Friday, 31 July 2015

Nothing like the smell of burnt rubber first thing in the morning.

The end is near.  Or is it..

I am writing this just miles from the Canadian border, eating my last gourmet road breakfast, guess where? 

Yesterday I didn’t post simply because I was just too darn tired. Did a 16 hour day and 656 miles, that's 1056 Kilometers.
I had expected that once I left Monument Valley things would be pretty mundane for the rest of the trip back.   


To start, as I was heading north to Moab I did as I often did and kept one eye on my rear view mirror to see what might be materializing behind me. The beauty and scope of the country is just too powerful to speed by without “stopping to smell the roses” or in this case cactus flowers. Just don’t sick your nose too close.
Though it's a desert it is teaming with life

Pushing upward these ancient beauties are real desert jewels.

Came across a group, no gaggle is a better word, of girls on a GAP trip.  When I say came across it’s more like nearly ran over. 

Ok, now before any of you get your nickers-in-a-knot about running down the local wildlife, please, let me explain.

Going north from Monument Valley to Moab on Hwy 163 the road runs as straight as an arrow for about 4 miles, increasing in elevation until it reach a small plateau.    
Where else does a ribbon of asphalt add to the scene
At the plateau, there is a pullover and this is where 20 giggling and very excited young ladies were gathered to have their pictures taken with the majestic view in the BG.  They were turning the photo moment into a full-fledged production.  Taking their pictures in groups, jumping as a group, running towards the camera as a group and any other combinations you can imagine. 

The thing is this, for an approaching car (that being me) anyone or things on the plateau aren't visible until just before you crest.    Doing 70+ mph the gaggle suddenly came into view and I stepped on my brakes and the girls scattered, like a flock of crows feasting on road kill.  

The 18 wheeler only meters off of my bumper, (he was pouring on the diesel to make the grade) hauling 50,000 pounds (that's 22,679 kilos) of rebar, said it best.  With his air horn piercing the quite still landscape and dense blue smoke pouring from his tires the road becoming shrouded in a blue haze.  I'm sure the girls felt their GAP trip was just about to be terminated.  

The only damage was about $1,000.00 worth of rubber being left on the very hot pavement and a very annoyed "long haulier".

Wisely, the girls moved further down the road so they could better see oncoming traffic.  I pulled over to watched their antics, the trucker needed what little momentum he had left to finish the climb and couldn't stop.  Great fun, unless you're the trucker.
The excitement

Oh to be young and carefree again.
I've said it before but it's worth repeating.  This part of the country, for all of its raw and hostile environment, is indescribably beautiful.

For all of its beauty, you have to be careful as the desert can jump up and bite you just when you least expected it.
Caution is needed or you too could get bitten.
Arrived in Moab and hunted for Hwy 128.  Why 128?  Well, remember Don Robertson at the Ghost Mining town in Jerome?  Well, he told me to find this road "you'll be glad you did".

Hwy 128 runs beside the Colorado River in a gorge with the steep red sandstone walls towering above you.  Though taking 128 adds about an hour to your day, it’s well worth it.  The traffic moves at a snail's pace, everyone is soaking up the beauty. 

Glad I took Don's advise instead of staying on Hwy 163 and pounding straight for I-70.
Surprised that anything crows in this heat

These things  come crashing down on a regular basis and the road signs warn you.
Colorado winding along Hwy 128 near Moab

Dead Black Trees against the backdrop of a Crystal Blue sky and Red Butte.
About to go rafting on the mighty C

I had expected that getting to Denver would be pretty straightforward.  Like everything else about this trip, Wrong Again!

The highway is a series of huge climbs, through tunnels, past rivers, up and down valleys, though lovely sleepy ski resort towns just waiting to be awakened by the arrival of snow.  You become very aware that your car’s engine is labouring to suck oxygen in the thin air of 11,125 plus feet and your ears need to be constantly purged. Man, does you gas consumption shoot up.  Despite being on a high-speed interstate the trip is not quick.  Take a wrong exit and it’s 20 minutes before you can correct your mistake.  Great fun.

Not much oxygen at this altitude. Even though the speed limit is posted as 60 you can see my speed is just 45.

Check out the altitude on my GPS's altimeter. Even the GPS has desert dust on it.
About to enter the 1.7 mile (2.74 km) Johnson Tunnel
Inside the tunnel

After Colorado, you enter the flat open expanse of Nebraska.  Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Actually, there isn't anything ridiculous about Nebraska but the sudden change in landscape when you pop out of the tunnel is extreme.  

Onward, onward you charge, thank goodness the highway speed is set at 75 mph which means most are doing 80+.

Then before you know it you hit Iowa.  Gorgeous slow rolling luscious green fields dotted with miles of wind turbines. I found an exit and just had to pull off of I-80 to stop to soak up the beauty and do some photography.   
Rolling Green Hills of Iowa
Truck on dusty Iowa country road

Iowans take their conservation seriously. Over 27% of Iowa's energy needs come from wind.   Not all solar need to boring in design. 

Wind Turbines in Iowa
I shot this pic as it struck me as funny.  It's a single blade from a wind turbine.  At 127 feet tall and 36 tons, you don't want this thing to topple over.  A full unit weights 171 tons.  

Single Turbine Blade as a monument at a weigh scale stop

What struck me as funny was that it reminded me of a scene in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, with Charleston Heston.  In the scene, Heston who is an astronaut who time travels into the future and witnesses apes paying homage to what they think is an image of their god.  In fact, it's an ICBM missile.
ICBM in scene from 1968 Planet of the Apes
While the wind turbine's blade is used for peaceful purposes the ICBM is just the opposite. I was struck by the similarities even though how opposite these two objects are and what they stand for.  

Funny how your mind goes when alone for long periods of time. The strangest things pop into one's head.

More to come….

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