I've spent two days largely driving. Getting from state to state to state. Can't spend three nights in every state, or else it'll be winter when I get to Maine! But I'm really loving the landscapes that I've been seeing. In a park I can get face to face, but driving contextualizes it all. Spending the hours slowing rising in elevation and having it open up before you.
I can't recommend 89a from Zion's east entrance to Flagstaff enough. An absolutely beautiful drive. I left Zion at around 1pm, and it was raining. Bummer for the people entering the park, but hey I was leaving! It was a gentle rain, and it wasn't difficult to drive in in the slightest. The east entrance is the one that goes through the tunnel. It was the scenic drive, and not through Springdale. No backtracking to get to Flagstaff. The surroundings started as farm, and went through several by now familiar rock formations and then became more wooded as elevation increased. It was a two lane road for most of the way, with very little company and just land on either side as far as the horizon allowed. And ohhh it took my breath away when the trees receded and the grade of the road went down and just the vast expanse was before me. Thankfully there was a scenic pull off point, and I pulled right off and just gawped. Arizona is Arizona, but damn if it isn't big and beautiful too. I didn't stop to do any drawings, but I took photos which I plan to turn into reference. Because I really want to spend time doing some of these landscapes justice, because I'm really in love with them right now. All this horizon, and so much more to go!
And the fluffiness of the clouds!!
It was raining almost all through my last few hours in Zion. I packed up a damp tent hoping that at the next stop, I'll be able to set it up and let it dry. There wasn't an immediate demand for camping spots like there was when I found mine. I guess weekdays are less busy, especially rainy ones. I packed up, ate a bit, then parked at the visitor's center and took the shuttle to get the last few things checked off in my Junior Ranger packet. I caught an Animals of Zion ranger lecture and learned that male turkeys go seeking a mate with their brother acting as a wingman. I filled out my packet, and said the oath, and was sworn in as a Junior Ranger. So on that happy note I packed up to head out towards Petrified Forest National Park under the idea that I would be camping there. I did not know that 1) it closes at 7:30 and 2) the only camping is the trek into wilderness style, which while I don't mind camping in tent sites I'm not about to trek a mile to set up a tent. Travel and learn!
And Arizona was beautiful to drive across on the 89a route. Fluffy clouds and no traffic. And gas was consistently around 3.50 a gallon! I curved around Flagstaff without stopping. I grabbed some snacks in Gap when I topped off my tank, so I was good to go. I've also been eating lotsa celery!
It was getting dark, and I got to Petrified Forest at 7:48 and they closed fully at 7:30, so I backtracked to Homolovi State Park. Wish I had known they closed, because I could have had a site set up and gotten to bed a lot earlier than I had. But hey, a hot shower is a hot shower! And no time limits, unlike Zion with its "$5 for 5 minutes". Annnnddd after my shower, I locked my keys in the trunk. But I had my tent set up. The only thing I was without was food, but I wasn't hungry. So I vowed to call AAA in the morning, watched some TV on my laptop and went to sleep.
And the locksmith arrived about 30 minutes after the call, and my car was unlocked and there were the keys in my trunk! Victory!
I took advantage of the shower and ate some food. I checked out the visitor's center and did a little walk, and then I set out for Petrified Forest. This time for real. And since there was no camping, I figured I would sleep on the side of the road and continue on to Albuquerque in the morning.
But I ended up driving through most of the park. I did walk around a bit and look at some of the cool fossils, but I was feeling lethargic and not really up for heavy duty parking. So at 4pm, I called cousin Perry and began my journey east. Only 4ish hours! But then I lost an hour going across the border.
I filled up my tank. I even put in some fuel injector cleaner as a little treat. My car is doing so well. 1600 miles and counting!
It's odd to drive with the sun setting behind me. Normally it's in my eyes or to one side. The Pacific Ocean is so far away now. Aside from Flordia, I've only been as far East as Colorado. And Florida doesn't count for anything. It's its own thing.
ABQ at night is a blanket of lights. No real towers, or bright centers of light. Just lots of little points of light spread out across the land. And it was easy to merge into proper lanes. No real traffic. I got to Perry and Rosie's at 9pm, brought some of my stuff in and took a shower. Then they gave me tea and cheesecake and we chatted about things to see here and maybe in Santa Fe as well.
Should be a fun few days. Won't have to buy gas for a while.