Over the last three days we’ve seen sun, rain, snow, and hail. We’ve driven through mountains, fields, cities, and deserts. On day three we went from Salt Lake City, Utah to Cortez, Colorado. As we drove the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City gave way to red rock canyons and soon we were on our way towards Arches National Park.
On our way to Arches we stopped in Helper, Utah for some gas and to visit an antiques store. My mom found what she wanted, a license plate from Utah, and the man who was at the cash register gave me a old coke bottle that said Salt Lake City on the bottom. After the quick pit stop we were back on our way.
About an hour later the scenery had morphed into beautiful red cliffs and soon we were approaching Arches National Park. Driving up to the massive red wall is intimidating. We were driving narrow roads, climbing and climbing, watching the red ground go on for miles. At the top of the mountain you can pull off and go for hikes though the park. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for this but we did stop at Park Avenue to walk down the stairs for a look inside a canyon. The tall rocks towered over us. The name fit well. It was the same feeling as in New York. The tall buildings, or rocks, seeming to touch the sky.
After heading up the stairs we made a few other stops at Balanced Rock and on to North and South Window. The loop at North and South Window is worth the drive. You drive by formations that seem to take different shapes each time you look at them. George walked down the path to North and South Window while I stayed and looked around the other side. The park was closing and it was getting dark pretty quickly so we headed back out of the park and on to Moab.
In Moab we grabbed dinner and continued our drive. With the threat of night looming we wanted to get into Colorado before it was too dark. Driving into Colorado was a stark change from the hilly red rocks. It was green, lush, and flat. As we drove the sun set behind us creating spectacular visuals. We headed into our hotel ready to go to bed and prepare to see Four Corners and Glen Canyon Dam.
The second day of the trip involved getting from Idaho to Utah with a cut through Nevada. We made our way south to Salt Lake City driving through some dramatic snowy conditions as we made our way through Nevada. Leaving Idaho the scenery changed, becoming rocky and with less greenery, a sign that we were beginning our journey onto the Colorado Plateau.
The rolling hills and wide farm land of Southern Idaho made for a pleasant mornings drive. Fueled by donuts and waffles we hit the road and made good progress towards Twin Falls. Early on we hit dense fog but luckily this did not last long. Rain interspersed the sunshine something that I am sure we will miss as we make our way south. At Twin Falls we turned south towards Nevada, a longer route to Salt Lake City but we wanted to make a stop at the Salt Flats.
Nevada greeted us with snow which took us by surprise. Naturally we stopped to run around although soon we were cold and ready to keep moving. Other than this Nevada proved to be uneventful. The isolation one can experience whilst driving though such wide open spaces is humbling. Surrounding us loomed mountains and ominous clouds. Nature took control of our experience something that was unsurprising as apart from the road we were on there was little else.
Our first stop immediately inside Utah was the Bonneville Salt Flats. The flats are famous today for the role in facilitating the land speed record attempts. It is not hard to see why when you are there either. Vast does not cover how big the lake beds are. Extending for miles and completely level the Salt Flats are perfect for the fastest cars ever made. The experience was awe-inspiring.
Afterwards we drove into the beautiful Salt Lake City. The city is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and sits at the edge of the rather special Great Salt Lake. The first thing we noticed as we drove in was how wide the roads were. This is a result of the clever planning by Mormon pioneers who wanted their roads to be wide enough to turn a horse and cart without unhitching. The whole city is wide and spacious and proved to be a worthwhile stop on our trip. For dinner we had pizza and after took a walk to see the downtown area. Exhausted, we just about stayed up past nine o’clock. We need the rest, the next few days will be big.
Day two of the trip lived up to the promise of the first day. Once again the scenery and weather surpassed our expectations any monotony was broken by spectacular vistas and mountains. The Salt Flats were worth the extra driving to see, beginning what promises to be a special drive through Utah. From Salt Lake City we look south to canyon country and the deserts of the Southwest. I would also like to take a moment to thank our Airbnb hosts in Salt Lake City who went above and beyond for us. They made our night in the city extra special.
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It is not difficult to see the appeal of a road trip in America once you have been on one. The roads stretch out inviting you to cover great distances. The towns and cities that rely on travellers for their prosperity cater to the constant demands for food, drink, gas, and restrooms from their visitors. I should know about such towns since I lived in Flagstaff for a year. Interstates have fuelled these towns and ruined others. For many having a freeway exit is the difference between boom and bust. As for the travellers, a freeway exit is a chance to pause, to see the world that they are blasting through, and to appreciate the little corner of America that they find themselves in.
This trip is not my first experience with an American road trip. Over the Christmas break I drove with my family and Maddy across the Southwest from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, stopping in San Diego, Phoenix, and Flagstaff. The easiness of the distance which is soaked up by the long and smooth stretches of tarmac was apparent then too. As was the adventure and thrill of arriving in new places and of seeking new things. On that trip we were going for the experience, covering the miles as a means to see the Southwest and to visit the cities it has to offer. This trip is different, tourism for the sake of tourism has been replaced by the need to get to Flagstaff and to Los Angeles. Our trip has a strong sense of purpose.
And what a pleasurable place to have that purpose. To the untrained eye the mountains of Washington might as well have been the Alps. Covered in pine trees and looming large over us they created a visual spectacle that dominated the scenery. Descending down into the rolling hills of eastern Washington vibrant green grass overtook as the predominant scenic attraction. Oregon and Idaho likewise offered fantastic scenery as we carved through hills and rose over them enjoying the vast expanses laid out below. Going over Dead Man’s Pass we drove through a thick snowstorm that reminded us that May is a month and not a description of the weather. We will enjoy it whilst it lasts because tomorrow we head south into Utah and rocks will take over where the greenery leaves off. (Get it?).
So far I have no bad word to say about the road trip experience. Yes you spend hours sitting in a car waiting to be somewhere else. Yes today was only day one and we still have thousands of miles to go. And yes I would be happier if I did not have to listen to The Go Gos again. But these problems are not even problems when you take the experience for what it is. Appreciate the world out of the window as it flashes by and you have already arrived at your destination. With good company the miles are easy and the experience fulfilling. And a Led Zeppelin CD quickly changes the music situation should you need it to.
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George and I flew out of SeaTac late last night headed for Boston. We had a quick stopover in Philadelphia before flying up to Boston. We arrived around 9am Eastern time and made it to our Airbnb. We’ll be writing more on the blog tonight or tomorrow with what we’ve seen so far.
And now a note from George:
I made it onto the blog! It only took eleven months but here I am. I hope to use this space to talk about my traveling experience with Maddy, focusing on one of my favourite things: food, which from what I have heard is quite popular here.
Weird American observation #1: the supermarkets have sprinklers that water the fruit and veg automatically whilst making thunder sounds. Crazy.
Happy to be in Boston
Maddy and George