Day 12 – Lake Powell and Driving

We woke up to an inch of snow covering the ground and the valley draped in fog.  “The View” had no view this morning.  Fortunately it heated up to a balmy 3 degrees and the roads cleared pretty quickly.

We’re discovering American locations have a lot of movie references, and Americans are only too happy to share them with you.  Throughout the hotel, the walls were covered with photographs of the region.  One which caught my eye was looking down a dead straight road with Monument Valley on the horizon in the distance.

Wanting to try and capture the same shot, we asked one of the locals where the photo was taken from.

“That’ll be about 12 miles north up the 163.  Its the spot where Forest Gump finally stopped running in the movie …”

So after driving 12 miles north and capturing the obligatory shot of each of Jane and I trying to replicate Forest’s shuffle up the highway, we headed north to Lake Powell.

On of the inspirations for locations to visit in this trip was Stephen Fry’s travel documentary, where he drove across America in a London Black Taxi, visiting all 52 states.  In the show, he visited Lake Powell, a man made lake as a result of the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which flooded the Glen Canyon.  The resultant Lake Powell stretches 180 miles along the Arizona – Utah border.

As part of Stephen’s visit, he went out on the lake in a house boat, and lolled about in the boat’s roof top spa, sipping on a glass of champagne.  Knowing the temperature was going to be around 5 degrees, we didn’t plan to replicate his visit, but we were hopeful of getting on the lake in some shape or form.

Arriving at one of the main marinas on the lake, there were hundreds of houseboats but very little activity.  I harboured some ambitions of taking a houseboat out for the night, until we realised the cheapest available was $1,000 per night + fuel and provisions.  Determined to get out on the lake, we asked if there were any other options.

The marina gladly hired us a small ski-boat for a couple of hours, with very little checking of my ability to handle a boat.  I told them I have a boat licence in Australia, and that was good enough for them.

As it turned out, we were the only boat we came across on the lake, aside from a loan kayaker, who must have been freezing.  As its genesis suggests, Lake Powell is a long thin series of water filled canyons, many stretching off like tenticles from the main body of the lake.

We went down “Navajo Canyon”, which took us a few miles down a canyon, which was a couple of hundred metres wide with sheer, red rock faces up to 500 feet high.  The water was absolutely calm and glass like.  At one stage, we turned the engine off and enjoyed absolute silence, drifting down the canyon.

As the hire company said, in summer the lake is unbelievably crowded with house boats and other craft.  Being able to be there with no one else around was a real treat, albeit slightly unusual for us to be boating in heavy overcoats, gloves and scarves …

Getting off the lake in the late afternoon, the aim was to head south towards New Mexico and chew up some miles.  We had planned to drive until about 7:30 / 8:00pm, then find whatever roadside accommodation we could and grab a bite to eat a whatever local diner was open.

As we quickly discovered, the route we had chosen took us through a series of one horse towns with no accommodation, and where we did come across a bigger town, their accommodation was booked out.

Getting later into the night, with no sign of a diner in sight, we did what I was hoping to avoid on this trip, and pulled into a McDonalds for some sustenance (if that isn’t an oxymoron).  Knowing that most of the meals we would come across in America would be supersized, I wanted to treat McDonalds as contraband and avoid wherever possible, but late at night on a lonely B road, needs must.

We managed to pick the busiest McDonalds in small town Arizona, with one till open but filled with locals, all of whom seemed to be Indians.  Our fast pit stop turned into a 20 minute wait, so we were able to peruse the latest Golden Arches menu, USA style.

You might be interested to know that they currently offer Double Quarter Pounders (wouldn’t that be Half Pounders?), Angus Burgers that are a Third Pounder (when a Quarter Pounder just won’t do), and if you want to order a cheeseburger as a McValue meals, it comes with two cheeseburgers (there ain’t enough calories in one itty, bitty cheesburger, boy … ).  Oh, and the medium soft drink is the size of our large … the large is roughly the size of a beer keg …

Fed and watered, we continued driving into the night and finally found a bed about 11pm at a Ramada Inn outside the town of Gallup, on the Arizona – New Mexico border, so we had driven from the Northwest border of Arizona to the Southeast border in one stint.

Not much I can say about Gallup, except that when we woke up the next morning, Jane said “it looked better at night …”

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