Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm in Utah!

Again on purpose!

It's harder to blog on the road than you might think. First there's the iffy Internet connection, without which you have to read each entry off my computer in person. And if you were here you wouldn't need me to describe the events of our adventure. Adventure being an exaggeration of a considerable degree so far, though we have put ourselves in danger of falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon several times and attempted to drive a Toyota Prius up a mountain gravel road.

Many motels now offer free Wi-Fi access but it doesn't always work and when it does, I usually just want to check e-mail before I rub aloe gel on that day's sunburn and fall into bed. Last night we got into Hanksville, Utah at about 9:20, ate dinner at the last open restaurant in town (of the three options available anytime of day that we saw), found a room at the Whispering Sands motel.

Eighty-eight bucks seems steep for a bare-walled room with a television the size of a postage stamp but when the alternative was sleeping in the Prius, we didn't hesitate to take it.

After which I rubbed aloe on that day's sunburn and fell into bed, where I now sit this morning typing this. We had a full day yesterday. We covered about 180 miles with frequent stops anytime we saw anything interesting. Or -- more accurately -- anything we thought would look interesting, including the Navajo National Monument, which even with no admission charge was not worth the 18-mile drive out of the way of our route.

There are signs to guide you to a place called Mexican Hat Rock. Interesting name for a town?

Nope. Just a rock formation that looks like a sombrero.

There was another called Jacobs Chair. Not a town, not a piece of furniture, just a rock formation that resembles -- you guessed it -- a chair.

Between Mexican Hat Rock and Jacobs Chair lies Natural Bridges National Monument. More simply, between two notable rock formations you find more rock formations notable enough to get the National Parks Service involved. A national monument is apparently a national park, junior. Enough there to justify charging an entry fee but not enough to call it a full-fledged park.

Natural bridges are formed from erosion and will eventually wear away completely. Nice to get yet another reminder of our insignificance: Nothing lasts, even stuff made from solid rock. The monument contains three natural bridges, all seen from lookout points near the nine-mile one-way loop you take through the monument. You can hike to all three of them but we didn't get there until 5:30 p.m. so we picked the one with the shortest hike, which was less than a quarter-mile, to see up close.

From there, we headed for Hanksville, which put us close to today's target -- Capitol Reef National Park -- and put us through the most interesting part of our journey so far.

Mountain climbing by Prius was not a bright idea we had, i.e. Let's try to strand ourselves miles away from anything by abusing the rental car! No. We merely followed the route from Page, Arizona to Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah that Google Maps laid out for us, not knowing until it was too late that the trip would entail hiking a mountain by car to complete it.

Here's the thing: Google maps will add a PORTIONS TOLL warning on a given road. But for UT-261, it couldn't tip us off about the PORTIONS UNPAVED or PORTIONS UP THE SIDE OF A CLIFF?

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