Monday, September 8, 2008

Day 38: Into the Valley of Death

Fast Food Report
Blakes Lotaburger - I first thought this was just a local one-off, having the look of an old burger joint/drive in. However, when I started to see these cropping up all over the place in northern New Mexico, I began to become suspicious. The name, obviously, is very similar to my previously mentioned Whataburger, and unfortunately the food wasn't much better. Although score one for having such burger names as the "LOTA burger" and the "ITSA burger" (guess which one is bigger). As an aside, I also found a place called "Thatsaburger", although I didn't eat there. Interesting...

In-n-Out Burger - Known as the best for a reason. All fresh ingredients guarantee a delicious burger experience. A lack of frilly options means they do what they do, and do it very well (your choices are burger, cheeseburger, or double cheeseburger). Really not much has to be said about In-n-Out; if you haven't yet partaken in this pinnacle of fast food achievement, get yourself to a more enlightened state and treat yourself.

The last few days have consisted of a lot of driving, mostly. I left Santa Fe Saturday morning and began my journey north. My first destination was Four-Corners national monument. Unfortunately, there was no real direct way to get there from Santa Fe; I had to first drive nearly to the northern border, then west. In the end though, I'm glad I was forced to drive that route because the scenery of northwestern New Mexico is quite amazing. I suppose you can call it "high desert", although it is far from barren. Unfortunately, like a dope, I neglected to stop and take any pictures, and I'm having a hard time describing it. Just take my word for it.

As I got closer to Arizona, the landscape began to change into a more typical desert. Interesting but not quite as beautiful.

Four-Corners is an interesting place. I don't think I was expecting much, so I can't call it a let down. It sits on the Navajo Reservation, and has a selection of merchant booths around the monument selling jewelery, crafts, and souvenir t-shirts. The monument itself is a plaque in the ground marking the actual corner set in a concrete deck with the seal of each state in its respective section. There is an elevated deck where you can get a better view of the corner. The best part was the Navajo Frybread I ate while looking at the corner. Think elephant ear, with honey instead of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Yum.

From that exciting adventure I drove northeast through the lower bit of Colorado. I had thought about stopping at the Canyons of the Ancients national park there, but my time was beginning to grow short if I was to make it to Arches before sunset, so I settled for simply driving by it. Unfortunately there wasn't much to see from the road.

I arrived in Moab, UT right around Sunset on Saturday. I had no idea, but this town just outside of Arches is quite the outdoor adventure town. It reminded me a bit of Whitefish, MT in its size and popularity with tourists. When I finally reached the entrance to Arches, I saw the following sign in the ranger station window:

Campground Full

Drat. Figures, though; I hadn't really thought about the fact that it was a Saturday. Driving back through town, I stopped at motel after motel only to find them all completely booked. Double drat. I talked to a man outside of one motel who told me that unless I wanted to pay $150 for a room (not unless I'm in Canada), I was probably out of luck. Nothing I can do about it then, I thought to myself, and decided to get some grub and drink at the Moab Brewery I had passed on the way in. The food was pretty good, the beer was nothing too special (at least the one I had). I bummed around the town for a bit, wasting time on the internet, reading, wandering the grocery store, until I felt tired enough to attempt the car-nap. I must say, I'm getting better at this sleeping in my car business. It's still not the best nights sleep, but it's more than adequate to get me through the next day.

I woke a little after the sun rose, ate a banana, and headed into Arches. Being early into the park had two major advantages:
  1. Beat the heat
  2. Beat the rush
The only named arch I wanted to ensure I saw was the famous Delicate Arch; everything else was just bonus. The trail leading to the arch is about 1.5 miles each way, and rises about 500 feet. It doesn't sound so bad, except that the altitude rise is almost all encompassed in one stretch of the trail that goes up an exposed rock face at a nasty angle. Add to that the fact that my calves were still recovering from Carlsbad, and you get one gnarly hike. Thankfully it wasn't over 80 degrees yet.

The famous delicate arch...just kidding, click for the real photo.
At the end of the trail, you round a corner carved out of a rock face with a rather steep drop off to your left, and there in front of you is Delicate Arch, set in a natural amphitheater area. The view is more than worth the hike to get to it. I sat around enjoying the view for a while, then walked around the arch itself before heading back down the trail.

The rest of the park was truly fantastic. There is a lot to see and explore, I spent more than an hour simply driving around and doing short hikes to other lesser known arches. As the day wore on, however, the crowds began to irritate me. I think a late fall return to the park could be well worth the trip; less heat, less crowds, and hopefully a camping spot.

I left Arches behind in the early afternoon, and began my long drive down to St. George, UT. Although quite lengthy, the drive was made interesting due to the landscape. The southeastern quarter of Utah has amazing views; canyons, mountains, jagged rock formations pushed at odd angles out of the earth. It's also mostly empty (there was a stretch on I-70 that had no services for over 100 miles). If I have to spend six of seven hours driving, I'll take that kind of a drive.

When it was time to head south, I took US-89 instead of I-15 for two reasons. First, I've been trying to conserve fuel so I don't usually drive faster than 65 or 70 (no need for the interstate speed limits of 75+); and second I-15 is pretty boring, having driven it on my last roadtrip with Scott. My plan was to head through Zion National Park, but not to actually stop in it this time. However, as I found out, it costs $25 just to drive through. Forget that, I thought. Unfortunately, the next passage between US-89 and I-15 was about 20 miles back the way I came.

I finally arrived in St. George around 8pm. I checked into my $26 motel (new record!) and realized I'd better do laundry so I don't offend my hosts in California. As you can probably guess, it was an exciting night.

Today, I'm off to Death Valley, via Las Vegas. I'm not anticipating a problem getting a campsite this time (being Monday, and the fact that there are over 100 sites at this particular campground), although it may be a bit on the warm side. I'd better pick up some water.

Reason for the short blog: I need to get on the road and put off writing this
Odometer reading: ~1000 (it rolled over after 9999).
The Honorary Title - Anything Else But the Truth (pretty decent album, thanks Lynsey)
Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Wish You Were Here (the former being quite good, I'd never really listened to it before)
Coldplay - Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head


g said...

Wow dude... $26...

I am amazed. That might just be the cheapest place in the country.

Have fun in death valley man... that should be way interesting...

John and Dianne said...

I wish we had known your route beforehand. You are covering territory with lots of our family history attached. You will need to revisit the sites of the Ancients one day, a truly awesome experience. It is as they say,
'the Land of Enchantment'.

Anonymous said...

Dude don't worry about the laundry, the heats brought the stank out in all of us. I'm so excited!!!!!

Cate said...

I've always wanted to go to the four corners! I assume you made sure to strategically place your body in all four states at once, right?!

Also, I'm glad you hear you ate a banana. Fruit does the body good.