Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 20: A Very Long Day of Driving

Our November 20th-21st adventure started early in Vail as we headed towards Denver. One goal was on Rob's mind...Make it up Loveland Pass to the Eisenhower Tunnel in a 97 Mazda hauling a 2000 pound UHaul Trailer. She made it just fine even though we barely drove over 30 MPH the whole way - doubling our time to get to the Mile High City.

Once out of the tunnel, we spotted signs for a scenic overlook and the grave of the late, great Buffalo Bill. Taking the bait, we drove up up up up and arrived at William Cody's grave and museum right west of Denver.

In Denver, we ventured down the 16th Street Mall in Lower Downtown (LoDo) and ate salad. Yes, lovely lovely salad. As much as I love fried food and burgers, my body was craving fruits and veggies. One cool thing about downtown Denver is the free public bus transit up 16th street, so we took advantage and rode it all the way to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. You can't leave the Rockies without stopping there! Chocolate covered coffee beans anyone?

By this time it was 2:30 p.m. and our next goal was Omaha - 8 hours away. On the road again!

We waved goodbye to the mountains and said hello to FLAT. Flat flat and more flat. There's nothing much to see in north eastern Colorado or Nebraska, so we drove and drove some more, got gas, played road games, ate Arby's and drove some more. I fell asleep. Rob drove some more.

We got to Omaha around 1 a.m. and I woke up to take part in the city tour Rob was hosting...then we kept driving. To make up for the piddle paddling we did west of Denver, we decided to skip a hotel and take advantage of the REAL purpose of rest stops...getting some rest - Trucker style. So, we pulled up next to the line of big rigs and counted our sheep.

About an hour before sunrise, Rob woke up and drove us to Des Moines just in time for city tour #2 and breakfast.

Davenport, Iowa was our next stop, so we could touch the mighty Mississippi before driving over to Illinois. I think Rob wanted to be just like Huckleberry Fin and Tom Sawyer.

What trip would be complete without at least one muffler man? Or one muffler woman for that matter....

We found her outside a tire shop in Peoria, Illinois. And glad we did, because otherwise we wouldn't have found a corner New Orleans -style cafe called Beignet's for lunch! For the second time on our trip, we were the only people being served in the restaurant. We had the special - a turkey bacon avocado sandwich on pretzel bread and the New Orleans brewed beer called Dixie. Man, was it to die for! I bet Subway was packed a half mile away...

Currently we are driving and hoping to arrive in Indy later tonight. Home sweet Home. Sigh. Smile. Happiness.

November 19: Onto Vail

We woke up in the morning to another great view...Ducks, mountains, pastures and cats. Yes, Rob made friends with the cats as you can see.

Remember that scary bridge/road that made me into a horrible back seat driver last night? Yeah, that one. Well, we decided we needed to see it in the daylight, so we ventured back through winding mountain roads to get there. I'm glad we did, because "Hog's Backbone" was unreal. It felt like one of those moments when you are at the top of a really high roller coaster ready to roll down that first hill.

We got some good photos, and after Rob yelled "I love Hannah Brescher" at the top of his lungs, we ventured on...Scenic Byway 12- here we come again. Here are a few more scenes from our drive...Mountains turned alpine, turned snow, turned red rocks...

We made it to Highway 24 and happened upon Capitol Reef National Park. We didn't even realize it existed until we drove through it and were amazed..yet again. All together now... "WOW!" I even made up a new word because I was getting tired of saying wow so much... "Zeeepa!! "

We stopped and hiked for a bit, then enjoyed the views some more as we drove on. There were even petroglyphs etched into the rock left over from the Fremont Native American Tribe.

I must say again, this drive was so exciting because of the scenery. Upon driving out of the park, we came across scenes from Mars, the Moon, elephant birthplaces, sand dunes, mountain ranges and flat deserts. Seriously, how can the landscape change so much at every turn?

I-70 approached and the goal was lunch at Green River Colorado. We found a small diner turned Mexican Restaurant and had the whole place to ourselves. Our waitress also cooked the meal for us. It's nice to visit these small towns, talk to the locals, and eat unique food. Rob was also pulling some high school Spanish out of his back pocket in order to communicate. I was just smiling and nodding along with the conversation. Just a half mile down the road the Subway attached to the gas station was packed...funny isn't it?

The Colorado Rockies were upon us..Magnificent. This rest stop, complete with the Colorado River and mountain backdrop was one of the most picturesque rest stops we discovered along the way.

Darkness came upon us at 5:30 p.m. and our original plan of making it to Denver faded. Instead, we decided to stop in Vail to eat and sleep so as not to miss the rest of I-70's views through the Rockies - also known as our country's skiing playground.

The Vail scene is not a typical scene for a girl who grew up shoveling cow patties and skiing on the hills of southern Indiana, so I felt a bit out of place among the elegant lodges, street fires and Mercedes SUV's at every stop light. The good thing is that off season in Vail means cheap lodge vacancy and cheap food at nice restaurants. In fact we scored big at Bully's Ranch when we heard about their special of hamburger with candied bacon, onion straws, and blue cheese butter, truffle tots and a local beer for only $10.

We barely finished our meal large enough for a tired and hungry skier, and fell asleep happy yet again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 18: Lots of "Wows"

We arrived to Zion National Park late Saturday night, and went straight to bed. On our way in, we knew there was some pretty amazing scenery passing by, but it was dark, so it remained a mystery...until this morning. We woke up, looked out the window of Majestic View Lodge and a breathtaking view welcomed us to beautiful Utah.

After a breakfast of omelets in the lodge restaurant (that we had all to ourselves), we ventured into the park...Uhaul and all!

