I have now experienced Driving Heaven.

As you may know, I love to drive, and I love cars. This is the primary reason I’m driving to California this week. I wanted to enjoy the open road in a car I love, and experience all the beauty, challenge and fun that a cross country drive offers.

This morning, I awoke in Denver, and had an important errand to run. This appointment was at 9am, and my driving plan called for us to be back on the road by noon. Our route through the mountains of Colorado through to Utah would be 899kms, and would take, according to the GPS, 10 hours, non-stop.

We were on the road by 11am! This was great, we were ahead of schedule, and the weather was perfect. Our plan was to take I-70 West to US-6 North. Vail, the famous ski town, was just an hour and a half ahead of us, and we planned to have lunch there.

We started our mountain climb. The vista before us was just spectacular. It’s hard to describe and pictures don’t do justice to the scenery. You are surrounded by the majesty of these rock monuments, capped with snow, and sprinkled with trees. Every turn resulted in another, and louder, “Wow”.

What I was beginning to thoroughly enjoy, was the elevation changes, and the turns. I actually had to change gears to maintain the appropriate speed and acceleration through the mountains. It was such great fun. The traffic was again very light. We’ve been living a really blessed life on this trip (and beyond).

Denver is around 5400′ above sea level. Our drive today would take us clear above 11000′ ASL. Our ears were popping all the way up and down. And the views….wow.

Ravindra was recording on video and still the action around us. Because we had a long haul ahead of us, we wanted to keep our stationary time to a minimum. Basically fuel stops (3 a day typically) and a short lunch during one of the fuel stops.

We arrived in Vail right on time. There were ski resorts and ski chalets and villages everywhere. It was much smaller than I thought it would be though. Lunch was at Subway for the 3rd day in a row. Ravindra said we should contact them about potential sponsorship. That may be a good idea. We’re now trying to make Subway the official lunch supplier to the Mark & Rip Cross Country Tour.

On we went, after filling up with gas.

Then, we arrived at the most spectacular piece of road I’ve ever seen. This stretch even rivals the strip of road the boys from TopGear found in Switzerland. It was in a gorge between 2 massive rock faces. There was a river running parallel to the road, and there were left and right turns, rises and decents and no traffic. I was absolutely loving it. I didn’t want it to end. Fortunately, Ravindra was video taping this stretch.

When we reached the transition point at the end of this part of the journey, I actually wanted to turn around and go back to drive it again. I’ll probably regret not doing that, but I know I will drive this road again one day. It’s too good not to.

We only saw a single radar trap, and once again we were given plenty of warning by the Beltronics. It was smooth sailing all the way to the Utah border.

When we reached Utah, the scenery changed. The colors changed to TexMex beige and browns, and the mountains were softer and flatter. It was much more desert like. The Interstate changed too. The median was much wider, and the road surface was straight for incredibly long stretches. You can’t help but feel your right foot get heavier and heavier. I should point out that we never saw or heard a single police radar across all of Utah. This was different driving than the mountains, but also great fun because of the speed you could safely cruise at.

The I-70 stretch in Utah was a long one, but we reached our next waypoint which was located just past the Utah missile test range. We both eagerly watched for any launches, but alas, the sky was empty.

We turned off I-70 and onto US-6 North. This was not an Interstate. It was a 2 lane highway with a 65MPH limit, and some traffic. This was also fun, however, because the flatness and straightness of the road made passing and surveiling revenue generation units easy and fun. We tried to keep score, but when you pass 5 or 6 cars at a time, you easily lose count over a couple of hours.

This stretch of road also impressed our GPS. It was knocking off tens of minutes from our ETA with every few minutes of driving. I think it was also smiling inside, but I’m not sure.

After the flatness of US-6 turned into more hill climbs. They designed the roads well enough that you were never stuck behind slow traffic for too long before there was a passing lane. Downshift 2 gears, and press down hard, and you’re at the front of the pack, and on the hunt for the next pack. Fun, fun, fun.

We saw some neat little towns on the way through Utah. Little mining towns, and railroad towns that looked like the sets from old cowboy movies. There was lots to see as usual.

Alas, the fun of US-6 came to an end, and we joined I-15N into Salt Lake City. Soon enough, we were touring through downtown SLC looking for our hotel. We arrived right where the GPS pointed us at 715pm, but found out that I picked the wrong Marriott. They weren’t fussed, and just canceled our other reservation. The Marriott we were at was newer and nicer, so it all worked out.

Tomorrow morning, we head off to California. Our last day on the road for the outbound trip. I’m really excited about a couple of things on this stint. The first is stopping at the Bonneville Salt Flats where they run Speed Week every year. The flats will most likely be too wet for us to drive on, and try to crack the 200MPH barrier, but we’ll stop by and take some pictures, and pay hommage to the Mecca for speed freaks.

I’m also looking forward to seeing San Francisco and crossing the Bay Bridge. I’m already feeling emotional about it. The Bay Area has been such a massive part of my life for a long time, and I’m leaving her for a while. I know I’ll be back, but it’s not like before where I could guarantee I’d be back within 30 days.

I plan to continue to honor the tradition Helen and I have whenever we cross one of the bay area bridges. We commit a random act of kindness, and pay the toll for the car behind us. We pay, and we bolt off to leave the person behind us hopefully feeling good, and maybe planning on doing something nice for someone else that day. It’s a very California thing to do ;)

Well, that’s all for now. Did I mention I’m having a GREAT time?

BTW, I’ll update this with more pictures once I finally reach California.

mJm

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