Monument Valley

Howdy Y’all

After a long day and almost missing the grand canyon to a setting sun we drove for a few more hours until we reached town as remarkably odd as the name it bears- Tuba City, Arizona. Exhausted and ready for a nice cheap sleep before we hit the road bright and early we pulled into a hotel into charming and bustling city of tubas. We pulled into a quality inn. Katie and Thom waited in the car as I collected the keys and shepherded the sleepy road warriors to our room. Only there would be no keys to collect and no sheep to herd.

No room at the Inn.

The lady behind the desk was kind enough to call around and ask for availability at other hotels in the area. Phone call after phone call and much to our dismay she couldn’t find any availability. I guess there was a big Tuba convention in town. Alas! She found another quality inn with room for three roaming miscreants – in a town about 2 hours away. Could our sleepy eyes make it? Was it worth paying for only a few hours of rest. Oy.We thanked the missus and drove around  the glittering streets. Hungry bellies and hopeless hearts lead us to a horrible place I can barely brave to mention. Sonic Drive-In.

Ugh, just as horrifying in the daylight

If you’ve never been to a drive in (that’s drive-IN not drive-“THRU” as we’re all most familiar with)(and feel blessed if  you’ve not) this is how she works: You drive your car into one of these fancy litte docking stations. You order from the flash fried menu and then sit in you car and enjoy the sights and sounds of the tuba city parking lot until a staff member brings out take out containers to your car- wherein you sit and eat the meal in your car.All the comfort of a restaurant  without of moving your body or sitting at a table. All the convenience of a drive through without the pesky driving. Finally, fine dining at its finest.

So while sat at this eatery we squinted our  squishy eyes at the numbered menu and as if all at once we all noticed something glowing behind the neon lit food board –  a hotel that hadn’t been mentioned by the helpful missus at the hotel desk. Like an oasis in the dessert, so thirsty for sleep, we approached it cautiously incase it was but a figment of our dreary imaginations. A shining hope in an an otherwise dark night we scurried across the highway and made our way into the lush Hopi Navajo Hotel. It felt real, it smelled real, we combed our hair, straighted our collars and tried to be as approachable and pitiful as possible. 

A little out of our price range and misfit with Tubatown we still decided it might be our best bet. Luckily before we payed the nice man, our charming and English-voiced Thomas decided to turn on the ol’ Charmometer and see what kind of deal he might be able to swing for us. He saved us a few of the prettiest pennies and we packed up our things and hoped into bed. One big bed. With all our wives. What can I say? I’ve still got it… Also it was one hell of a bed; huge, plump and with a plethora of different pillows to choose from. Even with a reduced rate this place was way more than we’d been paying in Vegas but with a bed like that and things looking bleak otherwise, it was worth the pretty pennies we put down for it.

The next morning we all woke (in extremely close proximity to one another) to a beautiful day and happy rested brains ready to take on the strangest driving day any of us had ever encountered. We’d arrived in pitch black so when the curtains were flung open and it was just desert as far as you could see, we all started to get very excited again! This was going to be another day of very exciting road trippery. A little tuck in of breakfast and we’d be right as rain. Free breakfast, as Thommy had managed for score us not only a cheaper room, but a continental breakfast too! Our coupons were for Denny’s, a chain diner across the parking lot. It’s the kind of place that has this on the menu;

You have to admit they really killed it. If you’re going to do only one thing you have to make sure you do it to the very limits of which it can be done and I think they’ve done just that.

Naturally we ate the entire Pyramid. Its the rules.Why else would they have it? You can imagine how this would tantalise the taste buds of a buncha vegetarians, we were, of course, thrilled. 

We all managed to find something on the menu to fill us up and oh boy did it do just that. In America we eat until we die. AMURICA!

I once heard that the amount of waste food that America produces in a day could feed the starving population of Africa for a year. I thought this “stat” was a bit on the wild side but after dining in the U.S. for just a few days I could see where they were coming from. The mountain of food they fit onto a plate is alarming, especially at a breakfast diner. I  had to eat holes through mine so I could see across the table.

