Chasing the Dawn

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It is a five and a half hour drive from Durango to Flagstaff, my next destination.  After parting with my new friends, I decided that I might as well start driving that night, see how far I got, and just stop when I got tired.  I filled up my tank, got a latte flavored energy drink (that shit can't be good for you), and was on the road by 10:30.

Just a day or two short of a full moon, the night drive was spectacular!  Even when turning off the headlights, the road and painted lines were still completely visible.  I figured that I should keep them on, however, and was later reminded by a 30-foot blood smear across the road with a mangled deer corpse at the end that this was probably a good choice.

As the road led me further into the desert, the canyons, the land of red dirt, silhouettes of looming mesas and towering pillars of sandstone gently graced the night sky.  The few clouds in the night sky created noticeable shadows when passing between me and the brilliant spotlight in the sky.  Roadside canyons, patiently created over the centuries one grain of sand at a time, were illuminated as if under daylight, shadowed and contoured and begging of exploration.  The center line reflectors quickly rising up out of the darkness and reflecting back at me like the beady eyes of a pack of rats racing toward me in perfect single-file.  Where is the Piper?

11:45pm.  I take the cutoff toward Four Corners and, eventually, Flagstaff.  236 miles to go.  Ugh.  At almost exactly midnight, I approach the entrance to the Four Corners Monument - the only place in the country where four states touch at a single location - Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Sadly, the monument is not open in the middle of the night (I hoped to take a nap in four states simultaneously), so I had to settle for a flash-illuminated photo of the entrance sign.

At just past 1am, I was approaching Kayenta, Arizona, my eyelids growing heavier with every blink.  A giant monolith stood not too far off to the right, basking in the white light.  "What a wonderful place to wake up!" I thought, and turned on to a country road leading in its direction, only to be blocked by a gate.  I looked at Google Maps on my [sometimes not so] smart phone and it looked like there were some good back roads to the north of town.  I found said road and drove out a mile or two, on perhaps the worst washboard I have experienced (unlike my current abdominal status).  I found a pulloff, which I quickly discovered was no good and had to put my truck in 4-wheel low to get out of the sand that I unknowingly was parked in (mushy, much more likened to my abdominals than "washboard").  Another pulloff.  Park.  Shut off engine.  Step outside.  A dog barking?  An unilluminated house stood about a hundred yards off of the road.  "That dog is gonna keep barking, wake up its owners, who likely have guns and don't like people parking near their home, and they're gonna come shoot me."  Although it seemed crazy, I doubt my thinking was too far off from likely events, and proceeded back over the washboard.

For a small, middle of nowhere town, Kayenta was lit up like Vegas.  Every house, shop, corner, business, and warehouse was shining under fabricated light.  Perhaps due to crime or theft, I decided that I wanted to get far out of town.  Nearing 2am, I came upon a pass with a large pullout, already home to one semi-truck.  This will do.  I took a piss on some rocks, glimmering in the moonlight, brushed my teeth, also glimmering, crawled into my pickup bed, and quickly dosed off.

Sunrise on the red rocks.  I have seen it dozens of times while deep in the belly of Utah, but it never gets any less beautiful.  I woke at 6:15, the sun already hitting some surrounding canyons, but not yet on my truck (thankfully, since it turns to an oven the moment sunlight hits the camper shell).  I took another piss, quickly brushed my teeth again, and was on the road, chasing the dawn.
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annie on

driving west: more like fleeing the dawn...

normon66 on

As the sun rises further into the sky, the dawn moves westward, as was I, therefore: chasing the dawn. All a matter of perspective, I suppose.

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