by Marlon Diedrich.
TWO LANE BLACKTOP
PUSHING OUT THE EDGES OF THE ENVELOPE.
Heading out for new territory, I'll be driving Highway 50 heading east,via I-80 to Reno and Fallon NV.
San Rafael departure, on 7/16, at 7:16 am. Bound for Colorado if my support system holds up.
Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America. New Pass Summit, 6,348 ft. el. Sagebrush and sand, high desert. Two land blacktop from Fallon to Ely, a well paved and smooth ride.
The weather is almost ideal, not blistering hot, but tolerable 80's. A few clouds to the east. This desert is higher than Lake Tahoe CA., ranging from 6,300ft. el to 6,600 ft. el., Tahoe is 6,250 ft. el.. Miles and miles with no traffic, a lonely crow here and there. An easy relaxing drive without tension.
The Pony Express was along Hwy. 50 and into California down into Sacramento. Those guys were unsung heroes to go right through the middle of Nevada, across this desert and over the Sierra.
There are some green valleys with grazing horses, ponys, and Herford cattle. I like the old split-rail wooden fences.
Panaramas along the highway. I hit two passes higher than Donner Summit, Little Antelope Pass at 7,473 ft. el. and Robsen at 7, 376 ft. el.. Donner is 7,329 ft. el.
Toyobe National Forest comes up with Juniper and White Pine trees. There are no big trees due to the high elevation and cold winters.
I do not have agoraphobia, I love open spaces and it doesn't get more open then here.
Ely NV., 7:16 pm. 12 hours from San Rafael, straight through, 538 miles to Ely.
A typical old fashioned pre-Interstate downtown when all the traffic drove through town before the Interstate. An old mining town in Eastern Nevada.
A full moon rising above the desert expanse.
600 miles to Great Basin National Park at Baker NV. I took a tour through the cold caves.
At the Utah border the time changes to mountain time.
Great Basin N.P. to Delta Utah is all desolate wasteland. At Delta things get more agricultural with cattle and alfafa farms. Some mountain bikers are evident with side dirt roads and sage. Very remote and little traveled. Dirt and backroads for ORV's.
Thru the middle of Utah to Salina and the Hwy. 50/I-70 Interchange. Very scenic here.
Now scenic panaramas and terrain then, barren and rocky mountains jut from the landscape, red and orange ridges and cliffs. The landscape keeps changing as I
Summit Pass, 7,886 ft. el.,The Wasatch Platuea and Fish Lake National Forest.
Salina to Green River Ut. is fabulous scenery, how to describe, the San Rafael Reef and Capitol Reef is something I've never seen anything like before.
I have been across Utah before on I-80 and south, around Zion N.P., but not I-70, it didn't open until 1970, the summer I was in Japan.
Arches N.P., 970 miles, just out of Moab UT. Easy access and much visited compared to Great Basin N.P. These formations are spectacular. Nowhere else in the world. The variety is beyond anything else in the world. Nothing like it. Only pictures can give you a hint.
Sandstone, red-auburn-strawberry-roan-salmon colored.
Moab is a mountain biking and river rafting destination.
I take the Hwy 128 along the southern border of Arches N.P. and the Colorado River, an official scenic byway, 30 miles on a two lane blacktop.
Into Colorado. The high plains becomes more commonplace.
Parachute Co. on I-70. I hit a 10 minute rainstorm. Parachute is a good reststop with an historical event. This is where Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid, and Kid Curry robbed a train in 1904, just like in the movie.
Colorful Colarado. I-70 crosses the Colorado River about 6 times before I pull into Glenwood Springs. For a 100+ miles they parralel each other.
Glenwood Springs on I-70 is my easternmost point on this trip, still west of the continental divide. 1,200 miles from San Rafael.
I turn southeast on State Hwy 82 to Aspen. A lot of charm along this road following the Roaring Fork River upstream. Traffic lights are every few miles on Hwy. 82, to keep the speed down. Four lanes all the way into Aspen.
Aspen is and old-fashioned town. The Jerome Hotel was built in 1885. High end boutiques and art galleries on every street.
Friday night in Aspen. There are more pedestrians out on the town than any American city I have been in, in years. Evening strollers and diners at the numerous sidewalk cafes. Along Cooper, Durant and Mill Streets outdoor bands are playing Broadway music from the 60's.
The Big Dipper is visible and the North Star.
The original ski-lift is on the west side of town. A playground for the rich and famous since the early 50's. An International destination.
There is a very nice walking trail along the Roaring Fork River which I walked in the early evening. I happened across a monument for John Denver who lived in Aspen at one time.
Old town Aspen has no sidewalks in the older residential areas. Aspen is 7,900 ft. el.
"Six Days On The Road" and I'm Going.....(song on the radio.)
I'll be driving Western Colorado only, west of Denver.
Independence Pass on Hwy 82. The Continental Divide, 12,095 ft. el.
