6,915 km: Familiar territory

Leaving west from Rifle Falls on the I-70, today is the first day where all of the roads I intend to drive on are roads I’ve previously driven on.  Even day one, rolling out from Nova Scotia, put me into unknown territory in Maine.  Since this is familiar territory for me, my focus will be on making miles.  No lollygagging or malingering on this day.

After slamming some coffee into my system in Grand Junction, it isn’t long before I hit the Utah border.

Welcome to Utah

This stretch of the I-70 is a real car killer.  The road ascends and descends by thousands of feet repeatedly, sometimes returning to heights near what I went through in the Rockies (one summit is just short of 8,000 feet).  The ratio of cars on the side of the road with their hoods up to those actually driving doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, and it’s a hell of a place to stress-test the car.  There’s nothing out here and it’s savage terrain.  In addition to the regular water I’ve been carrying, I picked up an emergency jug in Grand Junction in case my car isn’t up to snuff.

There isn’t much out here in terms of people or services, but the landscape is stunning.  I often talk shit about interstates, considering most of them to be boring at best and soulless monstrosities at worst, but the I-70 from Denver west really is a great drive.  The canyons on the Colorado side are great and the Utah side is otherworldly:

Utah 2 Utah 1

There are a couple of national parks out this (Arches and Canyonlands) which I haven’t been to, but I’m in the zone today.  I allow myself to pull off the road and snap these at a couple of the numerous roadside road stops, but that’s also to constantly check my oil.  I smell hot engine so this worries me;  I think I’m losing a tiny bit of oil somewhere – I had some gaskets replaced prior to the trip – but the loss is so minute it really doesn’t matter.  From Scotia to here the oil level hasn’t really changed, but I’m checking it constantly anyway.

I turn onto the I-15 (blah) and while stopping for gas I see this:

I <3 Beaver

I roll down the I-15 towards St. George.  I briefly consider entering Zion but then decide against it.

This part of the I-15 cuts into the corner of Arizona for about thirty miles, cutting through a really scenic canyon.  Additionally, the local fuzz are out in full force – the speed limit drops through the canyon and the rozzers are quick to nab anyone who doesn’t slow down accordingly.  In the first five miles of AZ I see three cars pulled over.

Fill up the fluids for both myself and the car in Mesquite, Nevada.  Mesquite’s a great place to stay on the cheap – I’ve stayed in rooms that weren’t completely disgusting for $24 a night here – and I once again consider whether to call it day but end up back on the road.  One of the main reasons I consider stopping is because I’m on pace to hit Vegas during rush hour, and I do.  To paraphrase a bumper sticker I saw in Woody Creek, if asshole drivers were trees, Vegas would be a national forest.

I stop briefly in Primm for this:

Welcome to Cali

The sun’s at a bad angle, but that’s the California border.

The drive through Baker and Barstow is a trip.  I’ve done this drive numerous times, usually as a hungover passenger retreating from Vegas or in an abused rental car smelling of hot vehicular pain, but it’s really bizarre to be rolling through here in my Nova Scotian car.

It gets dark and my eyes are starting to bug out – especially while driving west into the sun as it quickly and repeatedly disappears then reappears over the horizon.  There’s no way I’m stopping in Barstow or Victorville when I’m this close to the finish line so I drive faster and down the Cajon Pass, onto the 210 and then onto I-10 east.  Boom!  Pull into Murphy’s place in Redlands.

We’ll be off the road for most of the next week as we do some prep here, but I expect we’ll still be posting some updates.  The exact departure date remains to be set but Tijuana is the next stop.

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