captioned, larger pictures.
Most pictures are available at higher resolution (bigger size) for the asking. Send me an email with the picture name, and I'll send you the (in most cases) 1280x900, 300k version. Presented here are 172 of the 430 snapshots I've saved, from the 545 I took on this trip.
IMHO, a dozen or so have real artistic merit.
The captions from the big pictures will pop up when you mouse-over thumbnails.
The large pictures have navigation links directly to the previous and next pictures, and also to the place in the journal where they fit in. The "next" picture is pre-loaded while you look at the current one, for your browsing convenience
Browse around. Have fun.
Then visit some of our other trips on our travel page or visit my home page.
Tuesday November 12, 2002: Packing. Karen's cold virus still has the grip on her. She was still up when I dozed off last midnight, and was up already at 6, when I got up. After breakfast, We packed our luggage food, and some sample cases of my jewelry into our 1998 Mazda Protegé. We got on the road at noon, only to find that The Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square had started winter hours opening only at 4:00! We grabbed a 3-shot cappuccino across the street at Sqwires, and then hit I-44.
We left St. Louis, home of the Los Angeles Rams and Californian Mark Maguire, at 12:30. We passed Six Flags, and hours later, the turn off to Branson. I havenít been to Silver Dollar City since the Interstate was put in.
We drove through the rolling hills of Missouri, covered in the brown trees of late autumn. I was amused by one example of marketing synergy: A big, fluorescent, eye-catching billboard "Porn Ruins Lives" directly next to a polite, discreet billboard for an adult book and toy store against the roadside trees. The first catches your eye, and then you linger to read the second.
We stopped in Mount Vernon, MO just short of Joplin and for dinner at 3:30 because of the low, brutal sun in the clear sky. There was a full caboose standing by the squat, modern Chamber of Commerce building. After stopping in this little building, whose innards were all akimbo because of a fresh paint job, we crossed the street to the Bamboo Gardens. We were the first customers of the evening, and the buffet wasn't ready. No loss. The a-la-carte General Tso chicken was light and crispy in a hot, sweet sauce that was hot enough to give me hiccups. Good stuff.
The sun was an orange globe reluctantly melting into the horizon as we continued. It was a good choice of dinnertime. I drove till Tulsa. Although Route 66 is the fun and toll-free way to cross Oklahoma, we stayed on the Interstate. We needed to make miles, and it was dark, anyway. We had some trouble finding the Days Inn, which was several twists along the access road, but checked in by 8:00. I had trouble with the computer locking up, and then not letting me get to web sites once I finally got it to give me the phone numbers and so forth which I needed to use for the old version of AOL which is the newest I could run on the old PowerBook 190 (circa 1994). It wouldn't even boot on its battery. If I still have this thing for our next trip, Iím testing it at home, first.
The room heater noisily blew hot and cold, so neither of us slept too well. I woke at 3, and really didn't get back to sleep.
Wednesday Nov 13, 2002: I had dozed around 5:30, and Karen was drying her hair at 6:00. We were up and at 'em. Karen's cold is still a problem, but not very productive. Coughing. We had breakfast alone in the lobby dining area. An East Indian woman was behind the desk, with her mother and daughter on the customer side. I had a bagel, and Karen Corn Flakes. Coffee was ok, so we filled our stainless thermal mug.
Driving. Today was a day of miles. We had stopped at Wal-Mart in OKC and I got a 10' 3-outlet grounded extension cord. I donít like stretching the charger and phone lines out so far in old hotel rooms.
We took a lunch break at Red Rock Canyon State Park in Oklahoma. Down in the canyon, the fierce wind was mild, and the sun warm. We sat on a concrete picnic bench out in a sunny7 spot in coats and scarves, and only occasionally had to grab for wind-blown food.
Back on the road, we had some flies hitch a ride. All but one was easy to evict. One was enough to drive Karen crazy. She swatted at it occasionally with the TripTik. Once, she erroneously swatted at it with an open water bottle. Spurted the windshield. We laughed about that for a while. Eventually, the fly flew.
We did several bights of Rt. 66. Depressing expired boomtowns are the ghost towns from the mid 20th century. Erick had a few intact buildings, but Texola, OK had trees growing out of the windows of the civic center. This was a real ghost town. We stopped for pie and coffee in Shamrock, TX, a town trying to recover. It has a great art-deco gas and diner building which is being restored to its 1930's glory. Slowly.
