We woke in a Walmart parking lot, which was beginning to become another familiar place on the trip. Quickly, we jumped out of bed to make breakfast in the empty spot next to us and brush our teeth inside. Conrad changed the oil while I got the bus ready for takeoff again.
The bus found herself back on i-70 heading further west toward Utah. The scenery seemed to change every mile we pushed on. The warm browns and forest greens of the Rockies blended into the bright red rocks in the desert. We were now entering the land of deep canyons and dry tumbleweed.
“Hmm it looks like we just landed on Mars”
“Maybe we should be calling this a rocket ship instead”
Eventually it got too hot to drive any further, so we headed to Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction to stop for the night. The road to the park winded up a red mountain and through tunnels until we reached the top of a canyon. A quick hike around the rim showed us the town on the horizon and massive red boulders below us. After the bus cooled off for a few hours, we picked out a private spot in the campgrounds and got ready for lunch. I was grateful for the icy cold shower I took in the shade of a desert pine (I think it had been a week since my last one).
After dinner, we wandered around the park to find a good place to watch the sunset. Hues of orange and red danced on the rocks as she fell further and further in the sky. It was our last night in Colorado and I reflected on all the unexpected turns in the road we had so far. The times we were broken down on the side of the road. The times I wanted to turn around, but Conrad pushed me further on the trail. Even the times when I didn’t get to shower for a week and has an ever-present layer of dirt on my feet. Colorado had been good to us, but it was time to keep driving west.
The next morning we woke at sunrise and quickly said goodbye to the first leg of our journey before the sun threatened the long drive ahead of us. Back down the mountain we went towards i-70.
“Welcome to Utah!” we both screamed as the bus chugged across the border into a new state.
We veered left on a scenic byway towards Moab, UT for our next stop at Arches National Park. Every turn offered stunning new canyons and mesas that were glowing in the morning light. We squealed with delight as we entered the Wild Wild West. The road followed the Colorado River as it offered the only oasis in the desert. It was like we found ourselves on a new planet.
Leaving the Rockies
Or so we thought. We woke at what was now a familiar view on the side of State Rd 7.
“Time to head out of town?”
Wrong. We knew instantly that we should have gone back to the shop in Loveland rather than turning around days before. Good thing I have AAA. They towed us to a local school parking lot that was within the 7 mile limit and offered us a push to get her kick-started. Nothing. We were left at the bottom of the school parking lot until the tow shop reopened tomorrow. Guess this is a good time to wander around. We walked to a nearby gas station to use their outdoor plugs and find some ice for our ever-soggy cooler. Later, we cooked some all-too familiar pasta while we listened to the rodeo announcer a few blocks away.
The next morning, we woke with frustrations and worries about what to do next. A few hours on hold later, we managed to get a tow to take us back to the shop in Loveland. I smooshed in the middle seat next to our driver as the bus was raised onto the back of the tow bed. It was a sad day on our journey, but it meant we were one step closer to figuring out what was wrong with our home on wheels. On the bright side, we twisted through Roosevelt National Forest for the third time and listened to the stories of Scotty and his life in Estes Park, CO.
We pulled up to the shop and were welcomed by Pat and Matt, the nicest mechanics on the planet. Pat even let us take his VW to the grocery store for lunch while he worked on our bus. About 30 minutes later we were coasting back on i-70 heading further west. The temperature was dropping quickly and so was our oil pressure. It seemed like we were chasing the sun as we climbed higher and higher over the 14,000 ft peaks as dusk was looming overhead.
“Do you think we’re going to make it over the mountains?”
“I sure hope so”
We passed signs that claimed the speed limit was 70, although the tick on our speedometer would not move past 35. My palms were sweaty from the anxiety as the night grew darker and our cell reception wavered. I am still surprised that the bus was able to make it over the Rockies. Soon enough the mountains rounded and rolled into the flat plains of western Colorado. Okay time to sleep.
Two weeks later and we had finally made it to Boulder! We had some friends to visit and some mountains to explore. We also had a bus to fix but it was Fourth of July weekend so it seemed we had to stay put for a few days. That’s okay, we had plenty to do. We wandered around downtown Pearl St and into all the galleries we could lay our eyes on. Everything we saw was inspired by the mountains that started a few blocks down the road. We met a few very interesting people (probably due to the fact that the Grateful Dead was playing two shows that weekend) who were interested in the bus. Our friends recommended that we eat at the Boulder Tea House, which was hand painted in Tajikistan and gifted to the city. Amazing patterns covered the walls and ceilings in little specks of color. The food and tea was so yummy that we went back twice. Eventually we made it back to our friend’s home to enjoy a comfy and warm bed.
4th of July:
We got to celebrate our 4th climbing on some giant red rocks! Our hike began in downtown Boulder, following the stream all the way to the base of the mountains.
“Hey those look like some cool rocks, wanna climb to the top?”
So we trudged our way up to the top of these magnificent red fins. It was difficult to find a navigable route to the top, especially with a clunky backpack on.
“That’s okay. Keep climbing.”
Eventually I made it to the top, following behind in Conrad’s footsteps. We made a little nook in the rocks and enjoyed the views that surrounded us. In front, we saw all of Boulder and little specks of Denver in the distance. Behind us, we saw the beginning of the Rockies. Happy Independence Day, America. You’re pretty spectacular.
We met some more nice people playing in the rocks who were locals and come here to climb on the weekends. It must be nice to have this kind of adventure so readily available. We read some books and ate some nuts as we watched the light fade around us. It would have been a great place to stay for fireworks, but we worried about the bus because the only thing protecting her was a garbage bag in the window.
The next two days were relaxing as we met up with another friend and drove up to Flagstaff Mountain to watch the sun set. I watched the orange light dance on the mountain peaks before finally slipping behind them for the night. We got some much needed rest before heading out to the mechanic and Rocky Mountain. Our time in Boulder showed us many interesting and kind people, although eclectic may be a better word.
“That’s it”, I decided. “I’m moving to Boulder.”