Posted: July 13, 2005 in Uncategorized

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with trips into the unknown, where I was the one and only responsible party. Part of me has always had that obession with seeing what’s over the next rise, with wanting to keep going because there was something that way I had never seen. For all I know, over that next hill could be a sight that defies description, and I didn’t see it because I didn’t say to myself, “Just one more.” On the other hand, the obsessive control freak in me says, “Or, there could be an overturned nail shipment over that ridge, you’ll get four flats, roll your car, and have to hitchhike home with a cross-dressing Scientologist trucker who thinks ‘you gots purty eyes’, and all because YOU couldn’t just go to Portland again.”

Over time, however, I’ve grown bolder and more sure of the fact that with a few of the right things, I can go damn near anywhere. But it still needs a little help from time to time. As my first day out wore on, watching the miles tick by that put any familiar places well behind me without the quick line of retreat of a short plane ride, I got a distinct sense of isolation, and found myself wishing for someone or someplace familiar along the ride. But packing up to pull away from City of Rocks, I’m feeling a renewed sense of purpose. Here, miles from home, not knowing a single person, I’ve found friends in people on the common ground of what we love, in a place that I’ve never been before but still feels like an oasis for my mind. Freeways offer the opportunity to refill on unleaded every exit you pass, but it’s a lot harder to find an emotional filling station, and I rolled into this one just as my needle was gettin pegged.

Heading away from City of Rocks, I’m feeling rejuvinated. My trip, in my mind, is already a success. The last remnants of Idaho go by with barely a second look. However, as I creep further into Utah, my renewed sense of well-being is gradually being overtaken by a sense of severe creepiness. The final straw is a giant billboard alongside the road for, which as far as I can tell is the Mormon eBay for men who just can’t find that certain someone through retail channels. Any uncertainty I have about which direction to take into Colorado disappears immediately, and I turn east again into southern Wyoming, which I’m soon to find out is home to some of the longest stretches of unflinchingly curveless freeway in the US.

Breaking away to follow Flaming Gorge and head back into Utah, I quickly pass into a geologist’s wet dream. Tectonic upheaval, layers upon layers of vastly different sedimentary rock, and signs pointing to fossil beds like mile markers become the norm, until I come to the mother lode: Dinosaur Nation Park. I want to make Steamboat in Colorado by sunset, which means I can only afford a couple hours in the massive park, so I go straight for the money, the quarry. The quarry is an active, functioning archaeological site, though one section has been “tourisized” for the paying masses. The only way to get to it is a shuttle with the mandatory cheesy tour voice-over, so I have a seat on the Disney-ride-style plastic bench and avoid the large Mormon family herds as much as possible. To their credit, they seem to have a serious system down for not pissing off other tourists by heading straight for the furthest section on the shuttle still not occupied and packing their small nomadic village into it.

The quarry itself is a largely glass building constructed around a large section of rock, which from a distance looks like a fairly normal but very bumpy rock face, but on closer inspection, virtually every feature on the rock is a bone. I’m no stranger to the occasional fossil, but this thing looks like the ancient remains of a prehistoric Schwarzenegger film. The sheer volume of skeletons really drives home the idea that I’m standing on ground millions of years old that was occupied by animals never seen by a human being. It’s striking.

Johnny Cash tells me the sorrows of a boy named Sue as I pass into Colorado, on the home stretch to my destination. Small towns and foothills pass by until I drive into the culture shock that is Steamboat Springs. Having spent the past three days in towns that people spend good money to get away from, being so suddenly surrounded by obvious wealth is unexpectedly foreign, especially to someone from resort-dominated Hawaii. This environment that I never gave a second thought to is now suddenly bizarre, and I catch myself looking for the edge of town so I can get away from it.

By the time I hit national forest land outside the city, night is approaching fast, and I still don’t know where I’m sleeping. My map shows a campsite a little ways away, but for $12 a night, it’s anything but worth the money. Instead, I backtrack on a hunch, nearly get stuck on a backroad, and eventually find what I was hoping for: a completely hidden pulloff no more than 20 yards from the highway, with a view that made the $12 campsite look like an abandoned truckstop. Ramen over my propane one-burner by headlamp sends me to bed, and Japanese getting smacked around on MXC on my laptop rocks me to sleep.

  1. a_wags says:

    i love all your photos…

    • Reuben says:

      Thanks! Though the haze over WY/UT made for some sucky lighting that day. Lots of cool vistas that came off thoroughly and sadly uninteresting in pictures.

  2. Anonymous says:

    i love all your photos…

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks! Though the haze over WY/UT made for some sucky lighting that day. Lots of cool vistas that came off thoroughly and sadly uninteresting in pictures.

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