We stopped in McLean, TX for gas. I took some pictures of the former gas stations. There is a "Devil's Rope" museum. It is actually an impressive collection of cow containment technology: Fencing tools, blacksmithing, branding, and more. They also had samples of every barbed wire known from the beginning through the 1970's and war technology wire. There also was a cute mock-up of an old Rt. 66 diner.
Drove into the sunset. It was an impressive sunset: Orange sky with streaks of blue between the clouds. We stopped for the night in Tucumcari, NM at the Relax Inn next to a closed Dennyís. It still has the 1950's vintage wooden walls, tile bathroom, and a gas-fired radiant room heater, tall enough to warm the entire body. It clinked, crinkled, and finally banged as it cooled, though. We walked about a mile in the chilling wind to eat at LaCita, a good Mexican restaurant across the street from a failed Hardees. I ate too much. They were practically empty.
Thursday Nov 14, 2002: I slept better. Karen was up from 12-3 or so. I woke at 6, when my alarm watch rang 7. Time zone. So, I showered, took some pictures of the room, we packed, and were on the road at 8:00. The room had roaches, which really bugged Karen more than me.
We stopped at Cline's Corners for a break. The tank was low, but the gas price was high, so we thought we'd wait till Albuquerque, where we planned to have lunch.
We were doing OK till Albuquerque. We were almost out of gas, and planning to fill up at the near end of town. Suddenly, all traffic was diverted from the Interstate. We preceded a couple of miles in the next hour. It was mostly downhill, so we did it with the engine off. We got gas at the first gas station. By then, the Interstate was open again, and we headed toward the Old Town. We wanted cappuccino and maybe a bite.
I just want to mention the only major interchange in town. I-40 crosses I-25 in a graceful sweeping set of looping ramps that are mostly adobe-pink, but with vivid sky blue stripes on the outer side of the guardrails on all bridge spans. It was quite striking in the noon sun against the deep blue sky. It was one of the pictures I was sorry not to have taken (because I was driving).
We found a spot to park on the street, and as we left the car, a couple of women were passing. Karen asked them if they were local. They said yes, in New York Jewish accents. Karen asked where to go for what we wanted, and they said to avoid the genuine old town, and go to the cafe in the Sheraton. We foolishly did. The green chili pork stew was good, as was Karen's black bean soup. But afterward, we couldn't eat more, and didn't want the cappuccino. We walked toward old town, and there found just what we would have wanted. We got bad coffee and good fry-bread at "Fry Bread Mama's". We passed a StarBucks as we left. I would have been desperate enough to go there, had we seen it first. We drove onward, disappointed with the whole Albuquerque stay. Karen's mom had called on her cell phone while we were there, to say that she finally emailed the directions to her house in California to the correct email address. Jade used to live in Alubuquerque.
So driving till dark. The last hour of light was brutal. The sun was dead ahead in another unremitting cloudless sky as we proceeded along the construction area approaching the state border. Dusk caught us just after the Arizona welcome Center.
We stopped at the Days Inn in Holbrook, AZ.
I tried again to get to the Internet. AOL had no local number, but I used their toll number. No Internet connectivity. KJ suggested that I call tech support. I did, and a cheerful woman told me that during the last year, there have been changes. She walked me through some complex steps, and said that either this would fix it, or nothing would. It didn't. I'm internet-less on this ancient Mac. Very frustrating. So much for picking up the directions to Jade's house. I canít access my email without the Internet.
Friday Nov 15, 2002: Karen was up at 4, but I went back to sleep till nearly 7:00. We had doughnuts (packaged) in the lobby, and were on the road at 7:50. The sky was clear, and the sun behind us. Humphrey's peak, near Flagstaff about 70 miles away, was bright in its solitary snow-capped splendor. We enjoyed watching the mountain approach for over an hour.
We stopped in Flagstaff to buy Karen more cold supplies. First we stopped at an Osco. I got a cappuccino at Jitters while Karen got throat drops. Then we drove to the college end of town to the health food store, New Frontier. More driving. Climbed high passes and long downhills ending at the Colorado River and Laughlin. We arrived at 12:30 Pacific time. My phone spent most of the trip in some form of service, but had none for a while at Peach Springs. In New Mexico and Oklahoma, I had mostly the flashing triangle of non-fee roam. In Laughlin, I'm in home territory. Yee. Hah.
