Morning Drive

A full moon hangs low in the west, playing through wisps of cloud left over from the rain earlier in the night. In front of the truck, huge black sentinels jut up into the heavens, indistinct and back lit. The truck rounds a bend, and the here the sentinels jump into detail where the moonlight hits the front, jagged peaks and tall ridges. The road is a red ribbon winding through this dark obstacle course, and any manner of mystery could be hiding just out of view around the next bend. There isn’t another soul on the road and the wind is still, a deep silence reigns. On my phone, the clock reads 5:44 am.

In a few hours, this will be a bustling tourist attraction, full of the sound of motor vehicles and voices in numerous languages discussing the hikes and views, and perhaps most of note on this day: the weather. But right now, it could almost be another planet. This is a side of Zion National Park that few visitors will ever experience.

The sound of Bertha’s engine roars through the mile long tunnel, the only time she’s had it all to herself. Out the other side the moon has continued to set and now balances precariously over the West Temple, illuminating the top half of the canyon and leaving the bottom a pit of inky black where monsters may lurk. As I enter the switchbacks that descend into that darkness, another truck emerges from the tunnel behind me.

We play a game of tag, criss-crossing on the switchbacks one level removed, our headlights bouncing wildly across boulders, stunted trees, and the canyon walls. As I round a curve to the next level down, a statue appears in the ditch, a statue with what could be four legs and antlers. Is that a mule deer? But before I have time to fully articulate the thought, momentum carries me around the corner and the apparition is reclaimed by the night, monsters indeed.

Near the bottom, two new players enter the field, one coming down from the tunnel and another climbing up from the canyon floor. With four sets of headlights, we look almost to be stuck in a maze, our positions passing each other without ever meeting.

Outside of the maze on the canyon floor, soft yellow eyes peer out at me from behind a curtain of vegetation. Windows with signs of life inside. It’s now after 6, and park employees are getting ready for a new day inside their housing. They probably don’t know just how busy of a day they’re going to have. The canyon walls open up, and I become aware that the darkness is no longer as complete as it was. The moon hovers just over the horizon, yellow and diminished, but behind me in the east the sky is getting lighter.

morning-drive2In Springdale and Rockford just outside the park, the serious early bird hikers are emerging from their hotels, poles and backpacks in hand and ready to tackle Zion. They will not be entirely successful. I pass on through, one vehicle among several now, the quiet spell of nighttime broken.

Dark blues turn to purples and pinks in the rear-view mirror as Bertha threads her way west. La Verkin, Hurricane, and St. George appear ahead and then are passed. A sign looms up: Arizona, the Grand Canyon State Welcomes You. A star shines on the sign, mirrored by the sun rising behind me, but the tall stark walls of the Virgin River Gorge conceal it’s face. Before too much longer, dark heavy clouds will be covering it’s face. Very little vegetation grows here, the lower elevation and hotter temps probably have something to do with it.

I spy my very first Joshua trees in the flats past the gorge, and the sun finally makes it’s appearance over the mountains behind and sets the desert on fire. I15 carries me backwards in time and 8 am becomes 7 am again, welcome to Nevada. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I’ve been in the Pacific timezone.

morning-drive1

morning-drive3A blink of the eyes, and like a mirage skyscrapers shoot up from the sand, out of place in a landscape of sparse green bushes and distant peeks capped with clouds. Palm trees and hotels multitudes of levels above my pay grade line streets that are reminding me of Atlanta, ten lanes of traffic full of commuters anxious to get to work on a dreaded Monday morning. I’m actually a little disappointed that a city like Las Vegas should still be a slave to the 9-5 routine.

Helicopters tours fly overhead with peculiar regularity. To my left, a miniature but still impressive statue of liberty proclaims the entrance to an amusement park, all around billboards advertise gambling activities.

morning-drive4

I stop into a PetSmart to pick up a couple items, then navigate the confusing corridors of McCarran International Airport, looking for Terminal 3 and trying to coordinate a pickup.

morning-drive5

Virgin River Gorge, on the drive back

And at 8:30 am local time, I finally accomplish the goal of this drive. Julie and her cat Chance are safely off the plane and into Bertha, and we ride back to Zion and the RV. Julie is on sabbatical from work, and will be traveling with me for a few months, possibly longer, we’re going to work Amazon together this season. We chat and enjoy the sights on the drive back.

