The American Road Trip • Part IV

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Labor day brings  burgers and corn on the grill.  Kids straining for school’s resumption.  Perhaps commencement of well-laid vacation plans.  A favorable time of year.  Crowds are subdued, winter beckons, leaves begin to change.

hop-valley-kolob-canyonsIf piloting a 30′ box mounted on Ford’s E-450 chassis along narrow State highways does not sound vacationary, careful what you promise.  Years after your words are spoken you’ll be parking in spaces meant for vehicles a third shorter, braving hand-dug tunnels driving a vehicle twice your height, squeezing past oncoming traffic through scenic rocky gorges.  Expecting the RV to peel open upon an outcropping at any moment.

It was not that bad.  A flat $1,000 deductible on full-coverage insurance, included with every rental, eases my mind.  Fuel economy was predictably in high single digits.  The toilet worked.  Our RV experience was a success.

7am, the perfect start time for our trek towards the Colorado Plateau.  Driving from Phoenix allows one to detour through Sedona, famous for its red rocks – the Schnebly Hill Formation –  valleys, and shopping.  Continuing north along US-89 to Flagstaff, a super-hip college and observatory town close to the Grand Canyon. Through pine, Douglas fir, and spruce.  We rejuvenate souls and lungs.

From Williams AZ the North Rim is visible twenty miles away.  A couple of days in Grand Canyon, famous for exceptional dining at El Tovar, more shopping, unparalleled views.  Back on the road to desert, rock, and scenery.  The mellow peace of driving your home ensues.  Kanab, then Zion.  Zion National Park, of the narrow tunnels and inspirational rock formations.  RV parking and an excellent shuttle system.

We visit Cedar Breaks National Monument.  “Great choice”, a Zion ranger insists.  More beautiful driving, Duck Lake surrounded by aspen, more canyons.  It was in the 50˚s at this elevation near sundown.  Windburned, sunburned, layered in nearly all the clothes I brought, our road trip approaches conclusion.  From the furthest point we turn and head for home.

13-i-89-alternateThrough Iron County along SR-14 we come upon dense aspen with bright yellow leaves, autumn reaching this forest a little early.  Onward to an excellent Comfort Suites in Cedar City UT.  Tap water cleaner than the bottled water stowed on the RV.  South to my favorite spot, Kolob Canyons, Zion’s western edge.  Back through Zion, and a day of pleasant driving along US-89 Alternate.  The San Francisco Peaks appear closer for over an hour as we approach Flagstaff.

A few miles west, along Rt-66, the second highlight of my trip (after the aspens).  The Arboretum At Flagstaff.  Parked beneath towering ponderosa pine, my cousins take to their trails.  I put on the kettle, set up a camp chair, and relax under the morning silence and majesty of this forest.  After 1,200 miles in six days, everything stops.  I could live here forever, with trips into town for books, beans, and beer.

In the end, it is all about people.  Vacationing with friends.  Sammy, an Allentown transplant keeping a B&B running in Williams AZ.  That colorful beef jerky guy beside the highway miles from any town.  Professional waitstaff within a dozen restaurants and cafes.  Fellow tourists.  Artists selling their wares, sharing their dreams.  We all wanted the same thing.  Everyone got it.

Although I packed my lucky tee shirt and grass-stained mitt, looking for the perfect small town diamond, this trip did not see any baseball.   Jerry and Fred must have been grabbing one last game in the next town over.  Before the dinner bell rings.

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