We checked in and rested a bit. I had blown a buck in the slots while KJ waited in line. At 3, we found the hot dog and cappuccino bar, and had cappuccinos. Mine was decaf. More resting. At 4, I called Dan Danknick, who didn't have time to meet on Saturday, but I could call him on Sunday. The sun was going down fast. We went for a walk at sunset at 4:30, down the river walk from Don Laughlin's Riverside to the Flamingo, then across the street to the outlet mall. This place is one of Karenís main reasons for stopping in Laughlin. At one luggage store, there was an engaging ex carnie named Pauli who tried to sell us everything. None of the luggage quite suited, but if we'd had Karen's cell phone, we might have bought her a better belt clip. The prices were right for those. When we left, we forgot my vest, and went back for it.
Our room at the Riverside is a non-smoking 2 bed room, 508 in the North tower. It is barely above the roof of the casino, and has a view of the back of the South tower, and a kilowatt up-light just outside the window. Next time, weíll remember to ask for a high room.
Saturday November 16, 2002: We went to bed early last night. I think we were asleep by 10:00. We woke around 4:45 and decided to stay awake. We cuddled for a while, and then I showered, and we got to the breakfast buffet as it opened at 7. Old people. Slow, old people. While we were eating, the average age dropped a bit, and the girth grew. Couples were asking for booths because they were too big for the chairs at the tables. I was very hungry after last nights nosh in our room. I ate too many doughnuts.
We packed up and were out of the room at 10. We drove across the street to the outlet mall. Hours of shopping. Karen bought 3 pairs of shoes. I ran into Pauli, who was wheeling a stroller with a baby in it; his 37th nephew (or niece). Shopping was done by 12:30. We walked and walked across to the Rivers Edge in search of cappuccino. Never found it, but we bought coffee and a doughnut. On the road again at 1:30. We got slightly lost leaving town. We headed south and west, and somehow got onto the smooth, new pavement of the Needles Highway. As we drove along this unlabelled, and unlined expanse of road, my phone rang. Karen answered it, and it was Pete. He wanted to know if I'd remembered the egg frittata thing we'd had at the first Vietnamese place to which I'd taken him when we worked at Facts in the 1980ís. I had Karen get out the head set, and while I was driving on this empty road, we had a comedy of miscommunicating about getting the headset onto my head while I was talking. He just wanted to say that he'd discovered it again at Lemon Grass. He didn't know we were out of town.
We headed south along the Colorado river to Needles, a jot west on I-40 to the Old National Trail Highway (66) to Amboy, then south across the Sheep Hole mountains to hit Hwy 62 at 29 Palms. Around Joshua Tree National Park, and past the wind farm at I-10, and on into L.A. I took some snapshots of the long highway toward the mountains.
We stopped and took some pictures at the wind farm. There were some hot air balloons in the distance. In case you missed it, see my brief wind farm tirade about Texas and Oklahoma above
It seemed like heavy traffic for 5:30 on a Saturday. We got to the house where Jade's beau, John, lives. A birthday party was in progress for an 11 year old. The woman of the house is a loud and joyful reader of auras and such. The house was a nice 1930ish little place. The noise and confusion were too much for me. We left at 6:30 to drive around looking for a place that Jade was sure was around here somewhere. John was an aggressive driver; hard to keep up with. The restaurant, which Jade was sure was called "Ti Ri Ri" or some such turned out to be The Inka House. We had Peruvian dinner. Home to the house where Jade rents a room, and we sat up talking till 11:00. Mostly John and me, arguing philosophy. Bed. I slept pretty well. Karen got over 5 hours, punctuated by coughing.
Sunday Nov 17, 2002: I woke as Karen got up at 6:00, and then slept a bit more. The futon on the floor of Jade's room was firm enough, but the window at our heads made my head cold. We got all packed up, and left for brunch at 9:00. We met Karen's uncle John, his kids, and Jade's beau John at Walter's, an upscale bruncherie. Eric (13) is looking like a young man. Amy (16) had a bad cold, but came to see her cousin Karen. Service was slow, but the food was good. I filled up on warm French bread before my eggs Benedict arrived. I called Dan Danknick (with whom I've corresponded by email about my titanium jewelry, and he's been a good customer), but just got his voice mail. We had tentatively planned to meet while I was in the L.A. area. Karen and I hung around with Jade and John until 1:00. I was chatting away with John, mostly. We showed them my jewelry.