But it’s a special day for more reasons than just this. Many miles to the south and east, Tropical Storm Norbert is churning off the coast of Mexico, and sending unusually moist air into the region. This part of the country is about to experience the worst flooding it’s had in years. In less than 24 hours, three sections of I15 near Moapa between Las Vegas and Mesquite are going to be completely washed away, the Virgin River in Arizona is going to swell to many times the normal size and send waterfalls cascading over the road, and rockfalls are going to shut down Zion National Park down for the first time in over a decade.

As Julie, Chance and I climb back up the switchbacks in the park, the first of the thunderstorms are rolling into the region, and the rangers who were just waking up when I passed by in the morning are now hard at work pulling the serious early bird hikers out of the far sections of the Narrows before the river becomes an unstoppable force.

Tomorrow I shall be very glad indeed that Julie’s plane came in at 8 am Pacific on September 8th, and not 8 am Pacific on September 9th, when I might have been one of the poor souls who’s vehicle got washed away in the flash flooding.

morning-drive6

First signs of rain over Zion

* * *

The park closure made for a very busy day at work yesterday and between that and getting Julie and Chance settled in this post is running late. 80% of the store was flooded yesterday morning and about a quarter of our tent campsites have become part of a stream bed and are still inaccessible, but Cas was parked on higher ground and we’re all fine. Zion did reopen yesterday at about 4 pm, and the forecast for the next five days is calling for ample sun which will help a lot. Assuming conditions remain favorable, I’ll be visiting the south rim of the Grand Canyon on tomorrow and gorgeous pictures of neat destinations will resume.

morning-drive7

Looking into Zion on the 9th

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

50 Comments

  1. Roger on September 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Hey Becky,
    Have you found out what your start date at Camperforce is yet?…I have since changed the RV park I will be staying at.



  2. Dawn on September 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this…was if I was there driving through the desert and into the city. Made me smile.



    • Becky on September 17, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Glad you enjoyed it Dawn, it was pretty fun to write. 🙂



  3. mratlas on September 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Luckily you got up I15 before it was closed Monday afternoon due to flooding and road damage. It’s suppose to reopen today, hopefully. Vegas got over 4 inches of rain Monday afternoon.



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:44 am

      Yes, I heard part of it reopened yesterday from a customer who came into the shop, don’t know if it’s all open by now or not.



  4. Gary n Lynda on September 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Really enjoyed your writing in this post. Just read it for a second time. Hmmmm, perhaps you have another calling?

    Gary



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Oh, someday I’ll get around to writing a novel too, but priorities placed the eguide higher. 🙂 Thanks and glad you liked it.



      • Jerry Minchey on September 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        I’m sure you’ll work your writing style and stories into your eguide, and that will be even better than a novel.

        Looking forward to it.

        Jerry Minchey



        • Becky on September 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

          Actually Jerry this one is going to be pretty strictly how-to, with stories of my own experience added in only where necessary to illustrate a point I’m making.

          Also on the list for someday is more of a personal novel of my ups and downs and behind the scenes as I was getting ready to hit the road, that’s probably the one you’ll be interested in reading. 🙂



          • Jerry Minchey on September 15, 2014 at 11:23 am

            Becky,

            You might want to read some of Bill Myers’ books, Mango Bob, Mango Lucky, and Mango Bay. He weaves stories aboout his RV into all of his novels. In fact, the RV and his life on the road are a major part of the story line. The fourth one in the series is coming out soon.

            If I remember the numbes correctly, he earns about $4K a month from his novels. That income could make a big change in your life.

            I first learned about you from a post Bill made on his website, http://www.BMyers.com with a link to your Technomadia video Interview.

            I have written 10 How-To books, but novels out sell How-To books by about 100 to one, so hurry and get to your novel. Unfortunantly, writing novels is not my expertise.

            Jerry



          • Becky on September 17, 2014 at 10:13 am

            Hehe, that’s interesting Jerry because of the writers I’m friends with, they say how-to books do better. Depends on your story telling ability, your style of writing, and what you have experience in I imagine!

            I’ll go take a look at Bill Myers’ stuff, I need a new book to read.



