Wednesday 26th April – Scenic Drive

We had another leisurely start to the day, me watching F1 while Jon had a sleep in. I had a quick visit to the entrance station to pay our fee, no issues there. My throat was still giving me trouble, but after having a good coughing session and some warm oats, I was feeling alright. By 10:30am, we were rolling out of camp. The agenda for the day was mileage. After Jon had got in touch with his mate Stoney, it became obvious that he’d only be available for tomorrow and working the rest of the week, so we had to try and hot foot it across to Colorado as soon as possible.

First things first, we had to get out of Zion! We drove eastward out of the park, looking out for the windows in the rocks that expose the tunnel that forms an engineering marvel through the rock. We waited at the mouth of one of these tunnels because they had a tour bus coming through. Past them, with plenty of clearance thankfully, we were soon out of the park and left the red, white and orange cliffs behind us. The scenery changed dramatically as soon as we were out of the park. The tarmac turned from browny-red to black and the cliffs disappeared to be replaced by foresty brush, still with a desert feel to it.

We drove through to Kanab, stopping for a morning coffee and morning tea snacks at a cute little bakery next to a servo that Jon spied with his beady eyes. Inside, I got talking a little to a local who noticed my accent and he gave me the typical hearty American welcome. Jon had a really nice Croquet Madame while I read the local paper and actually discovered some very useful information about the North Rim of the Grand Canyon having a water pipe failure. I sent it right to Derek and Kylie who are planning to be there in a few weeks, hopefully with me!

All read up on the news and full from a second breakfast, we carried on towards Lake Powell and Page. We were driving on roads I’d been on before, but in the dark and wow was I happy to be seeing the scenery by the road this time round. We came upon rock spires in the middle of the desert bush, which was greener than I expected. When we started seeing Lake Powell in the distance, the blue of the water was a bright contrast against the dry sand and rock. Just before the Arizona border (Odyssey-Astro score of 7-6), there was a turn off to visit Lone Rock, which we could see from afar but I was keen for a closer look. It was exactly as it sounds, a huge rock tower in the middle of the lake, just begging to have some climbing routes on it for deep water soloing. It was a drastic landscape with rock that was probably just very hard sand. Everything I touched by the lake side looked solid, but crumbled at a moderate touch.

We drove down a sandy road to the beach where quite a few RVs were parked, but I’m sure the place would be packed in the summer. We parked up and wandered down to the beach, I was in complete awe of the scenery. Not only was there a massive rock standing in front of us, the spires continued in red along the horizon into Arizona. Being near water, I got the itch to jump in so, since there were no other people in sight, I got my kit off and did just that. The water was absolutely bloody freezing, but crystal clear. I swam down a channel that was only a few body widths wide but deeper than I could tell. It was hard to combat the pins and needles spiking my body from the cold, but I made it to the end, then swam back out to the lake and jumped out. A couple of ladies had appeared on the beach as I was getting out so they saw my naked white ass but they didn’t seem to mind. I sat on my pants and dried out in the sun for a bit, thinking that a dunk in snow melt water was probably not the best thing for my cold. Whoops.

I was chilled to the core by the time I got back into the car. Jon was chilling out playing Tetris while I’d been skinny dipping and he offered to drive while I cuddled up into my down jacket to get the chills off my shoulders. We crossed the border into Arizona and stopped shortly after to have a closer look at Glen Canyon Dam. It was another impressive structure with a great view of the lake beyond it and the rock towers all around. We walked along the bridge on either side for a look-see then wandered the visitor’s centre a bit, Jon much more thoroughly than I. After going outside to admire the view from the balcony, I retreated to the van and made lunch while Jon continued learning about the structure. We enjoyed a couple of toasted wraps by the car before Jon took the driver’s seat again and we drove over the dam towards Page.

Page is a town I’ve been close to many times since it is right by Antelope Canyon and this time we actually drove through it. Around it actually since we took the highway. I was in familiar territory as we passed the canyon, but as soon as we were beyond it, everything was new. Straight out of Page we got more rock formations and we both drooled at the thought of climbing some of these beasts. The formations came and went on the horizon with desert brush all around, we were both pretty silent in our admiration of them. A small town called Kaibito had a large concentration of them, as did Kayenta a little further along. While we drove through all this, I sewed up a few holes in my down jacket that had been causing an alarming release of feathers into the atmosphere. The more I sewed, the more I found new holes, but I think I ended up getting them all.

