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May 18th 2016
Published: May 19th 2016
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A lot of driving...

Day: 29/30/31

Distance: 12,347

I'm in Amarillo with Mom and Dad (Cyndee and Bob) writing this blog and getting reading to go to dinner with the oldsters. I guess I shouldn't make too much fun of my parents since my kids consider me an oldster. I initially tried to write this blog in Reno, then again this last evening when I was in Cortez, NM but the Internet connections were so bad that I gave up in frustration. Anyway, this entry will contain 3 days worth of traveling (actually 1 whole day and 2 half days).

After my last blog entry in Reno, I ended up going to a Costco for a tire rotation. The tires were vibrating the car again. It looks like these tires are shot but fortunately, some of it should be covered by warranty. the mechanic suggested I go to the Buick dealership and get the alignment checked. Wonder of wonders, the dealership had a opening within 10 minutes of me leaving Costco (unlike in Fairbanks). Woo Hoo. They aligned the car (it was off) and one of the struts needs to be replaced but that can wait until I get home. Once I get all the issues fixed I'll be able to take it back to Costco for new tires (pro-rated). Warranty should cover much of the issues according to the dealership. We'll see. The tires still vibrate but it's not as killer.

Leaving Reno I get on US50 heading east. I pass through Fallon where my dad worked occasionaly in the old days when he was in the Navy.

"Nevada? I didn't know they had waatta in Nevada." --- Aunt Phyllis

This section of 50 is mostly flat, broken up by the occasional mountain ranges that must be driven through. It's raining and the green ground cover, exotic cloud formations and occasional rainbows lend an atmosphere of vibrant growth and vitality to the vista. It's ironic that this area is normally scorching hot and inhospitable.

I discovered a couple things about ole Blue during this drive:

• The maximum speed of the car is 108MPH. There is a governor in place that prevents further acceleration. I think this car could easily get to 120MPH if there was no artificial limit.
• The highest you can set the cruise control is 104MPH.

So.... for several long
Snow! This was after it had been driven on a bit.Snow! This was after it had been driven on a bit.Snow! This was after it had been driven on a bit.

It was completely white when I hit this patch.
stretches on 50, I'm cruising along at a 104MPH with nary a concern in the world. Did you know the faster you go, the less you feel tire vibrations? 😊

I can now officially add wild turkeys to the list of animals successfully dodged in yet another round of DODGE THE WILDLIFE I played. One of the gobblers was related to Godzilla, it was that big.

I made great time and got to the border of Utah around 9ish (remember I had the car issues). I'm tired, so I start looking for campgrounds. I find a great site all to myself at the Great Basin National Park. It's dark but I can hear a river running near by. This time, I drove deep enough into the park that there were no truck noises (the joy).

It rains through the night and I wake up to a light drizzle. It's no biggie and I break camp after a nicely cooked breakfast. As I'm packing up, a ranger comes up and we get to talking. I discovered 2 things about the NP (I learned other things but I have short term memory issues):

• This park had ONLY 100,000 total visitors last year. He said the lower rim of the Grand Canyon can see that in a weekend. He also said the hiking is fantastic and you can be on a trail all day and not see anyone.
• The park is one of only 3 designated dark sky areas in the country. The others being Big Bend (the kids and I went there last November) and one other site he couldn't recall.

After leaving camp, I continued east on US 50 uneventfully to Salina. From Salina, I picked up SR24 which took me south and east into Fishlake National Forest and, more impressively, through Capital Reef National Park.

But before I get to the park there is a town called Torrey I went through. After Torrey, the road starts rising up into the mountains that lead into the park. I'm not 3 miles past the town when the road instantly, and I mean instantly, turns from wettish pavement to snow and ice covered road at least a quarter of an inch thick. The snow/sleet is coming down furiously and is just draping the road and the area around it. The temperature is in the high 30s! It's just been rain since leaving Alaska! I'm going 65MPH and I immediately start losing control and start sliding to the side of the road (and some kind of roll over and car exploding immolation.) I immediately let off the gas, start slightly tapping the breaks and regain control in time to avoid a motorcyclist and people who are helping him (apparently he wiped out). Holy Cow! Where in the hell did the snow come from? I manage to turn around and started heading back to Torrey already thinking of alternate routes when I noticed several crappy cars pass me and continue on past the accident into the mountain pass. I shrugged, turned around and went into the pass. After about a mile the snow disappears! Just like that! Darnedest thing I have ever seen. It was like a micro snowstorm.

