Saturday, 8 September 2012

Day 7: Moab, UT - Cedar City, UT

Well, my ankle is not as painful as previously, but it has swollen up rather a lot and it itches like mad where the support bandage has been.  When I get to Battle Mountain tomorrow I must visit Mills' Pharmacy for some soothing balm.

I left at about 08:15 and found the first petrol station of the trip which didn't want a "ZIP Code" - the Shell station on N. Main should you be in the area.  Then backtrack along US-191.  There are so many amazing rock formations in this part of the world that it's almost easy to get blasé about them.  Up the road apiece men in hi-viz vests were swarming all over yesterday's truck wreck.  The are going to need a very large crane to get that out of there, unless they cut it up in situ.  Left onto I-70 and past further rocks of all descriptions.  The San Rafael Swell is particularly noteworthy; it also featured strongly in the uranium boom.  And when they came to build I-70 through the area there was the small matter of widening a six-foot crack through the formation enough to take a main road, and then doing it again when they widened it to four lanes.

The San Rafael Swell, plus the arse end of a Hyundai Sonata

It's about 90 miles down the Interstate to Fremont Junction, where the corners begin.  On the way the route passes Green River, where our old mate John Wesley Powell and his lads began their descent of the Green/Colorado rivers as far as present-day Lake Mead.  Edit: Wrong Green River; he set off from the  one in Wyoming.  And Mr Larrington suddenly found himself wondering why he didn't elect to stay there instead of Moab last night as it would have been a shorter drive (Moab is thirty miles off the freeway) and likely a sight cheaper too (Moab is a tourist trap).  Bum.

On to UT-72.  This would be great fun in a motorcar with confidence-inspiring brakes and enough power to get up the hills.  As the Chrysler has neither...  On the way I spotted this sign:

I know it's a perfectly ordinary county line marker, but the part of me that remembers 1977 wondered what The Electric Chairs had done that they didn't get a mention too.  After some twiddles and ups and downs the road drops into the Fremont valley which, in marked contrast to most of the Surrounding Spaces, is all lush and green and agricultural.  Cattle and sheep in the fields and the smell of newly cut hay.  It looks, well, prosperous.

Then right onto UT-12.  I've raved about this road before, but this time I decided to take it easier and look at the scenery instead.  This after failing to keep up with a Dodge Caravan MPV with two French couples on board - they had been staying in the same hotel in Moab.  Pressing the accelerator  while going up hil causes the thing to drop two gears and the engine to whine like a fractious child in a supermarket.  However, the increase in forward progress is barely discernible, so it's all a bit pointless.  Here is one of the madder bits:
A scary road, America, Friday

It's probably got a daft name like "The Devil's Verandah" or "Satan's Trampoline" or "Nick Clegg's Conscience" or something but if it has they didn't advertise it.  The drop on both sides is of a magnitude such that one could write one's will before being killed to DETH in a fiery explosion.  Eventually it gets less insane and from the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park it's almost sensible.

Left onto US-89, fifteen miles south along the valley of the Sevier river to Long Valley Juntion and right onto UT-14.  Here strange things are afoot.  First there is a helichopter with a gert long cable dangling 'neath its belly.  At first I thought it was dropping water on a wildfire, but then discovered it was carrying straw bales, presumably to somewhere inaccessible on wheels.  Next there was a formation of the military jets, no doubt on their way to blow holes in unsuspecting bits of central Nevada.  And then there was "Run the Redrock".  It would appear that this is some sort of extreme relay run from Brian Head - a ski resort up in them thar hills - to St. George, which is somewhere down towards Las Vegas.  And it appears that if you are the driver of a team's support vehicle then the normal rules of the road do not apply.  I nearly hit about seven different minibuses on the way down to Cedar City.

At least the rain held off; there was some serious weather going on to the south as I approached Bryce Canyon.  Much of today's drive was at considerable altitude so it remained reasonably cool, but it was still pretty hot when I arrived here around 16:00 today.  First day of the trip with the top down for the duration and, indeed, the first to take place entirely within a single state.

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