Several months ago, I had been waffling back and forth for several weeks whether or not to take a journey like the one I begin today, I finally decided to pull the trigger when I discovered a way to rent an SUV (my home for two weeks) at a reasonable cost. I also spent quite a bit of time narrowing down where I wanted the trip to take place. I decided to contact Denis, the photographer I traveled with for a week on the 2014 trip, to see if he was up to doing it again. It turns out that he was driving home from spending five weeks on the road photographing the northwest and it would be too soon for him to head back out on the road for another trip. His wife would kill him! So I had to decide where I wanted to go. The options were narrowed down to three; fly into:
1. San Francisco – head north along the coast through Oregon and come back more inland eventually across the Sierras into Yosemite and back to SF.
2. El Paso – it turns out it’s very close to White Sands, which I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, work my way up through New Mexico into CO for the aspens and swing west into the desert again, or
3. Denver and head up to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and maybe Glacier. I haven’t been up that way since 1978 and had never gone to Glacier which I always wanted to see.
Denver seemed like a good idea since it would be a different environment from the several trips into the desert I’ve taken over the years, although the desert weather always seemed to be good and it always seemed to rain when I went into the mountains. But renting an SUV for two weeks at the Denver airport was rediculous!! Over $1300!! Add airfare and it approaches two grand even before I drive a single mile. But I made a discovery, if I rent the same car from the same rental company not at the airport, but in Denver itself, the price drops precipitously to about $550!! Now it’s less than $1K!! Just grab Uber to bring me downtown, AND I can drop off the car at the airport when I’m done without any penalty; it was a no-brainer.
So all the research was done (almost 30 Pages worth) on these three national parks, gathering detailed maps and photos, discovering some current fires, road and area closures in Yellowstone, consulted the photographer’s epheremis and loads of google maps, various destination possibilities in the surrounding areas, driving times, and so many other references, packed and headed out on an adventure that I can only hope would come close to the experience I had on the month long trip in 2014.
The planeride to Denver was good and on time, except for a 15 minute delay getting a gate. Had a little trouble using Uber for the first time (not a surprise considering my lack of intersphere talents), but met a great lady to take me into town for the rental. By the time we got there we were friends and she gave me a big hug when she left. A great way to start the trip. Ended up with a Ford Flex which was perfect with a bench seat instead of the gas-guzzling, monstrous Expedition with captain’s chairs they had planned to give me. So it will be my home for the next two weeks. Drove to Rock Springs, WY and discovered along the way that you can see 50 miles in every direction without seeing a single tree!! This is Big Sky country to say the least. There were more trucks on the highway than cars and speedlimit was 75 with 80 in a few spots, drove over the continental divide at 7000-ft. just past the Flying J gas station (with the only tree anywhere in view) and as I got close to Rock Springs, the white hot sun was setting and I was driving right into it, being blinded. Checked into Motel 6 and first room had no heat, so changed rooms, headed to McDonalds for the usual chicken sandwhich and wi-fi, then over to Walmart for supplies including $40 (ouch) worth of bear spray, only because everyone said I should carry it and I want to return home without a big chunk of me missing. Then onto Home Depot for a piece of masonite to bridge the gap in the floor of the SUV, shower and it was already 1am eastern time.
One thing I was hoping I would not experience that I always seem to do on these trips, is a nagging headache. It seems to build after getting off the plane and gets worse as the day progresses. I took Tylenol which didn’t help much, but if the past is any indication, it usually goes away by the third day. Hopefully sooner. Anyway, looking forward to some Starbucks (yes, they have one) and Orah’s cranberry scones for breakfast in the morning.