Saturday, October 31, 2015

Yay!! We made it to LA

Details to follow. 

Marching to Zion

The II I Today we made it to Zion National Park in Utah. I am lying in bed in a very comfortable hotel room after a perfect day.  We had spent the night about 130 miles north of the East entrance to Zion Park.  We replenished our lunch box with a stop at Walmart and then drove through a beautiful valley with mountains and rocky outcropping on each side. The uplifted limestone promontories reminded me of the hills of Provence. 

As we left RT 89 and turned on to RT 9 the splendor of Zion began to unfold. The road lead us through  red cliffs and white peaks through the stained and colorful limestone left from millions of year of erosion.

We crossed into the park where Peter's Golden Eagle pass got us in for free.  When his mother gave him the pass as a birthday gift when he turned 62 we had no idea how many entrance fees it would waive. 

Before you enter the one mile tunnel, there is a Scenic Overlook trail, which we decided to climb. It lead up about 165 feet, looking down over a narrow canyon, through an echoing overhang and out to a marvelous vista where the high peaks spread before us.  

We drove through the tunnel and down the switchbacks to the canyon floor. We stopped once to see an arch in the cliff and realized that we had stood above it just a few minutes before. With our binoculars we could see other climbers on the spot where we had just been.

We made our way to the visitor center where we parked and found the bathrooms.  There was a picnic table in the most scenic lunch spot so far. After a really late lunch we packed up and took the shuttle to the trailhead for the Emerald pool. 

That hike was along the Virgin River which has a green tint due to algae in the water. We climbed until we came to the high waterfall.

The light was fading and the shadows lengthened around us as we turned back. The sun was setting as we reached our car in the lot. We watched as the red cliffs turned gold and orange as the sun set. 

Our hotel was close. We checked in, had a dinner of meatloaf made of elk, venison and beef, and ended the evening in the hot tub under the stars. Did I mention, he weather was perfect? We slept well.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Colorado is over the top

I am in awe after driving through Colorado today. We began on the far eastern edge of the state.  Our route was simple:  630 miles on I70. But the route was the only constant. We drove through the most spectacular scenery today.

The High Plains cover the eastern state.  Although the ground seems flat and reaches out to the horizon as far as the eye can see, we realized that we were gradually climbing toward Denver.
The snowy peaks of the mountains of Colorado Springs begian to show in the western horizon.  

And as we approached Denver, snowy peaks lined up behind the city. The city itself ilooks shabby next to those majestic mountains. 

The interstate took us straight through the city and into the foothills beyond.  

It was time for lunch but we had to get well beyond Denver before we found a rest stop. It was part of a visitor center where binoculars were trained on the hills where bighorn sheep lived. We realized that if we stopped to look for wildlife we'd never make it to our hotel. 

After lunch we entered a snowy world with tall pines marching up the hills and glaciers gleaming in the distance.

The trucks struggled up the hills and worked to control their rigs on the long descents.
We crossed  the Vail Pass at over 10,000 feet.  We were in famous ski country, and passed many communities of ski lodges and town houses.  
Vail was the most surprising because of the faux Alpine village architecture that took the idea of a replica to new levels.  

The road began to straighten out after Vail and it seemed like the hardest driving was behind us. We began to see rivers, first the Eagle and eventually the famous Colorado.  Golden cottonwood trees lined the banks and breathtaking cliffs rose on either side as the road wound along the river. 

When we finally made it to Utah, we were almost relieved as the sky turned gray and the desert rocks spread out on either side.

It got dark about an hour before we arrived at our hotel.  We drove past several scenic overlooks.  We had seen so much today that we didn't even worry about what we had driven past in the dark.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kansas is spectacular

We crossed into Kansas an hour after lunch.  The speed limit rose to 75 mph and the roads widened and spread till there were hundreds of yards between vehicles and grasslands on each side. It wasn't exactly flat, but the hills rolled like the swells of the ocean as far as the eye could see. Occasional groves of trees or single bushes broke the landscape.   

We are nearly halfway across the state now and the wide vista stretches out in the sun's rays shimmering with greens and golds.

Sometimes black cattle graze in the distance.

Rolls of hay wait in the fields to be gathered into barns.

We saw a region with hundreds of windmills turning in the prairie wind. 

The sky dominates the view. At first it was a dome of cloudless blue. Then a line of clouds appeared on the horizon. We were soon under ragged gray clouds that seemed to threaten.

But as we continued the blue sky returned and the only clouds left are white puffs in the distance. 

Occasionally we saw enormous combines driving through the fields harvesting crops we cannot identify.  In the immensity of this landscape these huge vehicles seem small as do we and even the 18 wheelers on the road.  

The sun sank gently as we drove west, and the color gradually faded from the landscape. 

As we crossed into Colorado the sky turned black. We gained an hour as we entered Rocky Mountain Time and arrived at our hotel at 7:30 after driving across Missouri and Kansas. What beauties await us tomorrow in the Rocky Mountains?

