I woke at 5:30 the next morning, Wednesday, September 5th . The sky was
just getting light in the east. In the night, I got some neighbors: the
dark SUV I’d heard pull up, two semi trucks, and a white car parked nose-to-nose
with Satori. There was still plenty of room in the huge parking lot. I
was surprised to see Kevin still working inside the store. I got a Dr.
Pepper and a Mounds bar for breakfast. When I came back, the SUV was gone,
and there was a girl in the white car running the engine. There was a chilly
breeze out. I put on blue jeans and dug out my hoodie. Getting dressed,
I saw some sleeping bags out in the brush. A guy was waiting for the girl
in the car to return. I figured they were traveling, decided to stop and
camp out, and she was trying to warm up in the car. (I suspect the whole
camping out thing was the guy’s idea.)
I still felt clean, so I skipped a morning shower and pulled out of the
Border Inn a little after 6 AM. (I was still on playa time.) The Sun was
just coming over the mountains as I headed down that amazingly straight
road, and it came up blazing. Far off, I could see the profile of distant
Notch Peak. It was 12 miles before I got any kind of curve. I drove into
the mountains, the Confusion Range. The road turned down some deep ravines,
and the bright morning Sun kept appearing suddenly and mercilessly. When
I take pictures, I like to play around with light and shadow, but light
and shadow were playing around with me that morning.
I emerged in the green Tule Valley, and then climbed into the House Range.
An RV sat parked at the turnoff for Blind Valley. It was right at 7 AM
when I came over the crest of the hills, and the land ahead gleamed brightly
in the sunlight. It was Sevier Lake, a dry endorheic lake bed, a relic
of the ancient Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. Under the morning Sun, it shimmered
with the ghosts of waters past. The glare improved as I drove along, and
the Sun rose higher in the sky.
A half hour later, the outline of trees appeared far ahead, and I soon
arrived in Delta, Utah. At the 7/11, I got $30 worth of gas. It was 6 cents
cheaper than the Sinclair station a block away. A brown haired girl named
Maisa waited on me. Delta’s city park impressed me the only other time
I came through town, and it was still pretty. Green lawns and wide streets
made it seem very friendly. It was 70 degrees out. I took time to call
home. I passed irrigation canals on my way out of town. Highway 50 turns
south towards Holden east of Delta. It was 66 miles to Salina.
I passed an F350 pulling an RV and an ATV. The road turned north at
Holton, and then merged with Interstate 15. The wind really picked up.
I munched on my bag of trail mix, which was still good. Coming over a hill,
the town of Scipio spread out across the floor of a green valley. That’s
where I got off the interstate to follow Highway 50. Chevron stations consistently
had the highest prices of any gas station I’d seen that trip. Outside of
town, it was 27 miles to Salina. I was surprised to see a handful of cattle
grazing beside the road near mile marker 134. They had circumvented a cattleguard
and broken through a hole in the fence. I stopped to get a picture of wild
geese resting in a marshy field.
There were some gorgeous red cliffs near the Sevier County line. The highway
was busy with lots of trucks; I didn’t take it personally when they passed
me. It was 9:19 when I got to Salina City, 159 miles from the Border Inn.
It was 75 degrees out. I passed the Butch Cassidy Campground, which looked
comfortable, with lots of trees. I pulled over at the Subway near the interstate
and got a footlong sandwich. I figured I could save half and eat it later.
I checked my email. Wild Childe and friends were stranded in Wyoming after
an accident that totaled the truck pulling the trailer they’d used for
the CORE project. One person was in the hospital! Satori didn’t need oil
just yet, but I bought a quart at the garage next door. A grey cat slinked
around the parking lot.
Pulling onto Interstate 70, a sign warned it was 110 miles to the next
services. I turned east just before 10 AM, facing a tough headwind. It
was a pretty day, and the landscape alongside the highway was very colorful.
I wanted to stop and take pictures, but I knew I’d never get anywhere that
day if I did that. I needed to put some miles behind me. The land was gorgeous
and rugged. At Exit 73, there was… nothing, much like Exit 86. The exits
were for the big ranches way off in the distance and had no services. Exit
91 pointed towards Capitol Reef National Park. The sign said there was
gas, and it was technically right, but the station was 27 miles away to
|I got the CD player working and put on some music. The interstate went
through deep cuts in the earth and canyons of red rock. At mile marker
112, the steep grade slowed me down to 45 MPH. The road danced around massive
pillars of stone as it climbed to Ghost Rock (7,270 feet). I stopped at
the next rest area for a pit stop. Native Americans sold handmade goods
under a sign that said “No Vending.”