Our first thought was to drive through the park and stop at a few scenic overviews as we made our way through onto Salt Lake City. However, we got sidetracked by the awe and wows that filled the Mazda and decided to venture down a side scenic road to take in as much of this beauty as we could. No words can describe this park, no photos I post will do it justice, but here are a few of my favorites taken with my iPhone.

Weeping Rock

After being swept away by God's creation in Zion, we ventured out of the park on our way to Salt Lake City. Check out this 360 view Rob took on our way... In true Hannah and Rob fashion, we arrived at the intersection of State Highway 12 also known as the Scenic Byway and decided this route would be much more fun. We turned right and never looked back...not sure what we were in store for. Let me just tell you - this byway made me fall deeply in love with Utah. Let me show you why...
Presenting Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument...

Seeing this unexpected beauty and craving more ''wows," we decided to skip Salt Lake City completely and continue driving on Highway 12 to I-70 on route to Denver. Good thing we didn't make hotel reservations. I love being off the cuff with my fun, spontaneous, boyfriend!

The darkness overtook us as we entered into the town of Escalante, so our endless views of mesas, rock formations and nature's sculptures slowly diminished from our sight. We were tired from the night before, so we canned the original plan of driving another three hours to Green River. At this point our cell phone service was non-existent, so we began relying on our faithful road town...Boulder, UT. Was it big? Did it have hotels? Could we find food during tourist off season? Google could not help us now.
The twilight from the setting sun and bright half moon allowed us to see a little bit of the scenery as we drove on. Suddenly, out of nowhere after blindly winding up and down mountains, we looked out on both sides of the car and could see nothing but vast mountains and cliffs to the valleys below. No room for anything but two cars. I literally freaked out and became the worst back seat driver ever. Slow down, go slower, wait, oh my gosh, we're going over the edge, slow down!
Well, we made it across the scary rock bridge and didn't fall down to our deaths. Next stop...Boulder. Where the heck are we?! And why are there no other cars on the road?
As we entered into quaint Boulder, we were relieved when we stumbled across the Boulder Mountain Lodge (with vacancy) complete with an adjoining Hell's Backbone Grill. Please let it be open!! We found it ironic that we woke up in Zion only to find ourselves having dinner in Hell's Backbone...hmmm...

Photos from the next morning...

We had no idea what we were in for. This was more than just a was truly a food mind boggling experience. Apparently, this restaurant has been featured in O Magazine and the New York Times. That's right - we randomly stumble across one of the best restaurants on this side of the Rockies in the middle of Nowhere with a capital N. After I win the lottery in Nebraska, I may take my private helicopter to this restaurant every weekend. Let me just say the pumpkin apple soup was to die for.
That night, we fell asleep with fully bellies, excited about the views we would encounter in the morning.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 17 Indiana or Bust Road Trip - Birthday Fun

Currently, Rob and I are about 70 miles from our final destination of Zion National Park in Utah and running on only a couple hours of sleep from last night. You know what that means? It means what follows may be the most uncreative blog I have written to date. What a shame, because today was a great first day of our Indiana or Bust Road trip. Fun day...just no guarantees that it will be good or enjoyable. and don't you dare judge on my grammar or punctuation. I'm telling you, it aint gonna be pretty.

I can only speak for myself, but I think Rob's birthday was the best yet! Today was his special day, and it was also the first day of our Indiana or Bust Road Trip. I was happy to be spending it with him - especially in this way. Leaving LA and moving him back to Indiana.

The original goal was to start the road trip on Friday morning and arrive back in Indiana by Tuesday night. Well, after quickly realizing we were NOT going to finish packing Thursday night, we decided to stay another day in LA to pack and organize. I went to bed at 2 a.m. this morning and Rob went to bed at 4 a.m. We woke up at 5:30 a.m. Ready for action...YES!

The manger at the Lancaster iHop was nice enough to give Rob a free birthday breakfast PLUS singing at the table PLUS an ice cream sundae even though he forgot to print out the free birthday coupon from the web site. For everyone reading this, you too can also sign up online for a free breakfast on your birthday. Do it pronto. Look how good this looks..and he looks!

While in Lancaster, aside from seeing the beautiful scenery...

...We drove down the only musical road in the U.S. Originally, it was used for a Honda commercial, and it stuck around because IT"S AWESOME and everyone needs one of them in their town.

After Landcaster, we headed East and stopped at Calico Ghost Town on the way.

This old mining town-now made tourist attraction - was built in the 1880's and is one of the only mining towns left that has been maintained and rehabilitated back to its original glory. Yes, they had wooden bulls back then. ;) Many of the buildings we saw were the original buildings or at least some of the building materials. Way back when, with over 500 mines, this town was able to produce $12 million worth of silver over a 12 year period. When silver lost it's value in the 1890's, so did the population of this little town.

After Calico, we made one more pit stop...but not before taking in some mighty awesome views. God's paintbrush never ceases to amaze me.

That pit stop was a stark contrast to the beautiful nature we had just left...guesses anyone?

We first stopped at the famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop..made famous by the Pawn Stars Reality TV show. Rob tried to sell a model boat he found in an LA dumpster...but without batting an eye, the shop worker said he couldn't buy anything like we went next to the chapel of love...

Doug here bought the boat for $20 and was very excited about it. We were just excited we had money to spend on dinner and a few slot machines at Fremont Street.

We weren't big winners at the end of the night, but we were glad we stopped for a some people watching. And a little bit of sun roof fun down Los Vegas Blvd.

At this point we are only 30 miles from our first night's sleep, so until tomorrow...
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