Rocks near the San Rafael Swell.
Time was running out on the trip. It had been great so far, except for the few snags I hit along the way. The really cool stuff more than made up for those. Today I was going on a long drive, the longest of the trip, and hoping to see some really cool sights along the way. I would be traveling I-70 westbound, along the longest strip of road in America without services. And through the San Rafael Swell. From there I was going to play it by ear. I was thinking of going back in Nevada by way of regular highways, then down to Vegas. By the time I got to I-15 and the clock was showing how long this drive really was, my plans had changed.
Papa Joe’s Stop & Go.
After eating breakfast I was on the road with a full tank of gas. I thought there had to be something where I could get some diet sodas at the junction of US 191 and I-70. Fortunately there was, and it wasn’t the general convenience store I had thought. Papa Joe’s Stop and Go is pure nostalgia, a one man operation (well, two if you count the cat that sat on a cushion behind him while he manned the register). I had an interesting conversation with the owner, bought my two sodas, and was on the road. The first sign I saw on I-70 was the warning that there were no services ahead for over a hundred miles. There were exits, and their were viewing points with bathrooms, the toilet over a hole in the ground kind found in most of the parks. But there were no restaurants and no gas stations. I was ready for that, since I had just eaten an hour before and had a full tank. There was some snow along the side of the road, and into the interior when I didn’t have mountains and rocks in the way. Many of those mountains and rocks also had snow, and I was hoping I didn’t run into the icy roads I feared.
There were plenty of exits. To state parks, to small towns, to roads that led to the major national parks to the south. But not a service station to be seen. And then there was the horror of the Frankentrucks. Now I know that term has another meaning for people who served in Iraq, but I thought the term fit here as well. Most of the ones I saw were Federal Express, though there were some others companies represented as well. Trucks with three trailers attached, the last one invariably swaying back and forth and going over the line. We have double trucks in the East, but so far I have seen nothing like these abominations. After having run into a truck that had run a stop light years ago, I don’t like sharing the road with any of them. But this was beyond the pale. The only thing to do was speed past them. So it was past the green river, flowing through the shallow canyons before hitting the granddaddy to the south. Along the cliff faces and mountains that populated this part of the desert. To the San Rafael Swell, another of the reefs that stopped the early settlers from going through, forcing them around. But not the road department, which simply blasted through and put a four lane superhighway in place.
There actually is a river gorge there for the San Rafael River, so they had something to start with. And there were viewpoints for both sides of the road through the swell. It was beautiful, and the terrain around it was fantastic as well, and standing there (after hitting the bathroom of course) I was glad that I came this way to see this wonder. I also stopped at the Black Dragon Canyon view area ahead, to see more fantastic formations. And then it was west, ever west, and the mountains that had appeared, coming closer every mile.
Snows off the roads.
I hadn’t realized there were such mountain ranges in Western Utah. A long ridge running from north to south as far as could be seen. And every on with snow on them. Wishing I had researched this better, I kept hoping for the road to turn south and avoid going over the mountains. The road didn’t read my thoughts, or just decided to not listen, because it was looking more and more like I was going into those snowcapped mountains, and I started to worry about snow and ice on the roads. My GPS was set to altitude, and I kept climbing. Worse, I had to pass the Frankentrucks that had again passed me while I was looking at the San Rafael Swell and Black Dragon Canyon. This was forest country, no longer desert, and I could see how people would love to live here. But not drive. I made it through a couple of passes in which the temperature dropped, crossing my fingers, and made it into a long valley between ridges where services abounded and there were real towns. Even a Walmart.
By the time I hit the I-15 interchange, and saw that there were more mountains to the west, I decided to just shoot down the north-south interstate to Vegas. I might have missed out on some beautiful vistas, but there were still plenty this way. I hit the town of Beaver and got off to get some food for myself and the car. The convenience store had a large sign on front that said ‘I Love Beaver’. I went in to get some sodas for the road, and bought a small bumper sticker. I got into a conversation with the clerk, who knew very well what other people thought of their slogan (he laughed himself) and said they used to have a store called Beaver Liquor, which all it possibilities for humor. But a store with the same name in Colorado had sued them and they had to change the name.
From Beaver it was into St. George, with more beautiful formations along the way. I felt the urge for a bathroom break before hitting the gorge, but couldn’t find an exit with a convenience store that close. After one futile trip on an offramp that led to a residential neighborhood, I was back on I-15 with no relief. The gorge was beautiful this way through as well, a different view. I broke out the other end, thinking I could make it to the Piute Reservation Truck Stop to the south, not really recalling how far it was. I passed three truck parking areas (what was it about Nevada, where they don’t have regular rest stops for cars). Finally, I couldn’t hold it any longer, and got off on an offramp that led to more or less nothing but dirt trails out into the desert on both sides. I relieved myself, then looked over the narrow arch that ran a one lane road between the sides of the interstate. I guess there wasn’t enough traffic to warrant a real road.
I still stopped at the Piute Reservation Truck Stop and got a snack and a soda, then headed on. My GPS was telling me get off on Craig Rd and go West to hit the address of Comfort Inn. I got off, headed west for five miles, and there was no hotel there. I programmed the GPS again, this time to the name of the hotel, and had to drive the five miles back to the interstate and beyond. I was scoping out car washes on the way, since I would have to wash my rental before I turned it in. After checking in, I located a nearby car wash on the Google Maps, then went out to get something to eat and drive down to film the strip at night.
The plan was to film the strip going both ways, and I really wish I had stuck to that plan. I ran down N 5th Street, which turns into Las Vegas Blvd. There were a lot of people out. It was St. Patty’s Day weekend, and the party was on. I went through the old city, with its now out of the way casinos, and then onto the main strip with all its mega-hotels and casinos. As said, people were everywhere, but no one tried to run across the street into traffic. I got some great vid, though I had to change batteries halfway through. Luckily I was stopped at a light for enough time to make the change. It took forty-five minutes to get through the strip. I was feeling really tired by that time, and decided to go to I-15 and shoot my way back to my hotel. It’s a decision I would soon regret.
I will be finishing up this serial blog next week with the last two installments. Now, a word about my writing, since someone is sure to ask when the next Exodus book is going to come out. I’ve had a lot of trouble coming up with a theme and a technological advancement for the next book, which was making it difficult to work on. A couple of weeks ago both the theme and the advancement became clear, and I’m hard at work on it. I’m predicting it will be out the week before DragonCon (Labor Day Weekend). Maybe a little earlier. That said, there are only going to be two more volumes in the series, three at most. I really want to move on to other things. I have ideas for fantasy, post apocalyptic and alternate history series. I may revisit the series with some more short story collections and some novels set in the early Empire. I have one fantasy finished. A Baen editor expressed interest in it, and so did an agent. The agent passed on it, and now I’m thinking I might not want to go through the submission process, waiting for up to a year, then another for it to get published, when I can get it out in the fall. I also have a book coming out in a new series, Kinship War, with Arc Manor, and a novel that will soon be released in the Four Horsemen Universe of Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey. I hope that answers all the questions.