We woke up alarmingly early so we could grab some room service breakfast and start the long drive south. After a "healthy" breakfast of pancakes and French toast we fired up the Hyundai and set off.
Looking very happy with my pancakes and syrup
Today we would be driving 380 miles drive down south to Monument Valley. There was an early morning fog as we hit the interstate and it was scary. It felt like a scene out of a horror film. There were just lights, fog and an 85 mile an hour speed limit.
The route eventually took us off the interstate and onto an open highway and we were in for a treat. As the sun rose over the Rocky Mountains we emerged from the fog and onto a gorgeous mountain road. We were surrounded by jaw-dropping views. As we headed south the views kept getting better and better.
Out of the fog and into the light
There was only one problem on this journey of ours. Because Utah is predominantly Mormon, coffee places were hard to find on the road. This is because in the Mormon religion, caffeine is not allowed. The only type of coffee you can get is horrid gas station coffee but having been on the road for 5 hours, it had to do. We soon hit what appeared to be cowboy country as it was all dessert with little to no snow. This also indicated that we had technically left the United States of America and entered Navajo Country.
It was during this drive that I grew close to the car and I even gave it a name. I called our mighty Hyundai Sonata, Hyunbae. I then proceeded to get a lot of ridicule from Nalin. We headed down windy roads and eventually we saw the famous landmarks that make up Monument Valley.
A welcome sight
Soon we reached our hotel which was in the heart of the Monument Valley National Park.
Some of the views from our Hotel
John Wayne's Point
After checking in we decided to have a spot of lunch where we sampled some Navajo cuisine. We tried something which was similar to an Indian deep fried delicacy. We enjoyed it quite a lot even though it was drowned in oil. Afterwards, we met our guide who would be taking us on our tour of this valley. We got in an old GMC SUV and headed deep into the valley. It was during this tour that we got to see the rock formations that
made up this natural landmark.
Journey into the park
We learned about how the old native American settlers camped in these caves.
Some of the caves the original Native Americans used as shelter
These caves provided shelter to protect themselves from the dessert heat. All in all, it made for quite a fun day out.
Some of the sights in the park
Our GMC van sneaking its way into the photo
After exploring the area, we headed back to our hotel to get some rest. We had a great time on the tour and it felt so good to cross yet another item off my bucket list. I highly recommend doing a tour of the area as you get to learn a lot about the natural formations and Navajo culture. Our guide also provided some amusing commentary to make the tour all the more enjoyable. We did our tour through the Monument Valley Safari tour company and their service is excellent.
Before heading to dinner we wanted to try and catch the sunset. Unfortunately, the view was obstructed by clouds but the colours in the sky still made for quite the sight.
The sun setting over the goregous valley
After a dinner that comprised of yet more deep-fried food we settled in for an early night. Tomorrow we would be driving over 600 miles to Denver in Colorado. But before then we wanted to catch the sun rising over the valley.
We woke up the next day at yet another alarmingly early hour to catch the sunrise. The colours as the sun rose up was incredibly beautiful. From a rich shade royal blue, it turned to a bright orange tapestry. It made for quite the amazing sight. There were also patches of snow which added to the bright colours.
After admiring the sunrise, we had a light breakfast and before heading to Denver. We also learned that in Navajo country caffeine is not allowed. According to the GPS system in the car, the drive would take roughly eight hours. Nalin and I decided to divide up the time equally as he felt that I would be tired from yesterday’s long drive.
We fired up Hyunbae, the world's best Hyundai Sonata, and set forth into unknown territory.
The famous Mexican Hat landmark
The first part of the drive up north was fairly mundane. This is because we were still in Utah we still had no access to caffeine so we were not running on all cylinders. It was roughly 4 hours to Colorado but the moment we crossed the state lines the changes were significant. The amount of snow on the side of the road increased and the number of proper coffee shops exponentially increased. It was glorious and we soon had a spot of lunch. It was at a place called WTF which stood for "Welcome to Fruita". Fruita was the name the town we stopped in.
Nalin enjoying a not so healthy dessert
The food was of a reasonably healthy variety. This was no surprise as Colorado is the healthiest state in America.
After lunch, it was my turn to take the helm and this is where things got quite interesting. The first three hours of the drive were quite windy as the roads took us through the mountains where we saw some truly stunning scenery.
Colorado did not disspoint one bit
We were making brilliant progress with the GPS telling us we would be arriving earlier than expected. All this changed when we reached the alpine pass near the ski resorts of Aspen and Vail. The ski resorts were experiencing some heavy snowfall and this had slowed us down. However at that point, we were still going to reach the destination at our predicted time of 8 in the evening.
The begining of a frozen hell
However, we soon hit a heavy roadblock and we were stuck there for over one and a half hours. We were crawling towards Denver and the roads started to get slushy. I was particularly worried as we were in a front-wheel drive car on some slippery roads. Eventually, we cleared the main roadblock and we were soon on the way and we also ended up driving through the continental divide. This is the geological landmark which divides the North American continent. Once we had cleared the tunnel it was smooth sailing all the way to Denver. I was amazed at how Hyunbae handled the mountain roads. I really do miss Hyunbae as the car was so comfy and sturdy. It was around 9 at night when we reached the city of Denver and got a well-deserved rest. Tomorrow we would be traveling to Chicago by train but first I had to say hello to an old friend.