Today I did one of my dumb things--trying to turn a long grinding day of driving into a positive family experience. I looked at the map--hmmm, backtracking for an hour would get us on the interstate and to our next stop in 5 1/2 hours, while continuing through Zion National Park would put us into the thin lines and small fonts on the map--little highways that go through tiny towns and skirt two national parks, for around 6 1/2 hours. Seemed like no contest to me--nature's grandure, quiet byways and tons of local color were well worth the extra drive time, and everyone would appreciate my thoughtful choice. So, I rousted the troops at 7:30, we got on the road by 8:15, and then everyone else went back to sleep while I sat behind one fat RV after another as they lumbered along at 20 mph on twisting little roads with no passing signs and lots of stops for road construction. This trip has made it clear that our Federal tax dollars are definitely at work--the parks are being refurbished everywhere you look and the roads are torn up every few miles with road crews (in standard-issue international orange cowboy hats!) filling potholes and smoothing rough grades.
At least that was the first two hours. Then, the road cleared a bit, the Utah highway folks accommodated us with some nice, long passing lanes, and one by one, other eyes opened to the wonders of Utah's unearthly scenery--cruising through leafy aspen groves shading deer and wild turkeys at 9000 feet for half an hour, then plunging down to a dry arroyo at the foot of 2,000 foot red rock cliffs and watching long-tailed lizards skirt across the road. There are places where a sign for a "scenic outlook" means a public bathroom at the top of a hill--here it means a vista covering two or three states, several massive orange and red rifts in the earth and lofty snow covered mountains as a backdrop.
I even got a groggy "wow" from Olivia as she looked up from her DVD player and noted "looks just like a western movie," and then went back to watching her western movie.
At the end of the day, we swung through Arches National Park ("yep, spectacular . . . does the hotel have a pool?" ) and found our home for tonight--the Red Cliffs Lodge at the edge of the Colorado River as it roars through--you guessed it--red cliffs. We'd already used all the superlatives we could think of, so our bag was empty for this place, but it had a pool, hot tub, horses, towering cliffs and mesas, and we got an upgrade to a two bedroom suite because it was a slow Monday night. As we settled in, Cameron declared it the best hotel room we ever stayed in. Enough said.