We stayed in Moab due to its close proximity to Arches National Park, where we set off to early the next morning. I must note that one of my first random observations about Utah is the abundance of deep dips in the pavement at entrances to stores etc and where two streets meet. I know that most people have pickup trucks with huge wheels, but I almost sent the poor little rental car to the rental car hospital a few times because I failed to turn onto a street at negative 10 mph. Tiny car owners, this is your PSA.
Missing the motel breakfast by 10 minutes due to a lack of listening skills at check-in (who ends breakfast at 9am?) and we set off into the park with a Luna bar and some gas station coffee. I could feel the difference in heat exponentially so once we hit this area, with searing desert air and bright, merciless sunshine without cloud cover. It was somewhere around 90 degrees by midday and you could certainly feel it. Flashing our super nifty year-long national park pass and we started winding through the drivable scenic route inside the park. We stopped periodically to explore giant orange-tinted rock formations surrounded by tan-colored sand, cacti and various heat-loving greenery. What’s cool about Arches (and most national parks and forests in the region) is that there are few restrictions on where you can walk/climb to, and so we were left like unsupervised children scaling rocky hills and meandering through naturally formed archways and structures, praying that we didn’t slip and bash into the ground (we didn’t bring “hiking shoes” with proper tread which was a dire mistake and made us look silly).
The “main” arch that most people see in photos and postcards is called Delicate Arch, which sits atop a high cliff. We didn’t realize until we got there that in order to physically get to the arch, one has to embark on a 3-mile round trip hike. Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal (well…) but the heat was so intense and the hike offered zero shade with which to find relief on the walk. It made every step feel that much more exhausting, and considering we’d already plowed through nearly a liter of water a piece (sans hiking), we decided to nix it and take a ½ mile loop that gives you a view of (but no access to) the arch. I’ll recover, comfortably, in my air conditioned car.
Our trip out of Arches led us towards Cedar City, Utah to stay for the night before exploring Zion National Park. We took route 70 much of the way and finally got the relief of the kind of super highway that we’d been craving since our first big trip. Mountain/rural road driving was exciting and unique, but there’s nothing like blazing down an 80mph speed limit highway with bright, wide open roads, an infinite horizon and barely any sign of civilization in sight. At one point, we went 106 straight miles without services (gas, food, anything). I’m normally a slow driver and driving tends to make me anxious (I grew up in NYC and most of us are allergic to cars), but this kind of travel is in a league of its own. Windows down, music up, open road and speed with no worries about merging traffic, congestion or distraction. I call them free roads.
We stayed the night in a Knight’s Inn which was one of our first chain motels in a while, and we continue to believe that the less you pay for a room, the more you get…because it was about $55 and we got a fridge/microwave, free breakfast, a pool and a king size bed. We plopped our “go bag” (smaller bag we stuff just the night’s clothing/necessities in, leaving the rest strewn about the trunk) and went down the road for a rack of BBQ ribs, fried cauliflower, and some local drafts at Sonny Boys, which was local, delicious and friendly. The man behind the cashier referred to us as “kids” and then proceeded to have an unnecessarily loud reaction at the realization that we were not in fact kids and have birthdays in the 80’s. Yes, we look young…now give us our beer. Oh, and there were free mini ice cream cones, just because.