The Big Trip

Day 4 - Provo to Rifle, Colorado


Moosewood Lodge - Morning in Provo. Utah, that is. Rise early, 'cause I'm still short 70 or 80 miles. Chat with Cousin Kathi and her hubby. Shower quickly. Shoot more pictures of the new house, both inside and out. (The lines of the intersecting logs are endlessly fascinating. Nice view, too, from the guest bathroom. Nothing like looking out at a mountain while washing your ass.) Snap shots, as well, of a rented wood chipper that's just been delivered. (I mention Fargo, of course.) Hear a helicopter as I'm climbing into the car. Grab camera, insert film, change lens, and snap three distant shots of a Chinook lugging a water bucket. Leave, with a slight pause at the end of their street, to view (and shoot) the bubbling brook that can be heard from her house.

More Red Stuff - First order of bid'ness is the "fire activity" sign spotted last night on the main canyon road. I turn right and drive further into the canyon. Maybe five miles. See some more of the same signs, but, alas, no activity. Turn around. Go back. View the lovely Bridal Veil Falls. Leave canyon. In town, at a junior high, is a temporary fire camp. Tents for barracks; portable sanitation facilities. Even a supply "hut," labeled (by hand) "Wally Mart." The parking lot has busses and Forestry Service (small) trucks and one brush unit. A couple dozen firefighters roam the grounds, sweeping, cleaning, or yard- working to stay busy. Nearly all are male. And all are young. One bus bears a Wyoming tag. Another is identified as an Oregon team. Wow. 

Directed By Charles M. Jones - 9:46 a.m. Leave town, but not before crossing I-15 to an industrial area, after spotting what might be a fire-training tower. False alarm. Ride the freeway for all of five minutes, stopping next at a Wal-Mart. The overture to "The Barber of Seville" is playing on the radio. Come into my shop, let me cut your mop, let me shave your crop. Daintily. Daintily. Hey, you! Don't look so perplexed! Why must you be vexed! Can't you see you're next? Yes, you're next. You're so next. How about a nice close shave, teach your whiskers to behave; lots of lather, lots of soap; please hold still, don't be a dope. Now we're ready for the scraping, there's no use to try escaping; yell and scream and rant and rave; it's no use, you need a shave... And you can take it from there. Sign next to Wal-Mart: "Dip Ahead." How did they know I was coming?
 
10:15, Picked Nose - Alas, no Optical Center at this Wal-Mart, so the Super Geek glasses stay broken. (This morning, Kathi provided the raw materials to replace the earlier "sticky solution" with a homemade "spectacle splint," created from a strip of balsa wood and two small metal paper clamps. I still look funny as Hell, mind you. I just no longer fear a Catastrophic Chewing Gum Failure.)
 

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There is a Wal-Mart Optical Center about ten minutes west. I'm headed east, however, so go is a no. Plus, I have my prescription shades, which should keep me in clover during the daylight hours. Unless I'm in a tunnel. Or at a movie theater. A pair of rockin' radio stations starts things right with AC/DC's "Hells Bells," Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," AC/DC's "Stiff Upper Lip," Aerosmith's "Last Child," and AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." Yeah, you shook me.

Candy Bars For Breakfast - More damn roadwork, this time right outside Provo. Couldn't they have waited until after my trip? The occasional forest fire truck passes in the other direction, including one from New Mexico! Okay, my writing hand is hurting. Now there's a surprise. Cracker Barrel ahead. Haven't stopped there, yet, for food and "Hon"-calling. Maybe later. Construction ends seven or eight miles later. 10:29 a.m. Briefly smell smoke. See another snow cap. Few more miles and the speed limit finally returns to 75. Wohoo! Then, bam!, farmland. Where'd the cities go? And the mountains are farther away, now, too! Diet Coke and PayDay candy bar for breakfast. Tummy still hurts afterward, though. Guess I didn't get enough to eat. Wonderfully bright, white, fluffy clouds overhead. With Mr. Sun peeking out, often.
 
Nephi, Scipio, And Salina - The FM rockers soon fade; I switch to AM and tune Joy Browne and, later, Rush Limbaugh. (He's good for laughs.) The valley is really wide now. What a sweeping view!
  11:05 a.m. Drive into Nephi. No Wal-Mart, nor anything appetizing on the food front. Snap a picture of the fire station, however.
 Back on the Interstate. Ninety miles to the town of Beaver. Regrettably, due to the shortcut discovered last night, I won't be entering Beaver. 11:20 a.m. Scenery becoming more mountainous. Less vegetation, too. And, shortly thereafter, cliffs rapidly rising on either side. My, Utah is such a topographically titillating state! 11:35 a.m. Scipio, starting the 90 mile-saving shortcut. Highway 50, past hills, valleys, and even more mountain-sides.
Pass what I think is a vintage MG. Or maybe Aston-Martin.12:03 p.m. Salina, to return to the freeway, now I-70 and what'll take me all the way to Indianapolis!

