Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


[CART09] Home

For our trip home, we traversed the San Juan Skyway. This photo is near Wolf Creek Pass (10,850' above sea level, our highest elevation on the trip) -- a near-duplicate of our similar path (in the opposite direction) during SWeAT-05: http://sweat.deichman.net

Our route map: from home to Yellowstone (Madison Campground); to John Day OR; to A Way Back in Blue River OR; to Lake Siskiyou CA; to Columbia CA; to Mammoth Lakes CA; to Las Vegas NV; to Bryce Canyon UT; to Durango CO; to home! 3,747 miles in 12-1/2 days, from 282 feet below sea level to 10,850 feet above sea level, and many many memories!



[CART09] Crossing Utah

Central Utah is truly one of the most desolate, yet stunningly beautiful, places to drive on earth. I'm convinced that if Mars had highways, this is what they'd be like. After departing Bryce Canyon this morning, we headed north into the farming communities of west-central Utah -- then headed east along Interstate 70, where there is a 110-mile stretch of "no services" from Salina to Green River, Utah. (Even the Alaska Highway wasn't that desolate!)

At Crescent Junction, we turned our two-car caravan southward toward Moab, and (beyond that) Durango.

Moab is truly a mountain biker's paradise. This bridge only caters to cyclists (who need to cross the Colorado River).

After leaving Las Vegas, the Peanut decided to channel her inner Elvis.

Since we opted for the high-speed approach (via I-70 across much of Utah), we arrived in Durgano well before sunset. Renee's dad met us in Cortez, Colorado, and our three-car caravan is ready to return to Colorado Springs in the morning!

Eldest & Man-Cub with Grandmama & Grandpa Bill's poodle puppies, ChaCha and LuLu.

The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway returns to its southern terminus in Durango, right in front of our hotel.

Shelby befriends another young lady (Madison) at Carver's Brewery. They were texting each other before we were done with appetizers.

Grandmama knows just what the Peanut wants!


[CART09] Moab

Rather than the southerly route to Durango, we opted for I-70 then US-191 through Moab.

Moab is rightfully called the mountain biking capital of the world - my steel-framed hardtail is the Moab model. And I can't wait to bring Man-Cub here when he's proficient enough on his bike for these trails!

This visit was just for lunch at Zax's Wood-Fired Pizza. a great place that happily catered to my folks' poodles.



[CART09] Bryce Canyon

The quote of the day today was my mom's observation that Bryce Canyon is simply "...too much eye candy!" We opted for the "reverse route" today, driving the full 18 miles to the tip of the plateau (Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point) first -- then stopping at the half-dozen or so vistas on our way out of the park. Our first photo is of the girls at Rainbow Point, overlooking some of the more scenic "hoodoos" (rock pillars carved by erosion).

Mom/"Grandmama" joined us at the point for another photo. Renee suggested that this trip is misnamed: rather than CAlifornia Road Trip/CART, it should be National Parks Trek/NiPiT. This inspired me to go one step further: the unofficial moniker is now "NaPO", "NAtional Parks Overload.

O.K., cynicism purged.... Despite the still-smoldering "July 16th Fire" (that's the day it was contained on the park grounds), we were still able to see Navajo Mountain and -- at the right-half horizon in the photo above -- the Grand Canyon's Kaibab Plateau. Both are more than 80 miles away from our perch at 9,110' above sea level on Bryce Canyon's Yovimpa Point.

We enjoyed the reflected waning sunlight at the appropriately-named "Sunset Point".

One of the most spectacular drives in the nation is Interstate 15 in Arizona. While it only spends 29 miles in the state, half of those miles pass through the Virgin River Gorge -- claustrophobes should find another route!

Equally impressive is Utah's State Route 14 eastward from Cedar City, which is the most direct route to Bryce Canyon from the southwest. Next time we'll meander through Zion National Park -- another spectacular route through some of the most scenic plateaus and canyons in Utah.

Tomorrow we've opted for the direct route to Durango (via Interstate 70 then a state highway through Moab, allowing me to scope out future mountain biking adventures). There we'll link up with Renee's dad and his wife -- and a Thursday three-car caravan into Colorado Springs!


[CART09] Chocolate Fountain

Shelby is mesmerized by the world's largest chocolate fountain at Jean-Philippe in Las Vegas's Bellagio -- over 4,000 pounds of chocolate (in three varieties: white, dark and milk) circulating through 25 feet of cascading fountains.



