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Header Photo: Just an average hike on an average day in Red Canyon Country.



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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Against The Wind


The San Rafael Swell sure is swell...a 60 million year old layered uplift of sandstone, shale, and limestone that juts sharply out of the ground east of Green River, Utah. I get goose bumps and trigger happy every time we drive through, over, or around it. To me, the swell resembles a Backbone with skin peeled away, exposed to the elements. You can find more "backbones" in Utah, one above Boulder named Hell's Backbone where you can drive the "vertebra," if you dare. Capital Reef forms another backbone, as did every Mormon pioneer who managed to carve a life and living out of this spectacular, but unforgiving land.


We broke our Squatter's Camp Monday morning. The wind was already kicking up dust and streaming clouds; it was oddly warm. Boonie, quite the early bird, beat us out of camp due to concern over forecasted 60 mph gusts, said he'd call later and check in.  I'd be concerned too if I was pulling a long trailer with a high profile van, especially without a sway bar. 

We had a fine tailwind going north out of Moab; I hardly touched the gas. But when we turned west on I 70 everything changed. The only way I can describe driving broadside through that shit is to say it felt like a no holds barred pillow fight with someone twice your size, and with twice the "pillow." Goldie, with her low profile and duel rear wheels, hung in there pretty good, but it was two hands on the wheel every second of the way. 

Utah is one of the few states that allow big tractor trailer rigs to pull three trailers instead of two. With Interstate speed limits of 75 mph on I 70, and 80 mph on I 15, let me say on a day with wind gusts of 60 mph you better have one eye on the mirror, Mick Jagger, cause those big rigs are radiating a tricky force field that can move RV's around like cheesy little plastic chess pawns.  

Goldie was one of those pawns...bullied to the shoulder like some panty waste lightweight every time a semi overtook her. It was a difficult maneuver to compensate for the the force field at just the right moment...right as it started pushing on Goldie's backside...and steering toward the trucks instead of away. I don't need to explain it; those who chose the RV lifestyle know exactly what I'm talking about. Rigs with three trailers weren't able to stay in their lanes; it was a white knuckle crapshoot all day long. But if there is one thing I hate more than driving in high winds, it's waiting them out...trapped in some destination-less Walmart parking lot. So I peed on "discretion," and took my chances with "valor."

Coming off the mountain, Richfield looked like a dust bowl right out of Grapes Of Wrath...a steady 45 mph gale spit in our face. Driving 55 mph into the wind is essentially like going one hundred mph. I thought about the recently installed solar panels...wondered if they would go sailing off the roof like frisbees and crash into Bobbies windshield. Boonie called to say he had had enough and was going to wait it out in Richfield's Walmart parking lot. After three weeks of wilderness and solitude in Camp Boonie near Moab, I couldn't stomach the thought of a night in Camp Walmart, of rocking sleepless in a dust bowl with nightmares of The Wizard of Oz running through my brain..."Auntie Em, Auntie Em!" I told The Boonster we were going to make a run for it, then climbed the ladder to inspect the solar panels. All was well. What a test.

I 70 T-bones I 15 way out in the middle of Nowhere, Utah. One would think that the intersection of two major highways would be a good excuse for a Gas n Go, or something. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I 15 proved me wrong...twice as many big rigs, seemingly oblivious to the wind and either unaware, or uncaring of, what their force fields were doing to other vehicles and drivers who thought conditions warranted slowing from 80 mph to 55. It was a good thing that there was a wide shoulder for me to use to regain control over Goldie.

Skies were black, nearly horizontal veils of rain pounded, relented, pounded, relented...like going through a high pressure car wash. At Cedar City rain briefly changed to snow, then hail, then back to rain...big, heavy drops that smacked the rig with such force I couldn't hear the radio. 25 miles is all that stood between us and lower elevation. I could see the sun was shining down toward St George. 

Pavement began to dry. A few miles south of the Toquerville exit is the off ramp to Leeds. From there we made our way to the Red Cliffs National Recreational Area campground. Jim and Gayle tipped us off to this beautiful hideaway last year. It's a small camp, tucked away in protective red hills, with a creek and cottonwoods...now budding out in fall splendor. 

Finally, a port in harbor...refuge from the storm. Light rain fell straight down, a wonderful sight and smell, and hardly a breeze. As night overtook us, owls hooted from creekside cottonwoods, and the hills glowed red against night black skies.  





Raindrops cling to Sacred Datura blooms in Red Cliffs. 











39 comments:

  1. Glad you made it through the maelstrom. I once spent three days sitting in Toquerville waiting out a really big windstorm in a Casita - didn't have a swaybar. It was pretty boring. Those chilly winds sure can blow out there in the Big Empty. Beautiful place to camp.

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    1. We kinda like Toqerville...off the beaten path, "boring" and all :) But not trapped by a windstorm.
      Also like Rockville, but it IS on the beaten path for 9 months a year. So we are camped above Virgin (what, no Ville on the end?). Springdale would have been ok about 50 years ago.
      Rumor has it you might be in the neighborhood. I hope so :). Lots of nice boondocking around here, and The Boonster will be needing company when we head off to the Virgin RV park for a month. I know... we are not purists like some. But they have a real deal during the off season...425 per month.

