Looking back at the 200ish pictures I took Sunday, I still can’t believe how crazy the drive was. It was by far the longest day we drove with the most drastic scenery and tensest driving conditions.
We started at an elevation of about 9,000 feet in Frisco. Rumors of snow later in the day pushed us to start almost as soon as we woke up. Unfortunately with the time zone change, we didn’t start as early as we did the first three days. Regardless, after a brief coffee and pastry stop, Mom and I hit the road by 9a.
After our near miss with the engine Saturday, I started out worried. I babied the Kia through the rest of the curvy Colorado mountains though, and by mid morning we finally reached Utah and what we thought would be a long straight stretch.
The white cap mountains gave way to red plateaus and I let Mom, my own little speedy chauffeur, take over the wheel. As soon as we hit Utah the wind started to pick up. As easy as the drive looked, every gust of wind buffeted the car and Mom had a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel.
Despite being windy the weather was beautiful. It was sunny, blue skied and we were loving the drive. Slowly the road started to wind up the Utah mountains, and even though we had a late start, we couldn’t help but pull off into a few of the look outs.
What was really so strange about it, was that morning we had been standing in the shadows of white capped mountains, watching skiers in full winter gear load onto a bus. Now we were surrounded by blue skies, red dust and an entirely different kind of mountain.
After our first two stops, Mom and I decided to put in some real drive time. We thought about going off the route to visit a few of Utah state parks, but it would have taken us too far out of the way. The plan was to make it as close to Las Vegas as we could that night. As it turned out we made the right decision. Not half an hour after we decided not to detour, we saw this start to descend in front of us.
The wind was still blowing and Mom was still driving us further and further up into the mountains. We were just starting to realize that despite our supposed descent into flat territory, we had never actually made it below 5,000ish feet. As we wound further up into the storm, I couldn’t help but think back to our last glimpse of blue skies with a little bit of longing.
In the next hour, although still winding up into the beautiful Utah mountains, we were no longer driving through blue skies. And for the next four to five hours, all we could see was white.
There’s nothing quite like the monotonousness of scrub trees and white snow for hours on end. Even when we eventually wound our way back down to 3,000 feet or less, the snow continued to fall and inevitably we would start driving upwards into the storm again soon enough.
By this time it was pushing 4ish Mountain time, making it 6p by Mom and I’s clock and it felt like 9p. We had been driving for 6 hours, almost without pause, by this point. We never stopped for a real lunch, only had pastries and coffee for breakfast. We hadn’t seen a real town almost since we entered Utah and it felt like the day was going on forever. You can imagine our relief when we finally drove out of the snow. As fast as the blizzard came, it was gone and just as quick we were descending through the most beautiful green mountains into the last miles of Utah.
It was still another few hours before we drove into Arizona, and into more mountains.
By that time we were well out of the storm. Although it was 9p by our clocks, we had driven through yet another time zone and it was still early local time. There wasn’t much civilization between us and Las Vegas, so we buckled down and drove the last few hours to the south side of the city before stopping, for a total of almost 12 hours of driving.
I think it’s worth mentioning that after a full day of winding up and down, even after we hit the Nevada desert, we were still well above 2,000 ft. We were going to continue driving upwards again on Monday and wouldn’t actually get to sea level until late the next day.
Sunday: Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada
As nerve wreaking as the drive was at times, it was also incredible. I couldn’t believe some of the things we saw and how fast the weather came and went in the mountains. Last part of the drive was Monday into San Diego, and that was an adventure all of it’s own.
To be continued…