Friday, October 1, 2010

Touring with the Frenchies - Car Trouble, Zion, Bryce, Arches and Canyon Lands NP and Monument Valley

Car Trouble

On the morning of August 7th, we stopped for a good breakfast before leaving Las Vegas. We also did some supermarket shopping to buy deli sandwiches for lunch and stopped to refuel the rented minivan.  Our goal for the day was to visit Zion and Bryce National Parks before ending up at a rustic motel in the small, Utah town of Escalante,

I did not wait by the gasoline pump to be of assistance when Daniel ran his debit / charge card as I had the day before - before pumping gas into the van.   
anyonlands, Capitol Reef National Parks and Monuments, Dieses by mistake, Grand Escalante, Green River Utah, Moab Utah, Zion
We were on the Interstate heading North out of town when the van began behaving oddly.  At first there was a vibration as if one of the wheel weights had come off, then the engine ran increasingly rough.  We got off the interstate at the exit for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the north side of the city and pulled into a truck stop there.  The van’s motor would barely run.
We were puzzled about what was wrong with the van when Nicholas asked me, “Is the motor gasoline or diesel?” 

I replied that it was a gasoline engine. 

Nicholas told me that the van’s tank had been filled with diesel at the station while I was inside. The diesel fuel had fouled the fuel lines, carburetor and the spark plugs.  The fuel tank and fuel system needed to be emptied and cleaned and the spark plugs replaced before the car could be refilled with gasoline.    

We called Enterprise Auto Rental at the Las Vegas Airport to report the trouble.  Enterprise dispatched a tow truck to pick up the vehicle. Only two of our party of five could ride with the tow truck driver. All of our luggage was inside the van and would need to be transferred to a replacement vehicle at the airport.  

Daniel "helping" to load the broken van onto the tow truck
I imagined that we would have a monumental taxi bill when I thought of calling my brother Bill, who lives on the North side of the city, for assistance to get me and the two young men back to the airport.  Bill’s assistance was greatly appreciated.

I was very concerned that the delay could throw all the motel reservations off for the remaining 20 days of the tour. Luckily, my fears proved unfounded.

Enterprise exchanged the van with the same make and model, but in a black color.  The repair costs to the original van would be added to the rental charges.

I have not yet heard what the repair cost amounted to.

We loaded the luggage, pillows and ice chests into the replacement van and once again left Las Vegas.  The delay was about two and a half hours.

On the Road – at last

Once again we headed out.  We climbed steadily upward.  At first we were in the Virgin River Canyon before entering the long, high valleys of Utah.  We turned off the Interstate just before Cedar City heading to Zion National Park.

Two years before, we had spent the entire day at Zion after spending the night sleeping on the ground inside 2 Indian wigwams (often called “tepees”.)  The family did some hiking and we all rode in the shuttle buses on that visit.
Tepee camping - 2008 - Photo by N. Jaeg Desjardins
This time, we could not take the time to hike and revisit the floor of Zion due to the car problem.

Once in the park, we found that major road reconstruction was being done on the highway that ascended out of Zion National Park.  

We ran into several road work delays in all the National Parks.  Some of the Economic Stimulus funds being invested all over the USA are being used to improve the infrastructure of our National Parks. Roads are being widened and reconstructed; the masonry walls lining the roadways are being repaired or added to improve safety for the visitors to the park.   

The frequent delays were irritations – but it is wonderful to see that this desperately needed work is being done in our long neglected National Parks System!

We passed the sight of the International Campground where we had slept in the tepees or wigwams two years ago – but now it is closed and the Indian style shelters are gone.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Late in the afternoon, we arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park.  I had never been to this fantasy land of strange land formations called “Hoodoos” that were created by erosion over millions of years.  The formations took on the forms of city walls, buildings and people in the late afternoon sun.

The Frenchies hiked down among the Hoodoo formations. They are enthusiastic hikers even though the altitude was nearly 10,000 feet.

We saw several deer in the forest on the rim of the canyon.

It was getting dark.  We were uncertain of finding a place to eat if we did not take advantage of the small business area just outside the park before we arrived at the motel – which was still about 80 or more miles away, so we stopped at a fast food sort of restaurant for dinner. 

The restaurant was jammed!  Most of the customers were French, German and Italian families traveling with their teenaged children.  This was the pattern in all of the other national parks we stopped at – most of the many visitors were Europeans.  I heard more French than English during the next 2 weeks.

We arrived at the rustic motel – the Circle D motel in Escalante Utah about 9:30 at night.  The owner of the motel left a note up on the office door to let us know the keys to the rooms were inside the rooms and that he would take care of the formalities in the morning.

