If you have to be delayed, Bryce Canyon City isn’t a bad place to pass some time. At all. The mechanic asked us to have our vehicle back at the shop the next morning. They opened at 8AM the following morning.
We were lucky enough to find a very bare bones, rustic, but very clean and well kept “camping cabin” just across the highway from the garage. Having a bed was nice. Getting our first real shower in five days was even better (at many of the campgrounds, we used a five gallon solar shower bag. It was nice to have, but you can’t clean everything when you’re out in the open, if you catch my drift).
We divided up for the afternoon. Sonia and Allison took a shuttle bus back in to Bryce Canyon NP. They wanted to meander around the visitors center. Andrew OD’d on tech; which was the first time in three weeks. I read and pounded out some writing. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon.
When Allie-Al and Sonia returned, they were mildly dismayed. They had been waiting in line at the visitors center to speak to a park ranger about some educational programs that Allison might be interested in. A middle aged woman apparently had very heatedly complained about how the smoke in the park was ruining her experience. The park ranger explained pointedly that it was 1) out of their control and 2) was much worse for the people LIVING there as they had to breathe in the air for weeks. And live with the devastation. And maybe get evacuated. And have their houses burn down. I asked her if the woman seemed remorseful for her hubris. Sonia shook her head “no”.
To top it off, 4 women moved into the cabin next to us, which was cool. Listening to their conversation, they appeared to be foreign tourists that had a minivan. Cool. Then they started gathering wood for a bonfire. Not cool, as the campground was full of signs plastered to any surface imaginable with a picture of a fire with a red line through it and a “no campfires allowed” message. I’d like to give these four people a pass, but given the smoke in the air, and clear signage no matter your primary language, I just can’t understand their insistence on burning things. It was a solid hour and a half before they were informed that they needed to douse their fire. I considered coating myself in olive oil so I could be nice and crispy on the outside, while still cooking through completely. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.
We loaded our vehicle early the following morning and dropped it off at the garage. The mechanic told us to check back at 1PM; the part hadn’t arrived yet. Yippee. We road the shuttle back to Bryce, and knocked around for two hours or so on the Rim Trail. The air was a little clearer than it was the day previously. We weren’t sure how much to plan as we were unsure as to when (or if) we would get our car back. We scarfed an early lunch and road back in to town.
We were fortunate. Our car was being placed in the parking lot as we arrived. The part arrived shortly after we left in the morning. Job done by 12:30 PM. Game on. We were slated to drive to Salida, CO (about 8 ½ hours away) to spend a little over 24 hours visiting a college friend.
My only experiences with Colorado had been in Denver and Breckenridge. I’ve never skied; I’ve only been to Breck in the summer. All I can say is the drive from Grand Junction to Salida is the prettiest, most breathtaking segment of road I’ve ever driven. It had high peaks, with velvety appearing hills rolling in front of the taller mountains. The drive near the Gunnison River was fabulous, and tempted us to pull over and just sleep for the night in our car. We need to go back and see more of western Colorado; if all you’ve seen of Colorado are ski towns, I’d suggest expanding your palette.
We were to visit an old college, cross-country friend whom we hadn’t seen in 15+ years (anonymity not specifically requested, but definitely desired). He had recently married and moved to Salida and lobbied us hard to visit. We were excited to visit an old friend; our kids wanted to play with their 2 Australian cattle dogs. Plus, even with car repaired, we needed to make some headway in getting home. We don’t trust our car repair entirely, and decided to omit the second-to-last-day of the trip, and needed to get within striking distance of St. Louis. We felt bad omitting our last day of visits, but the vehicle needs a 2nd opinion.
Our friend and his wife were gracious hosts. I ran with my friend (8+ miles near 9,000 feet of elevation). He was an amazing tour guide, and has extensive knowledge of Colorado trail systems. He ought to write a book; I’d buy the first copy. They then took our family on a hike to an alpine lake with their two dogs. The scenery was fantastic; our kids couldn’t have cared less, as they had a three hour play session with the dogs. We got to see whitewater kayakers performing tricks on the Arkansas River. Better yet, we had a chance to catch up and discuss travel, career changes, and finding a sense of purpose when the first dream dries up. Unfortunately, we had 33 hours there and had to beat feet. But we still have a good friend and a reason to go back and see more of his area (and I have an ultrarunning guru to bounce ideas off of). I hope it’s not 15 years until we see them again.
As I’m writing this, I’m in the front passenger seat, about 30 miles west of Salina, KS. We’re attempting to iron butt a 14 hour, 950 mile drive back to St. Louis. We’ve been fortunate. I had high expectations for this trip, and they’ve been exceeded by a factor of ten. We pushed our kids, and they’ve been adaptable (and had fun in their own right). There’s more to see in the future; more to explore. More importantly, we’re back in control of the trajectory of our life as a family. Other than my own ass falling asleep in the car (pins-and-needles on the tookus is a bit unnerving), there’s little to worry about. Once we get back, I can write a version of the grade school essay, “what I learned on my summer vacation.”