We ate as much as we could, rolled a very bacony young Katie out to the parking lot and taped her to the top of the car.
AND THEY’RE OFF!
We had a big day of driving ahead of us, over six hundred miles across three states to end up in the Colorado Rockies where we had made sure to book a room this time.It was a whopping eleven hours away so we needed to get going and keep a good pace. Ol’ Thommy had been analysing the map all morning and insisted on a route which took us through Monument Valley, a place he had always wanted to see ever since a young English boy dreaming of the wiki-wild wiki-wild-wild-west. It’s true, I couldn’t come all the way down here into cowboy country and not see Monument Valley, so yes, I did insist, the girls didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was going to be spectacular, I just didn’t know how spectacular…
 Nature’s really done it this time!
Ladies and gentlemen may I present you: MONUMENT VALLEY

home on the range

This place is postcard after postcard of beautiful vistas. I don’t think I really believed that a place like this actually existed. The longer we drove the further down our jaws plummeted. We were actually standing in the landscapes of Wile. E and the Road Runner, and looking up at the blue skies and fluffy white clouds of Andy’s room.

This place was a wonderland within a dream, painted into a storybook.

wile e. coyote

Road Runner

monumental spires

big sky country

Driving along the Navajo Trail reminded us all why we stopped where we did and elected to get up early instead of pushing on through the night. I’m so happy we made that decision because the scenery we would have missed is just stunning, it would have been such a shame to drive blindly through it. We showed up on such a perfect day for weather. We couldn’t have asked for a better spring day. The outside world was starting to get very different from the previous days viewings, it really did look like we’d just driven into a movie. 

The Mayor of ThommyTown

Lil’ house Big rock

scuffin’ aboot

And here’s our lovely boy-girl katie. Scuffin’ aboot on the navajo trail. I do believe this was a moment where she has finished her tiny packet of crackers and was stepping on ant hills. After all that hard work it only seems crazy that she should have to drive such a long distance so we pulled straws and…Thomathee took the wheel.

I was happy to! Of course I didn’t point out that this was my first time driving an automatic vehicle and that I’d never driven in North America before until after I’d secured the drivers seat!

With gritted teeth and horrified expressions Katie and I watched as Thom buckled in, turned up the tunes and careened down Route 163 on the left side of the road. (may I suggest you read the rest of this post with these tunes a playing, this is what we had in the car and it really added to the  atmosphere! just click the blue underlined word.)

And then we were in Utah! Thom drove like an ol’ pro. Until we reminded him he needed to be on the right side of the road. He did of course have to slow down for baaaad drivers.

road side assistance

nature is rad

orangutan rock

swirly rocks

I had a great time behind the wheel, the sweeping black tarmac flowed under our wheels like a river. With my window down and no traffic to compete with it was a really relaxing experience, I’m sure it was less so for my passengers but I hoped that the drama unfolding outside the windows would be sufficient to distract their nerves.

Slowly the dry dessert started to be peppered with greenery which contrasted drastically with the red rocks and blue sky.

 

prettiest

I see the rock….where is this hole…is it really worth all that paint mentioning?

We did not expect Utah to be like this. I suppose I dont really know much about Utah, except that there are some Mormons there and they had the Olympics once…but not much more than that. From the day we spent driving through it we didn’t have much time to glean a whole lot but we do know one thing to be true: Utah is ballin’.

We stumbled into a town called Moab (which we continuously pronounce MOBE.) (I have never once called it Mobe.) Although we didn’t know any more about this place than the storefronts on its main streets we all seemed to have felt a vibe from this red, green and blue wonder world and decided it was probably one of the better places in the whole wide world. Moab was like a little mirage, we had been driving through a vast mars-like expanse for hours when we happened across the little town nestled in a lush valley. We saw trees for the first time in what seemed like months, all the colours from the cooler side of the spectrum splashed against our scorched-red cones, it was like a glass of ice-cold water for our parched eyes! And it may only have been for a few minutes and we may not have even stopped but we all felt refreshed by the time we emerged from the other side of the town.

The next image you’re about to see will probably reinforce why we love Moab so much. Moab is the place where we met BROZ.

RAD

The shift of the landscape was absolutely breathtaking. As the car rounded a massive red monolith the sky would open and reveal an expansive field leading up to snow capped mountains. 

buddha and the mountain

We drove on and on, singing songs, snapping snaps and most importantly noming noms. The scenery once again starting to change as we inches our way closer to Colorado. Now we’d heard about the Colorado mountains but it seems very bizarre how these two very different states could be neighbours.  Colourful Colorado certainly lives up to its name. The state (or at least the brief taste that we got of it) was a lush, mountainous, rivery oasis in the desert that we’d spent the good part of 12 hours driving through.