[CART09] Vegas Reunions

Jarrett's godmother Andra, along with her husband Brad (aka "Gunny") and son Cody, trekked up I-15 to meet us in Vegas this afternoon.

We walked from TI down to the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace -- an air conditioned route to our true destination, the chocolate fountains at Bellagio's Jean-Philippe.

While ordering our gelati at Jean-Philippe, Renee's dad called me to clandestinely report that he was at the lobby of our hotel (thanks to a tip from Bro-in-Law Kirk). A great reunion -- all in preparation for another rendez-vous later this week in Durango, Colorado, and a family gathering this weekend.


[CART09] Death Valley

After spending the front half of the trip in the "highlands", today we descended into the lowest part of our continent: Death Valley National Park, with one of the lowest points in the world (Badwater Basin, elev. -282'). Death Valley is so named because, during the Gold Rush of 1849, a group of "misinformed prospectors" crossed the eastern rim and -- facing the daunting Paramint Mountains to the west -- spent an arduous month crossing the valley and the western rim.

Highway to nowhere.

... and still going down!

I wonder if pal Tony (who routinely hits drives longer than 300 yards in the high country of central Colorado) can still muscle the ball as far in this thick air?

When J-man explained his interest in geology to Ranger Tim during his "Junior Ranger" test, the Ranger went to get Stephanie (the Death Valley National Park staff geologist). They talked at length about various kinds of rocks and crystals (Man-Cub's favorite is iron pyrite, and he knows the three ingredients of Pikes Peak granite).

The lowest point on the continent: Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level.

Despite the oppressive temperatures, there's still water in Badwater Basin. In fact, the springs around Death Valley (particularly near the sand dunes at the west gate) are home to the hardy and adaptive "pupfish" -- a fish that evolved from the native stock of the ancient Manley Lake that filled this valley with water as the glaciers receded during the last Ice Age. The pupfish thrives in water that is over 90° F. and five times the salinity of ocean water.

Speaking of heat, the car's "outside thermometer" read 117° F. at 1:17pm PDT, just after we departed Badwater Basin. (It later climbed to 119° F.)

Vegas in sight!

Hanging out on the 20th floor of Treasure Island, with a great view of the southern portion of the Las Vegas Strip. Tonight we'll catch up with J-man's godmother Andra and her family.


[CART09] Wakin' up in Vegas traffic


[CART09] Into Death Valley


[CART09] Mt Whitney

The highest peak in California: 14,494'.



[CART09] Yosemite

About halfway across Yosemite National Park, via Tioga Road, is a stunning view of the Valley and (in the distance) Half Dome. Olmsted Point is well worth the winding, roller-coaster style two-lane road.

The whole gang braved the polished granite (Renee and Man-Cub in flip-flops!) for a family photo.

As the glaciers that carved this valley some 20,000 years ago receded, they left "glacier pebbles" behind -- like this one...

... and this one.

Across Tioga Pass (9,945' above sea level, the high point of CART-09), Ellery Lake is a natural air conditioner on the way to Mono Lake.

Mono Lake was targeted by the utility companies in Los Angeles as a water supply for the city some decades ago. "Save Mono Lake" became a common refrain in northern California; today the lake is only about half the depth it used to hold.


[CART09] Columbia

Columbia State Park, in the heart of California's Mother Lode, is a preserved gold rush town -- complete with milling wheels, sluice wells for gold panning, a hand-pumped horse-drawn fire engine, and many saloons.

The rocks behind the sluice wells show the scars of water cannons, which were used during the latter portion of the gold rush to break the gold loose from the surrounding granite. Eldest and Man-Cub drew a big "zero" while panning, but did get a couple of cool stones (peridot and quartz).

Mmmmmm.... Sarsaparilla!


[CART09] Deichmen of Shasta


[CART09] Yosemite-North Dome

Simply stunning ....


[CART09] Tioga Traffic

Despite our friend Su's prediction of a long line of RVs weaving their way to the 9,945' Tioga Pass, we only had a Texas-licensed Chrysler 300 and a bike-laden Subaru to follow.



[CART09] Swimming & Sculpting

Sophie and Shelby hung out in the water for most of the afternoon...

... while Jarrett sculpted his own little "Mount Shasta". He used the wet sand as the granite, and the lighter colored gravel as the snow. His end result bore a striking resemblance to his model:


[CART09] Sophie & Pups II

Sophie does not seem nearly as amused as Cha Cha Loca....