Then we left, first to Trader Joes. It was busy! We bought our goodies and hard-to-getties, and hit the road by 1:30. I drove out of town, and up into the mountains.
In the town of Barstow (?) we stopped for a quick cappuccino. We'd had problems finding one in Laughlin, so we copped out and headed for a Starbuck's sign. Unfortunately, we were just behind a large family who all wanted different flavors of frappucino's. I ordered a Vente, and ended up with a vanilla! I was fed up after the 15 minute wait, and accepted it. Then Karen didn't want any. I was too annoyed to not annoy Karen.
We stopped at the big
thermometer and Bun Boy and Alien Jerky stop in Baker, the Gateway to Death
Then Karen drove to the Nevada border. The sun set behind us. Behind us! Much easier. The border was built up a lot since my last time through there. The town of Jean also had expanded considerably.
Our arrival in L.V. was pretty smooth. We changed rooms once; the guard let us into a 2-bedded room much higher up. We are waiting for the keys as I write at 7:30.
We finally called the desk, and were told that the Bell Desk had the keys. We went down. We got the keys. We walked back to the tower, took the skyway back to the casino, and then down to Slots-a-fun for an oversized hot dog. I ate my half, and then put 3 dollars into machines. Nickels and quarters. Boom. Gone. My biggest win was 3 for one. Once. Depressing. I shared a beer with Karen. We went back to the room via the car for a snack and then to bed.
Monday Nov 18, 2002: I slept reasonably well. The springs were palpable through the old mattress. Karen was awake for a while, coughing. We woke around 6:30, for keeps. We got up to approach some sort of breakfast. We decided to have coffee at The Barista, a cappuccino joint in the midway between the Highrise tower of our room and the main casino building. Breakfast was cappuccino and a poppy-seed bagel. Then we went toward the Comdex shuttle stop, but saw that there was a several-loads long line, and they run every 15 minutes or so. We took the slidewalk bridge back, and the Skyway tram forward, and walked with the scattered streams to Comdex. We wore jackets, and it was getting too warm for them by the time we were there. Lines, crowds, and people griping that it is not as crowded as it has been in the past.
Karen decided that her cough was getting worse, and spent some time getting in touch with Dr. Wessling's office, and having a prescription sent to the nearby Walgreenís. We picked it up on our long walk back to the hotel, laden with Comdex literature and stuff.
Read an email I sent with the subject line Dan says, "moo"
Tuesday Nov 19, 2002:
The day began with washing down handfuls of chocolate covered espresso
beans with cappuccino at the Barrista. Well, savoring them one at a time, but they add up, quickly.
Then we walked to the Greek Isles en route to
Comdex for a cheap, hearty breakfast. Charmaign (Sharmane?) our waitress was a
cheerful midwestern black girl. Remarkably cheerful. It made the meal nicer.
Anyway, into the fray. Just short of the convention center, there was a tent of vitamin sellers who offered a free anti-oxidant scan involving UV for a minute on the palm. Karen scored off the top of the chart at 50,000 and change.
Karen was more at ease in the convention than I. She fit in easily, more on the presenter side than the attendees. I bought a Parallax Basic Stamp prototyping system for a few dollars less than I'd almost bought it online. It was heavy. Well, along with a big bag of promotional materials hauled for most of a day, it seemed heavy.
Everyone was using cell phones at Comdex to play Marco Polo. I noticed that they had cell transmitters mounted on the ceiling girders. We enjoyed a Men In Black dance performance to promote Sprint cellular online services.
At one booth, I noticed some Koreans setting out nice fabric bags apparently to give to attendees of a presentation. I moved to join that group seated and waiting. Suddenly, a herd came around the corner, spotted the bags, and locust-like pounced on them. Some picked up 2 or 3! I was shocked. I was swept along, and took one myself. I saw the look on the face of the guy who was fetching another load of bags from the back when the swarm came. He stayed safely in the shadows till the swarm had done its worst. Later, I found that there was a plastic toy violin music toy inside. I felt some guilt, but it was the bag I wanted. Another exhibitor asked me where I'd gotten the bag, and that she'd been trying to get one since yesterday.
