American Muscle Car Tour Finale
For this final segment of the journey, I will combine the remaining two days. I wanted to be absolutely certain that I was on the correct side of the Continental Divide before the inevitable change in weather. Seems like every year a big old snow storm comes through during Thanksgiving and strands a bunch of people traveling for the holidays. I did not want the great American Muscle Car tour of the south central States to end up with me in the ditch somewhere.
Leaving Lubbock a little bit richer than I had found it, I fell into musing about the richness of this great country. Richness in resources and richness in people. Driving around the country on $1.60 petrol sure beats driving around on $3.60 petrol. Heading northwest toward the New Mexico border I passed fields of cotton and oil rigs, pastures full of cattle and windmills.
The folks in Texas, especially Lubbock, were very friendly – even if they did look at me as though I was slightly touched when I asked for maps. I should have had a tee shirt made up that said “Traveling America without a satellite”, but eventually glad I didn’t because asking for directions is a great way to communicate. It’s amazing how people want to jump in and help out – even though they may secretly be thinking that I am a bit daft.
Crossing the line into New Mexico at a place called Clovis, I began to notice that many of the numerous grain elevators appeared abandoned. Are there no more starving children in China? Have the Ruskies quit eating bread? Plenty of cotton and cattle but man does not live by beef alone. I must research that further.
Regardless of the numbness of my derriere, crossing the Great Divide was paramount. Passing through Albuquerque, I found more maps accompanied by more delightful people. On to Farmington and Shiprock – hopefully in time to get a good sunset picture of that famous rock. Not gonna happen. 🙁
As dusk fell, I was not yet to Farmington but I did find rush hour traffic. Not just rush hour, but rush hour the day before Thanksgiving. Keep moving lad, miles to go before I sleep.
Shiprock, New Mexico is the largest township on the Navajo Reservation with about 9,000 souls. Many consider it to be the de facto capital of the Navajo nation. The rock formation from which it gets its name is the remnant of a volcano that erupted some 30-40 million years ago.
It is about 2000’ of vertical rock that some say resembles a ship on the sea. Missing my opportunity to take quality photos due to darkness (and lateness) I put it back on my bucket list for future adventures.
Heading northward toward the southwest corner of Colorado, I was treated to an dazzling showcase of stars. Driving on a gently rising plateau gave a great opportunity to enjoy the nighttime gallery. I went through Cortez, once again in the dark, and prayed there were no deer out catching a pre-Thanksgiving snack. Another inglorious way to end the great muscle car road trip of 2015.
Once out of Cortez, this seasoned sojourner was on home turf. The miles of Colorado soon turned to the miles of Utah with no deer to interrupt the journey. Passing through Monticello, I recalled the great hikes I have taken in search of Anasazi ruins in this area.
Once again, the vista while traveling the high plateau was stellar. The lights of Moab came into view. I had arrived too late to contact friends in the area, which was probably just as well considering I had travelled some 600 miles this day. Time for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep – this sojourner had earned it.
Up early on Thanksgiving, I had some serious choices to make. Actually, mother nature made them for me. I had hoped to catch both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park but if I delayed I just might have trouble crossing the mountains. Instead, I thought passing through the San Rafael Swell on my way to a favorite restaurant of mine for a turkey dinner was the order of the day.
The San Rafael Swell describes that landform to a tee. I bet the pioneers attempting to get their wagons across this abrupt upheaval thought it was anything but swell. It was formed as one tectonic plate is forced beneath another plate. It looks positively alien. It is a major factor in making I-70 one of the most expensive roads to build in America. To call it merely rugged would be an insult.
Stopping for pictures might have proved costly, as snow was beginning to fall in the canyon beyond the Swell. The snow wasn’t sticking and I wasn’t sticking around to make this blog about the great American muscle-sled tour of the central Utah barrow-pits. I was soon closing in on my Thanksgiving objective – Salina, Utah.
The Salina of Butch Cassidy fame, not to be confused with the Salinas of Steinbeck fame, has one signal-light in the town. From this crossroads, any direction you travel has multiple adventures awaiting you. There is quite a famous restaurant at this crossroads because, well …, that is where the nationally famous restaurants are supposed to be located.
Tough luck, though, in this case. It seems the objective of my drive had been the scene of an accident which sent one vehicle through the front of the restaurant. Although it had happened about a month prior to my visit, it was not going to be open to serve me a tantalizing turkey dinner or one of their famous scones.
My disappointment was offset by the idea of taking old highway 89 the rest of the way. What a fitting end to my adventure. Long before freeways, US Hwy 89 had served as the leading road between Mexico and Canada. It could take the traveler from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone. From the Sonora desert to Glacier National Park. Muscle car asphalt, for sure.
In Utah, US Hwy 89 connects most of the county seats and continues to be the main connector to this day. Towns steeped in pioneer history, I had the occasion to video-document three of these towns a few years back as part of a project to protect these historic towns from construction damage. The highway had also carried me to many a rodeo event in my youth. Yes, I confess to tasting some of the finest dirt in Utah.
Soon, towns like Gunnison, Manti, Ephraim and Indianola were passing by and I turned off toward Nephi. Beautiful Utah towns with intriguing names, which can only be pronounced correctly if you grew up in Utah. That’s Man-tie not Man-tea, Ee-frum not Ee-f-riam and Indian-O-la not Indian-olay. Never say Nep-hee, always Ne-fy.
Utah does have its share of strangely pronounced towns – take my home town, for example. Tooele, pronounced To-ella not Tool-ee or just plain old Tool. Thank goodness Erda has a normal name – how on earth could you mispronounce that?
Hence the name Erdalife. Thank you for sharing my great American muscle car journey of the south central states. Hoping that you have Simpler Times.
Enjoy! Does anyone need a map?