Day 0 - Heading out from Boston
Destination: Warren, NJ
Driving distance: 329 miles
States we drove through: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey
Abhishek came by around noon to have lunch. We were heading out from the the office itself. Prathibha, Swetha and Kruthika joined us for lunch that day. All too soon it was time to say goodbye – to MathWorks, to all my friends there, to Natick, and the east coast! And it was time for the next big adventure – our cross country road trip, and the new life waiting for us in California!
Here we are, in the MathWorks parking garage, ready to embark on a 4000 mile journey in our little Corolla! 4000 miles is greater than the sum of the distances from Kashmir to Kanyakumari + Ahmedabad to Arunachal Pradesh! Would the Corolla be able to make it?
After meeting them we continued westward and halted at Somerset Hills Hotel in Warren, NJ for the night.
Day 1 - Drive from New Jersey to UIUC
Destination: Champaign, IL
Distance: 830 miles
States we drove through: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois
Our car developed a small rattling noise the previous day, which became a little louder the next day. We were concerned – was the car already finding it too hard??
We stopped at a Toyota showroom in Pennsylvania to get the car checked out. We were really hoping that there was nothing serious with the car. I think the road trip gods heard our prayers! The heat vent had slightly bent, and was hitting the exhaust pipe. We breathed a sigh of relief, and set off half an hour later!
The drive through Pennsylvania was really pretty, lots of hills and fall colors along the way.
After dinner, it was close to 10, we still had 3.5 hours more to drive to Champaign. We got there around 1 in the morning, and were super tired. I had dozed a bit in the car, but Abhishek had had no respite besides the 3-4 hours I drove, so was a really tiring day for him.
Day 2 - Relax at UIUC
Distance: 0 miles
We had a pretty relaxed day on Day 2. We listened to Modi’s inspiring speech at Madison Garden in the morning, and then discussed it with our families in India for a duration longer than his speech! It was a lovely day outside so we then headed out for lunch and walked around the campus. In the evening we repacked our bags so that we both would only need to use a bag each for the trip.
We also bought some snacks, and got our food basket ready. The excitement of the trip, and the places we were going to see was setting in!
Day 3 - UIUC to Kansas
Destination: Colby, KS
Distance: 760 miles
States we drove through: Missouri, Kansas
Make sure to notice our skin color now. At the end of the trip, we got at least a couple of shades darker (maybe unrecognizably so? ;) )
Abhishek’s new digs is in the background. There’s a nice park in the front of the apartment.
The terrain was quite different from our drive the previous days, which was quite hilly. The terrain around Illinois was quite flat, with corn fields stretching out to the horizon!
We made steady progress throughout the day, having breakfast and lunch in the car itself. Around lunch time we entered Missouri. The terrain started changing again here. The corn fields began disappearing and were being replaced by flat grasslands.
This was quite a sight to see! Most of the time we were on a long straight road stretching up to the horizon and on both sides were flat grasslands as far as the eye could see. This was literally a lonely planet spot – for quite a bit of the way we couldn’t see another car, house or animal in sight! I’ve never seen a sight like this before in my life, especially coming from India, where you can hardly go a few minutes without seeing another human being. It was a nice quiet and calm experience.
As we entered Kansas, the land started getting more barren. Here we saw a few oil rigs now and then, bearing witness to the oil boom in Kansas that didn’t materialize. We also saw massive windmill farms, but when we drove by most of the windmills were barely moving at all ;)
Day 4 - Garden of Gods
Destination: Estes Park, CO
Distance: 360 miles
States we drove through: CO
Here are some pictures of the Garden of the Gods:
So we decided to ditch Royal Gorge Bridge and drive to Rocky Mountain directly. There was no time to lose!
Some pictures of our drive from Garden of Gods to Rocky Mountains (a preview to the gorgeousness to follow!)
We got to the Estes park visitor center by 4-4.30pm after stopping for lunch on the way. When we got there, they told us to head to the park visitor center for the most updated information. The park visitor center was going to close by 5, so without stopping for a breath we rushed there. And there, they confirmed the bad news – parts of Trail Ridge Road, one of the prime attractions of the national park was going to be closed because of the unexpected snowfall. This road goes up to an elevation of almost 12,000 ft.
So we chinned up and decided to make the best of it. Another of park’s main attractions was Bear Lake, so we decided to head there and try our luck.
By this time it was almost 6 and had gotten pretty cold. My white shorts which looked great in the Garden of the Gods weren’t cut out for the mountains, so this is me in the evening with jeans, a cap and all the layers of hoodies I could find (I believe I’m wearing at least 2) ;)
The drive to Bear Lake took around half an hour. Mid way it started raining with hail! We still tried to get out of the car at the lake, and even though it was only a few steps from the parking lot to the lake, we just couldn't do it. It was too cold and the hail was coming down to fast. There was just one more car in the whole lot (another mad hatter like us? ;)
So we gave up and turned back to head to our hotel in Estes Park. Just near the park entrance we saw a gigantic field where elk had come to eat (the hail had stopped by now).
