My mind wanders. Somewhere between a time before Spanish Conquistadors penetrated this territory and the last time dinosaurs rattled the ground with their presence. It must have been truly wild. Something like what the corners of Alaska and Africa reserve for the select few who perhaps never find their way back. My fascination with erosion lead me to ponder what it must have looked like all those millennia ago.
I had kept the mess to a minimum in my cook area. Chelsea had pre-packed chicken patties and I refused to go on a trip without sausages. The two combined made an actually amazing savory breakfast along with the hashbrowns I had regretfully placed directly on ice. It turns out the store packaging was not meant to withstand sloshing ice and instead decided to play the part of the Titanic in a microshow where “Jack” would be played by bits of potato. I'll never let go.
Nevertheless, Chelsea was rounding the first lapse of her first trimester. She ate nothing I prepared and instead turned to aptly-named KIND bars for sustenance.
With the instant coffee and hot chocolate combo consumed and all trash and cookery put back in its place, we set off on our next leg of the journey. Our destination was nowhere. Well, the middle of nowhere. At the conception of this voyage, I had placed small challenges between the walls of my cranium to prove to myself I was somehow worthy of the title of Dad the Adventurer. I didn't necessarily share them with Chelsea, but I did give her fair warning that there might be a couple destinations where we'd be two or three days from cell phone service. She was nice enough to nod warily before secretly emailing our route map to several close family friends on the chance we…uh…never came back.
Our first and last stop in civilization was Escalante. It was slightly larger than I expected as it had TWO gas stations. Options galore! We pulled into the ConocoPhillips and I loaded up on fuel and last minute provisions. There was a Subway inside, so I ordered three foot-longs for the road and bought as many Gatorades as I could carry. My only fear was getting lost and dehydrated 40 miles out into the desert. The clerk was a little perplexed as to why I would want so much water and ice that it took me three trips to haul it all the fifty or so feet to The Bear.
I let Some Boy venture on his own to take supplies back to the car where Chelsea was waiting. I thought it was adorable to watch the little toddler carry one drink bottle at a time out to his mother. It took Chelsea a trip or two to feel comfortable with the idea, as she's not accustomed to the safety of tiny boroughs like this. You could literally yell from one side of the entire town to the other. On one crossing, however, it took him longer than usual to return. I looked out the window and found him ogling a blue BMW motorcycle. It was a handsome and sturdy bike obviously meant for cross country travel on both pavement and dirt. Its rider was kind enough to humor the little three-year-old as he fueled his iron horse. He called out the names of the bike parts as Some Boy pointed to them out up until he placed the fuel nozzle back in its place. I called Some Boy back to me to make room for the departing rider. We waved as he headed off in the same direction we were bound. It would not be the last time we saw him.
We packed up and headed off down the road. Five miles of pavement passed before we found the beginning of a new type of travel. The sign for the Grand Staircase Escalante road wasn't overstated, as it would have been back in California, and the only barrier between us and wilderness was a cattle guard which may have been maintained every half decade or so. I pointed off to the horizon and Chelsea, faithful wife that she is, nodded and said, “Let's go.” My wheels rolled off the pavement and the crunch and crackle of the rock road began to sing us along our journey.
The washboard was moderate, as this part of the road seemed to be fairly traveled by tourists from around the world and also fairly maintained. I kept the speed up to about 45 MPH to keep the truck hovering over the ripples of dirt. I knew The Bear's stock suspension and tires were at about all they would be able to comfortably handle. Chelsea seemed unfazed as she looked on down the road for the marker leading us to our first stop. The Devil's Playground.
We found the marker and made the turn. Our preliminary research (mostly Chelsea's efforts) had informed us this was a family friendly stop with easily accessible sights guaranteed to impress even the mildest of geographical enthusiasts. After giving the dogs a much needed break and water, they enjoyed the shade provided by the trailer while the rest of us walked around the beautiful monuments.
What was even better was every thing was open, there were no lines and nothing was off limits…except the sky, that is. Cue comedic drum sound.
We listened as a family visiting from France gathered their things and prepared to leave. I couldn't help but notice the dad stop to ogle The Bear before rolling off down the dirt road. I smiled, proud of my choice of family travel vehicle.
I led Some Boy over the red and tanned rock and we gathered everyone, including the dogs, for a family picture. Until now, I had only seen things like this on magazine covers.
It made me so happy to share it for the first time with the boys and Chelsea.