PHOTOBLOG: MDW – DAL & an American Roadtrip.
About a week after I returned to Chicago from visiting my sisters, I went on a big road trip with one of my best friends. We flew to Texas to visit friends for a few days, then drove westward.
We had the best weather as we made our way out of Texas. Clear skies with a few puffy clouds here & there. Mostly empty roads and beautiful scenery. We hoped to get into Arizona that night but Texas is apparently even bigger than imagined, and combined with starting a little late and making stops for wifi to finish up some work meant that we had to call it quits by the time we hit Roswell, NM. A bit outside of Roswell we happened upon a rest area off the ‘highway’ in the midst of what was the darkest highway/stretch of land I’ve ever seen. The night sky was as clear as could be, and it seemed like every single star was out on display, so we had to stop and check it out. I can’t remember ever seeing such a clear star-filled sky surrounded by complete blackness like that any other time. A few vehicles passed and lit up the landscape for a brief moment, but other than that, there were no street lights, city lights, etc. Unfortunately by the time we reached Roswell, it was too late to visit any tacky and probably awesome alien shops and after driving as many hours as we had already, it was time to sleep.
The next day, as early as possible, we were back on the road. We hoped to reach Phoenix late that evening, but as we neared the boarder to Arizona, it started to snow. Just a little at first, almost unnoticeable, then more and more and more until you couldn’t see more than a few blocks ahead of you. For us Chicagoans, that’s OK – we are used to driving in such weather, but the others driving around us obviously weren’t quite as prepared or sure of their driving abilities, and they mostly slowed to about 5 miles per hour. We weren’t really sure how much more the snow would be, and how much higher the elevation would get, so when we eventually reached a town that seemed to have one restaurant still open, gas stations, and other amenities, we decided we should grab it and give the snow a chance to clear. Show-Low, AZ didn’t seem like much, and it was freezing cold outside, but it made a fine stopping point. At least we’d made it to another state! Getting closer!
The next day we checked the weather, plotted the course, and asked some locals about the best route to take to avoid any bad roads, etc, and got on our way. We saw some beautiful forest spots where everything was coated with a layer of white snow, and came around some mountain bends as we headed toward Phoenix. As we neared Phoenix, we had an option to stop for another night, or continue on the remaining 350+ miles to San Diego where we could really be able to rest and be done with driving for a few days. We opted to power through and keep going the rest of the way. Turns out we made a good choice because as we crossed over into California, it was already late afternoon and we found ourselves entering into an area of Sand Dunes that got higher & higher and looked perfect for riding 4-wheelers and dune buggies. We spotted an inclined viewing area and made a split second decision to stop for a few minutes to take a few pictures as the sun was getting lower and lower in the sky, casting long shadows on the few other people and vehicles there. We debated trying to see the sunset there, or getting a move on, eventually deciding to press on and see what else we might find before it got too dark.
We finally ended up in San Diego for a couple days before going onward to LA for a few more days, and then joining with a 3rd Chicago native friend who was already in LA but was driving back home to Chicago for Christmas. We took our time leaving LA and driving to Las Vegas where we planned to spend the night, so that the following morning we could get up as early as possible and make it to Zion National Park by the time the sun was up. It was really beautiful and not too cold there yet, but the cold would come soon after as we made our way through Utah, and the snow began to fall. I think we ended up having to stop for 2 nights on the rest of the way due to snow, when we originally planned to take turns and drive straight through, perhaps stopping once in Denver to rest and stay with friends. Colorado was beautiful when we could get a not-tool-cloudy view of our surrounding, and Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa had nothing of interest to report on, Iowa being the worst in terms of boredom, but we had a goal and we were going to make it! So we kept driving on and on, finally reaching Chicagoland in the early morning hours of December 24th, just in time to rest, repack, and get to the airport for my afternoon flight to Florida on Christmas Eve.