Square State Tour

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Day 4
From Price to the Milky Way

Wed, Oct 3, 2007

7:30 am
720 miles from home

Price, Nevada

During the night, as we slowly sank onto the rocks in our tent (you were right, Christine, your air mattress does have a leak in it) and we listened to the freight trains rumble by about 50 yards away, the temperature dropped. Quite a bit.

Below freezing actually. Which made getting up a bit problematic, because neither of us wanted to leave the slightly-above freezing warmth of the tent to go start the car and turn on the heater.

Finally, the third time the alarm clock in our neighbor's RV went off we dragged ourselves out (although we were tempted to holler "Hit snooze again!") and raced to the car (well, not so much "raced" as "hobbled" as two old people who have spent the night sleeping on cold rocks will do.)

On the plus side... um, well... let's see....there's free Wi-Fi!

9:25 am

It turns out that it takes longer for us to get it together in the morning when camping. We're just now ready to break camp (another thing that we don't usually have to do when staying in motel rooms).

Laura has a system worked out for preparing coffee involving a propane stove, the rear gate of the PT Cruiser, and a French press, but it takes a while to assemble. Plus it's hard typing up a Trip Log sitting in the front seat of the car with the heater running (not so hard that we'll sit outside in the cold, however).

But we do eventually get our coffee, get the Trip Log out, take the tent down, brush our teeth, pack the car and pull out. Of course, now we're exhausted and ready for a nap...

Robert with his latte and tumbleweed, ready to go

10:00 am
1,046 miles

Paleontology Museum, Price, Utah

Apparently, this museum is known for miles around. It is worth noting, however, that for miles around there is nothing. And, to be fair, this museum IS an improvement on nothing.

There are two sections to the museum—the Hall of Dinosaurs and the Hall of Man. We head for the Hall of Dinosaurs, because they're huge with giant teeth and sharp claws and are WAY cooler than people.

Almost immediately we notice that this may not be the most up-to-date facility. The T-Rex models still show him with his tail on the ground (like a big Godzilla) instead of with it up in the air balancing the front half (like a bird). And the apatosaurus is labeled "brontosaurus."

About 30 to 40 years ago, this would have been a pretty state-of-the-art place. But paleontology moved on, and this museum kept the same exhibits, complete with press-on lettering. Sentences tilt and droop and spaces between the letters vary wildly. We can't quite figure out why they don't just run off new labels on a laser printer and paste them up.

Oh, and to add insult to dated paleontology, we got charged the Senior Admission fee (65 or older) without asking for it (which we wouldn't, because—come on, Robert's only 52 for crying out loud!)

Laura says, "That's what camping out does for you—makes you look really, really old."

Robert instructs the dinosaurs in proper hygiene

Laura in her best "You are here!" pose

Clean teeth are an important part of being a predator

11:17 am
1,046 miles

Okay, bad Chinese food, cold rocky campgrounds, dated paleontology museums—surely there's SOMEthing good to be had in Price. Plus, it's been days since we've had a latte, so we stop at The Coffee Shop (its actual name).

Our verdict: if you need gasoline, feel free to stop in Price. Otherwise, just keep motoring, pilgrim.

11:30 am
1,054 miles

Wellington, Utah

We pass by the "Hot Pepper Cafe," in Wellington, which advertises "Home Style Cooking."

"What kind of home style cooking features hot peppers?" asks Robert. "Maybe mild peppers or meat loaf or spam, but hot peppers?"

Apparently, the rest of the world agrees with him, as the Hot Pepper Cafe is boarded up and for sale (if you decide to buy it, try a different cuisine). In fact, pretty much everything in Wellington is boarded up.

A typical Wellington view

12:13 pm
1,104 miles

San Rafael Desert?

We think we might be in the San Rafael Desert. It certainly looks all deserty, what with the scrub brush and total lack of anything (except sometimes we see telephone poles in the distance).

But according to the map, we don't enter the San Rafael Desert until we reach I-70. How do they decide where the desert begins or ends when it all looks the same?

It's been a whole lot of nothing since we left Wellington (which, since it was boarded up, wasn't much of something). The road is very straight, though. So straight that Robert idles away the time by taking photos while he's driving at 80 mph (!). Laura doesn't say anything until later, when Robert makes a comment about her driving ("You think I drive wacko? You take pictures while you're driving!").

