2013-03-10 Westward, ho!


Warren writes:

We headed out for Bryce Canyon, early early early in the morning. My (Warren’s) flight departed at 6:05 AM from Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) in North Carolina. Little did I know that the chill morning air would be balmy compared to the majority of our time on the road.

Fortunately, ticketing, checking luggage, and security screening all went off without a hitch.

I was lucky enough to have a direct flight, although the anticipation of going to Bryce throughly destroyed my ability to sleep on the plane.

This was not a total loss. While I only managed a few decent photos through the smudged window, the views were great, as you can see.

Snow-capped mountain on the flight to Las Vegas

Snow-capped mountain on the flight to Las Vegas

My flight arrived almost a half hour ahead of schedule, which allowed me plenty of time to get my bag from the forces of darkness baggage handlers before my cousin arrived.

We took a circuitous route to a nice little Jewish deli for a “light” Sunday breakfast (ok, I ended up getting Eggs Benedict) and had plenty of time to chat and catch up about the exciting nature of living in the desert and studying tortoises. No, really.

As the place started to fill up, we vacated our table to make way for others, and he dropped me back at the airport to pick up the rental car.

Now, “car” is a bit of a misnomer here. When one shows up at an airport car rental location in Las Vegas, you can expect… Well, a variety of options. You see, people come from all over the planet to do insane things, all for the right price.
Want to shoot a machine gun? We have a place for that.
Want to operate heavy machinery like a kid in a giant sandbox? Yep, that too.

So, I have a reservation for an SUV. (Cargo space for gear, place to change/shelter depending on the weather and facilities, etc.) I figured, “Well, they’ll probably have a few with 4×4 as an option. If the snow that was forecast for Bryce actually hit, we can be prepared.”

Great plan, right?

Unfortunately, this was the weekend of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway NASCAR race. (Remind me sometime to tell you the story of moving from Ohio to California on the weekend of the Indy 500. Apparently this is a theme for me.)

What does this mean? Apparently all the race fans felt they needed the 4×4 capabilities for driving across the rugged terrain of perfectly flat Vegas pavement. What did this leave me with for options?

The one 4×4 capable SUV in the entire parking structure, across multiple companies. (Apparently, they have sharing agreements between corporations.)

Yes, this.

Warren standing next to Tank, the Lincoln Navigator.

Warren standing next to Tank, the Lincoln Navigator.

A Lincoln Navigator. I’ll spare you the heart-stopping details of what it cost after my discount, but it was significantly more than our two on-sale airfares put together.

This thing was huge. If you’ve not experienced one of these rolling barges, it should give you a sense of scale that we felt like we were in a vehicle of equivalent size and mass to a first-generation Hummer that we passed.

(Cynthia suggested when hungry at one point that we simply drive through a herd of deer. It certainly would have been worse for the deer than the vehicle, but I didn’t consider it sporting. Also, as Top Gear proved, cooking on the engine block with animal carcasses doesn’t always smell so good.)

Vehicle acquired, I tossed my (70-pound) backpack into the back, and headed back to the airport to pick up the recently-landed Cynthia.

She of course asked if I requested the largest vehicle on the lot.

Gear and co-pilot loaded, we headed off to meet her friend for lunch and generally relax for a bit before heading into the wilderness. There were stories shared, few of which are suitable for general audiences, and foods devoured. We said our farewells and hit the road.

After a brief stop to pick up camp food and last minute supplies, we finally headed out of town.

It should be noted at this point that the Navigator attacked me while we were running our errands, by deploying its running boards into my shins. Cynthia, as you would expect, mocked me for this. (Not for the first time, but second, third, etc.) Karma, unfortunately for her, is pretty instant around me at times. She succeeded in pulling down the rear hatch onto the bridge of her nose. Fortunately, we worked out all our travel karma early on, and no further injuries happened for the rest of the trip. (Sorry to take away from the suspense. Yes, we both lived.)

When I moved from California to North Carolina, I remember being struck by how green it was after living in paved desert for a few years.

(I’m going to snag one of Cyntha’s shots from our drive out, it really fits what I’m trying to describe here.)

I-15 through Arizona

I-15 through Arizona

Driving out into the Nevada desert, I was reminded how much I enjoyed the change of scenery to the arid scenery of mountains, mesas, joshua trees, and creosote brush.

We made good time across the desert, and reached the edge of Zion National Park just as light was failing completely. We were able to see some pleasant-looking resort areas, but once we reached the park boundaries, it was pitch dark. It wouldn’t be until the trip home that we realized what we missed.

On the way, we saw the aforementioned herds of deer (marked by signs ringed by flashing yellow lights–they weren’t kidding. LOTS OF DEER. Perhaps even ALL THE DEER, as far as we could tell.)

Unfortunately, the deer also slowed our speed, as there were legitimate concerns about hitting them for a long stretch of road.

When we finally arrived at Bryce, it was well into the nighttime hours. I may or may not have succeeded in inadvertently hitting the alarm button on the vehicle remote. Seriously, way too easy to trigger on that thing.

If I did in fact trigger it. <.<

(“Did you REALLY just do that?” — Cynthia)

Cynthia, ready to charge into battle, grabbed the tent and instructed me to grab the camera.

Yes, seriously. Don’t give me grief for shooting the video while she assembled the tent. That was her doing. Now, whether or not that was her polite technique of keeping me out of the way is another question entirely. I decided not to ask.

All that remained was to dump our sleeping bags into the tent, go up to the (OH DEAR GOD, THANK YOU, THE RESTROOMS ARE HEATED) restrooms to throw on base and mid layers to stay warm, and then collapse into the tent and sleep.

Tune in next time to find out if we avoided hypothermia 🙂


See our full gallery from Bryce Canyon here:



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