West 2020

Day 03

July 15

  I am out early from Bloomfield as this will be one of the longest days of the ride. Hopefully by the end of it I will have 'collected' four more state line signs. I also want to be at the Four Corners Monument way ahead of the crowd so I might get a picture of BlueBelle at the memorial.  
  My first stop will be Shiprock and as I head that way the sun rise gives it a glorious golden hue.  
  After studying the maps and available data, I know I need to take a left on Highway 491 in the town of Shiprock to get a good clear shot of it. There is no traffic to speak of so I get there pretty quick and get my 'calendar' shot.  
  My original plans are to stop at the Sonic in Shiprock proper for breakfast, but it is closed up tight. So breakfast will have to wait as I make my way toward Four Corners.  
  It's a pretty barren area with the occasional mountain rising above the plains in stark contrast to the scrub bushes and weeds.  
  Along the way I come upon a pleasant surprise - a good Arizona sign with a great place to pull off. I missed this one in my planning, but it will work just fine.  
  It's a quick turn north off Highway 64 into Highway 160 that will take me to the monument.  
  Unfortunately, there will be no pictures at Four Corners today. To my great disappointment, the Navajo Tribe has closed all of their parks due to the Covid mess. So I guess I can say I've just been 'covided'. Nothing to see here, so I move on along toward Monument Valley.  
  Once again as I pass an abandoned homestead, I have to wonder why. It was built sturdy to last and it appears that it outlasted its occupants. But it will eventually return to dust just like those who once occupied it.  
  It's a long, lonesome road out here, but I really don't mind the solitude. It gives a feller some time to noodle through stuff in the splendid isolation.  
  As I make my way along Highway 191, I see a group of what appears to me to be wild mustangs. There is no house or anything around here that I can see and I don't think a rancher would let his horses wander this far off to have to come and fetch them for later use.  
  There are a few curves on this section, but nothing to write home about. But I still enjoy the scenery as you don't see this kind of stuff back home.  
  There always seems to be some unusual rock formations that your imagination can transform into various objects. This looks like the ruins of a castle tower that I saw on one of my trips to Scotland with an opposing castle tower in the background.  
  I get my first Utah state line sign but I have hopes that the one in the heart of Monument Valley is still there. But I have leaned through the process to get them when you can for you never know about the next one.  
  The rock formations are almost like an interruptions in the otherwise flat and dusty landscape.  
  Then it's up a little elevation and few more sweepers which will carry me to where I am headed.  
  Then it's back down to where the land is as flat as flat can be and you begin to see the type of terrain that characterizes Monument Valley.  
  The red hues are not done justice by the pictures especially if you are around this area about good sun down.  
  I make my stop near the Mexican Hat formation but decide that I will not navigate the gravel road to get a closer picture. I did that once when Dave, Andy and I were in this part of the country.  
  Soon I'm through the village of Mexican Hat and crossing the bridge where a little restaurant is tucked away. I ate there many years ago on one of my trips through here.  
  Soon I am far enough down Highway 163 to be in the heart of Monument Valley. It was used repeatedly in the older Western films and is usually identified with what the American West was like. It's also featured in the Forrest Gump movie where he stops running and says “I'm pretty tired… I think I'll go home now.”  
  The rising spires could easily be imagined to be cathedral steeples of a bygone day or castle ramparts standing defiantly against all enemies. It is sacred land - Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii - to the Navajos and thus holds a special place in their tribal memory.  
  I stop and get another 'calendar' shot of BlueBelle at West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte, and Merrick Butte.  
  As I head further south, this reminds me of going between two very large gate posts carved from stone.  
  Thankfully, the desired Utah state line sign is still standing so I can get a picture of it with the monuments in the background.  
  Heading on down Highway 163 to Highway 160, there are still plenty of rock monoliths to enjoy ...  
  and contemplate what they remind me of.  
  This one resembles as wise old owl peering at me as I pass by.  
