A year ago, last May, my best friend and I took a week off of work to drive From Carpinteria to Denver and back. It is one of my all time favorite memories and I think it’s time to share it with you.
2,500 miles to drive and plenty of stops on the way…
First stop was in Needles where the Colorado River runs into California. The air was dry and hot and we had been stuck in the car since 6am. It was time for a snack and a dip in the water.
That night we arrived at the Grand Canyon with enough time to buy an ALL ACCESS National Parks season pass and stand on the edge of this great ravine.
The walls of the canyon were bright red, the sky was vibrant and blue and even after 10 hours in the car we still looked pretty good, so naturally, many self timer pictures were taken displaying us looking super cool in front of this natural world wonder.
That night we pitched a tent, drank some wine, star gazed in my hammock, and passed out.
We set an alarm to be on the road by 5:30 the next morning and were pleasantly surprised when we awoke to four elks moseying around our campsite.
We snapped a few pics and were off.
This time we took the “rustic route” through gorgeous scenes of emerald green pine trees, grassy meadows and small, unpopulated ski towns.
Hunger struck and we made a stop in Flagstaff at the Crown Railroad Cafe, complete with our favorite original, 2 eggs (scrambled for she, over-easy for me), hashbrowns, and sourdough, and of course, a toy train “choo”ing and circling over head.
We didn’t stay long because we had a special stop in mind and plans to get to Colorado Springs by nightfall.
We didn’t quite think about how long and extensive the drive would be, not to mention losing an hour on the way.
This didn’t quite register until we were driving through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park in search of those “really awesome rock-like tree stumps” (as I described it to Isa).
When we entered the park our eyes were filled with expanses of brilliant, colorful ridges and peaks.
We drove deeper into the park, winding down a stretch of never ending orange, dusty badlands. Isa’s eyes were pointed at me.
The “forest” was nowhere to be seen, but we had driven so far in already that it seemed silly to turn back.
Miles and miles down the road and we finally turned into a lookout point in hopes of finding those “really awesome rock-like tree stumps”.
There they were…all five of them!
It wasn’t exactly as cool as I had remembered it and to impress Isa I suggested we get a closer look.
We creeped under the guard rail and took a sit on the stumps where we befriended a cute little dessert lizard whom we named ‘Fred’, or something like that.
Isa wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped, but I couldn’t blame her since this “short stop” had turned into a 3 hour long wild-goose-chase.
Even still, we took lots of pictures and had fun laughing about the ridiculousness of this long excursion to find rock stumps.
We finally got out and back on the interstate when we realized the time on our phones changed
It was already 2 pm and as we took a glance over the map, we noticed that the miles ahead exceeded our allotment of travel time.
It didn’t matter, we were determined to reach our destination.
We took an oath to only stop if were desperate to pee and then we cranked up the speed.
The rest of the day was spent belting out our favorite country songs, playing car games, eating homemade sandwiches and driving through long, narrow, empty highways, surrounded by flat desserts.
Yep, you guessed it, we were in NEW MEXICO.
The day was one unlucky thing after another.
I will say though, that one good thing happened.
We needed gas and to go pee real bad, so we stopped at this mirage-looking casino in the middle of nowhere. It happened to be “Funky Friday Special” where, although the lines were long, the gas was über cheap! And everyone loves saving a bit of cash! So we were happy.
Unfortunately that was really the only good thing.
It’s safe to say that it wasn’t the best day for us to be visiting this state for the first time. As a result our point-of-view is not so peachy.
Albuquerque didn’t make things any better. We entered into bumper-to- bumper traffic and by that time it was getting pretty late.
That’s when we noticed that we were low on engine oil.
Once out of the gridlock, we stopped at a gas station and found that they didn’t have the type we needed. We tried another, and another, until our hopes were lost and it began to rain.
The only thing we could do was get back on the road and wait till morning to get to a car shop.
The rain fell hard and lighting dashed through the sky.
This was actually pretty exciting.
Us Californians never get to see lightning first hand, so we occupied ourselves in the car by trying to catch video and photograph proof to show our friends.
It proved to be quite difficult to get a good shot, but we had plenty of time to try and fail till we got something semi-presentable.
Isa and I switched seats and I took over the wheel.
I put the car in cruise and was filled with joy when I saw more and more signs for Colorado and knew we were getting close.
We finally had less than 100 miles to reaching our beautiful destination.
It was too good to be true, there had to be one more unfortunate event to top off this long day.
The speed limit in these parts were 75 and being from Santa Barbara area where it’s “acceptable” to go 10 over the speed limit and most likely get away with it, we figured going 80…82 would be fine.
I still don’t know if that calculation is correct, but I do know that the highways were filled with construction and “Road Work” signs with accompanying “Fines Doubled” signs.
Farther down the road I began to turn into the mountains when I noticed in the rear view mirror, subtle flashing lights coming from a black Charger trailing me.
In great dismay, I pulled over and was given a ticket for speeding in a work zone.
We were but a few miles from the border.
I wasn’t happy, but I couldn’t help but hear my own voice echoing in my head from the previous day, “You know one of us is going to get a ticket on this trip, it’s inevitable”.
Lucky me for fulfilling my own predictions.
The drive through New Mexico was at last over and all we wanted to do was crash.
We pulled up to the least sketchy, but affordable. hotel we could find, ate a sandwich, took a shower, and went to bed; knowing that, no matter what happened the tomorrow, it had to be better than today.
That concludes Part 1 of this lovely adventure.