Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Road Trip: Colorado to Nevada, Part 1

Fort Collins had been a lovely stop for both of us, but we were both eager to get on the road to Las Vegas, and our proposed stop for the day was Grand Junction - no short distance from Fort Collins. After a hasty breakfast and a quick jaunt on the internet to book something very special for the end of our time in Las Vegas we were on the road south to Denver again.

The changes as we were driving through Colorado were sometimes abrupt; one minute we were headed towards this city sprawl, a sudden right turn to get on to the interstate that we wanted and we were going past mining areas; ten minutes more and we were headed uphill, uphill, uphill... The scenery was quite literally breathtaking at times - mind you, the altitude that we were at might have had something to do with that impression. At the highest point that was marked with a sign, we were at 11,000 feet above sea level, and at that point we noticed that the car was struggling to do over 40mph; for a moment we were very concerned, but then looking around we noticed that many other drivers seemed to be having similar difficulties.

Winding our way along with the Colorado River, me frequently nervous about cliff faces and Dave frequently moaning about not having the opportunity or time to go rafting, we saw so many amazing rock formations and areas of natural beauty that it made me wonder why I had never ventured into the USA before. Already we had seen so many amazing and wonderful things on the trip, that I knew (sadly) I would never be able to remember them all, and yet there was still so much before us.

Grand Junction was a great place to stop at for the night, not far from the border with Utah, not least because we had had a long drive that day (over 300 miles). Once again we were blessed as the motel had a restaurant (meat loaf, mashed potatoes, beans and gravy, served with their 'famous' - and delicious - flowerpot loaf), and breakfast was included in the cost of staying at the motel too. We were exceptionally lucky the next morning too, as shortly after breakfast the power went off in the area. From our room we could see people wandering around the street outside to different gas stations, trying all of them to see if they had power, and looking increasingly confused when the answer was "No" every time.

After the previous day's wonderful scenery, we were really just looking forward to making our way to Bluff, Utah, our proposed stopover point for the night, We thought that desert driving would be pretty, sure, but nothing compared to the wonderful mountains and rivers of Colorado. How wrong we were...

The deserts of Utah, long hot roads and incredible valleys, were totally different from Colorado, and beautiful, indescribable in comparison to the sights that we had seen the previous day. And Utah had mountains too! And rivers! We were spoiled for choice that day in our drive down to Bluff; the scenery was so spectacular that we cut short our afternoon in Moab so that we could take our time driving from there on.

I don't know which one of us noticed it first, but after a time we noticed some storm clouds ahead. The road veered this way and that, but it soon became clear that we were going to be driving right through the middle of it. Ah well, no matter, it didn't look that bad, not like on the TV with all of the hail. It was, however, to be one of the strangest moments of the trip... Utah is really hot, and the digital readout on the car had been sitting at about 105 degrees since late morning. I happened to glance at it.

"Look Dave, we're down to 95! The cloud cover must be really thick..."
(remember, dear reader, that we had the air-con maxed out here, so we couldn't feel the external temperature)
And a few minutes later, after we had been talking, I happened to glance, did a double take and exclaimed:
"Dude! The gauge is down to 80!"
Dave and I looked at each other, both of us had said only a few days earlier how much we liked The Day After Tomorrow.
And a minute later:
In the space of ten minutes in total, the temperature gauge dropped over 40 points, eventually settling on 59 degrees for five or ten minutes as we cleared the rest of the cloud cover, before steadily climbing back up. The rain itself wasn't even that heavy, but the incident made quite an impression on us, and was something that we were both still talking about when we got to San Francisco.

Bluff is a lovely town, small, but with a lot to offer. The Desert Rose Inn was not cheap compared to many of the motels that we stopped off at on our journey, but its log cabin style and wonderful setting made it one of the nicest places that we stopped at on the road. Dinner was taken care of by the Cottonwood Steakhouse just up the road, and we felt great at the end of the night.

We slept well and rested up: the next day we would head on into Arizona.


No comments: