It didn't occur to me until a week into December that I will have 1.5 weeks of vacation days to use up for 2010. It has also been over a year since I've been anywhere west the Mississippi, so the itch to "Go West" had been building. The plan - For the final 1.5 weeks of 2010, drive out from Chicago to Colorado and SE Utah , and sleep in the back of the truck as much as I can along the way. My wife hates the cold and she didn't have as many vacation days remaining so this naturally became a solo trip.
Truck packed up
I set out early afternoon on 12/22 and made it to North Platte, Nebraska by 2am. Camped at roadside RV park and had the worst night of sleep in my life. It got down to 17 degrees that night and being my first time winter camping, I barely slept. Woke up at around 7am and hit the road again. N. Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska was one big blur. Big skies and endless farm land in every direction. Reached the Denver area and Red Rocks by noon.
It was here that I started to feel the effects of altitude.. Shortness of breath, and sensation of having water in my lung with each breath. Did not feel good so I got back in the truck decided to continue towards UT.
This was my first time driving over the Rockies and it was an interesting experience - I normally drive like a grandma in the flat lands of Illinois. So I was definitely not used to the hard driving it took to get over the passes. I drove as slow as the traffic allowed and took in the great mountain views.
The scenery got even more incredible as I entered Glenwood Canyon. Hard to believe that I was physically in this landscape only 1.5 days removed from Chicago.
Still in Glenwood Canyon and the sun was getting low. Haven't ate and need to find a place for the night. I pulled into the No Name rest stop right before Glenwood Springs and made my self a meal of ramen + dehydrated veggies and watched the California Zephyr roll by.
Felt pretty energized after dinner so I decided to drive all the way to Grand Junction and find a campsite.* However while driving past Glenwood Springs, I saw the steam from the hot spring. I had totally forgotten about it from my trip research. So I decided to check it out. Found a cheap motel for the night and then spent 3 hours at the hot spring. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Woke up to a crisp and beautiful morning. Well rested and looking forward to the drive to Arches and my first sight of the red Utah desert!
Great scenery along I-70 but it got REALLY spectacular once I got on SR128. Had to stop and get out every so often to take pictures. However, I knew the daylight was closing and I had to get to Arches to claim a campsite. Didn't want to do it in the dark since I'm not familiar with the area.
Book Cliffs along I70
Entering SR128. Last stretch before reaching Arches.
Too much eye candy along this road...
After arriving at Arches, I stopped by the visitor's center to talk to the ranger to get weather conditions. It had rained for 3 days prior to my arrival. Lucky, the area did not receive the expected amount of rain so the ground is not too wet! I drove straight for the Devil's Garden Campground with dropped jaw at the scenery around each bend. I kept snapping away with my cell phone..
Then saw this tricked out MAN.. I think there's another thread where this truck was discussed..
Then I saw this view of the La Sal Mountains and was like "Holy S**t!" This definitely deserves a stoppage and taking out the real camera.."