Losing The Car Keys - Also scan Salina for food. Precious few choices, so I break down and eat at Denny's. And get the Hell surprised out of me. The place is spotless, the service is flawless, and the entire restaurant is non-smoking! Gads! (I partake in pot roast that's too moist, French fries cooked to order, an unremarkable side salad, and an ice-cream sundae.) Do some calculating, too, while waiting for the grub. Have spent $51.31 on gas and $85.13 on lodging. So far. 12:55 p.m. I've lost the car keys. Nope, not in the booth. Not in the restroom. Not in the newspaper rack, where I previously purchased today's "USA Today." Discover, later, that they're locked in the trunk. Good thing I had that key made! (Didn't help, however, when the spare set the car alarm off. Still trying to figure that out.)
 
 
Bare Feet On Sun-Baked Surface - After Salina, the mountains become rockier. Crumbling cliffs and splintering hills. Plenty o' green patches, too. Road signs warn of deer and elk. 1:45 p.m. First rainstorm of the trip. 1:50 p.m. Car radio now receiving only three stations. AM and FM combined! Stop at Mile Marker 87 and shoot a 360 with the wide lens. 2:01 p.m. Wow! Look at all the rocks! I appear to be driving through a miles-wide natural quarry! (No sign of Fred Flintstone, though.) 2:10 p.m. Examine standing rock formation off end of exit ramp. And while barefoot. Both pavement and cracked soil are damn hot. Probably suffered first-degree burns, before I pulled out the flip-flops.
 

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Back on freeway. 416 miles to Denver. Is that all? Absolutely love those formations. The rocks are splendidly craggy. So much character; so much earthen color. They could be enlarged faces of hated English teachers. Or giant, cancerous moles. (Others, farther down the road, resemble owls, woodpeckers, and Jay Leno.)

Just Call Me Cliff - Stop at the first of several "view points," this one high above an expansive canyon or valley or whatever a wide swath of land is called. No green, just a natural smearing of every red, orange, and brown Crayon in the box. (The big box.) On the opposite side of the freeway rises a tall tower of rust-colored, crispy rock wafers. To the west, a distant storm spawns the occasional lightning bolt. Climbable boulders everywhere. Or for sitting, standing, or, as has happened too often, scrawling graffiti. (Vandals suck.) I could stay up there for hours. And shoot way more pictures than a measly 48 exposures. Walk back to the Great Grape; notice my arms and legs are pink. Uh oh. Then I realize that I'm wearing my sunglasses. No bites or stings to report. Nor any sightings of roadrunners or wily coyotes. (Genius, that's all I can say!) More giant stacks of crispy wafers to the east. Barely anything appealing on the radio. (Not having a CD player sucks.)
 

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I've Got A New Altitude - Green stuff comes and goes. Mountains rise and fall. I probably should stop taking pictures. I've already used 48 rolls, including Seattle. Probably should limit the note-taking, too. Might be nice to go to bed before 1:00 a.m. (Ah, the lost sleep of the long-distance writer.) 3:50 p.m. Everything's suddenly flat. Huh? Guess I'll roll with it. Ha! Six-percent grade ahead, announces a large-lettered sign. Guess these "flat lands" are a-comin' to an end. "Brake test area ahead." Never seen that before. (Nor an "avalanche area" warning, as was spotted several times in the Provo Canyon.) The Big Drop. Wow squared. Gargantuan, jutting, jagged chunks of crispy wafers. Down we go. Me, flying; the trucks, in lower gear and flashing flashers on. More big-assed rock formations, some at seemingly impossible slants. Amazing sight. I could repeat this one-mile stretch a hundred times and not get tired of it... 

