Note: there’s a full map down at the bottom, and be sure to click on the images!
Day Six: Manila, UT to Vernal, UT (146 miles)
We left the trailer behind to go on a scenic drive through the Ashley National Forest, suggested by our campground host. After we got back, we hitched up the trailer and hit the road. We stopped for some amazing views of the Flaming Gorge, and found snow!
We kept driving through the forest until we reached Vernal. We dropped the trailer there, and drove to Dinosaur National Monument. Our first stop was the Quarry Hall, which is basically a room built (with remarkable foresight in 1916) around a wall of bones. Super cool.
We picked up a map, and visited lots of fun stops along the road further into the park. We ended up at the Josie Morris Cabin, and hiked up Hog Canyon. We talked at length about zombie apocalypse fortifications and unfair water rights. That’s just the kind of people we are.
Soundtrack: Eating on the Wild Side, an audiobook about produce. Yes, really.
Day Seven: Vernal, UT to Montrose, CO (223 miles)
My dad actually went to the local temple the night before, but he wanted a photo in daylight, so we made a stop before leaving town.
Today was a day with a lot of mountains, and dad was super worried about the pass. I made the mistake of installing an altimeter app on my phone, and he must have asked for our altitude at least a hundred times during the climb.
We grabbed lunch at a really good pizzeria/pub in Fruita, and discovered a dinosaur and a penny-farthing. Having caught the bug for public art, dad bravely parked in downtown Grand Junction so we could go see the buffalo made of chrome bumpers.
Next we drove up into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, and checked out the campground. There were no hookups, so I vetoed, but the canyon was fascinating. We stopped at the visitor center and watched the movie, and went to the overlooks. The story here is very cool. Photos don’t even begin to do it justice. We found a KOA in Montrose that was up to my standards, and got set up for the night.
Soundtrack: more produce.
Day Eight: Montrose, CO to Mancos, CO (212 miles)
Today we drove up through Telluride, which was incredibly gorgeous. I made my dad stop a lot of times on the side of the road. The drive to our next campground was short, but we spent the rest of the day at Mesa Verde, touring Step House. So amazing. While we were there, dad bought tickets for a guided tour two days later in a different part of the park. More on that later.
Back to the campground, where we actually spent three nights. This is where the time went that would have been spent in Yellowstone.
Soundtrack: still produce.
Day Nine: Train Trip to Silverton (153 miles)
A few days earlier, my dad was surfing the internet, and he turned to me and said, “do you want to do this really cool train ride? I’ll buy the tickets!”
I replied, “Okay, but this is on you. You plan everything.” And he did. We drove to Durango to catch the train, which was a rickety, historic monstrosity. We sat on that thing for 3½ hours, clack-clacking up the mountain, where we spent a freezing hour in Silverton (where most of the shops were closed for the season), and then another 3½ hours back down the mountain. The views were gorgeous. My dad really enjoyed making his way through the cars talking to people. I made it through almost an entire audiobook (My Mad Fat Diary). When we got off, dad said “Wow, that was really worth it.”
Day Ten: Mesa Verde (62 miles)
We got up early for our second day at Mesa Verde, and drove the 90 minutes out to Balcony House. On the way, I noticed that dad had bought tickets to the “adventure tour” without realizing it, and part of the tour included crawling through a very tight tunnel. Small tunnels are in the top 3 things I’m terrified of, so in the midst of having a panic attack, I looked up videos of people going through the tunnel to trick myself into believing that I’d be okay.
The tour itself included a ton of wooden ladders to climb the side of cliffs, which didn’t bother me at all (heights aren’t on my list). The structures were super cool, the history is really fascinating, and the whole tour was really neat. I did end up making it through the tunnel, and dad took at least eight pictures of my butt. You only get to see one.
After the tour, we visited a lot more in the area, drove to different scenic spots, and spent a ton of time in the really robust visitor center. Then we drove back to spend a final night in the trailer together.
Soundtrack: more produce, and the sounds of other people surviving the tunnel.
Day Eleven: Mancos, CO to Albuquerque, NM (239 miles)
This was to be the last day of the road trip, and I neglected to take a single photo the entire drive. We found our Airbnb, and dad parked himself so close to the computer screen I had to capture the moment (you may also notice that this is a self portrait).
Ben arrived around 1:30 in the morning, and after a short night we drove down to Los Lunas to see Will! Dad got the full Sandhill tour, and we hiked Tomé Hill together. Then dad continued on his journey, headed northeast to Wisconsin, and after spending a few days with Will I flew home with Ben. My own bed felt amazing.
Soundtrack: we finished the produce book, and listened to a few episodes of Surprisingly Awesome.
(If you can’t see the map, click here.)