We headed out at around lunchtime. We took an unintentional long route to the Hilton to try Quark's Bar for lunch.
Full Trekkie regalia. The staff seemed to be all fans. A Ferengi host made his way from table to table to chat with the customers. I'd have had more fun had I not been so tired. My Hu-mon fe-male was more comfortable with this game than I. And I refused to sell her for any amount of Gold Pressed Ladinum. Karen bought a 6-pack of Romulan Ale, which added to the load I carried back to the Circus.
We rested a bit. After dark we took the trolley to the far end of the strip to see the Bellagio water show, and to eat at the Paris. We like the Paris restaurant row. We had a savory crepe, and a chocolate-banana tart. Walking. Walking. Chilly. We didn't have bus money. We walked all the way back. Karen had to stop a few times and sit at slots to thaw and get free drinks. Nickels, since we didn't have much money. She wondered why I had so much energy at the end of a long day.
Wednesday Nov 20, 2002: Congestion. Last night I had my pre-cold manic. Ears are plugged, and I'm functional thanks to large doses of vitamins. We packed up and loaded the car and checked out by about 10:00. We walked toward Comdex at Karen's desire. We had breakfast again at the Greek Isles. I had a grapefruit juice that burned my throat and cost almost as much as the breakfast special (2.99 vs 2.50). On to Comdex. We wandered around apart for an hour, and then I joined Karen, mostly waiting. I felt crappy. At least the big dose of C keeps my face from leaking. I wore my little blue wool scarf all day; my ears felt cold. Back to the hotel to get the car. First thing this morning, pop left me a voice mail saying that he'd just read in the NY Times that the Faberge Egg exhibit at the Bellagio was great. We drove over there, since we'd planned to go to the Paris for a coffee snack. I wasn't up to snuff, but Karen was perky and willing. It cost $15 to get in to the Faberge, so we didn't bother. Snack at the Paris. I wasn't interested in sweets. That's how bad my cold was. We got on the road by 3:30. Karen drove because I wasn't up to it. There was heavy traffic getting out of Vegas. We got to the Fire Valley State Park after sunset. It was almost completely dark by the time we reached the scenic areas. We only got a hint of what there was to see, so we decided that we'd return on our next Vegas trip. On to Mesquite, NV (on I-15 at the Arizona border) to spend the night at the Virgin River Resort. I lay back on the bed with my face in the hood of Karen's blue sweatshirt while she went out for dinner. The hood held the warm moisture of my exhales, which was easier to breathe than the cool dry room air. I wasn't hungry, anyway. Karen said that she didn't mind going alone. The neighbors had 2 kids, who were about as rowdy as Pete and I were at that age. I managed to Zen them out. Karen came back after over an hour with her leftovers from the $3.99 prime rib special. I wasn't hungry, but I developed an appetite from eating. It was good meat.
We went to bed early, and I slept pretty well. I noticed Karen getting up a few times.
Thursday November 21, 2002: Finally, I noticed Karen leaving the room in a burst of light, and I looked at the clock. Almost 7. I made myself get up. My mouth was dry, since I've trained myself long ago to mouth breathe when my nose is congested. My colds seem less annoying when I do that. I slowly got up and dressed, and then called Karen via cell phone. She was just on her way back from breakfast with plenty of leftover ham and eggs for me.
So, we got on the road by 10. Which soon became 11, since we crossed into Arizona and Utah on Mountain time. I was too congested to feel like driving, so Karen drove all day. We drove to Zion. Through Zion. I did one short trail with Karen. I got cold, and tired real fast. Karen did another trail while I napped in the car. By the time we left via the 1.2 mile long tunnel, the sun was very low.
Here are a couple of Zion links: NPS: Zion and ZionPark.com
We stopped at a buffalo farm briefly, and then spent the night at the Best Western in Mount Carmel Junction where scenic State Rt. 9 meets Fed Highway 89. The room was a parallelogram, cleverly arranged to look bigger than it was. While I was checking out the furniture, I found a Book of Mormon on top of the Gideon Bible beside the bed. The hotel is nestled in a golf course. It is the biggest business in town. At 5:00, we were the 2nd of 5 expected to check in for the night. A night of rest. I turned on the TV to watch CSI, but we first watched Friends. We were asleep by 10.
