We wound up picking up our rental on a Friday so we could pack and head “down home” before really getting out on the road. We rented a 2012 Ford Edge that we both quickly fell in love with; I’m pretty sure it’d be a good contender the next time we go to look for a new-to-us vehicle. After all of the road trips I’ve been on, this was the one vehicle I’d been in for stretches of hours that I didn’t feel uncomfortable in or need to stop to stretch my legs for several hundred miles.
The first city that made us feel like we were really on the road was St. Louis. I’ve only been to/through St. Louis once before, at a quick layover at the airport before heading to London. Someday I’d like to go back to explore and actually go up into the Arch.
Our next stop was Kansas City, to try out the famous Jack Stack Barbeque for dinner… and all I can say is WOW. It was SO GOOD! (I’d never even heard of “cheesy corn” before, but… WOW). So worth the pit stop for two hungry travelers.
All in all, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas didn’t really feel like we were on vacation yet. Partly, I’m sure, because Illinois and Missouri still felt like home. Kansas was just so flat and there wasn’t much to look at. Every few miles, there might be a house, or a shack, or a cow. Maybe it was just the particular road we took through Kansas, I don’t know. But one thing I loved about Kansas was driving through at night. The night sky was absolutely without a doubt breathtaking! One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to lay out at night and watch the stars. Kansas would be such a marvelous place to do this in the summer!
Side note: I am now officially sick of country music. I hope to never hear ANY ever again. Especially Miranda Lambert. How do people think she’s good?? All of her songs are petty, self-absorbed… and just awful. I used to love country music as a kid; I grew up in a rural community and it seemed to fit. Nowadays… absolutely not. There was one day I had it on the radio and five songs in a row were about being a teenager and pregnant; that’s just not my lifestyle. Neither is going hunting with my dog, getting drunk from too much beer, or any of that other hillbilly nonsense. Country being one of the few choices on this long and winding road trip, I put up with it as long as I could before I plugged in my iPhone so we had something good to listen to, thank you very much! (Sorry, David, I know you like your awful music, but I can only deal with so much!)
It wasn’t until we were a good way into Colorado before you could sense a change in elevation. Once we actually got into some hills, the colors started to come alive.
And not to mention…. our first sighting of snow came just inside the state line. I figured we’d see some snow in the Rockies, but I didn’t think we’d see it so soon.
I am in love with Colorado. Head-over-heals in love, like a boy-crazy schoolgirl. If there were any way possible that we could buy some land or a house out there and move, today, I would do it in a heartbeat!
We still had a long way to go before we saw any mountains, but we were still fairly entertained. This was the first time I ever saw a tumbleweed (they’re hilarious; I wish I could have taken a video of them rolling across the highway), a herd of pronghorn, and a few mule deer.
One of David’s co-workers suggested taking I-40 through Colorado, one of the more scenic routes. I’m so glad we did! I loved seeing the mountains in the distance and experiencing how they seem to rise up out of nowhere.
As we raced across Colorado to the Rockies, we headed north to Denver to meet with a friend of mine who was there for the week for a conference. We had a quick dinner at Old Chicago pizza (our favorite!) before getting back on the road.
In Denver, it was warm and sunny; perfect weather. As we finally started ascending the Rockies, the weather changed dramatically, and so quickly! Almost immediately after leaving Denver, we got into a dust storm. I’ve never been in one before. It was so dark and gloomy that we couldn’t really see much from all of the debris in the air. And then, the real kicker: we got into a massive snowstorm. That’s right. Mid-March, 80 degrees back home, sunny in Denver… and we get into a snowstorm in the Rockies. Surprise! I’m so glad I packed warm clothes for this part of the trip!
Even with the snow making things a little dark and gloomy, I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open the entire ride. It’s almost a shame to go through there without having full sunlight to appreciate the mountains. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, and was in a constant state of awe. I’ve been to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, but those just seem like babies compared to these. The Rockies are just so very massive! Some of the jutting angles of the rock formations, where you can actually see the striations and stratification of settlements, makes you realize how great the forces must have been to shove that much weight so powerfully at that angle. At every turn, there was a new scene that was too amazing not to capture in a photograph.
During this part of the trip, we kept looking for a marker for the Continental Divide, but never saw one. We were disappointed, but so awestruck that it didn’t seem to make much difference at the time.
We drove well into the night, and finally made a stop in Grand Junction, CO, near the Utah border. It was such a shame to drive through the rest of the mountains in the dark!
Leaving Grand Junction, I spotted a bald eagle in one of the trees, but I was far too slow with my camera to catch it, unfortunately. From Grand Junction on through Utah, we saw some of the most amazing rock formations I’ve ever seen in my life. The scale of these things are just massive. The landscape out there is just magical; it’s so different from anything we have here at home. Words like pretty, beautiful, gorgeous, breathtaking do not do justice to what it really looks like. We made lots of stops along the scenic outlooks for pictures. It was really nice to not have a lot of traffic on the roads; the air was so clean and fresh, and it was so quiet. You could really feel the change in elevation, being at least 11,000 feet for most of this portion of the trip.
This is the sort of thing I love: seeing and experiencing somewhere new, like nothing I’d ever seen before. Talk about gaining a whole new outlook on life and a new perspective of how wonderful a Creator God really is. I felt like an entirely new person after standing on one mound, looking over the landscape. There was not a single house or person for as far as the eye could see. The vast array of colors was mind-blowing.
Here at home, we have road signs that read, “No services for six miles.” Out there, we frequently came across signs that read, “No services for one hundred miles.” It’s just an entirely different world out there, one that I have fallen madly in love with.
I was really starting to regret having to make it to Vegas, instead of just staying put.
One of my favorite overlook spots was Black Dragon Canyon. Words just do not do it justice, and neither do pictures:
Just down the road from Black Dragon (or really, “up” at a higher elevation) was another great lookout. In the distance, you can see where the clouds are raining, but the rain evaporates before it hits the ground:
At this point, we could have spent the entire week just driving around Utah and making stops as we saw fit; but time was getting away from us, and we needed to continue on to our real destination. It was quite sad, but we hoped to come back through this way as we headed home. The West is definitely somewhere we’d vacation to again, to make more memories. Even this early into the trip, I thought it was one of our best ideas ever, and I’m so glad David talked me into a road trip. I loved experiencing these things for the first time together, and it really made it special to have my husband by my side for this trip. We might not have been able to take the honeymoon we planned, or even the original road trip we planned, but this little spring break trip was so wonderful.
If we learned anything else from this first jaunt of the trip, it’s that we need to invest in a good camera. Mine apparently did not survive the Great Purse Flood of 2011; which we did not discover until we were well along our way on this trip. We discussed buying one in Vegas, but didn’t. That’s one of the things we’re working to save up for now. The pictures I took on my phone didn’t turn out too bad, but oh what I would have given for a better camera at the time!
The landscape continued to be beyond words well into Arizona and Nevada. And then we came to our destination: