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Chicago to Utah in a Taco

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Old 01-18-2011, 06:45 AM   #1
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Chicago to Utah in a Taco

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.

trip video

http://vimeo.com/18633222

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.."

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Old 01-18-2011, 06:49 AM   #2
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Arrived at the campground and it was surprisingly full. Well it is Christmas Eve after all right? :sombrero:

Only part of the campground was open. The gate by the amphitheater was closed to traffic. I got site #20 which had a panoramic view of the eastern sky. $20 per night and it had a very well maintained bathroom that was also heated. Bought some firewood from the campground caretaker at $5 per bundle and proceeded to start on dinner. One can never get sick of Ramen.







In the holiday spirit



It then got dark very quickly, and the most spectacular light show materialized. I've only seen the milky way with my naked eye once before in Death Valley. It was actually shocking to me to see it so prominently. I knew I had limited time before the moon came up so I pulled out the camera and made some images.





Warm fire, tasty brew of hot cocoa + Bacardi, and a million dollar view.



After the moon came up I retreated into my cozy room and called it a night.





Okay maybe just one more peek outside.



Long day tomorrow exploring Arches National Park.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:49 AM   #3
ywen [OP] ywen is offline
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Woke up early next morning to catch the sun rise. It was a chilly morning with a fresh coat of frost. Fired up the stove for some instant oatmeal and hot tea. Learned that the Coleman Dual Fuel stove require A LOT more pumps in the 20deg weather.. flame kept going out initially due to lack of pressure.











Then packed up the truck and went on a hike to the nearby Skyline arch. What a nice little walk from the campsite! Beautiful way to wake up!





Next was the Devil's Garden Trail. Great hike, it actually got real hot under the sun and I didn't bring my water bottle. Fail on my part! I would return to this area a few days later as you'll see.

Upon entering Devil's Garden



Landscape Arch / Trail leading up to the collapsed Wall Arch and Double 0 Arch



Looking back from the aforementioned trail (You can see the remnants of Wall Arch )



By the time I left Devil's Garden it was already 3 or 4pm. Time flies and you certainly need a lot of time to explore this park. This was my first time so I wanted to get an "overview" of everything. I skipped the Double 0 Arch and headed to the famous Delicate Arch. Pictures of this Arch appears on almost all of Utah's travel ads and also graces their license plate. The hike was labeled as 1.5 miles but it felt much longer than that. I arrived in time for the magic hour photography window.



Plenty of other photogs there



Had time to do some sketches









Really wanted to do some night photography at Delicate Arch but I left my jacket and headlamp in the truck so I departed after sunset and vouched to return again in the next few days.



From Arches, I drove to Willow Flats campground in Canyonlands. It was fully dark by the time I arrived. I was treated another wonderful night sky.

A little studio session of the truck


CO/UT 2010 - so it was suppose to say..


It was much colder than the previous evening. I only did a little bit of photos and called it a night.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:51 AM   #4
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ywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shed
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Next morning walked over to the Green River Overlook. I was absolutely blown away by the grandeur of the landscape.





Spent some time taking in the views.





Then a storm rolled thru. I was standing at the edge of the cliff when a cloud formed beneath me and rose up engulfing my entire field of view. This all happened over the course of just a few minutes, and an incredible thing to witness.





Did some more sightseeing of the Islands area and then it got wet and foggy with very low visibility so I headed back into town. Did not feel well that day and the temperature was getting lower. So I got cheap room in Moab for the night.

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Old 01-18-2011, 06:51 AM   #5
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The plan for the next day was to drive down Long Canyon Rd and explore part of the White Rim Trail up to Thelma and Louise Point, where they filmed the end scene in that movie. Speaking to the ranger at Islands I found it should take about 5-6 hours round trip. I headed towards Dead Horse State Park and took the Long Canyon Rd split. Interesting scenery along the way and clear weather meant I could see for miles around.



Is the road going to drop off?





WOW! I said



I'm embarassed to say that I chickened out at the first major obstacle after entering into the canyon at Pucker Pass. It didn't look passable to me with my worn stock suspension (including sagging leafs).





The "Drive of Shame".. coming up the hill after my failed attempt.



I pulled onto the Pucker Pass overlook. Got out the camera, booze, and just played around by the cliff until sunset. Watched a pimped out D90 tackle the trail and then speeding towards Potash Rd.

Do you see the LR?



My "playground"











Then was treated to a beautiful sunset.





Was going to camp here for the night but something happened that freaked me out and I booked it.



I was going to start cooking so reach up to turn on an LED ring light hung from the topper ceiling. No power. I figured the battery must have came loose from the road bumps. I take the light off and open the two piece clamshell. To my surprise, two of the 3 batteries were entirely missing!



Then I look down and the batteries were laying on the bed of the truck! I looked at the light for a few seconds and realized there was no way the battery could have fallen out of the light with the clamshell casing still intact. I immediately thought back to the odd sound from the truck I heard earlier which I brushed off as animal noise. I quickly gathered up my stuff and left.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:52 AM   #6
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ywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shed
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The next day, I woke up early and left Moab for Valley of the Gods.



Breakfast of Champion: Black Coffee from motel lobby + PB out of the jar



Made it down to VOG. Pure Epicness. I passed by a couple of cars at the entrance and did not see another soul for the rest of the drive so I stopped often for pictures.











I really regret for just kind of driving through that area. There were so many epic views, that i should have at least considered to camp there. After VOG, I debated on what to do. Really wanted to see Goosenecks State Park but also thought about driving down to Page, AZ to see Lake Powell and the Antelope Canyon. Decided on Page in the end but this turned out not to be such a wise choice.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:52 AM   #7
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ywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shedywen is one of the sharper tools in the shed
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3 hours later, made it down to Page, AZ. Passed Monument Valley but will return on the way back.



Hey! The Forrest Gump road. No idea it's here, but when I saw it, I knew it had to be it





Glen Canyon Dam. whoop de doo! Didn't even get out my real camera for it..



I was absolutely blow away by a picture from Tucson T4R's website that was taken from a camp spot in Glen Canyon NRA. He was nice enough to tell me where it was so I attempted to go there. The Ranger laughed at my plans because all the roads where impassable due to mud. So I camped at the Wahweap marina instead. Arrived minutes before Sunset and got started on dinner right away.





This wasn't how I planned on spending the evening. The campsite was well maintained but the ugly sodium lighting all around, and vehicle traffic really ruined the experience for me.

To be Continued..
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:53 AM   #8
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sweet pics man....
that last one was awsome
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:03 AM   #9
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Nice details and great pictures.
It appears you had a great trip.
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:38 AM   #11
Ain't nobody got time for dat!
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Great pics! Thanks for sharing! Creepy about the light!
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:44 AM   #12
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That is an awesome trip, one that I have done on more then one occasion. What a way to go in your truck like that. It really makes me homesick since that is where I am from. Thanks for the pictures of home. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:52 AM   #13
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Tippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shedTippett's TRD is one of the sharper tools in the shed
 
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Great pictures man! Looks like a nice adventure
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