Dan Aykroyd In Ghostbusters - The Big Drop is one or, maybe, two-thousand feet. My ears pop. After leveling off, I realize I've been slack in my acceleration duties. Engrossing scenery is no excuse for not putting the pedal to the metal! Less-tall hills, now. Some are smoothly sculpted; others resemble giant concrete castings of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. A striking blue sky still peeks from behind the freshly whipped cream clouds. In the distance are mountains, in every direction and as far as the eye can see. Cool. (Memo to self: visit the Southwest.) BTW, how in the world am I going to show all these pictures? 68 rolls (estimated) of 24 exposures yields 1682 snapshots! Cripes! We can presume, though, that only one-quarter will be (a.) in focus, (b.) framed correctly, and (c.) a non-duplicate. 408, then. Oy. Maybe I'll tote them around in boxes. 

Running A-Fowl - 4:00. Trio of hitchhikers sighted. 4:01 p.m. Passing Green River. Absolutely nothing in that town. Oncoming landscape continues to evolve. Radio continues to suck. (Paul Harvey's evening report provides blessed, if temporary relief.) Skip the highly touted Arches Park. Too far from the freeway and too late in the day. Another interesting sign: Eagles on Highway. Sure hope I see some! [ Insert own bird pun ] 4:25 p.m. Line of gigantic, pointed cliffs that resemble a row of ocean liners. Stop shortly thereafter in Thompson, after sign saying "next services 59 miles." Restroom, postcards, candy bar, and Diet Coke. Drive into the so-called "town," seeing mobile homes, decrepit buildings, and the poorest-looking fire station I've ever laid eyes on. Identified only by an American flag and a white-painted, military surplus truck, the apparent station occupies a storage garage adjacent to an abandoned motel. Nice. 

Two's Company, Three's Out Of The Question - Leave Tiny Town with my olfactions offended. The gas station reeked of that same pungent, painful, "plastic smell" that many Target stores have. (Last night in Centerville, I even noticed the smell in the Super Target's parking lot! Weird.) Sure makes my nose hurt. Motorcycle passes in opposite direction, with disassembled bicycle on rack. Never seen that before. Wonder what a drive like this is like with a second person. (Can't comprehend more than two, however. I haven't been subjected to, er, engaged in "group travel" since high school. Though I think I entertained the idea once in 1994.) Radio still sucks. Dull news (meaning non-shocking) and only contemporary country for tunes (yawn). 5:35. Welcome to Colorado! 5:38, arrive in Grand Junction, destination Wal-Mart. Hope the Optical Center is still open. End up, first, at the airport. See signs for new "ARFF" (aircraft rescue and fire-fighting) facility, so eyeglass needs are promptly forgotten. 

Recruiting Solder - Discover that the new facility is still under construction. One of the crash trucks is parked right next door, so I shoot a couple shots over the fence. And talk with a firefighter. Back to town, to Wal-Mart, to see Amish people shopping there. Whoda thunk? Yes, this one has an Optical Center. Yes, the Optical Center is open. No, they can't help me, 'cause my frames need soldering, which they don't do. However, the person making a spectacle of themselves notes that other eyewear or jewelry stores can probably handle. To the mall, in search of solder, but not before restocking supplies (film, notebooks, PayDay candy bars) and purchasing a second portable CD player, this time a $29 model purporting to play tunes through your car's FM radio. No connection required. (Initial tests are almost satisfactory.) Find the mall, first following a fire truck to its station nearby. Also stop at Sam's, where I don't find a difference in the price of film. 

Baby Back Baby Back Baby Back Ribs - Yet another mall walk, this time for solder instead of fanny packs. Everyone, from jeweler to optician, either declines or doesn't know the right person there. I contemplate buying my own damn solder and soldering iron and trying my luck later. Only then, duh, do I realize that I can remove the wire "handles" from the clamps on my "splint." With those little thingies removed, I no longer look like a Martian-- just a guy with very bushy eyebrows. Leave mall, leaving flip-flops behind. (They hurt.) Eat dinner down the road at Bennett's Bar-b-que and Steaks. I order a half-slab of baby backs, plus fries, beans, and a hot-fudge brownie sundae made with real hot fudge. Yum. 9:10 p.m. Leave Grand Junction. Flip through stations-- including a Navaho tribal broadcast!-- and find Neal Boortz, a libertarian loudmouth out of Atlanta. 60 more miles to go. Pitch black, save for the other vehicles and occasional city lights. The speed limit is 75 and, man, nothing is as good as driving fast at night. Legally. Park for good in Rifle, an hour later. The Rusty Cannon Motel. $40 for a clean-smelling smoking room. Big room, with two queens! Plus booklet on nightstand, "How to have a happy and meaningful life." I'll get right on it. 

Total mileage today: around 350 

Total mileage total: around 1350 

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros


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