A scenic overlook, some snow patches around the area, then down the east side of the Rockies to the other half of America. A steep descent down to Twin Lakes.
Mt. Elbert, elevation 14,433 ft. el. I parked the vehicle at about 10,00 ft. el. and started climbing through the Aspen trees. My heart was pounding, legs aching, lungs expanded to the max. I looked up from timberline to the peak and thought, " I should be up there in a half hour." It took two hours. Round trip was 8.5 hours. I got back in the dark night I started late in the morning. Clear skies, a windy peak with a 360 degree view and steep drop-offs.
Driving over Hwy. 50 to Monarch Pass, Contintnetal divide, westbound, 11,312 ft. el., back to the western slope.
Gunnison Co. 1,450 miles. Cowboy and river rafting country.
If Minnisota is the lake state, than Colorado is the river and creek state; Colorado, Roaring Fork, Arkansas, Green, Gunnison, Ungumpadre and others.
Hwy. 550 and southbound to Durango. What a drive! Part of the San Juan Mts. Circle Drive. An unbelievable three passes over 10,000 ft. el. Red Mountain Pass, 10,640 ft. el.,
Molas Pass, 10,090ft. el, and Coal Barn Pass at 11,640 ft. el.
All three within 70 miles of each other.This is the southwest corner of Colorado, a curvy two lane blacktop engineering feat over these mountains. Some light rain along the way at these high altitudes.
Montrose to Durango is a scenic delight.
Sante Fe. A real cultural change from the Southern Rockies, high plains and terrain landscape vistas.
Santa Fe is a very artsy town, loaded with art galleries, objet'dart, and boutiques. The two mile drive up Canyon Road is like no other. All art done in a fashion I've never seen before. High density art everywhere you look.
Bandelier N.P., is just 30 miles northwest of Santa Fe and down a canyon road.The ancients that lived here, 800 plus years ago were seeking refuge from the weather. The mini-caves are unimproved like in Mesa Verde CO. which I saw in 1969. The caves were accesseed by ladder. I saw remnants of a fire-dance circle as well.. I spent only about two hours here, then headed to Hwy 126 and Four Corners.
A drive from Sante Fe N.M. to Page Arizona. Talk about terrain changes and backroads. Hwy 126 from Bandelier N.P. was more then I expected. There was gravel and dirt for some maybe 40 miles. There were some very slow 20 mph spots along this mountainous two lane road.
Very little through traffic. There were some homes scattered along this remote road. This road is not for the feint-of-heart unless you like singel lane bridges at high altitudes.
From Farmington N.M. to Kanab Ut. the northeast corner of AZ., I'm staying north of the Grand Canyon on state highways, reading maps, looking for shortcuts.
Glen Canyon, at Page, a town on the Dam founded in 1957 for all the engineers and empoyees of Glen Canyon Dam N.P.
From the Northeast corner of AZ.to the Southwest corner of UT. to the along the borders, westbound.
Nine days in the saddle.
Zion National Park. Zion is Hebrew for refuge. And it is a refuge from all the desert wasteland, blazing-fiery heat of southern Utah. A fabulous N.P. Should be seen.
This is all part of the Great Basin from the Sierra to the Rockies. A vast expanse of sandstone and semi-arid desert.
Back on the interstate, I-15 this time to Las Vegas
Southwest bound through more wasteland.
As the las Vegas skylkine comes into view off in the distance, Sinatra comes on the radio, "look down, look down, that lonesome road, before you travel on......"
2,675 miles at Las Vegas. Talk about overkill and sensory overload. Las Vegas is like 14 Disney lands along "the strip" Las Vegas Blvd. A carnival atmosphere. It's all about, gambling and sex, who can outdo who for extravagence, one-up-manship, the biggest and the best.
Trams, shuttles skyways escalators taxis, limos, cars, all along the strip. You can't do Vegas in a day.
A disc-jockey comes on the radio while I'm stuck in traffic on "the strip, and announces, "Sin City Liqours is having a sale.....".
Bellagios has a great water show set to music.
On up Hwy. 95 to Beatty and west on 266 and 168 to Bishop CA. The Bristlecone Forest Pass, and down to Hwy 395.
Over to Hwy 120 and Tioga Pass at 9,945 ft. el. My fourth time for this Pass. A nice way to end this 15 day trip.
Yosemite N.P. on a cheerful Sunday morn in Toulumne Meadows, above the valley floor by about 4,000 ft. Crisp temperature.
Putting a final cap on this Great Basin excursion in 15 days.
With this trip I added 4 national parks to my list: Great Basin N.P., Arches N.P., Glen Canyon N.P. and Zion N.P. That is now 29 National Parks I have been to west of the Missouri River in my life.
3,390 miles and back into San Rafael CA.
Last edited by Marlon : 10-18-2008 at 04:44 PM.