July 12, 2012
Boulder to Moab
We met back up at 29th Street Mall at Panera for breakfast the next morning. At the team meeting, they offered a prize for the first person to present a box of tic-tac’s. I anxiously dug through my purse and alas, I won! I got a sweet magnet. After a quick MINI cheer and a group photo, we continued westward. I would be bypassing the group’s next 2 stops so I told my adopted parents I’d see them in LA.
The strip of I-70 west through the Rockies has to be one of the most scenic strips of interstate in the US. I wanted to stop and get a stamp for my passport book at Rocky Mountain National Park, but I totally forgot about it. Oh well. As I neared Eisenhower Tunnel, signs were warning of a wreck and to seek alternatives. There aren’t a lot of alternatives for crossing over a mountain range hah. I was sad to miss the tunnel but I veered off on Loveland Pass and ended up on a beautifully scenic detour. The two-lane road was not meant to support this quantity of traffic and the hairpin turns were less than ideal for the number of semi-trailers, so I basically pulled off at every viewpoint, hoping the traffic would eventually dwindle down. There was a white Nissan ahead of me doing the same thing and after the third stop, the man & woman joked about us stalking each other.
The views were amazing as I stood on the continental divide and with the elevation gain (11,990 ft), the temperature had dropped to an incredible 63-degrees. It felt so good to have a break from the 90-degree temps. I could just make out the entrance to Eisenhower Tunnel but didn’t see any signs of a traffic backup. As we looped around, I arrived in the adorable town of Dillon. The sky was so clear that you could see several mountain peaks surrounding Lake Dillon. I was thankful for this extra bit of scenery vs the dark tunnel.
Once I got back to I-70, I pulled off at a “No Name Rest Area” which was right by the “No Name Creek” and “No Name Tunnel”. I cracked up. I’d already gotten a chuckle at “Blank Park Zoo” but this was just ridiculous. It looked like a pretty spot to take a hike, though, with big rolling green foothills.
The lush colors of the mountains soon faded as I passed through canyon country near Glenwood Springs. This is actually one of my favorite places to drive. I love winding through with the canyon walls towering on each side and trains passing in and out of tunnels alongside creek beds. It sort of transports you to another time.
And soon the canyon walls tapered off to vast nothingness just outside Grand Junction. At this town, I was led on a wild goose chase for a Jimmy John’s. I never found it! Heartbroken and hungry, I settled for McDonald’s. It was, however, the most stylish McDonald’s I’ve ever experienced. It had a modern lounge vibe with a diffused lighting scheme. So random.
I crossed into Utah not long after this stop and turned south on US 191 toward Moab. The sand-colored plains slowly warmed to a vivid red with big rock walls jetting up. A few miles further and I arrived at the entrance to Arches National Park. After catching a film at the visitor’s center, I set off on my tour.
It was just too hot to actually hike to see Delicate Arch up close. The short but steep hike to the viewpoint nearly killed me in the 102-degree heat.
I stuck around hoping to capture a nice sunset but it wasn’t anything special. Moab was only a few miles away so I made my way to Bowen Motel. It was a mismatched but cozy room and the lady at the front desk was really helpful in helping me track down some dinner options. I wasn’t feeling social so I picked up a grilled ham & cheese from Moab Diner before calling it a night. There was much more desert exploration in the day to come.