Better Late Than Never
Trip Start Nov 20, 2003
7Trip End Dec 06, 2003
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Where I stayed
During our 16 days on the road we didn't encounter many places that would have been conducive to creating travelogue entries. Most of the time the towns we stayed in were small and public internet access was not a top priority. By the time we got to Las Vegas the vacation was half over and an executive decision was made to save the wild tales of adventure until we returned (i.e. I got lazy).
We left Thursday night (November 20th) and drove long into the night. The only thing of note was the border crossing. During my travels this past summer I crossed from Canada into the United States on four separate occasions
Now when you think about it, why would they confiscate it? Was I planning on feeding this possibility tainted chili to a herd of cows or an unsuspecting American? NO! Clearly I was bringing it into the country for my own consumption. It's not like I was bringing in a huge stash to sell on the black chili market.
The most humorous part of the incident was that it was too late at night to really kick up a fuss. We just wanted to press on. It wasn't until the next morning that Nadia was furious at being denied her chili. I made a mental note never to get between her and a can of Private Reserve.
The road westward had little to offer in terms of entertainment. The billboards along I-80 and I-94 are lacking in originality. The best one was for a "gentleman's club" that asked drivers: Are You In The Mood For Nude?
We settled in the Country Inn in North Platte, Nebraska Friday night ready to see the Rockies the next day. After a day and a half of non-stop driving, across the plains of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska no less, we were ready to stretch our legs and lungs in the mountains. The weather put a bit of a kink in that plan. We awoke Saturday morning to discover that a huge snowstorm was sweeping through Colorado. We contemplated a couple of changes to our itinerary including doing the whole trip in reverse (that is, heading southward into Arizona and then coming back via Utah) but we push our hats down and lean into the storm.
This decision was mainly due to loyal army of senior citizens at the Colorado travel center in Julesburg who convinced us that the roads wouldn't be too bad in the mountains. Once they heard we were from Canada they assured us it wouldn't be anything different than what we normally would experience. I'm not sure what they meant by that. Did they assume we get snowstorms 12 months a year? I mean, I told them we were from Toronto. Last time I looked around there weren't many 14,000 foot mountain ranges in the area.
The weather was worse near Denver when we experienced near white-out conditions. The plow teams did a decent job of keeping the lanes clear but it was a tough, slippery climb into the mountains but at least the wind died once we got up into them. We maintained a decent pace but so much snow accumulated in the Mongoose's wheel-wells that the engine seemed to be losing power. The tires were actually rubbing up against the snow under the fenders. Once the wheel-wells were cleared out the car responded perfectly.
This disappointment of the drive was that we couldn't get out to see some of the scenery or do some short hikes to alleviate the pressures of the long drive. It also didn't help that the only thing we were ingesting were convenience store meat sticks (and in Nadia's case shitty coffee). Things were stressful enough that we couldn't enjoy anything. The real kicker was that this drive along I-70 is one of my all-time favourites. I've even written a small travel story about it...
Going through this storm I began to worry that I wouldn't get the sheer thrill of speeding my way through Glenwood Canyon, the greatest 14 miles of the US Interstate System. In fact between Eagle and Gypsum the interstate was closed completely and traffic had to follow a small side-road to keep moving. Amazingly the weather broke just after we got back on the Interstate (mere miles from Glenwood) and we were able to rip right through it. As we dropped in altitude the weather got much better. Grand Junction appeared as if it didn't receive any snow at all.
We soon crossed over into Utah. While at the travel center in Julesburg one of the grannies there pointed out Utah State Road 128 as one of the most scenic drives you could experience and it led directly to Moab. Although the sun had already gone down we took it anyway and it ended up being the scariest ride of the day. The road is narrow and leads along some wild cliff-sides and river banks. Added to this was the dark and the re-appearance of windy snowstorm conditions. We made it into Moab in one piece though.
Thanks to Frommer's book entitled "National Parks of the West" we knew that we could find a cheap room at the Lazy Lizard Youth Hostel. Unfortunately, the private rooms are located in a separate building from the main hostel. This would have been totally fine had we had some like-minded travellers to share it with. Instead we ended up sharing space with the kind of person who LIVES in a hostel. You know those off-beat personalities who are missing their front teeth or are missing a finger or have non-existant wives or who constantly belch up cheap canned beer. Or all of the above as we met a guy who had all of these wonderful attributes. After spending some quality time with Jim Bob in the kitchen we retreated to our room and barricaded the door.
We just wanted to put the past three days behind us. Tomorrow we would be exploring Arches National Park. Jim Bob wouldn't be around. The weather would be clear. We'd frolic in sun-drenched canyons... or so we hoped.