Redford's Sundance Resort in the snowy Wasatch Mountains and the film's locale. Afterwards, there's a western-style barbecue at Sundance.
Utah is Redford's adopted state, and his movies play a big part in the excursion. On another day, the film is "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," screened after a visit to the southern Utah ghost town of Grafton, where many of the scenes are set. Though "Horseman" won't be shown, its scenically stunning climax took place in nearby Zion National Park at the mouth of a deep, narrow canyon.
Near Moab, the group will watch Blake Edward's "The Wild Rovers" starring William Holden, and they will tour Canyonlands and Arches national parks. Arches gets its name from its soaring red rock bridges, 89 of them, believed to be the largest assemblage of natural stone arches in the world. Other movies made in the area: "Rio Grande," "The Commancheros," "Rio Conchos," Bandolero."
John Ford and dozens of other filmmakers have made the towering red buttes of Monument Valley (a Navajo tribal park) almost as familiar to movie fans as their own back yard. The valley is the setting for "Stagecoach," "Fort Apache," "My Darling Clementine," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "How the West Was Won" and "Cheyenne Autumn." If a TV ad has a new-model auto parked atop a butte, it probably was shot somewhere in the neighborhood.
The tour will explore the sandy trails of the valley in four-wheel drive vehicles, past the hogans of sheepherding Navajos who live there now and the cliff dwellings and stone paintings of the Anasazis who were the residents centuries ago. That night, the film is "The Searchers" with John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter and Ward Bond.
The media center is hoping for two busloads of 40 people each for the tour, planned for Sept. 3-11. The group designed the excursion this year as a money-raising project. If it is successful, it may be repeated next year. The cost (per person, double) is $794, which includes eight nights lodging in hotels and resorts; three dinners, seven lunches and two breakfasts; and all entrance fees. A professional guide and a film expert will accompany the bus. An optional 70-minute scenic flight over the Grand Canyon is $42 per person.
Ah yes, the other movies to be seen en route: "Wagon Master," "The Planet of the Apes" (shot near Kanab, known as "Little Hollywood" because of the more than 50 movies and TV series filmed there since 1931), "Drums Along the Mohawk" (Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert in a setting far removed from New York State's real Mohawk River) and "The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (a presentation of the Utah Media Center).
For information and reservations: Western Leisure, Inc., P.O. Box 9427, Salt Lake City, Utah 84109 (800) 453-4522. MONEY MATTERS: In a time of fluctuating currencies, travelers abroad are well-advised to carry travelers checks in both U.S. dollars and the currency of the countries they are visiting.
"This mix," says Otto J. Ruesch, president of Ruesch International foreign exchange of Washington, "will give you some degree of hedge if the dollar strengthen or weakens." If the dollar is strong, use the U.S. checks; if it weakens, switch to the checks in the local currency. If you are visiting a number of countries in a short time, Swiss franc checks for them all may be your best bet. It's also a good idea to carry along in cash $50 to $100 of the foreign currency to pay for a cab and luggage tips on arrival.
Travelers should be cautious about use of their credit cards abroad, Ruesch warns. The exchange rate at the time a purchase is made may be more favorable than when the charge is converted to dollars days or weeks later. In an uncertain money market, the billed cost could end up substantially higher than anticipated.
Ruesch and Deak-Perera are two foreign exchange operations that charge no fee for selling travelers checks in U.S. dollars and a number of European and Asian currencies. B&B by BOAT: Cruise the Chesapeake Bay by day and spend the night ashore, with the comfort of a spacious room and a long hot shower. That's the novel twist to the bed and breakfast trend offered by Sharp-Adams, Inc. of Annapolis.
A B&B registry with 110 host homes in Maryland, Sharp-Adams will help sailors plot a bay cruise that allows them to dock one or more nights where they can stretch out in a private home. The cost is between $30 and $55 a couple per night on land.
One suggestion: In the not unusual case of three couples sharing a four-passenger boat, the couples could take turns spending the night at a bed and breakfast home.
For nonsailing tourists who nevertheless want to soak up the nautical atmosphere of Annapolis, partners Cecily Sharp-Whitehill and B.J. Adams will put them up in a B&B sailboat (or 38-foot trawler) moored in Spa and Back creeks or at the city harbor. The charge is $55 for from one to four persons per night, plus a $12 fee if the boat is to be moved to the main harbor. In the morning, a continental breakfast will be delivered on deck.
For more information, contact: Sharp-Adams, Inc., 8 Gentry Court, Annapolis, Md. 21403 (301) 269-6232. EPCOT UPDATE: Three more attractions have been completed at the new Disney park that opened in October next to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.: the ride-through portion of Journey Into Imagination (a major addition to Future World); the Electronic Forum, where visitors call up the latest news, weather or sports on touch-sensitive television screens; and an exhibit of ancient Chinese sculpture (including bricks from the Great Wall) at the Chinese pavilion in the World Showcase. SCOTLAND'S GATEWAY: A delegation from the Scottish Tourist Board toured the United States this month promoting the idea of making Glasgow, not London, the American traveler's gateway to the British Isles. Of an average 300,000 visitors annually from this country, two-thirds arrive via London.
Unlike London's busy Heathrow airport, says board chairman Alan R. Devereux, Scotland's international terminal at Prestwick, about 40 minutes south of Glasgow, is relatively hassle-free. And the country is spending large sums to improve rail and road between the city and the airport.
The hitch is that there are fewer flights (Northwest, the only U.S. carrier, plans a total of nine a week from New York and Boston to Prestwick this summer) and the fares may not be competitive. Northwest is quoting a $697 roundtrip charge from Washington (via Boston) to Prestwick from June through mid-August. The Pan Am fare for the same period (nonstop) to London currently is $549.
The delegation is also trying to attract new U.S. tourists. Surveys indicate that "by far the largest percentage" of Americans now are repeat visitors, says Devereux. And there's a nationalistic factor: "Scotland is promoted as a part of Britain. We're trying to get away from this."
Among the touring possibilities in the land of glens and lochs and heather on the moor: a self-guided "Scottish Roamin' Holiday" that includes seven nights in bed and breakfast inns for $199.
Or: "The Whisky Trail," a 70-mile introduction to Scotland's malt whisky industry near Aberdeen on the northeast coast. Sixty of Scotland's 110 malt whisky distilleries are located in the surrounding Grampian Region, and a sign-posted road directs visitors to five where guides conduct hour-long tours: Glenfiddich, the Glenlivet (the first licensed distillery, established in 1824), Glenfarclas, Tamdhu (on the banks of the river Spey) and Strathisla.
(Scotch whisky, as we know it, is a blend of malt whiskies with grain whisky.)
The route takes you, says the tourist board's literature, through "one of the highest villages in Scotland. . .where a great variety of whiskies can be purchased close to their source of production." Highest in altitude is what they mean, no doubt.
For more information: British Tourist Authority, 680 Fifth Avenue, New York City, N.Y. 10019 (212) 581-4700.