As Tom worked to reload the car and I packed up our belongings in the hotel room, I decided to step outside. The above picture is my first sight of the mountains. It was quite an “ah-ha” moment, realizing that the trip was really happening and many more first-sightings were to come. Once we were loaded up and had snuck out of the hotel with a couple of chocolate muffins, we discovered that responding “yes” to every question at a gas pump is a bad idea (and may result in paying for a unwanted car-wash). After Jeep was nice and clean we were headed up to Pike’s Peak only to get “him” muddy. The day had begun at 8:40am (MT).
Unfortunately there were snowy conditions, which Tom was sure Jeep could overcome, and we could only go up to the 16th of 19 miles on Pike’s Peak. At the end of our climb, it was starting to snow heavily and we realized just before getting out of Jeep that the temperature had gone from 67 degrees at the base to a chilly 33 degrees just shy of the peak.
Someday, we’ll get back there to complete the journey. As we made our way back down, we took some time to appreciate Crystal Lake Reservoir by making our first commitment as tourists to fuel the cash flow of the gift shop.
On the way to Independence Pass, where the Continental Divide is, we got out to stretch on the side of the road and took the opportunity to make our own Jeep advertisement. Just before the pass we found Twin Lakes and were impressed with the view. Since we didn’t have any pressing time constraints we took the opportunity to get out and stretch; after about 1000 miles in Jeep our legs needed to be used.
Then we headed to Independence Pass. Ignoring “Road Closed” signs along the way, just as we approached the beginning to the pass and were about to turn around, a nice fellow Missourian informed us that they were going to open the pass for the season at 2pm. Luckily, we arrived at 1:55pm, so we didn’t have to wait long. The roads through the pass were ever winding, increasingly narrow and, at times, were crumbling at the edges. As our ears continued to “pop” from the changes in the elevation, we became more daring in sticking the camera out the window of our moving vehicle to take in the view. On the way up we were following the Colorado River and hugging it’s every curve. Going through the pass, we encountered snow banks that were slowly melting away.
“Phew.” Finally, at 7pm (MT) we crossed the Utah state line. We were sad to see Colorado go, but knew that Utah would still provide much better scenery than could be said for Kansas. Driving for about half an hour, we stopped at the first rest area for a much needed pit stop and stretching of the legs. Fortunately for me (Tom) there were plenty of rocks to climb, much like a natural “big boy’s” play ground. The entire day, we had been driving in and out of rain, but it was well worth it when we looked to the south and saw not one but two rainbows. Unfortunately only one of them showed up in the pictures we took, and if you look close enough in the picture of Tom, you’ll see a rainbow close to the left edge of the picture.
We stretched for another half an hour and then began the trek to Kanab, UT, hoping to get there before the wee hours of the morning. As we drove off into the sunset, we began to feel the effects of being in a small confined space for long periods of time. Enjoying some classic snacks, Tom began to contemplate the amount of pain a Teddy Graham may or may not feel as eaten limb by limb. Furthermore, a pen sitting in the storage area in front of the passenger side was determined to be a lethal combination, when encountering a person in an abruptly stopping vehicle. Yes, we’re serious. Even though the chances of the pen piercing a vital organ, let alone human skin, Tom firmly insisted on moving it to a safer location.
As the day came to a close, we were able to enjoy the sunset over the red cliffs of Utah; a pleasant (and awakening) sight for tired eyes. Finally, at 1am (MT) we pulled off at a gas station with a trucker parking lot in Kanab, UT, and proceeded to convert Jeep from a luggage carrier to a somewhat uncomfortable bed. This ended Day 2. Day 3’s agenda was to include the Grand Canyon and Death Valley by sunset.