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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, August 7, 2017

LONG BEACH TO ANNAPOLIS AND BACK! Day 2: 542 miles, 9 hrs

Beaver, Utah to Denver.

It was a very long day, hence the upload this morning (Monday) versus the intended last night.

We began the day with a pleasant breakfast at the hotel in Beaver. It was your typical hotel "free breakfast" fare, with scrambled eggs, sausage patties (which are quite flat and suspiciously uniform), hash browns as the "warm" breakfast, along with a variety of toasts, bagels, cereals and the like. Coffee and juices, of course.

Make it a double?
Particularly coffee. I found myself in need of several cups, knowing full well we'd be on the open road and away from facilities for a good chunk of the day.

We left the Best Western at around 8:30, just about on schedule. Heading up Interstate 15 we transtioned to Interstate 70 a half hour or so into the drive. The morning sunlight and partial clouds gave some beautful lighting to the central Utah valley, but almost as soon as we started east the terrain changed.

Spotted Wolf Canyon
Utah, I will say without too much fear of contradiction, is blessed with a stunning landscape. Each curve in the highway inevitably leads to another gasp as you encounter a spectacular vista of one sort or another. I would suggest that the portion of Interstate 70 between the I15 cutoff and the beginnings of the Utah desert is perhaps the most spectacular stretch of asphalt in the interstate highway system. (And for our readers who have never driven the system, that's saying quite a bit. There are staggeringly beautiful stretches of highway through New Mexico, California, Colorado - and others I'm sure will be screamed at the screens of offended travelers in other states).

I will, at some point, attempt to do it justice in a future column, but the drive was jawdropping, as you can make our in just one vista to the right. This is the overlook down through Spotted Wolf Canyon (above left). It's a divide through which the interstate feeds like a wandering python.

Once we emerged from the mountainous wonderland, the desert floor beckoned. We stopped briefly Live in L.A.) and counted the miles until we passed into Colorado.
in Green River for a bio break and water, then headed back out across the eastern Utah desert. It's a lovely drive, and the temperatures were kept relatively cool by the previously mentioned cloud cover, and a seasonal haze which obscured distant landmarks. We simply kicked back, popped in some Rippingtons (

After a stop for lunch in Grand Junction the highway heads up into the Rockies, but not uuntil after passing a bunch of vineyards off to the south. I'd known they produce wines in Colorado, but hadn't internalized it - seeing the large nature of some of the operations was bit of a surprise. However, due to the nature of a cross-country drive it's not a good idea to do much wine tasting. I chalked this up to "future reference" and watched them disappear in the rear-view.

The Colorado...in Colorado
The Rockies get off to a gentle start, but clearly you are mountainous terrain. The slope is gradual in some parts an steeper in others, with large open meadowlands interspersed. Our altitude kept on a general upward direction and you could begin to feel the effects of the height. A light dizziness - nothing serious - and the feeling of breathing just a touch more deeply.

One of the rarely mentioned aspects of this portion of the drive is that the Colorado River parallels the highway - or, more accurately, the other way around. In some of the deeper grooves the river takes on a whitewater flow, whereas at others it might be a gentle float. And, as expected, there were dozens of rafters, fishermen and others willing to play. We pulled over at one point into one of the several rest stops to wander around and take a few shots of the river. It was both a great way to stretch the legs, and a pleasant respite from the heavily trafficked scramble up the hill.

A second stop, more extended than the first, came in Vail. Considered to be one of the premiere ski
Very expensive coffee
resorts in the world, Vail is a lovely little resort with shopping, restaurants and other activities, and it's directly off the interstate at 8000', meaning it's pretty convenient for a quick drop-by. We spent an hour or so sitting and watching some school-aged children playing soccer in the main square's play area, sipping at lattes and munching a couple of bagels. (Just an hour of parking cost a whopping $20, making the lattes and bagels the most expensive snack ever.)

From Vail it's a steep ascent to the summit - there are two, in fact. The first, at roughly 10,000' is misleading. The highway continues to ascend to the cities of Frisco and Silverthorne, and from there it's a steep grade up to the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels at 11,158', a statistic which worried us greatly considering my wife's well-documented altitude sickness. (She passed out on Mt Haleakala in Hawaii. At that's only 10,032'.) Other than a splitting headache, which receded quickly once we achieved lower elevations down the far side of the tunnel, she reports no lasting ill effects. I am now for-sworn to much lower altitudes for the remainder of the trip.

The rush down the hill, despite encountering weekend homeward-bound traffic, was eventless, and finally checked into our hotel at around7pm, retiring for a light dinner and what was, in the end, a very disappointing sleep - the hotel, a Doubletree, was among the loudest I have ever encountered between a noisy ice machine, noisy neighbors and the constant horn-blowing of a light-rail train as it passed the hotel only a few dozen yards away.

(All of which was finished off with a nice Ultimat Martini, of course...)

Today we're off to Topeka. Follow along of Twitter and Instagram for regular updates....

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