From California to the U.K. in 30 days - Day 8 (Arches National Park, Utah)

Published: July 23rd 2017
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Our plan to get on the road early holds firm, mostly with the assistance of Adriana and Wesley waking up at 6.30am to cook us a delicious breakfast. I make multiple trips down the 3 flights of stairs with the suitcases to begin the ritual of loading. Antonio’s done something clever to reduce the number that need to be strapped onto the back from five to four; this allows a new configuration which hopefully keeps everything far enough away from the exhaust. I don’t believe I mentioned it prior, but we have melted the tarp and a couple of the handles from the cases by getting them too close to tailpipes. I have visions of us zooming down the interstate like a rocket with twin streams of fire and smoke trailing us upon re-entry.

By 8am we are heading South on I-15 through Provo and then we take Highway 6 East. It quickly turns into a pretty scenic drive heading through some canyons with giant sculpted sandstone cliffs rising up on each side. The canyons open up into the most extraordinary vista which is somewhere between a moonscape and a giant construction site. Enormous flat buttes rise up on the left with visible horizontal layers of strata. It’s clear to see which layers are made of more resistant materials as they protrude like so many lips while the softer one’s crumble beneath and above them. The effect is similar to glass bottles with decorative layers of sand only on a much grander scale. With these incredible rocky escarpments as a backdrop, we drive across the surface of the moon, only this moon has scattered scrub and tufts of dry grass. Huge spoil piles lie haphazardly everywhere and it’s hard to believe they aren’t manmade. Eventually we head East on I-70 and then turn South onto Highway 191 towards Moab. Quickly, the telltale rust red of the area’s rocks begins to show in the distance. Massive free-standing buttes dot the landscape like monoliths. The scenery is like nothing I have ever seen. We can see for what could be a hundred miles. Rocks, canyons, natural sculptures, mountains, arroyos and washes. It’s all on display here in a style that is unmistakably Western U.S. Oh but the color of the rocks, they turn deep rust red, sometimes uniform in their color and other times with varying hues. It’s spectacular. At points on the trip I have seen them with such deep color they remind me of rich red wine. They glow, luminescent in the sun and magnificent in their primal nakedness. We are only a mile from Arches now but everyone is getting hungry and so we pass the park entrance and make our way into Moab for a spot of lunch.

Moab is a lovely town. Again, set up almost exclusively for tourists but mostly restrained in it’s facades. Lots of nice restaurants, art galleries and tourist shops line the main street. We settle on the Moab brewery for lunch as I always like to sample the local brews whenever possible. Lunch is very pleasant – a couple of nice salads as we are still trying to be somewhat good, and a Hefeweizen for Antonio and IPA for me. As he brings the check, the waiter gives us a smile and says “I have to say, you guys were not what I was expecting when you walked in. A gay couple wearing BYU shirts from Salt Lake City, not the experience I was thinking of”. I have to explain at this point, Antonio’s friend Lupita had bought us a couple of BYU shirts (Brigham Young University to the uninitiated – a fine school but heavily and traditionally Mormon). Evidently most people that wear the shirts are alumni of the school. The girls at the store were even more amused when I purchased some beer to go and they explained the juxtaposition to me as I was a confused by their reactions. I’m pretty sure there’s no end of trouble I could get up to wearing that shirt. I walk out of the store holding the beer above my head while they giggle delightedly at my brazenness!

Satisfied, we head to Arches and once more the trusty Annual Pass is put into view. At this point, it just paid for itself and then some. So, for those of you would be park hoppers, make sure you pick one up; $80 for one full year is a remarkable value. Once inside the park, the road climbs the rust red cliff face in a series of short switchbacks and then over the crest. We stop at the first view point and are absolutely awestruck. To the left are a collection of rust red formations that are mind boggling. Buttes, sheer cliff faces hundreds of feet high, 3 tall columns that somehow remind me of the 3 wise men, and then endless vistas with rust red sculptures, canyons, and arid desert. I’m overwhelmed. We facetime with our Mother’s as one does in these situations and try to take it all in. Next stop is balancing rock. An enormous boulder defying gravity perched atop a much smaller, thinner pinnacle. Now this is road runner country – meep meep! It’s over 90 degrees but we walk around the loop and the kids build a couple of cairns among the existing collections. We make our way through the park stopping at viewpoint after viewpoint and trying to make sense of what we are seeing. Fortunately, the park doesn’t seem too busy and we easily find parking spaces at each of the main attractions. Finally, we end up at the Devil’s Garden and decide to walk to Landscape Arch. A word of caution, while some arches are visible from the road, the majority of the most famous require a short hike. We set off armed with sunscreen and several bottles of water. The temperature by now is approaching 100 degrees and the kids quickly begin to unravel. There isn’t much shade and they are not as fascinated by the vistas as we are. By the time we reach landscape arch all of us are becoming overheated and frazzled. “NO, I will not carry you”! How is it that two children can run around a restaurant a hundred times, but then you put them on a path and they can’t walk 50 yards?! The arch is magnificent, but our water bottles are dwindling, and it isn’t getting any cooler. We snap a couple of pictures and make our way back. By the time we reach the car it is close to 5pm and we are all spent, and besides, thunderheads are starting to build not so far away. We head back down to Moab and our hotel.

We are staying at the Expedition Lodge which has a fantastic location right on the main road within walking distance to everything. It’s done well, they have remodeled an older motel and instead of completely gutting it, they kept some of the original features and went with a retro theme. The rooms are sizeable with cute retro fridges and microwaves. The bathroom still features avocado green fixtures and when you turn on the overhead fan it sounds like an airplane taking off.

After some pool time (there’s a waterslide) we head out to dinner with no plans. We find a nice Thai restaurant called Singha Thai Cuisine and the food is quite good. Seafood medley for Antonio and Crispy duck in red curry sauce for me. The kids share our food along with combination fried rice. As we leave it is starting to rain and so we walk briskly back to the hotel. The rain continues long into the evening and brings with it a sweet smell of Summer. The red rocks on the cliffs above the town glisten as the sun fades.

Once again, I marvel at the enormous diversity of this country. I cannot believe the variety of climates and topography we have seen so far, and we are only one quarter of our way through the trip. I’m so glad we decided to take this journey, and I am thankful to you, gentle reader, for taking the time to join us along the way.

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