Monday, October 25, 2010

Moab to Ft. Collins. Day 5

I'm still a little under the weather. This damn head cold has been around for a week and a half. A night in a hotel room has helped, but I'm still stuffed and not sleeping well. I'm awake and fighting getting out of bed. I still haven't seen any of Moab other than some cliff silhouettes lit by the night moon.

I check my oil, fill up the tank, grab a coffee, and head to road 128 that runs along the Sorrel River. I start out thinking that I need to move quick to make up for a slow morning, but the road tells me otherwise. It's time to slow down, enjoy each turn, and admire it.

This is red cliff country. It's stunning, and each turn of the road is another reveal of natural art. It's hard to keep your eyes on the road. 

I turn off the radio, and listen to nothing but the sound of the wind and the engine. The air smells like sage. My road trip was worth this road.

So I reconnect to highway 70 and work my way into Colorado. I've driven this road three times now, almost always at night, and each time in the middle of summer. The Aspen leave are just starting to change, and this is likely the last weekend I'm getting over the pass before the early snows start to hit.

The air is dry. I pull over to fill the tank and the air tells me just how dry it is - I have to sit in the parking lot for about 20 minutes to stop a bloody nose. The nose bleed is bad, the view isn't.

Back on the road, twists and turns through the mountain passes.

I'm getting passed by everyone, some of them slow down and stare. Some smile and wave. One trucker gives me the finger. I can see him mouthing an obscenity at me as he passes by. I can still picture his face, his scrunched up red cheeks, and the irrational fury that was behind the wheel screaming at me impotently. I remember it, because every other trucker out there has been a gentlemen of the road. Passing gracefully, reaching a distance that his draft doesn't make me bounce around, some waving, some with big smiles. At night they have flashed their lights to let me know when I could pass them. I have to drive in their lane, they share it with me even though I'm not one of them.

Vail. Breckenridge. Other mountain towns. And now the big hill.

The Eisenhower-Johnson memorial tunnel is 60 miles outside of Denver, and is 11,158 ft high. The only higher tunnel is in China, and you have to take a train through it. Coming from the west, the climb is a two mile ascension. I'm moving at 20 MPH, and drafting and being drafted by, a semi. We are all in this really slow boat together, and only patience is going to get us over this hill.

I reach the top. The bus finishes its chorus of "I think I can" and begins the "I thought I could" song as it reaps the reward of a downhill descent to 5280 ft.

The rest of the ride is uneventful. I'm in Ft. Collins at 7:30 that night.

For those who asked, full sized pictures can be found here.

Next. The drive back. Far less enjoyable. At least I had company.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nevada to Moab - Day 4

It's about 9:00 am and I'm stepping out of the hot springs. The bus is already packed, and I decided that a quick splash before I hit the road sounded like a good idea. It was.

Note to self: put a hot tub in the garage so I can always take a nice mellow dip in the hot water before driving. It's better than beer.

I head out on the dirt road and see evidence of the old silver mine before I make it back to Highway 50.

Now begins the long drive to Moab - 528 Miles, several mountain passes, two desserts.
There aren't many signs out there, but when you see them, they have something to say.

I practice my rear-view mirror photography skills, there are no radio stations that I can get, and I have nothing to do other than stare at the horizon and try to remember the words to American Pie.

Mountain pass after mountain pass:
Pinto Summit -7376
Pancake summit -6517
Robinson Pass - 7607
Sacramento Pass - 7154
I'm climbing some of them at 40MPH, some at 20. Grade and momentum matter in this car.

Your imagination can run wild out there. You start remembering books that you read where people were alone and left to survive on their wits. Movies of people climbing from the weapons-tested rocks. I'm starting to think that much of this looks like Red dead Redemption. (Obilgatory video game reference)
After a while, the rocks start having faces.
Fortunately, they are smiling.

I reached the town of Ely NV. It is a small silver mining town with a couple of brothels (look for the rows of trucks with Utah license plates surrounding the buildings) and a few older victorian houses.

A quick note about fellow travellers on this road. There aren't many of them. The last time I took this road, I was travelling much like these two. They were heading from Moab to Reno - opposite of my drive, and twice as fast I'm sure.

I stopped in the middle of a dessert to help a Miata that had a flat tire. He couldn't find his jack and put the spare tire on. It was in the trunk - under the little flap on the right. He offered me a cold soda as thanks, I accepted. I had two grandfathers that taught me a little about self reliance. I'm driving away and thinking that I have never driven a car that hasn't had a jack and spare tire. I'm also thinking that I miss my grandparents.

Just outside of Ely, you head to Hwy 6 - The Grand Army of the Republic Highway. Its a grand name for a long straight a road that looks like this:

The sun starts to set and I use the light to my advantage. Yeah, I like long shadows.

The drive on Hwy 70 is normally beautiful, but I hit the turns too late to see the epic sunsets that light the buttes in Maxfield Parrish style.
It's getting late, so I pull into Moab around 10:45 and get a nice room at the "give them away" price. (About 40% less than the price of the room 30 minutes prior.)

Next: Day 5 - into Ft. Collins.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Onward to Colorado - Day 3

Sunday morning. It was my intent to head up Highway 50 into South Lake Tahoe, and on to Fallon Nevada. From there I was going to take Highway 80 to Wendover and find a hotel. Joe, Gene, Romy and Jen all told me otherwise. Apparently I would be heading to Spencer Hot Springs.

Hwy 50 is nicknamed the loneliest highway in America. The number of cars on it is less than 1/20th the number of cars on Highway 80. It is also the rout of the former pony express and the Lincoln highway. You can still see remnants of the Lincoln highway on the side of the road. It travels through three deserts, and has occasional small silver mining towns scattered at decent distances from each other.

I left Finnon Lake around 11:30 and took 50 up through Kyburz, and over the pass into South Lake Tahoe.

Moved on through Carson City, past the infamous road of legalized... um... physical services that are offered at the Kit Kat house and the Moonlight Bunny House (conveniently located across the street from each other, truckers and bikers welcome!).

Through some small towns, and stopped at a Sonic in Fallon for food. I parked next to this guy who was traveling back to Sacramento.

I head out to the dessert and cross through several small mountain passes. Some cars didn't do as well.

The shoe tree is a landmark of sorts. There isn't much else out there, so there's this tree. Why not decorate it with shoes?

The sun was just starting to set when I reached the little mining town of Austin. You twist up and down a road before heading out on a dirt path to reach my place for the night - Spencer Hot Springs. I arrive there around 8:00pm and climb in for a 20 minute wind down after a long day driving. There is nothing but the moon, the starts, and the clearest milky way that I have seen in years.

I arrived at night, so I woke up the next morning to see just how desolate it is out there.

The Burros who brayed all night competing for water won't come near me this morning.

Next up - days four and five - my trip to Moab. 

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