All the scenery of the day was a build up to Monument Valley, which sits right on the border of Arizona and Utah. I was hoping that maybe I’d win the Odyssey-Astro game for our third stint in Arizona, but it wasn’t to be. I lost 2-1.

Monument Valley is the set for so many western films, the Wiley Coyote and I’m sure features in any film involving cowboys or the desert. On Native American land, the towers of rock stand tall above the horizon, just begging to be climbed, but are mostly admired.

The photos really don’t do the place justice. I thank the planners that thought to build a highway right amongst these monsters so that people like us could take them in without even stopping. We did stop a few times to enjoy the view, especially for the driver’s sake. Many people were doing the same, including a couple doing a motorbike tour on very comfortable Harleys and a couple of guys that did yoga headstands in the middle of the road with the rocks in the background.

After stopping in for a quick look at the Mexican Hat, another rock formation so named because of the teeter-tottering flat piece of rock sitting atop a ball, I was ready for camp. It was about 6pm so the usual time when I like to find a nice spot and chill out for the evening and watch the sunset. Jon didn’t agree with that plan since he was keen to get to Stoney’s place for as much catch up time as possible. Even when we drove past a BLM camp called “The Valley of the Gods” that was right amongst the rock formations we’d just been admiring, he wasn’t convinced. I wasn’t too happy about it, but we pushed on. Being out of phone range, we couldn’t really look up a camp down the road either, so we were winging it. To make matters worse, my cold was getting to man flu status.

We carried on, still through some very impressive scenery, but my mood had dulled a little. I had a bad feeling about finding a camp down the road and would have been more keen to have a good camp and get up early the next morning to make time, but I went along with Jon’s plan. With an offline map, Jon had spied some hot springs in Montezuma Creek, a small town just inside the Utah-Colorado border. He directed me down some dirt roads that snaked through a community of houses that probably belonged to rednecks and I wasn’t convinced we were heading anywhere. After doing a few laps and finding little to no evidence of hot springs, we gave that idea away. Thankfully I had a spot of service here so I found a rest area an hour away that was a backup plan if we didn’t find anywhere to stop before then.

A while later, we crossed into Colorado, but not before a dramatic turn in the Odyssey-Astro game. Just before crossing into Colorado, I was 2-0 down to the Odysseys when I saw an Astro on the road, then two parked right next to each other in a farm yard! Unbelievable! It all went to shit when we saw another Odyssey just as we got to Colorado, so it was 3-3 in the end. Bugger. Into Colorado, we drove through Canyons of the Ancients National Monument which didn’t look like your typical monument, but consisted of a beautiful narrow winding road through quiet farmland. It reminded me of driving through rural England. All it was missing was the stone fences and we’d have been there. Despite my declining sickness and foul mood at still being on the road at such a late hour, I enjoyed the scenic drive.

At near 8pm, I was happy to reach the town of Cortez. We stopped in at a City Market (the first major supermarket we saw) for a quick shop to buy some more fruit and meat for dinner. The rest area was only ten minutes out of town and it looked as though we’d get a pretty sweet view of the snow capped mountain in front of us. We’d climbed a few thousand feet in elevation and dropped many degrees in temperature. At the rest area, I was disappointed to see “No Parking Overnight” signs. This really wasn’t going too well. I’d seen a Walmart back in Cortez, so I drove straight back there. I was thankful to see other RVs in the carpark which meant it was a legal camp and we could finally stop for the day. It was beyond 8pm and not my idea of a great camp considering where we could have been. Oh well, shit happens.

It got better (sarcasm) when it started raining as I was cooking dinner. Jon helped me string the tarp up overhead the kept the water off and after talking to my parents while cooking, Jon and I sat in the van for our dinner. Not. Ideal. By the time we finished dinner, it was pretty much bed time for me so I crawled in while Jon did the dishes. I managed to watch a few more laps of F1 before going to sleep hoping against all hopes that my cold would get better tomorrow. If not, it would be straight to the doctor for a suspected sinus infection.

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