This park drive is like going to another planet. The entire area is resplendent with natural rock formations, canyons, mesas and gorges painted in varying degrees of red, ocher, yellow, brown and other earth shades. The landscape is beautiful and formidable. I would have hated being a settler going through this area. I go crazy through this area taking hundreds of photos. It's going to be interesting culling all these photos when I get home.

After the NP I get to Hanksville and switch to SR 95 going south through Natural Bridges National Monument. I wave at the monument but don't stop. I'm feeling the time crunch of trying to get to Amarillo on Wednesday so I can head home on Thursday (Odysseus returning home to save his lands and wife) and the fam. I get to Blanding and do a weird road jig and drive north on US 191 which takes me to US 491 and ultimately Cortez, NM. The same Cortez that I passed through earlier in my journey.

In Cortez, I attempt to blog and get the same connectivity issues so I give up and just head east on US 160. My thought was take 160 to Trinidad and head to Amarillo from there. However, it is after 8PM at this point and it's getting dark. Dark enough that I am no longer seeing any scenery and instead I am just playing a few rounds of DODGE THE WILDLIFE. So I start looking for campgrounds. I pass Durango and still no luck. I'm getting really tired at this point and an inn is starting to sound really good. But I press on. I pass a sign for campgrounds at Navajo State Park so I turn down SR 151 and travel for about 30+ minutes and get to the park (I had no idea it was that far away!) and there are no campgrounds! I look around and I can' tree any. The place is kinda scary looking so I just turn around and head back to US 160 (another friggin 30 minutes - aaaarg).

My strategy has changed. I just want to get to Amarillo the quickest way possible and get some sleep. I come to US 84 which goes south to Santa Fe (the Rent "Santa Fe" song plays here). I calculated that getting to Amarillo would get me in around 6AM. So I resigned myself to a long drive. BTW, I've not eaten in 24 hours so I'm stating to get a little famished but all the places are closed and I don't want to stop and waste time getting the stove, etc setup so I can eat something. Also unfortunately, it's late and now all the restaurants are closed.

As I head down 84, I see a sign for campgrounds in the Rio Grande National Forest. HooRay! It's 11:30 as I pull off the road and head down this dirt road. After about 5 miles or so of semi crappy dirt roads I get to the campsite which is locked with a sign stating "Reservations Only". OMG! You got to be kidding. So I turned around and started heading back to the road when I noticed a forestry road going back into the woods. I smartly (I'm learning) park the car and walk down the road to see where it leads to and sure enough it opens up to a cleared space with a campfire in the middle. HooRay! I get back to the car and drive down an embankment to the makeshift campsite. I setup the tent in record time and was in the sleeping bag in a flash. Food be damned. It rains through the night. At some points it's purdy hard. During a particularly hard down pour, I drowsily think to myself that maybe I should be concerned but I don't know why, so I just go back to sleep.

In the morning it is still raining and after an hour or so of waiting to see if it will taper off, I give up and get out of the bag. In record time again, I break camp and jump into Blue. I put her in gear and start heading back up the incline to the dirt road. The wheels start spinning in the mud. Oh sh$t, now I know why I should have been worried. I can' make any progress. All I am doing is churning up mud and making the ground worse. I know have a physics problem to solve. How do I get out without getting hopelessly bogged down in mud? Walking back to the road (5 miles away), flagging down a motorist (no phone service), getting a tow truck and recovering my car would have easily taken all day. I'm now worried about my hide (Kim scares me). After about 30 minutes of trying a couple of different things I finally hit on using the camp fire circle as leverage for my tires so that I can get enough momentum to clear the mud tracks and mount the incline. It works (the noise in the undercarriage from the rocks of the campfire where scarily loud). My skid plates definitely earned there keep today!

I managed to get back on 84 going south. I entered New Mexico, waved as I passed by Santa Fe and got onto US 285 to I40. I40 brought be to Amarillo and my parents house.

I'm tired. I'm ready to get back to the family and home. It's been a fantastic trip. Technically its not over till tomorrow, but if you guys have ever driven from Amarillo to DFW, you know it's over! 😊

So... The plan is to get home tomorrow. Sometime this weekend after I've had a chance to distill my thoughts, I will conclude this blog with my musings and impart whatever lessons and insights that I have learned. Thanks for being faithful readers.


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