  5. Rene Kipp on September 11, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    The New York New York Hotel & Casino in Vegas has a roller coaster that travels both inside and outside of the hotel. It’s a very cool experience if you like roller coasters. And if you do, try the one at the top of the Stratosphere Casino, just down the Strip from there.
    Your description of the early morning was outstanding. Glad you all made it safely back to Cas.
    Rene Kipp recently posted..Finding the Perfect BATMy Profile



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Sounds like quite the place Rene. I haven’t been on a roller coaster in years, someday! And thanks.



  6. Caroline near Seattle on September 11, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I’m currently in Las Vegas … yes it was quite a rain storm but north of LV was certainly hit harder than we were. You were indeed fortunate with your timing AND camp site.
    I saw RVSue’s blog … she’s in Wyoming and got snow! Today is a lovely day; about 99, sunny and clear.
    I guess you AND Julie are in for some adventures over the next few months. Enjoy !

    In regards to RV’g to Alaska, it’s a very popular trip for seniors and fulltimers, some of whom will work there for the summer. The Alaska tourism season is very short; everyone visits from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hotels. restaurants, campgrounds etc rely on college students as well as seniors and full timers. I rented an RV up there for 2 weeks and met several CG hosts who spent every summer at Denali, Seward, Cooper Landing, Fairbanks, etc. There is LOTS of summer work available. About 2 yrs ago I followed the blog of a couple who drove from FL to Alaska to work for the summer near Denali. They worked until mid August, then drove down the WA, OR and CA coasts for the month of Sept. They used http://www.mytripjournal.com. (go to the Best Trip Journals, then USA, then Alaska to find people’s journals as they travel and/or summer in Alaska. Most people take the same route to get there.
    Have a good visit at Grand Canyon !
    Have



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Glad you were okay Caroline!

      Yes, I’ve thought about working while I’m up in Alaska. Certainly not something I’m ruling out, although I’ll still need a fair bit of money just to get up there.



  7. Ron on September 11, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    You are becoming a talented writer. Very interesting too.



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Thanks Ron.



  8. Furry Gnome on September 11, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Your writing is just inspiring!



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Thanks, glad you liked it!



  9. jonthebru on September 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    You write very well. I agree with everyone elses comments.
    I definitely agree with your Las Vegas comment about Hotels “multitudes of levels above my pay grade”!
    It has its purpose I guess, like any city.
    Be safe, have fun.



    • jonthebru on September 11, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      Gotta add that I actually thought about you in your little home as I learned about the weather of the past week. Happy you are safe and sound.



      • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:34 am

        I couldn’t imagine staying in one of those hotels, it’d be criminal to spend money on something like that to my way of thinking.

        Thanks for thinking of me, all is well!



        • edward on September 19, 2014 at 4:20 am

          go on Tuesday or Wednesday and the room rates drop 75-80%



          • Becky on September 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

            Haha, interesting Edward.



  10. J. Dawg on September 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    So well written. Those first 7 paragraphs would make a great intro to a blog article or short story – The Day the Sky Fell on Zion. Just an idea.

    J. Dawg



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Thanks J. Dawg.



  11. Ramen on September 11, 2014 at 10:23 am

    I’m glad you didn’t have to find out if your casa floats or not!



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Eeep, I hope to never have to test that, haha. I have a feeling he’s sink…



  12. Jodee Gravel on September 11, 2014 at 9:22 am

    You really captured the magic of early morning – my favorite time of day now. Writing it after the storm and knowing what was to come really gave it a unique perspective. A great read.

    Glad Cas was on higher ground and that the park is getting back to normal. You and Julie (and Chance) will have a wonderful time getting in trouble this Fall!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Ninja Turtle Tackle Box, Laptop With Doss Operating System, and Not-a-Tent in the Tent BagMy Profile



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

      I usually find morning pretty magical Jodee, but I very rarely feel inspired to get up to see the sunrise unless some event like this forces it upon me. Laying in bed when it’s still chilly outside is just so comfortable. 😉

      Yes, we will have a good time!



  13. Terri on September 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Glad you guys made it back safely and before the rains came down. Very cool your best friend will be with you this fall – that should make the hard work seem less so. Thanks also for the beautiful pictures. I’ve felt a bit adrift the past few days and seeing your pics and hearing about your lifestyle helps. Makes me see that there are a lot of options out there and it’s ok to not walk to the beat of the same drummer as everyone else.
    Terri recently posted..Little Things for Which I am Thankful (go hug your mom)My Profile



    • Becky on September 13, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Yes, the two of us have wanted to travel together for years, this is our chance.