  Knowing gas can be sparse out here and breakfast has certainly been that way, I stop in Kayenta at a Speedy's to refuel both the beasts.  
  Breakfast is a sausage sandwich and a Danish but it ain't too bad for convenience store food.  
  With the necessary levels of fuel achieved for man and mechanical beast, I get back to the business at hand. I pass this unusual site and still don't know quite what is its purpose. The chute extends a long way behind me but I cannot figure out exactly what it transports for such a distance.  
  Out here you often see signs that make you go 'Hmmmm?'. Right now I am so dry I can't work up a good spit, there is no water anywhere that I can see for miles and miles, and yet this is a flash flood area? I guess I'll just have to take their word for it and assume it must come down from the mountains.  
  In fact it is so dry, that this old Standard Oil Service Station has about dried up and blown away.  
  Then I see another interesting sign but I don't believe the animals are buying into any of it.  
  This formation looks like it needs a big gate to swing between the two posts or a cross bar on top that you could hang a swing from.  
  Too soon it's back to the straight and narrow - and the hot and dry and dusty.  
  I wonder if this was an old school house that has been left to eventually fall down - much like modern education has left moral absolutes behind with similar results in the lives of their students.  
  As I continue to move through Arizona, the colors and the terrain change from red and rough ...  
  to tan and smooth ...  
to brown and flat ...  
and sometimes to green and blue when there is some serious irrigation. The abrupt line between what is watered and what is not is pretty interesting to me.  
The heat and the drying is taking a toll on me, so I find a convenient place to take a break on the outskirts of Flagstaff.  
Fortunately for me, there is an unoccupied parking place right under a shade tree which I avail myself of in short order.  
After tending to what needs to be tending to, it's time now to jump back onto my old friend I40 for a while.  
And shortly I get to observe another one of those splendid, slow motion elephant parades.  
I40 will take me close to where I can capture my next state line sign.  
I cut across through Laughlin to get the California one on Highway 95. I don't particularly like it but I get it just in case.  
And since this is a 'twofer', I get the Nevada sign also.  
Then it's up Highway 95, hang a left at Searchlight then on through Nipton to I15.  
There are some interesting 'trees' along the side of the road and ...  
a scene that reminds me of an old movie named Atlantis. At the end of the movie, the 'beam' machine destroys the place. I have to wonder just how hot those reflective solar panels get out here.  
Pretty soon I snag what I think is a more 'appropriate' Nevada sign and do a little U-turn ...  
to get a California sign more to my liking. I have to be a bit of a scofflaw and cut across the interstate to get back to the direction that I need be headed but it works out okay.  
Soon I am passing through the city of 'Lost Wages', also known as Las Vegas where there are slot machines even in most bathrooms.  
Not soon enough for me, I am back out to nothing where never a neon sign or gaudy advertisement disturbs.  
Off in the distance, I can see the heat rising up like a fog - an unpleasant, hot and dry fog.  
This unusual looking cut through catches my eye as it looks almost like frosting on a multi-layered cake.  
Once again I see another abandoned dwelling place. I have to wonder why someone would build anything in this dry and isolated area. Maybe they asked themselves that question and the answer made them move on.  

Soon I15 takes me down into the Virgin River Gorge. From what I found -

Interstate 15 runs through the canyon and crosses the Virgin River several times. The Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15 is one of the most expensive parts of interstate highway ever constructed. Due to the winding of the canyon, the highway within is also noted for its tricky driving conditions.

It does have some nice twisties that I enjoy negotiating after all the straight and narrow stuff.

It has been an incredible long day of over 800 miles and I don't get to the motel until past 8 PM.  
About the only drive through that is open is Taco Bell so I dine with the Bell this evening.  
Outside of not being able to visit Four Corners, I have been able to do all the things and see all the sights that I had planned on and captured the state lines that I intended to get. But I am very weary from the efforts and collapse in a comatose heap once I get my picture saving done.