Denver: LA or Bust
Trip Start Mar 13, 2013
32Trip End Ongoing
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It all started with an innocent email from my old friend and Aspen co-worker Nico, asking if I'd consider a long shot - come to LA to do international sales for Mammoth Mountain. And even though I received it as I was suffering from an epic, debilitating Aspen hangover, I knew instantly, and rather calmly, that I was moving to California.
And move to California I have. I spend three incredible days driving 1,000+ miles west through four states, alone in my VW convertible, taking back roads, eating in the car, and visiting natural wonders - on and off the beaten path. The trip was kicked off with several send offs including a family dinner, a going away party at My Brother's Bar, and an evening around a round table with my BFFs. I could not have taken off with better wings under me.
It took only a few hours to reach the western border of my home state, and I pulled over at the Leaving Colorful Colorado sign. It felt right. Pushing onward, I first ventured off I-70 minutes later on Route 128 south toward Moab, where I saw a group of Pronghorns and lost cell service - just what I was after. You begin to see how gorgeous Utah is very quickly as the earth turns red and sandstone monoliths jet upward towards the bright blue sky. I had not been to Arches in a good ten years so I made the stop and happily paid the $10 national parks entry fee. The lovely park ranger in the booth gave me some good advice as to where to go. She suggested a brief tour as it was getting late in the day and I looked like "a business lady" who needed to get somewhere. Um, it clearly was not my outfit that made me look professional, trust me. It also wasn't the wadded up Wendy's bag next to me, wafting the scent of a spicy chicken sandwich. All I could think of was that accepting a full-time job after three years had already changed my DNA. So, this new professional took the business lady loop and got to see some incredible works of nature, including Delicate Arch, Balancing Rock and my favorite, The Gossips.
I was feeling good and went well beyond my expected stop and spent the night in Torrey where Route 12 starts, the gateway to Capital Reef Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and a whole lot of slot canyons, as I discovered. I ate in the gas station that night and I think I was one of four people in town. Peak season isn't until May. I did some Googling and researched a network of slot canyons within 25 miles of the main road. I turned south onto a dirt road, gave some extra love to the VW, set my odometer to watch for mile marker 27.3, and was off by 9am. By 10am, I had reached the Spooky Slot trail head and saw a few empty cars, my first that morning. I was happy to see two people who I made sure saw me too. I signed my name on the official register, also to ensure my presence was recorded. I was in the middle of freaking nowhere people, it was great.
I worked my way down a trail into what seemed to be an empty river bed, following a trail of cairns that at times, were a bit hard to find and misleading. As I walked through the.dry river bed, silence all around, large birds circling. with the plateaus hovering above, you get the feeling of being watched. I felt transported back in time to when this could have been Blue Duck territory. Blue Duck was a very mean Indian in "Lonesome Dove" and he stalked Lorena from above just before he snatched her, sending Gus on a dangerous mission to save his whore.
I found Spooky Slot fairly easily, (after loudly saying hello to two trail maintenance crew members) and headed in. A slot canyon is simply a very narrow and deep canyon, the kind whatzhisname was trapped in when he had to cut off his arm to survive. I made my way through, often skimming through sideways it was so tight. The colors were gorgeous and changing. Alas, my fun ended when in order to continue through, I needed much longer legs or a boost to get up to an elevated level. Turned back, no regrets, even helped an older couple get up a seven foot wall into Peek-a-Boo slot, by basically grabbing and pushing her ass up. No modesty in the great outdoors.
Next was my fist visit to Bryce Canyon, named after Mormon pioneer, Ebenezer Bryce. The Amphitheater is the main event in this park and you can see why, it's outstanding. Thousands of "hoodoos" in red, orange and brown spire up, mine were covered in clean white snow.The Paiute Indians lived here in 1200 A.D. and called the rock formations Anka-ku-was-a-wits, meaning “red painted faces,” and believed that the hoodoos were Evil Legend People turned to stone by the all-powerful Coyote Spirit. Much like the trolls in Iceland.
I pushed on and after some much loved kitchy hotels and gas station sign photo ops in sleepy roadside towns, I rolled into Sin City. I decided to stay downtown. I'd never been down there and wanted to see that iconic neon cowboy sign. I pulled up the the gaudiest, most quintessential Vegas hotel I could - The Golden Nugget won. Upgraded myself from the $65/night room to the $102/night room in the new tower. Downtown is cheap.
And you know why as soon as you head out to that horrible Fremont Street nightmare they have created. They took three blocks of the old downtown, covered it with a domed roof that is constantly projected with nauseating ads and a laser show, plus a zip line down the stretch, so now everyone with a glow-in-the-dark plastic yard of cheap alcohol runs into you as they rubberneck, amazed by these cheap thrills. I walked out and was assaulted by a Foreigner cover band, a soft core strip tease to the Pussycat Dolls, plus Elvis, Vegas showgirls, The Village People and morphsuit-wearing buskers lining the street and would not look at you for a photo unless you gave them money. My eyes and ears began to bleed, so I was out of there and went to bed, dreaming of Gus getting Blue Duck.
Woke the next morning and got the hell out of town by 7am. I watched the sun come up behind me, leaving Nevada in my rear view window, and pushed my last five hours west toward my new home. I was in California within 30 minutes and again, it felt right.