      Glad that my post has helped you feel better, you’ll get out there Terri, I believe it.



  14. Roger on September 11, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Hi Becky,

    Wow! you’re a poet and didn’t know it…or maybe you did. Very interesting reading, I had wondered how you were doing since the flooding and closure of Zion was all over the news here in Cali. Looks like you have great timing!

    Excellent writing, thanks.

    Roger



    • Becky on September 12, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Every now and then Roger. 😉

      Things are much better with a few days of sunny weather. Park rangers are saying it’s going to be weeks to clean up all the damage though.



  15. Maura on September 11, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Great post, so glad you, Julie and Chance are safe and enjoying time together!

    Maura
    Maura recently posted..St George Island FlMy Profile



    • Becky on September 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Thanks Maura, we’re having a good time!



  16. John W. Abert on September 11, 2014 at 5:50 am

    Great story, great writing. We’ve been through that Zion tunnel with a Class A pulling a toad, and didn’t realize that when we came out on the west end we would be several thousand feet above the valley with nothing but switchbacks going down. We’re glad it was daylight when we did it. Enjoy your time with Julie and don’t get too busy that you forget your blogging! We’ll be on our way out that way by this time next year. Stay well and travel safe.
    John W. Abert recently posted..Valpo Velvet Ice Cream ParlorMy Profile



    • Becky on September 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Oh don’t worry John, I’ll keep blogging!

      Glad you enjoyed the story. Yeah, I’d never want to take Cas through there after dark, especially if I wasn’t familiar with it! Enjoy you trip out here next year, it’s a gorgeous area!



  17. Barb L. on September 11, 2014 at 5:48 am

    Always enjoy your posts, but you gave this one a twist that was very creative and gave us a unique perspective on the landscape and an uncommon weather event.



    • Becky on September 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

      I wrote it like a story instead of a documentary Barb. It takes more time and creativity, but every now and then I feel the inspiration to do it as such. Glad you enjoyed it.



  18. Vincent Goetz on September 11, 2014 at 3:30 am

    I would loved to have seen that much water in Zion. I love Zion and the surrounding area, and that had to have been impressive. Your writing was excellent, and the pictures really give a hint of what happened…

    On another note, because of you I applied for Amazon and was offered a position….I gave them your name, so maybe you will get a referral?



    • Becky on September 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

      I wasn’t actually in the park when the worst of it happened, I was at work dealing with the flood of people who couldn’t get in, haha. I’m glad you liked the article.

      I might have to e-mail you a form to fill out to give me credit Vincent, let me look into it!



  19. EmilyO on September 10, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Wow, you really had me pulled in. I could feel the suspense and relief when you and Julie (and Chance) made it back safely. Weather in the west can be awesome, terrifying and beautiful.



    • Becky on September 10, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      It was a crazy couple days Emily, I’m glad it worked out too! Glad you enjoyed.



  20. Barrie on September 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Becky,
    What a wonderfully well written post; enjoyed, as always.
    Barrie



    • Becky on September 10, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Barrie, I thought it was pretty poetic when I wrote it. 😛



  21. Troy on September 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Glad to hear you and Julie made it back safely. What an AWESOME experience it will be to have a friend travel with you and work at Amazon too. Hopefully, you will get similar schedules and the same days off so you can do some exploring together.

    Having friends/family visit me in cool locations is what I hope will happen when I get my travels back in gear. Wow! If I could get just one of my friends to visit for even a week, that would be incredible. They just will not understand the lifestyle until they come and see if for themselves.

    Julie is in for a treat.



    • Becky on September 10, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Yes we’ll have the same schedule and job Troy, same as couples that apply.

      And we’ve been planning to travel together for a while sine I decided to hit the road, back when we were roommates. The ACA is probably going to end up costing me more money for health insurance, but it’s making it possible for her to travel, she simply couldn’t get health insurance unless it was with an employer before now.



  22. Rob on September 10, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I’m glad you had the ‘right’ day to pick your friend up!

    No idea why but I’d always thought Zion NP was farther north, I had to look at the map…
    https://www.google.com/maps/@37.298168,-113.026298,8z

    Enjoy the rest of the season & stay safe.
    Rob recently posted..Adventureland workcamping review, season 2My Profile



    • Becky on September 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Yeah it’s really not far from AZ at all Rob. Makes getting to the Grand Canyon not so challenging.



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