Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Road Trip 2009: Day Seven

Tuesday, June 16th - I'm happy to report that I'm still in good health after spending a night at Hotel 3737. I couldn't even bring myself to sleep below anything other than the topmost covers in fear of finding something unsavory. But the night passed without incident, and I actually slept pretty well all things considered. And luckily, Arp discovered how to work the air conditioner. All he had to do was turn the thermostat to 90. Make sense to me.

We hit the road by 11am and headed south to Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs. We knew that it was a 19 mile drive to the Peak's summit, and that at the top we would be greeted by a full 360 degree view of the surrounding Rocky Mountain Range. What we didn't realize was how high it truly was - a whopping 14,000+ feet above sea level. Over two miles high, meaning there would be cold, there would be snow, and there would be less oxygen.

Arp started the drive, shifting Faith down into 2nd gear. She responded well to the climb. At times, we felt a little less than safe considering how much of the roadway lacked a guard rail, but our Explorer itself never gave us cause for alarm.

At the top, we hopped out of the car and were greeted by 35 degrees of cold, Even though we bundled up quickly, our heartbeats were elevated, and Kat and Arp seemed to be suffering a little from the loss of oxygen. We kept the stop quick, buying a couple souvenirs (and a couple homemade donuts) and took a number of awesome photographs.

The view was unbelievable, and at times, we just could not comprehend the height. Here's a comparison for you. When the three of us jumped out of a plane last year, we jumped at an altitude of 10,000 feet. And here we were now at 14,000+ feet. Clouds passed by and we watched as the shadows fell on the miniature ground below.

No image can ever really express what you see when you are up there (though I've tried here without much success.) Only a song could even come close to expressing the emotions you feel up there: "America the Beautiful." It seems that the writer, Katherine Lee Bates, was inspired by Pike's Peak, and the song flowed naturally as inspiration:

"O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!"

For the descent, I took over driving duties, dropping Faith into 1st gear. This would keep me from using the breaks too much, as heated brakes can often fail to be as effective as brakes that stay relatively cool. At the 13 mile mark, there was a mandatory brake check, and the woman who tested the temperature said, "81 degrees. Very good mountain driving." Awesome.

Back at the bottom of the Peak, the air temperature again raised back up to 78 degrees and we made our way to the highway. We had 420 miles ahead of us, and it was already 3:30pm. We stopped for a brief Taco Bell lunch (Kat and Arp have a Tuesday tradition called Taco Bell Tuesday that they had to uphold) and hit the road with a full tank of gas.

It's at this point that I should mention that we've decided to skip our trip to the Four Corners. Turns out that there is simply no easy way to get to the intersection of those four states, and to go, it would add over almost 300 miles to our two remaining days of travel. So rather than spend all that extra time in the car, we decided to skip the Four Corners and go directly to Vegas, which brings us to our halfway point tonight: Green River, UT. And we made sure to book at a Best Western after last night's experiences. Go team go.

The drive along Route 70 to Utah was one of those unexpected things that occur during a trip that just takes you totally by surprise. I knew we had to cross the Rockies to make our way to the West Coast, but I had no idea the drive would be so incredibly beautiful. The mountains rose on all sides as we traveled through valleys and canyons, riding alongside rivers and streams, through tunnels and passes.

And then there were these ramps for runaway trucks. The roads going downhill were so steep that if a truck's brakes were to give out, they can turn their trucks up these inclines to slow the truck to a stop. I'd never seen one before, so I had to post it here.

The sun dipped down below our jagged surroundings and silhouetted the peaks with an incredible majestic beauty. Before too long, it was night, and we found ourselves in the same darkness we experienced a couple days ago. There were NO lights on the road other than those from other cars. It was almost enough to drive you mad, thinking to yourself that you may be surrounded by mountains and CAN'T see them.

Finally, by 12:45am we arrived at our hotel in the small town of Green River. I went into the lobby to check in, and waited behind a woman who was looking for a room for herself and her sleeping kids. The kind, elderly woman behind the counter informed her that she had no more rooms on the first floor and would have to take a room on the second floor. At this point, I stepped forward, introduced myself, and asked if my reserved room was on the first floor. If so, I would be more than glad to give it to this woman in exchange for a room on the second floor.

Turns out our room WAS on the first floor, so I gladly gave it to this very tired mother. The woman behind the counter thanked me for my kindness, and offered me a Family Room on the second floor as a free upgrade for my actions. I gladly took it, and we headed up to the room. It was HUGE, with two queen size beds, a fold-out third bed, a balcony overlooking a river, and wonderful shower. What a complete difference from last night, but I guess you get what you pay for.

Oh, and here's a cute picture of a dog we took. Enjoy!

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