Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Great Trek West, Part 4: Kansas, Colorado and Moab, UT

Coming out of Canyonlands National Park at sunset

I've now driven across Kansas at least 4 times, so I can safely say that it is still the most boring part of any cross-country drive.

However, driving across it during the day is still better than driving across it in the dark.

This is what Kansas looks like. For eight hours.

We set out from Missouri at a very early hour, and drove for eleven hours across Kansas and half of Colorado. Eastern Kansas is surprisingly hilly; western Kansas is terribly flat. In the summer, there are miles and miles of cornfields; in the winter, there are miles and miles of...fields. Regardless, it's like someone pulled a chalk line from Denver to St. Louis, snapped it, and built an interstate. I swear I could have tied the wheel straight, fallen asleep, and still stayed in the right lane.

Eventually we got to eastern Colorado (still really flat), and rounded the corner to discover...Denver. With the Rocky Mountains laid out behind it. We spent the night in Boulder with a couple friends of mine from grad school, and got to meet their 18-month-old. In the morning, we tackled the drive across western Colorado to eastern Utah.

Now, while planning this move, the part that worried me the most was the part about driving across the Rockies in January. We still have to get through some more of the Rockies, in northern Utah and Idaho, but the highest and curviest part of the drive is over. I-70 through Colorado took us over 11,000 feet in elevation, through several ski resorts (Vail, Beaver Creek), and up and down some very steep grades. Even though the weather was clear, there was a lot of fog, and subzero temperatures the whole way. The subzero temperatures were the worst part (have you ever tried to clean a windshield when it's 9 below? Also, your windshield washer fluid will freeze).

Somewhere near Vail. Temperature: nine below.

We got through the mountains without any problems, and came down into the high desert of eastern Utah. The transition between the Rockies and the red sandstone-mesa of Utah is one of the most breathtaking drives in the country--even with snow on the ground. There was far more snow in Moab than I anticipated--although, the last time I was there it was 112 degrees, so it was hard to imagine red rock as snow-covered with single digit temperatures.

Arches National Park
I've been to Utah before (read about it here, here and here, as part of my 2009 road trip), and I'd like to reiterate: holy crap, Utah is gorgeous.

I don't need to say any more. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. From Arches National Park:

And these are from Canyonlands National Park:

And finally, from Dead Horse Point State Park:

No matter how many hours you spend in the car, no matter how crappy the roads or how cold the air is, any day spent driving around such sights is way, way better than working.

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