Tuesday March 31, 2015
Two weeks ago my younger sister married her now husband in Las Vegas. No, it wasn’t at a little chapel on the strip and Elvis wasn’t in attendance. And although I emerged from the weekend exhausted from helping set up and take down, I can say in retrospect that I had a great time watching my little sister looking beautiful and marrying the love her life.
This blog entry isn’t about my sister’s wedding however. The actual topic is about the journey to get there. As soon as I found out the wedding was in Las Vegas, I started planning my road trip. Perhaps it’s carry-over affinity from family vacations as child or my love of the Chevy Chase-National Lampoons franchise, but either way, I absolutely love hitting the open road. A few years ago, when I moved from Chicago to Denver, my wife and I spent 70 days and 7500 miles traveling across the continent. We left Chicago, and headed into the upper Midwest: Wisconsin, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Minnesota. From there we traveled across the plains of Canada to make our way to the Canadian Rockies. Our trip took us down into Montana and through the states of the Pacific Northwest. We charged down the coast and finished our trip through the American Southwest camping, hiking, boating, canoeing, and sightseeing all the way. That trip will rank very high as one of the best adventures I have ever experienced. You can read about our trip here: Moose Sightings.
Now back to my trip. Of all the places to drive, the American Southwest is one of my favorites. Massive sandstone structures, high planes deserts, deep canyons with frigid rivers at the bottom—they’re all amazing. My trip last week did anything but disappoint. We left Denver, and crossed over the Rockies on I-70 passing snow, ski resorts, and over-priced restaurants. Emerging from the mountains, we made our way to the western slope of Colorado where snow-covered lodgepole pines and granite gave way to increasingly red dirt and desert vegetation as we passed through the grand valley, home of much of the Colorado grape and soft skin fruit industry. We passed by the Colorado National Monument and crossed the state line into Utah. We made our way past turn offs to Moab, Glenn Canyon, Lake Powell, Capital Reef (all very worthy trips in and of themselves) and climbed from sandstone deserts back into mountains of Southern Utah. We saw temperatures drop from 70 degrees F down to 35 after about two hours of climbing and summiting about 7,500 feet. We then began the long descent into the great basin toward our destination for the evening, the Arizona Strip, a 10 mile section of I-15 that cuts off the Northwest corner of Arizona. Our campsite was amazing and of course we put our BigFoot Bag to good use as a cargo bag and gear bag for our vehicle. We woke the next morning to an incredible sunrise and a beautiful hike down to the Virgin River before finishing the last 90 minutes of the trip into Fabulous Las Vegas.
The return trip was just as enjoyable as the way out with one exception. As we crossed back over the Rockies on I-70, we hit a big, wet, sloppy snow-storm. Visibility dropped to three feet. The lane lines, guard rails and road signs all disappeared as our speed dropped to 10 miles per hour. After a 50-mile, three-hour white knuckle leg through the blizzard, we pulled into our garage at 11:30 pm. We were exhausted, but satisfied from such a great weekend.
Stay tuned for a future blog covering Ryan’s list of favorite drives.