Friday Nov 22, 2002: Although we woke in the night for coughing and sneezing fits (she and I, respectively), we slept till nearly 8. I looked outside, and the golf course was covered in frost. There had been deer at dusk, but the frost was all I saw this morning. We had in-room noshing for breakfast, and packed, and were on the road by 10:30. While Karen was checking out, I got a cappuccino at the attached coffee shop. This time of year is the dead season. The last of the summer vacationers has faded away, and the winter holiday rush begins next week for Thanksgiving. Although the open venues are manned, most of the people were in a locals-only sort of mode. Chatting with locals, reading a novel, on the phone. That sort of thing. Yesterday, we drove up I-15 to 9 thru Zion till Mt. Carmel at 89. Today we started up 89.
We stopped at 11:00 in a town where Karen spotted a sign for cappuccino. Hatch, Utah. "I brake for cappuccino," quoth she. It was a small diner where the proprietor was reading a paper at a table. Karen decided to get gas, and I trotted across the street (highway 89) to look at the knick-knack store, Mugwumps. I went in, and said to the proprietress, "Hello, I'll be your customer today." She said, "Aww. I can only have the one?" We hit it off fine. It was a fun little shop, full of beads and doorknobs and one room of kitchen implements and another of books. I wandered around and chatted for a long time. I'd wondered to where Karen had gotten. She finally came, and told us that the gas station had the most wonderful squeegee, and she did all the windows. Karen bought a couple of things there. In the course of conversation (and those of you who know us know how wide is the canyon of our typical discourse), KJ showed off her wedding band, telling her that I'd made her the ring. The proprietress asked what she'd made me. I chimed in, "Happy." Karen wriggled with delight. Then, back on the road again.
We stopped briefly in Utah's Red Canyon, in the Dixie Nat'l Forest
So, we arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park at about 1:00. We had bought a 2002 Parks Pass yesterday at Zion. It'll pay for itself this trip. We spent a little time and a little money at the visitor center, where 2 bored rangers were sitting at the 2 cashier stands, and another was fiddling with the movie system. Then, up to the series of viewing areas.
Wow. This is a showplace of differential erosion. Spires and hoodoos and walls and arches and windows in bands of beige, red and gray. I was feeling better today, between lots of vitamins, a decent amount of sleep, 2 cappuccinos, and possibly the high, clear air. The lookouts range from about 7500-9100 feet above sea level. The Grand Canyon may be larger, but it is downstream, and not nearly as busy. If you have to choose between the Badlands of S.D, the Grand Canyon in AZ, or Bryce in Utah, take Bryce. Take all, if possible, because there are differences. But the Baroque surplus of Bryce is quite a sight.
Karen was having a happy day. Bryce is her favorite place, her husband loved her, and her cough was in remission. She felt like dancing, and she did some as I was trying to take some scenery pictures. She joyfully jumped up with a twist onto one of the sawn trunk benches. Almost. Just missed. She seriously scraped one shin, bruised the other, and strained her wrist. It dampened her mood only a little.
Just after sunset, in the twilight, we went to one lookout with a well-beaten path past well-weathered "Danger" signs out to some narrow promontories. Karen went out there. I was worried, given her performance on the bench, earlier. I finally got her back by saying that, if she slipped, I might as well leave her there. The fall was unlikely survivable, and hard to get to the bottom in any timely manner intact. She decided that, if she had to go, a long fall in this beautiful place, followed by feeding the coyotes and such, wasn't such a bad thing. An odd and morbid, yet comfortable conversation.
Anyway, we saw sights until dark. We headed out of the park, and on a whim, decided to check the price at the Best Western just outside the park gates. $41.00! We were home. Karen will get to see more of Bryce in the morning. We ate in the Cowboy Buffet and Steak Room for $33 (Salmon with Pilaf, salad and hearty soup). Back in the room we had medicinal teas, and then I hooked my camera up to the TV and we looked over our trip pictures so far.