It was 35 miles to Green River. Past Exit 131, where there was nothing,
a Highway Patrolman pulled in front of me to pull over a silver car. Sharp
curves and steep grades started about five miles later. Signs warned trucks
to check their brakes. The downhill grades were steep, and I passed two
different runaway truck ramps—one of which ran straight into a canyon wall.
The towering canyon walls, steep, plunging highway and high speeds made
for a harrowing drive until I emerged out the east side of Mother Nature’s
fortress, the San Rafael Reef. The scary ride was made even more tense
because I happened to be playing the music of a fight scene from the “Captain
America: the First Avenger” soundtrack. I made a mental note to play Dean
Martin or Perry Como songs the next time I’m on a road that’s trying to
It was just before noon playa time when I arrived in Green River. A quarter
hour later, I got off the interstate and turned south on Highway 191. The
landscape turned very colorful. Thirty miles past the interstate, a bike
trail appeared next to the highway. I passed the turnoff for Arches National
Park, and I was soon in Moab, Utah. The outskirts of town had several RV
parks, many with special rates for backpackers. One had a hot tub. It seemed
like a very bicycle-friendly town. Moab had a music festival, an antique
car show every year, a half marathon in March and an “other half” marathon
in October. Traffic got heavy as I went downtown. Every business was booming,
every parking lot full of cars. There were bookstores, trading posts, motels;
I don’t think I saw one empty storefront on the main drag.
I stopped at the Walker’s gas station and got $30 worth of gas. Heading
out of town, I was pleased to see the Lazy Lizard Hostel was still in business.
It was 50 miles to Monticello. I passed Wilson Arch, which I had thought
was called Williams Arch all this time. It was a pleasant drive. The road
was a good 2-lane asphalt, with minimal shoulders.
I crossed over into Colorado, having driven the width of Utah. At Dove
Creek I passed the Lonesome Dove Bar. Ute Mountain loomed ahead as I drove
over pleasant rolling hills. I had thought about stopping at the Lowry
Ruins, but I never saw the turnoff, unless it was the same as the turn
for Hovenweep National Monument. (It wasn’t.) A mile of the highway was
adopted by the Dobie Brothers Fan Club.
I got to Cortez about an hour after leaving Moab. I needed to look up a
place to stay for the night, so down the highway I pulled over at the Ute
Mountain Travel Center. After searching online with my smartphone, the
prospects seemed bleak. One RV park I called said they only rent spaces
by the month. Another place had no showers or bathrooms. There was a place
in Kirtland, down the road from Shiprock, that sounded interesting, but
I couldn’t find any info on it. I decided to head for Shiprock and trust
to providence that I would find someplace for the night.
||I made it to Monticello (“Home of the Hideout”) just after 2. (My times
might be screwed up from here on.) It had a nice city park with a very
respectful veteran’s memorial. That was where I turned east on Highway
491 towards Cortez, 59 miles away.
I calculated I had about 5 hours to sunset. My intention was to go to
Chaco Canyon and spend the night there, then explore in the morning. It
didn’t look like I would make it by dark—and then I realized the Visitor’s
Center would close a long time before sunset. What would I do if I went
all that way and there were no spaces left in the campground? It looked
like Farmington would be my best chance at finding a place to go to ground
for the night.
I crossed the border into New Mexico at 4:18, 5:18 local time. I’d been
on the road for 10 hours. I was in the Navajo Nation, and the spiky profile
of Shiprock came into view ahead. I was listening to Four Corners Public
Radio. When I got to Highway 64, I turned east and started looking for
some place to camp for the night. The highway was very wide all the way
to Farmington. I was tired and hungry and stressed-out, and somewhere down
64 I decided the heck with it—I would get a motel room. Once I got to Farmington,
I drove around, and finally settled on an old place called the Economy
Inn, right on Main Street. For $45, I got a room with AC, a TV, fridge,
microwave, a shower… and it was “near the bus station.” I took a hot shower,
ate the other half of my Subway sandwich, and tried to relax. I’d driven
506 miles that day, and I was beat. I called home, and the Missus thought
getting a motel room was a good idea. I tried to catch up on my writing.
The Weather Channel said it was going to be 93 on Thursday, and partly
cloudy—no chance of rain. It looked like I was finally going to make it
to Chaco Canyon. I wondered about an electrical outlet high on the wall,
close to the ceiling. I watched a little TV, and then went to bed. It was
neat to sleep in a real bed again for the first time in over two weeks.
Last updated: September, 2012