We were told of a famous Nepalese restaurant in Estes Park, so we went looking for it for dinner. After hunting for half an hour or so, we finally found it. It was a small hole in the wall. So this restaurant was owned by a Nepalese guy, and all around the restaurant he had pictures of Mt. Everest – facts about it, how to hike it etc., and not one picture of the Rockies, which was pretty funny :)
Day 5 - Rocky Mountain National Park
Destination: Winter Park, CO
Distance Driven: 80 miles
We rushed through breakfast and hotel checkout, and got on our way.
We were the first ones to arrive at Bear Lake, and it was such a gorgeous sight. It seemed like a slice of heaven!
Bear Lake is a small lake nestled between the mountains. When we got there, the water was completely clear and still, not a leaf was moving, and not a soul could be heard. The picture below looks so pretty, but being there was something else. I remember telling Abhishek that in the next 2 days if this is all I get to see in the Rockies, the trip is already worth it!
With our hearts full with our wonderful experience at Bear Lake we head out to see the rest of the park, all the while thanking the weather gods for a wonderful day. Rocky mountain national park is such a pretty park – at every turn we wanted to get down and take a picture. I think the park had an especially strong effect on Abhishek, he just kept saying, Oh Wow Paddie! Look at this sight! Are you looking or not? It is soo pretty. At the end of the day Abhishek even declared, this is where I would like to retire!
Winter Park was at a much higher altitude that Estes Park (which is in a valley), so we were steadily climbing. Soon our luck ran out and it started snowing. We got out of the car for one hurried picture.
By the time we got to the hotel, we were both quite tired and hungry. There didn't seem to be a restaurant close by, and we were quite apprehensive about getting back into the car for driving, so we just made a sandwich each and hit the sack.
Day 6 - Independence Pass, Maroon Bells Lake
Destination: Grand Junction, CO
Distance driven: 270 miles
After someone hunted around in the back and found some snow scrapers, we scraped off the snow and head off. It wasn’t even snowing in Boston yet! I suppose it served me right for making all those jokes about how I’m escaping the winter back in Boston.
We were continuing at almost the same elevation and driving to Independence pass. The car was straining a bit, and didn’t seem to have much power. We learnt that for every 1000 ft of elevation rise, there is a loss of 3-4% of horsepower. With the little Corolla having 180hp and driving at 10,000 ft, she only had 100hp to drive through snow and carry the two of us and a trunk full of luggage.
The drive was quite pretty and we drove by many towns nestled among the hills. Abhishek has decided that we will be retiring in one of these towns :) He is going to ski in the winter, and go hiking in the summer. He also advised me to work on staying fit so that I will be able to keep up with him in our old age.
From Independence pass, we drove to Maroon Bells Lake in Aspen, CO. This is one of the most photographed spots in the US.
For dinner Abhishek asked me to find a place, and by some mistake (on my part) we landed up driving 15 miles to eat some very average Chinese food. After a healthy bit of squabbling it was time to hit the sack.
Day 7 - Arches National Park
Destination: Blanding, UT
Driving distance: 160 miles
Wind and water are slowly eating away into these blocks, breaking away pieces of rock and eroding the surface of these formations. Over time these impressive formations will just be a mountain of dirt! So like the glaciers, enjoy these while the last!
We arrived at Arches National Park around lunch time, and boy was it bright and sunny, and hot!
The park calls any rock with more than a meter long gap as an arch. There is no requirement on the width of the gap. With this metric there are over 2000 arches at the park!
Delicate arch was so pretty, it is right at the edge of the mountain, and has the La Sal Mountains as the backdrop. It is hard to believe it is not man made, it was so very perfect!
The pictures below are of a set of arches called the windows arches:
Day 8 - Monument Valley
Destination: Kanab, UT
Driving distance: 290 miles
The gorgeous monument valley - a sight for sore eyes!
There were quite a few tourists, including some tour buses. We shopped around for some nice souvenirs, and just as we were entering the only restaurant in a 100 mile radius, they closed for the day! We were back to a lunch of bread and a spread, and continued on towards the Horseshoe bend, a horse shoe shaped meander of the Colorado river in Page, AZ.
On the way we found a nice little Mexican restaurant and had a late lunch. As we continued our drive, we saw no towns or gas stations on the way, and were anxiously checking the gas level! We were relived to find a gas station at Page when we were almost at 10% gas!
We reached the Horse shoe bend around 4 in the afternoon. It was packed with tourists. Here’s our only picture:
We walked a bit around the Glen Canyon dam, which is a few miles from the Horseshoe bend, before driving onto our destination for the night – Kanab, UT.
Day 9 - Bryce Canyon National Park
Destination: Rockville, UT
Driving distance: 160 miles
After lunch it was time to move on to our next adventure – onwards we went to Bryce’s more famous neighbor – Zion!
The drive from Bryce to Zion was about 4 hours. We were to stay in Zion for 2 nights. We arrived around 8 in the evening. We parked our bags, had a great Thai dinner and retired for the night.
Day 10 - Zion National Park
Destination: Rockville, UT
Driving distance: 0 miles
At the end, the view at the top made it all so very worthwhile!!
Day 11 - Zion National Park
Destination: Barstow, CA
Driving distance: 300 miles
Day 12 - Mountain View
Destination: Mountain View, CA
Driving distance: 380 miles
We had so much fun doing hikes, talking about random things during the drive, exploring new cuisines and new places. One of the best vacations of my life!