Is this the San Rafael Desert? Maybe. Or maybe some other desolate stretch of nothing

12:19 pm
1,110 miles

Green River, Utah

We stop in the touristy part of Green River for lunch (the rest of Green River—the "real" Green River—is about two miles farther from the freeway).

Probably the greatest invention ever for people traveling by car is the Subway restaurant. They have a variety of sandwiches—some hot, some cold. They have lots of vegetables piled on them ("It's like a sandwich with a salad built in," says Laura). They're reasonably priced. They're all locally owned. They have cookies.

And they're everywhere. Just about every town has a Subway. Including the touristy part of Green River (which has exactly two restaurants). We stop and get a couple of perfectly lovely sandwiches with salads built in (Robert has a cookie, too!) and feel much better about the world.

1:18 pm

We've left I-70 and turned onto Highway 191 south towards Moab. Although we're trying to stay off freeways, in some cases it can't be avoided (the only road headed this way is I-70). Plus, in this part of the world, it's not like we're missing a lot of local attractions.

The scrub desert has turned into grass desert for a while. But then it turns back to scrub desert.

We can see the Rocky Mountains off in the distance. All along this trip, we think we've been seeing the Rockies (okay, so Geography wasn't our best subject). It's always turned out to be some other mountain range (like the Wasatch Mountains).

These, though, are pretty unmistakable. "Jeez Louise! Those are big! Really big!" And they're still a couple hundred miles away.

They're rocky and they're mountains...

A whole lot of Utah looks like this

2:00 pm
1,174 miles

We're arrived at Moab!

Fortunately, Jane called while we were in town, because it turns out that she and Jim (her husband) were still at work at the hospital.

Okay, time for some backstory: Jane is Robert's littlest sister. She's five years younger. In a family of six, the littlest kid has to work harder to keep up. Since we're all pretty verbal, Jane had to be extra verbal to compete.

Jane is married to Jim, and if there were ever two people who were soul-mates and destined to be married to each other, it's Jane and Jim.

They have complementary personalities with similar temperaments. They're both pretty smart with the same quirky sense of humor. They're about the same height.

And in case you don't recognize this right off the bat, they unabashedly wear the same clothes. Really. Usually matching striped shirts and jeans. (According to Jim, "We even wear the same underwear!")

Jim is a doctor type who works at the local hospital reading X-rays and CAT scans and MRI's. We hang around there for a while, as he shows us various examples of people who have had bad experiences ("the stupid and the unlucky" is how one local technician puts it).

Moab is a magnet for Xtreme athletes. They love to drive their jeeps, ATVs and bikes off of cliffs and drive up the sides of mountains. As a result, this little hospital in the tiny (population 9,000) town of Moab gets 30 to 40 patients a day with some sort of breakage, laceration, or lost digits or limbs.

This keeps Jim pretty busy, so after a while, we bid him farewell and head out to Jane's house just south of Moab.

2:45 pm

Jane's house is in a new subdivision about six miles south of Moab. It's a lovely house with a super view of the local red cliffs and, in the distance, a couple of Rocky Mountains.

We even get our very own guest room! (Although after last night, sleeping on the couch would have been equivalent to a four-star hotel to us.) They even decorated it with an old iMac and an old PC.

Laura in Jane's front yard

6:00 pm

We spent the afternoon napping (aah! sweet un-rocky sleep!) and are now sitting around the kitchen table, checking our mail. Thanks to the flatness of the area, and the trusting nature of the local residents, there are six unsecured Wi-Fi networks we can use. So we do.

9:00 pm

We're back from dinner at the Branding Iron, a local steakhouse, which does a fine job on steak. (Although Robert gets a "baseball cut" steak, which he figured would be cut open and then stitched up like a baseball. It isn't, so he's not sure why it's called that.)

Jane and Dr. Jim (Jane's on the left)

Robert and Laura!

Stepping out of the car when we get back, Jane points up. "Look, the Milky Way!" Sure enough, it's dark enough out here that you can see the Milky Way and tons of other stars are well.

Nice place.

Tomorrow: Xtreme Uni-mogging!

Robert & Laura
Square State Tour

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