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  2. Looks like a great spot. The information I found about the campground says that the tunnels under the highway to access the area have a 12 foot clearance limitation. Unfortunately, we are 12' 9". Enjoy!

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    1. On the tunnels is reads 11 feet 9 inches!!! It keeps out the riff raft :))

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  3. Wow! What a wild ride! Glad you made it through safely. Grace (in Tucson)

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    1. You had to be there...In hindsight, I'm still glad we did it :)

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  4. Those blooms are gorgeous! Love how they magically unfold. The bloom pic with the red rock background is stunning.

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    1. I thought it was "magical" how they are wrapped so tightly and unfold into a delicate, translucent bloom...almost like a packed parachute.

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  5. Having lived in Las Vegas, I know those roads all too well and unfortunately have experienced similar driving conditions. Glad you made it to St. George safely. As I sit in a RV Park, your last location and new one have me drooling with envy. I assure you, our plans for next year will NOT entail a repeat of this years. Can't wait to see where you're taking us hiking next :-)

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    1. Then you know the other side of the storm coin...flash floods!
      Speaking of rv park deals, looks like you found one in the Valley of the Sun. I would do that one if it had mountain biking and hiking right out the gate. I'm not into golf yet...waiting till I'm in my eighties for that.

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  6. Location envy big time. Beautiful photos of your camp and views. Sacred Datura is fascinating. I took some pics of them on Sunday.

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    1. Thanks Susan...the beauty and the outdoor recreational "amenities" here are top notch! and Zion is just down the road if we want a day off from biking :)

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  7. You landed in a beautiful spot. I would not have driven in that wind.

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    1. Teri, you would love it here...lots of hiking and red cliff views. why aren't you here :))

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  8. I have never read a better description of what it's like to compete on an interstate with wind and big rigs while driving an RV. Glad you found a place to hunker down safely.

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    1. Thank you, sue...we are hunkered for a while. :))

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  9. Seems there's a fine line between stupid, brave and crazy, and we all draw that line differently. I detest those triple tows that weave like a snake, wind or not, causing force fields that warp one off the road. Glad you made it to a nice destination.

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    1. I know... Bobbie agrees with you on that.

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  10. Thank goodness you made it through that. Yep, the reward is where you ended up! Do you have a post about your hitch set up? I think something like that would work better for me than my cargo carrier.

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    1. Yes there is a post...back in september. It looks overloaded but we're not anywhere near the 400 pound limit, and so far so good.

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  11. Reminds me of my LD maiden voyage... (70 mph - cross-wind gusts) = travel speed. I finally parked when cross-winds reached 45. Watch that hitch carrier weight; 400 lbs vertical is the limit.
    http://lazydazearticles.blogspot.com/2011/03/strengthen-your-hitch.html
    Enjoying your travels, pictures and posts.

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    1. Yeah...wind would suck on your maiden voyage!
      I think we have around 300 or less on the hitch...it's my welds I'm concerned about :((

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  12. Was reading about the high winds around Cedar City, Ut. causing tree damage, hopefully that is all over. Driving back from Michigan on I65, saw a 18 wheeler blow by a SUV towing a 30' camper causing the trailer to sway and the driver lost control, flipping the SUV and camper. Wind is the worst for hiking and keeping dust out of the RV. Happy Birthday! Eat a piece of cake for me or drink an IPA.
    John Q

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    1. It's like rvs have targets on them...those truckers need to be educated on how to pass us!
      Thanks John...wish you were here...do you have a mountain bike yet ? grin

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  13. Hope the drive was soon forgotten after setting up in that beautiful spot! Haven't been to St. George...can't wait for pictures!

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    1. You would love the whole area...especially in November. It's just now fall here and off-season.

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  14. I second Gaelyn's "Happy Birthday" toast, and say man, you must really have an intense dislike for Walmart. ;-)

    So did you go through the skinny little 11'9" twin tunnels to get to Red Cliffs, (YIKES!) or did you find a different entry?

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    1. Suzanne,
      Thank you...
      I have camped in a Wally World a couple of times in a pinch.
      We cleared the 11' 9" by at least a foot. The Lazy Daze are low riders :))

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  15. LOVE that park! I wish we were small enough to fit through the tunnel!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

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    1. Lisa, When you downsize maybe...is that still on the agenda after your whirlwind maiden voyage?

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  16. I can't believe you left with such high winds predicted. Crazy!

    Love the flowers!

    Enjoy the Red Cliffs.

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    1. I can just hear Patsy Cline now..." Crazy...crazy for ...."

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  17. Re the wind..It seems I always get sidewinds and headwinds...What are the odds? Oh those tailwinds..The mpg goes to 20 or??..I'm just dreaming, seems they only last for 5 miles or so..Those lucky folks who always get tailwinds...Are they telling the truth or is it the same as the 25" guppie I caught with a safety-pin with no bait?
    Glad to see you folks are safely landed...
    Dave

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    1. Up River,
      I felt the same way back in my running days...always a headwind no matter which direction I went!

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  18. I will never forget the first triple trailer that passed me when I was on a bicycle. Not a windy day fortunately but those three trailer turned me ever way but loose before they got by me.

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