Colourful Colorado

The deeper we got into the state the cooler it got in both senses of the word. We were passing in and out of rainstorms like we were shopping for thunder and couldn’t find the right brand. The earthy-brown Colorado river swirled along with the road and over the water a railway joined the team. Together the three of them carved a gorge through the range (although I hear the river put in the most elbow grease), and for miles we snaked along the trail admiring their work.

Colderful Colorado

We stopped very briefly in a small town to fuel up and I nipped in to spend a penny. As soon as I entered the washroom I got the feeling I was about to be involved in something special. The small washroom was empty but for one man, in his 40’s, I’d say, jumping around in an odd fashion struggling with a wetsuit. It wasn’t immediately clear if he was struggling to get in or struggling to get out but one thing was for sure, he wasn’t going in either direction very fast. He paused long enough to make eye-contact with me, and with that one look, I knew the door had just locked and he had swallowed the key.

“Say bud, you couldn’t help me out there, could ya?”

“What do you want me to-“

“Just grab a hold of this and pull” He handed me the back of the collar. I deduced we were getting him into the wetsuit.

“Sure ok”

And I pulled. And he jumped and hopped and grunted. And after about 4 minutes we had him in.

“Thanks bud”

“No problem”

“I’m about to go surf the wave” And before I could ask, he took the liberty of explaining. Apparently, right behind the gas station, in the Eagle River (a contributory to the Colorado) there is a standing wave, which “dudes” come down to cut shapes on. And this explained the wetsuit-in-a-petrol-station-scenario. He then told me all about his son, who is an excellent surfer and pulled out his phone to show me video proof of such a claim. As I watched the shaky, shot-on-an-iPhone, verification Wetsuit Man left. He just walked out of the washroom and left me standing there, holding his phone, needing to pee. I went for the door and peered out but he was already out of the shop and I could see him through the windows jogging across the forecourt towards the river.

I ventured out into the shop and looked around for Tess or Katie but they were already back in the car. I looked to the cash attendant but they were serving. So I got in line, video still playing and, when my time came, passed the phone to the attendant, I started to explain but she cut me off.

“Oh yeah, he’s always doing that”

And in saying that she relieved me of any responsibility I may have felt towards Wetsuit Man or his iPhone. I jumped back in the car and we drove off to grumbles from Tess and Katie about boys taking just as long in the washroom as girls do and that’s when I remembered I’d forgotten to pee. That was Wetsuit Man’s true victory.

Thom and I really liked Colorado but Katie missed Utah, and made quite a fuss about it.

Little Boy Blue

Well someone up above was certainly looking out for our little mouskateer because suddenly in the rearview mirror something caught my eye:

Broz 2: Lost in Colorado

BROZ! Spanning two states we found our little buddies here to cheer up miss melanson!

Colorado decided to pull a Len and steal my sunshine, but i wasn’t going to let that get me down. Way too busy being in awe to bother myself with nonsense like s.a.d.

Then something none of us were expecting happened. We entered a tunnel and somehow a wormhole of some description because on the other side was a wintery world of snow and ice. We had spent the last few hours steadily rising out of the gorge and up toward the sky but hadn’t realised just how high we were getting. By reaching the Eisenhower Tunnel we had in fact climbed to the highest point in the entire Interstate Highway System, at a whopping 11’158ft above sea level. That’s quite an impressive feat and it also means snow. So for the final stages of our day’s journey and as the light faded with increasing rapidity, we were reduced to a slow and steady method of driving. 

Snow covered giants

Snow covered. Just like our hearts.

The girls did a marvellous job of navigating us through those mountains and we arrived safe and sound (if a little later than hoped) at our pre-booked hotel room in Boulder.

I was due to leave this travelling circus early the next day. My flight out of Denver International would take me to Toronto and from there I was Manchester-bound for two weeks to catch up with the family, visit friends and drink cups and cups of salad cream (not to mention recharging the old visa!).

In the morning we would glimpse Denver as we drove the forty minutes to the airport, my flight would be cancelled, I would panic, we would find out it had just changed airline, I would try to use a self-service machine without any luck and it would take 3 helpful staff 10 minutes to realise that the passport-scanning part of the machine had been removed, I would finally get checked in and wave goodbye to my road-trip pals and they would drive off over the open plains toward Nebraska, before hitting Iowa, Chicago, Detroit and then home to Toronto. 

But that was all for the morning, for the time being we lounged around in our hotel room, too exhausted to make any impression on Boulder but too inspired to sleep. We stayed up and reflected on what had been an unbelievable day of road-trippery.

Morning

Noon

Night

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