Ohio is a different country

Yesterday morning after we left Karen and Mack we had to take non interstate roads to connect to the best route. My Google maps did what it did for us in France last spring. That time, as we plotted a route to the Abbeye of Fontenay between Dijon and Paris, Google took us on a tiny road which was probably the most direct but not the straightest  road. The scenery however was five star. 

Something similar happened yesterday. We ended up on a winding route that took us past farms producing corn, hay and milk.  The road wound through small towns with stop signs and small churches.
The trees were less brilliant than in New England, but it is a beautiful corner of the world. The barns were sometimes painted, sometimes peeling.

The houses had stately porches. The towns had small engine repair shops and Dollar stores instead of Walmart and Best Buy. These people seemed self sufficient and independent. We saw a church named Spring of Joy and that summed up the feeling of this corner of Ohio. It seems like a different country than the one I live in in Massachusetts. It made me want to stop and rock on one of these front porches and talk to the people living here.  I think that's what politicians are supposed to do. Do any of them come to this corner of Ohio?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


We We We began to notice it mostly as we entered Pennsylvania.   Along the road shoulder every few miles lay animal carcasses. They were mostly deer, but there were at least two that seemed to be coyotes or even wolves.  The deer were large. I saw at least ten of them and Peter saw several I missed, including a buck with antlers.

 As the sun's rays weakened and dusk approached we saw live deer standing in the median strip or on the side near groves of trees.  We decided to drive as long as the daylight lasted, but the sun set shortly after seven, and it was finally dark. Since we needed both fuel and dinner, we stopped.  

We made it quick intentionally, and got back on the road before the truckers had finished their break. It was dark and lonely, and we kept thinking of all those dead deer. We were kind of spooked, and Peter honked the car horn in the more desolate stretches like he does in Maine to warn the deer.

But before long the truckers were back on the road. Peter came up with a clever strategy. He found a particularly massive truck and followed behind on the theory that the truck would hit the deer first and run interference for us.  It made us feel safer, and we encountered no deer for the last couple hours of the ride. The moon shone full and we arrived safely at Karen and Mack's. 

This morning we drove through eastern Ohio through rolling hills, small towns and farms on our way to join up with the interstate.  Here we found a different sort of roadkill.  Along both sides of the road, and sometimes even in the road, were dead raccoons and possums. The animals were smaller, but even more numerous.  And in the trees and soaring overhead were hungry hawks looking for fresh meat.  

We finally made it to the interstate, and the roadkill phenomenon seemed to end. We saw no more deer, coyotes, raccoons or possums. But there were other hazards. Large chunks of truck tires, ripped to shreds by blowouts littered the shoulder and lay as hazards in the roadway. These massive beasts crisscross our land shedding shredded tires like roadkill in their wake. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Escape Velocity

We didn't get off by 6 as planned, but by the time we pulled out at 9:30 the traffic around Boston had died down and we headed west with optimism and enthusiasm. The day was perfect:  blue sky, brilliant foliage, moderate traffic. We took a route which had been a staple among our many trips west in the past, but which we hadn't done for a long time. We crossed Massachusetts, Connecticut, the Hudson and a bit of New York on our way to Pennsylvania. As we crossed the Appalachians the hills turned to valleys, and the vistas widened as we approached Ohio. It was dark under a full moon as we arrived at Karen and Mack's place. It was 12 hours after we left which included stops for fuel, food, and switching drivers. We were pretty pleased with the start of our long drive. 


Saturday, October 24, 2015

On the Road Again

Strictly speaking we have been on the road a lot lately.  They have been short trips within New England for the most part.  We spent a good chunk of the summer in Maine.  We've taken overnight trips to Peaks Island and the Hudson River Valley.  We went to a wedding in Long Island and a family reunion in Baltimore, but all that seemed to keep us close to home.

This time we are driving across the continent, from sea to shining sea.  We are transporting the dollhouse, made for Amanda by her grandfather to Edith in Los Angeles.  Along the way we will visit family and friends and even find time for a few hours in Zion National Park.

We are excited for the trip.  The last time we drove cross country was in 1989 with four kids and three tents.  This time we will stay in hotels when we are not with friends, and the budget will not be quite as tight.  This time we will carry iPads and iPhones instead of an early version of a portable computer known as the Z88.   It was the latest thing back then, and Peter kept a daily journal.  Unfortunately the batteries died before the material was transferred to a permanent form, so the journal is a legendary memory instead of an historical record.

As we gather our things, pack our suitcases, clean up the yard and put away the tools, I'm feeling nostalgic.  We are leaving the best moment in New England.  The brilliant red trees shine against a relief of gold and green.

Many of the leaves have fallen, and they carpet the lawn in golden heaps.  Raking them before the trees are bare is useless labor.  We are in the moment between seasons when the work looms, but there is no rush to complete.  Snow is at least a month away (we hope), and the short days are still warm when the sun shines.  And we are packing to go west.

It will be warmer as we head south and west.  Amanda says LA is often still hot.  And when we return winter will be very close.  There will still be time to rake leaves, trim bushes, and cut down the perennials.  But the landscape will be brown and dead.  The red and gold will vanish like magical jewels that last only a moment.  Today, under the gray skies, I treasure those magical jewels.