Saturday November 23, 2002: I spent some time last night awake. Karen made me take cough medicine so that she could sleep. She takes care of me. So, we woke around 7:20, and were up and about by 8:30. We stopped at Ruby's gift store and then drove to the Fairyland overlook of Bryce Canyon. This overlook is outside the entrance gate to the park, but I suspect that they are going to move the gate back to include it. There were signs of construction. Anyway, we expected to go to this point, and a couple of others we'd missed, and be on our way in an hour.
We started at the lookout, but there was a trail. It was 4.8 miles; too long for me at my energy level, and it was about 20 degrees outside. Well, we wandered about a mile along and 150' down before we knew it. It is a gorgeous walk. I took many snapshots. Karen took a side path, and I had some trouble finding her. I had to hone my tracking skills to pick out her Reeboks from the other footprints to find her. She'd found a great lookout point. We looked out for a while, into the sun. Then we slowly climbed back up. I was pooped. I'd started out driving, but turned it over to Karen.
Here are a couple of Bryce links:
The Park's site and the NPS Bryce site
We'd forgotten to check out, officially, so we stopped and did that. Then we drove east on 12, and finally north on 24. Beautiful country.
We went to "Utah's Best Kept Secret", the Kodachrome basin. It was a state park, and we paid $5 (honor system) to get in. Scenically, it was a big step down from Bryce. The speed limit was very low, 25 at best. Many roads were unpaved. It was interesting to see the sand-chimneys, former geysers that had run up through the sandstone, and now the sandstone rotted away leaving limestone pillars of interesting construction. We had lunch there.
Then we drove along scenic state rd 12 through more amazing scenery. Up through mountain passes with the snow clouds chasing us. The sun was going down as we reached Rt 24 and the Capitol Reef Basin Nat'l Park. We drove part of its scenic route, and decided to stay the night at the hotel we passed in Torrey near the junction of 12 and 24.
The Capitol Reef Best Western was open, and had one car parked at a room. We pulled up to the office, and became their second guests for the night. We checked in after some negotiations between Karen and the manager, and Karen and myself. The room cost $51 with AAA, which Karen thought was high. I was tired. The room was nice, and has a good view of the rock formations. Maybe it was only the season, but they seemed very laid back about things. We had dinner in their restaurant. As we cut through the lobby, they offered us a piece of birthday cake, which theyíd just cut for the manager's grandson, who was visiting for a couple of weeks. Very informal.
We settled in the room, discussed plans. Had the cake. I did some journal and Karen took a bath.
Sunday November 24, 2002: Woke before sunrise, and watched the sunrise on the cliff facing our room. Car food breakfast as we drove to Capitol Reef National Park. The name comes from the look of one limestone dome (Capitol) and the long jagged canyon wall (reef). Seems a silly way to name it. We drove the scenic loop, and down the dirt road into the narrow canyon, until it was too narrow for a road. Very impressive. Karen tried to hurry me along every time I paused to take pictures.
Links: NPS: Capitol Reef and www.capitol.reef.national-park.com
Then we visited the visitor center. They were putting up the holiday decorations. The displays were good, but a bit bare, since a recent federal act returned "found" artifacts to the native peoples.
So, we finally moved on at about 10:30. East on 24, a very pretty drive. We stopped at a rock shop near Hanksville(?) We needed a stop, and it had a weathered painted wood "Open" sign leaning against the petrified-wood studded wall, next to the tractor seat embedded in the concrete walk. I opened the door, and a black Labrador greeted me quietly. I loudly greeted him, since no proprietor was in sight. A 60-something woman emerged from the back, and said hello, in much the same tone of surprise as most people have where we stopped. She woke the proprietor, who was 82, nearly deaf and blind, and asleep on a ratty sofa facing the rear of the store. The woman, a friend of the family who was helping out till his son could come in, showed us around. The biggest surprise was all the fossils. Not just the leaves and fish. There was a shed with large leg bones and assembled vertebrae! Dinosaur, that is. The yard was covered with bins of all sorts of sort of sorted petrified this and that with signs nearly weathered into illegibility all under blown layers of leaves. We picked up a few things; coproliths, petrified wood, and agates. Before we left, the owner had woken enough to tell me to look at his turtle. A fossilized turtle shell about 12" long, and beautifully intact.
Up to I-70, and then down Fed 191.
