West Route Post Number Two

“It was an Elan. A delightful little thing famously made of Kleenex and unicorn farts.” ~ Sam Smith

DAY TWO

What a Day! I drove through some of the most dramatic geography in the country today. But before I get into that, let me explain the revision to the post title. After I posted last night, my brilliant wife said to me, “Why make it so complicated? Just add West in front of the post number and it’s done!” As usual, she is right so from now on that is how I shall title them.

Departing Cortez, CO, I was well and truly bundled up, as the temperature when I left was 44 degrees, with my flying helmet, gloves and winter jacket over my fleece but in the next hour or so as I proceeded on my route through CONMAZUT it was nicer and nicer. What is CONMAZUT you ask? Some secret military complex? Nope. Just the abbreviations for Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah all joined together. That’s right, today was a four state day, which is why I saw such dramatic geography

New Mexico and northeast Arizona has red sandstone bluffs and arroyos that remind me of a John Wayne Western along with miles and miles of empty. If it isn’t the middle of nowhere, it is the nowhere neighborhood. But when I got to Page, I had lost the leather helmet, the jacket, fleece and gloves and was still warm. In Page the Glen Canyon Dam has changed everything. It is built between the narrowest red rock canyon walls you can imagine and the water has made the area bloom. I swear the population and built up area has more than doubled since I stayed here in 2005 on the Sevens tour. And the boats! I saw miles and miles of boats at the marina and many more on trailers coming for the summer season.

The Glen Canyon Dam which created Lake Powell behind the Elan

From Page it is just a short hop to get into Utah and that is where things really change. The color of the rock changes from red to buff and the climb out of the river valley begins. The too warm temperature cools and the dry desert starts to show some vegetation. Then an occasional shrub tree appears and as I climbed from around 4,300 feet elevation to a high of 9,910 it changed to a full alpine forest. The geology changed too. The rocks were more craggy granite and schist instead of sandstone and their color was gray to dark brown instead of red or buff. While I was still in the red rock formations though there were pocket valleys on both sides of the road with beautiful green meadows bordered by vertical sandstone formations like little amphitheaters. If Ann and I had ventured through there in 1840 or so, I would have said to her, “Ma, this looks to be a good place to settle!”  

The best part of the day was yet to come though…Utah 14. This is a state highway that crosses the Dixie National Forest just south of Cedar Breaks National Monument over whatever range runs along the east side of Interstate 15. It climbed and climbed until what had been a warm day became truly cold. It was so cold I even thought about stopping to put on my jacket and gloves but that would have broken the wonderful rhythm of the road I had found, so I just shivered until I got low enough near Cedar City to warm up again. Put UT 14 on your “Must Drive” list if you ever have the occasion to be near here.

Impressions from the second day:

  • The contrast between the four states whose corners touch is astonishing. And 90 percent of the contrast I saw today is within Utah itself. This may be one of the most unappreciated states in the country. For those of you of the Lotus persuasion, I can make a strong case to go to the Salt Lake LOG and tour the national parks and monuments for a few days or a week afterward. You’ll thank me.
  • My little car was in a happy place today despite all the climbing and the wind it just hummed along and I got 30.88 mile per gallon too!
  • Tomorrow will have none of today’s variety as I head across the Great Basin. This is a 209,162-square-mile area that drains internally. All precipitation in the region evaporates, sinks underground or flows into lakes (mostly saline). All of its creeks, streams, or rivers have no outlet to either the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. It is a vast desert and I will be driving in it for the next day and a half. Sigh.

About Me

Hi, I’m Ross and I’m a tripoholic. I love driving especially in my old cars and then writing about the adventure that always follows. I’m old enough to know better but that doesn’t stop me. If you like stories of the road, every word true no matter how far fetched it may seem, then grab a beer or a cup of coffee and join me!

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2 thoughts on “West Route Post Number Two

  1. A few words create a vast picture of where you drove. Thanks for the word-picture. Amazing country out there with habitation spread far and wide so that we sense the vastness of the ‘wild’ West. I’m sure you locked those vistas in your mind so that you could survive the long, dry journey today. What a ride!

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