Emily and I left Phoenix at about 6 AM. The sun was rising. Gas was $5.69, a little lower than it had been.
Intersections bristled with signs for the upcoming election: Tom Horn was running for Superintendent of Schools so he can STOP CRITICAL RACE THEORY. Former TV newscaster Kari Lake, a loyal Trumpite running for governor, was being smeared for having once donated to Obama.
Political tensions were high with the Supreme Court ready to go on a right-wing rampage, and owners of automatic weapons declaring open season on school children and innocent bystanders. We were also heading into a long, hot summer, and not just with the weather.
How long has every summer been hotter than the last?
As usual, it got cooler as we left Phoenix.
Gas was $4.99 a gallon at the Montezuma Castle/Cliff Castle Casino gas station, and it was the same in Flagstaff where we swapped our Elantra for Emily’s brother Michael’s Prius Hybrid. This trip would not have been possible without the mileage we got from the electric vehicle of tomorrow.
Highway 89 was closed due to a fire. We detoured on the 40 eastward. Always be ready to improvise.
Soon we were up on a high mesa. The wide open spaces felt good.
Gas was $4.89 in Winslow. Glad we didn’t have to stop. Then it was north on the 191.
Soon we were in the Navajo Nation, where masks were still required. We had to stop at the Hubble Trading Post, where a Diné park ranger told us of colorful history. We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had to be in Grand Junction, Colorado to meet Michael, so it was off, once again into country we haven’t seen.
This land keeps surprising us. That’s what’s so great about it.
We stopped in Bluff, Utah, for dinner, hoping for Navajo tacos, but the Twin Rocks Cafe was closed. The white woman there explained that they were having too much business, and not enough staff, so they were closed Thursdays.
Everybody’s hiring, yet still there’s homeless everywhere.
She recommended the Cottonwood Steakhouse down the road, which has great pulled pork. Another couple handed back their menus and went looking for a place with better vegetarian options, but then this was Indian country; vegetarian is for when you're too broke to afford meat.
Still on the 191, we headed north into deepest, darkest Utah. Or should that be whitest Utah?
Or “U-tuh” the way that Diné park ranger said it.
At one point, Emily said, “Those are the skinniest cows I’ve ever seen–oh, they’re horses!”
Gas was $5.10 in Blanding.
Then it was Mormon farmland, a jarring shift from the Big Rez with its crimson vistas and funky, crumbling charm.
Soon these gave way to fantastic rock formations. Geology always dominates the landscape. Get away from the city and you are reminded that, yes, we live on a planet.
I thought: “I could take photos of this and do drawings and pass it off as surrealism, the way I describe the world and the way I see it, and pass it off as science fiction.”
Or as Curtis Mayfield put it: “We can deal with rockets and dreams/But reality/What does it mean?”
We went through Moab, still Martian as ever, on the 191, veering onto 128 hugging the Colorado River in the sharp-angled light of the setting sun, all the way up to I-70, where we headed east toward Colorado.
This was about 9 PM. Permanent Daylight Saving Time is causing changes that will produce interesting effects on society, from enforcing children’s bedtimes, getting teenagers to school in the morning, drive-in movie start times, and caffeine addiction.
It was dark when we hit Grand Junction. We got lost in the tangle of freeway exits, but we made it to the Red Roof Inn, where Michael had already checked in and talked them into letting him park his van there while we went road tripping.
Had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time. Something about an all-day drive and a good mattress.
Michael doesn’t believe in breakfast, so we did a stop at Einstein Bros. I had a Green Chile Bagel.
Behind the wheel of the Prius, Michael worked his magic and drove us north, and soon we were in the town of Dinosaur, Utah, that was encrusted in funky/folky dinosaur sculptures.
A stegosaurus guards the public library.
There’s a triceratops, and another dino down the street, near the intersection of Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus.
The dispensary has a T-Rex.
This silliness was all just a warm up for Dinosaur National Monument.
Which has murals . . .
. . . and a big display of fossils where they were found.
Some great hiking trails.
And petroglyphs galore.
The town and monument make a great day trip.
And a lot of the other towns have joined the dino statue derby.
Who needs Disneyland?
While Michael drove, Emily read us a news item off her phone, about freshly developed styrofoam-eating worms. My sci-fi brain kicked in: What if the worms escape, overrun the world, eating all the styrofoam. When they starve, people feel sorry for them, keep them as pets and feed them specially made, expensive styrofoam . . .
That night, in Vernal we stayed at the Dinosaur Inn which was not festooned in dino-kitsch, except for their cartoony sign. The decor was otherwise plain, practical, and very clean. Our room smelled of fruit-scented cleaning fluid. All very Mormon, but if we looked out the door of our room we could see dinos fighting in a nearby park as a giant wooden Indian looked on.
And gas was $5.04 a gallon.
We ate at Raza Mexican, that had good carnitas, tacos, beans and rice. And a Mexican staff. The incursion into Utah is succeeding. Look out Mormons!
The next day was the first day of summer, though in Phoenix it had felt like summer for weeks.
In the Dinosaur Inn breakfast room, a couple showed up that could have been Irving and Zelda from Zyx; Or, Bring Me the Brain of Victor Theremin, the novel had just finished. I hope it was a good sign.
Then the Prius’ backseat ate my pen, and I had to borrow one from Michael.
Down Highway 40 we passed a sign that said UFO Valley, and another monumental Indian greeted us in the Ute Nation.
A convenience store sold beard oil–$9 for a tiny bottle. None of the beards I had seen in these parts looked oily.
Then Emily found my backup pen.
We went east on the 80, then onto 84 to Ogden where at Sam’s Club gas was $4.05 a gallon.
We entered Idaho along the California Trial in the footsteps of the pioneers. And like I’ve said, one person’s pioneer is another person’s illegal alien.
And more great hiking country.
Castle Rock State park is worth a stop.
And City of Rocks is spectacular.
Then we made our way through rural Idaho toward Oregon as the sun slowly set according to Permanent Daylight Saving Time. Pitstopped at a truckstop in Jerome. Drove through the mesas slashed by shadows cast by the setting sun. That’s the real American, self-styled “patriots!”
We drove into the sunset. The sky finally turned black as we arrived in Oregon.