Our plan was to tour Canyon de Chelly (pronounced canyon de shay) National Park today, but the weather did not coöperate and we left Chinle for Denver. The route took us north through Moab, UT. The Indian reservations between Chinle, and Moab cover some absolutely stunning scenery. Giant monoliths, painted deserts, miles of sandy desert filled with sage, tumble weed, and creosote shrubs. We unexpectedly lost an hour today because this little section of Arizona is on Daylight Savings Time. That put me back an hour of drive time, and I deliberately avoided taking too many rest and gas stops.
Along the road between Chinle, Arizona and Moab, Utah. Snow-capped mountains provide the backdrop for a sage filled desert.
Taken from inside a car doing seventy mph with an iPhone held up to the windscreen.
The drive was relatively uneventful for the first hour then out of nowhere a rusty colored dog appeared in the middle of the road within feet of my bumper. I heard Peggy gasp, and I automatically lifted my foot from the accelerator and began applying brakes. Luckily the wiry dog that blended into the landscape decided to trot off into the desert opposite his home. About ten minutes later I saw what appeared to me a group of large sage bushes along side of the road. These were not sage but a herd of very wooly sheep grazing on the roadside outside their pasture fence. I asked Peg if she had seen any signs to warn of animals ahead, she had not. About five miles further, a cowboy on a horse was moving a large herd of goats along the roadside, most likely to a new pasture. Evidently, Sunday morning is when the animals move, get moved, or feel safe grazing on the edge of the road.
Our average speed for the first two and a half hours was sixty-five miles per hour. Not bad for slow two lane roads with traffic, animals and great scenery.
We gassed up in Moab, and left town headed to Interstate Seventy (I-70). The GPS calculated an 8:00 p.m. arrival time in Wheat Ridge, Colorado where I had reservations at a Holiday Inn Express. We favor this chain because of the travel convenience they offer. They are newer, there are many of them, and we get a buffet breakfast. Not having to find a café, wait for a waitress, read a menu, get the food, eat, and then pay the bill adds at least an extra hour to our drive day.
We reached the I-70 and I breathed easier driving on a beautiful two lane limited access road with a seventy-five mph speed limit. I pushed the Death Star up to seventy-five and set the cruise control and watched the scenery roll by.
The topography changes immediately upon crossing the state line into Colorado. Utah is relatively flat soft green terrain with long ridges of colorful sandstone and pink bluffs. Crossing into Colorado changes to rolling hills and curves dodging the monoliths that tut out of the earth to amazing heights. I kept wondering where all the ski resorts were, but some snow-capped mountains in the foreground gave me a hint, they were yet to come. Moving at the rate we were it didn’t take long to realize that the mountain that appeared so far off was now immediately in front of us and we were beginning to twist and turn between the peaks along a river. The speed limit dropped to sixty-five because the turns were too tight for the higher speed. At the same time we began an ascent to higher elevation. Then a black hole appeared in the face of the mountain, we drove through a tunnel with a curve to the left and then curving to the right. We entered the tunnel from a grey sky, we exited the tunnel to a blue sky. The speed changed to fifty-five as the road narrowed and twisted even more sharply along the river which also narrowed. The mountain walls left us in shadows and only the blue sky showed us the sun. The road opened again and the speed resumed to seventy-five. Ranches dot the fresh spring-green valleys and colorful little hamlets some of which even had names like “No Name,” Colorado. I finally spotted a sign naming the river, So many times along the way both Peg and I would ask each other if we knew which river this was. The sign cleared the mystery, Colorado River. “Wow,” I said, “this is the same river that carves its way through the Grand Canyon.”
I spotted an electronic sign with a message, “I-70 Closed, MM 176.” Hmmm, I wondered what that meant, highway-repair work, snow, what? Surely if it is road work they will split the traffic and route us to a single lane, but why would they close the road if they do that. They could detour us to a local road. yes, that’s it we will detour.
Forty minutes later we learned the highway patrol closed the I-70 at Mile Marker 176 in Vail Colorado at the western end of the Vail Pass. There was no detour, there were hundreds of cars trucks, and Rv’s, parked along the local roads heading back into Vail. We drove through the town passing dozens of huge resort condos, hotels, lodges, and motels. All of them looked absolutely deserted and empty. I queried the GPS for lodging and came up with a Holiday Inn at the West end of Vail. Luckily, they had availability so we checked in. In the morning Peggy and I will find a sport shop and rent snow boards for a little fun on the snow-covered slopes above Vail.
We learned that the I-70 closed because of a wreck in the pass. It never dawned on me that an accident could shut the road down. It makes sense to keep traffic out of a narrow limited access road to allow Emergency vehicles, wreckers, and police to get to the scene.
I called the Holiday Inn Express to cancel the reservation I made for this evening. We are exactly ninety-miles from that destination. Oh well, it adds another ninety miles to tomorrow’s drive.
Filed under: Biography, family, Memories, Sports, Travel | Tagged: AZ, Chinle, Desert, Goats, Moab, Mountains, Sheep, Utah, Vail Colorado | 1 Comment »