The rooms were very large, and clean - but quite rustic in nature.  It was like being in a motel back in the 1940’s or 1950’s.  We were fortunate that we had eaten earlier – the only restaurant in town had just closed!

The next day brought cooler temperatures as we entered the Monsoonal flow of humid air pushing north from Mexico. We were in and out of rain showers all day.  The skies were gray and uninteresting which made the red, yellow and beige sandstones muted and calm – rather than the intense and fiery hues that we had hoped to see.

We drove in the rain through beautiful Escalante Canyon and then into the forests and mountains of the Dixie National Forest. There was still snow on the high peaks. We also crossed Capital Reef National Park with its beautiful scenery often used in Western films.

We passed through our night stop destination of Green River, Utah to visit Arches National Park.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park Panorama
The entry to Arches National Park is made after an abrupt descent off the high plateau just before Moab, Utah. The narrow, two lane park road clings to a massive wall of red sandstone immediately after the entry booth to return visitors  back to the upper plateau. The park road then winds through canyons and near enormous, weathered, blood red Entrada sandstone formations and cliffs. 
Entrada Sandstone Formation

Intermittent rain continued to pelt the road as we progressed deeper into the park. There were numerous signs warning of the danger of flash floods. We passed through one small gully where the pavement was coated with fresh sand and mud from a recent wash out. We finally reached a barrier that closed the road due to the danger of flash floods and road wash outs.

We stopped at a number of unusual rock formations to take photographs and for the family's hikers to get closer to the gigantic arches and formations.  

Multiple Arches - Note the visitors among the rocks.

At one stop there was a gargantuan boulder 
balanced atop a slim pinnacle of stone.

We passed a ranch that is now the national park’s museum, campground and picnic area.  Green fields and trees surrounded by the intense red sandstone made a beautiful scene – even in the rainy weather.

We left the park by the narrow road and then climbed back up the plateau to return to Green River, Utah for the night.   

Arches NP - deer near the Visitor Center

We drove out of the rain before Green River but, when we looked back, we stopped to view a beautiful double rainbow that created a dramatic finish for our day.
Double rainbow at the end of a rainy day - near Green River Utah

Canyon Lands National Park

The next morning we were a bit slow leaving Green River.  We entered one of the two entries to Canyon Lands National Park a short distance before making the dramatic descent off the high plateau.  The road climbed steadily once we were off the main highway.

We found beautiful meadows carpeted in yellow flowers still in bloom in the cool, high altitude summer weather.

We stopped and looked out over several scenic viewpoints. We were on a very high plateau that was surrounded by a landscape that must have had been carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers as the land lifted over the millions of years.  Over time, the two river's heavy loads of silt scoured the land down creating dramatic cliffs and isolated plateaus on many levels.

Ranger Talk at Canyon Lands NP Viewpoint
Canyon Lands View Point

Dad and Son at Canyon Lands NP

The views were the same as if we had been flying over the land below at 3,000 to 4,000 feet of altitude.  It is possible to drive into the canyons, so that roads and a few vehicles perched on the brink of lower plateaus that dropped off dramatically into deeper canyons were visible as thin threads and shiny specks far below us.

Airplane like view of Canyon Lands - Note the roads far below

Enlarged view as if from an airplane - see if you can spot the van on the road.

Greatly enlarged view showing the vehicle on the curve of the dirt road below
We left Canyon Lands National Park and descended to Moab, Utah where we stopped at a large market to buy beverages and deli sandwiches for lunch.

After lunch eaten in the shade on a side road in Moab, we continued towards Monument Valley in Navajo Indian Nation Territory.

Monument Valley - Navajo Nation Territory

Everyone is familiar with the magnificent scenery of Monument Valley it has been the backdrop for numerous commercials, advertising photos and Western movies.   

The Jaeg-Desjardins family in Monument Valley

Just a mile from Goulding's Trading Post - Monument Valley

We stopped for photos in several places and at Goulding’s Trading Post.  There is a hotel, dining room, gift shop and a gas station at Goulding’s – all in the Navajo Nation’s Territory.  The views and scenery justify the Valley’s reputation.

Outdoor picnic area - Goulding's Trading Post
Goulding's Trading Post is the place where John Wayne, other actors and production crews have stayed while making movies and commercials in the Valley. 

Our next destination and the next page of the blog is about Canyon De Chelly and the Petrified Forest National Monument.

Thank you for reading the blog and viewing my photos.  Comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. These are excellent photos! As good as I'd expect in a glossy travel magazine. Way to go.
    We've never been to any of the sites except Goulding's in Monument Valley when en route to the Grand Canyon but I'd certainly like to visit every one of them after seeing these pictures.
    By the way, how soon after you stopped supporting it did that boulder fall off that spire?