Dead Horse Point. Don't miss this stop if you are in Utah. A very impressive little canyon. We were short on time, so we just looked out around the visitor's center at the entrance to the park. This was impressive enough. Also, the salt/soda/potassium refineries along the road were impressive. Little distillery towers stood next to big, flaming pits. Quite a show even in the bright afternoon sun. This Utah Parks website has more detail about geology and such than the canyonlands link above.
We visited Canyonlands, briefly, and made way for Arches. The sun was setting. I climbed up into the double arch and watched the sun set through the opening to the west, and the glowing light on the mountains in the south. I vocally disbelieved the colors in postcards until I saw this sunset. We stayed until the milky way seemed bright. I tried to take pictures using the big flash which was sufficient to illuminate the Mahler Ballroom, but the scenery was too big. It was nice, and we were alone in the park!
We started today at Fruita, Utah, in Capitol Reef. We ended in Fruita, CO at the Comfort Inn. Karen used the hot tub. I rested. The drive up Fed 191 to 70 was nice. The on-ramp at I-70 warned that chains were required to cross the pass to Denver.
Monday November 25, 2002: Snowy drive thru Colorado National Monument. We noted the snowy roads as we entered the monument, and thought of turning back. But I have a "Y" chromosome. We went forward.
A National Monument is essentially a National Park because a president said so, rather than by act of congress. This one is small and beautiful. The unplowed roads were little trouble. The solitude was nice.
The drive from the monument to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison down U.S. 50 was fairly scenic in its own right.
The Black Canyon of the Gunison: Cold, windy, and at the edge of a nice college town. The park route warns about potential dangerous driving conditions. This spectacular gorge was cut by a swift river in a geologically short time. The magnificent metamorphic cliff faces are unlike any I've seen, and I'm quite a geology fan.
At the visitor center, I chatted with a ranger named Iffy. We discussed the geological theories about the region in the popular books by a geologist named Chronic. We also discussed the trouble he (and other science poularizers) have with Creationists. They heckle the rangers because scientists believe in theories based on generations of carefully collected evidence and records of repeated skeptical observation to test said theories. The real truth has obviously been handed down in the sacred writings of ancient nomads.
So, we went to some of the lookouts. The view in the gaps between the clouds was quite spectacular. Tall cliffs, winding rivers far below. And feeling the apparent gusts as wisps of cloud hit our faces. It was a nice place, but we were many miles behind schedule.
Here's the NPS: Black Canyon of the Gunnison link, and another informatiove link about it
So we drove east over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet (a thousand higher than the pass closed at the interstate. We timed it to get through the pass at about 3:00. The warmest part of the day. The lady at the visitors center at the peak said that the couple of feet of snow should have been 100" by now! I didn't take a picture of Karen standing across the line on the floor marking the highest crossing of the continental divide.
So, as the snow closed in behind us, we headed back down the Atlantic side of the divide.
We took 50 to 515, and then...
Colorado Springs, America's military stronghold, was a jumping town. At least, around the base. We wandered around in Colorado Springs in the dark trying to find U.S. 24. It turned out to be labelled only by the local street name, which we finally found. We then headed up U.S. 24 to I-70 at Limon, CO.
We got to Burlington, CO near the Kansas border before calling it a night.
The Burlington Inn was somewhat rehabbed, with large old motel rooms. It smelled of grease from the restaurant. The room door had obviously been kicked in at one time, and then reinforced. I was too tired to go looking for a better deal, or nicer place.
Tuesday, November 26, 2002:We got up and out and crossed into Kansas, where we got gas at a Conoco with an Iwo Jima Memorial facing the Interstate. At least, I think it was there.
"Kansas. What can I say about Kansas? Our goal is to get across it as fast as possible. We have nothing against the 10 degree, 30 mph crosswinds wafting the snow flurries and hurling the tumbleweeds into our car. "Honest, officer, that bush jumped out in front of me." Dust devils dance along the dirt roads between the flat, brown fields. Herds of sheep and cattle huddle. Braces of tumbleweeds press against the barbed wire fences trying to cross the road, or get out of it." I'm typing this on the aggravating laptop as Karen drives from Wakeeny to our next stop.
So, we made it home late in the evening, crossing both Kansas and Missouri in a day. This was the day of the most miles, although we spent longer between hotels some days when there was lots to see.
That's it. The end.