Friday, March 27, 2009

Long Day's Journey

We're enjoying a complete change in landscape from the desert surrounding Phoenix.

Leaving Phoenix, we had to decide between heading north to Flagstaff and Page, AZ, (via I-17 and AZ 89) on the way to our destination at Virgin, UT, or head to Kingman, AZ, and then to Las Vegas (via AZ 93, I-40, AZ 68, NV 63, and NV 95). We opted for the latter route because the route had less of a change in altitude, and it took us around Hoover Dam so that we did not have to deal with the matter of carrying propane over the Dam.

Route 93 is also called the Joshua Tree Forest Highway, and the trees we observed (photo above) provided an interesting change from the Saguaro cacti that surrounded our campground.

We had over 400 miles to cover in our travels to our next campground, but even a start at 7:00 a.m. put us an hour "behind"--Arizona does not move to Daylight Savings Time, so even though we were heading north, we lost an hour as we "sprang forward" in Nevada and Utah.

The route we chose was devoid of towns, which means there were no gas stations. Fortunately, there were short stretches on two interstates (around Kingman, AZ, and Las Vegas), so we used their truck stops wisely.

Now, I plan the route and driving assignments and map out 50-mile blocks of driving responsibilities for each of us. The driver changes would occur at fuel stops and rest stops.

Usually, this works quite well. Key word: usually.

On this trip, Kate got all the challenging segments. First of all, she had injured her "gas-pedal" foot at the Cubs' game the day before leaving Phoenix, so she was in some discomfort the whole day.

Then it seemed that any hilly section of the drive occurred during her segments, making it impossible to use the cruise control function. (Note how small the semi at the botton of the photo appears.)

Then came Las Vegas.

The rest stop before Las Vegas had been closed. This meant that the scheduled driver switch did not occur. Kate was behind the wheel when we entered I-515 around the city.

Kate was doing very well. Then we saw the sign: "Entrance to I-15 closed." This meant exiting into city traffic--something we both have so far avoided--and hoping the detour signs would take us on major roadways.

Fortunately, we were moved onto a four-lane road through northern Las Vegas. We found a large parking lot and changed drivers. Some lucky guesses about turns put us onto I-15, heading into Utah.

The photos here were taken from the truck. The driver may slow down to reduce the movement of the truck, but even this was not always possible.

We arrived just before sunset. The views (the three previous photos) from the highway (Route 9 north of St. George to Virgin) were stunning--and we hadn't even entered Zion National Park. The views from the campground served to build the anticipation of visiting the National Park.

These views near Virgin have us looking at rising peaks instead of hidden desert wildflowers--both beautiful scenes, but very different.

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