Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Birthplace of Storms

Often our day's adventurers just happen. Like today.

On a lark, we head out of Gallup, NM, on Route 491 because, well,
because. It heads north, into Colorado. Or Utah. Or Arizona. We have
all four states at our doorstep. So, what should we do?

I google for places and hit upon a perfect solution: The Four
Corner's Monument, where you can touch, with one hand, Utah, Colorado,
New Mexico and Arizona. Cool. Let's go.

As we drive, we leave cities and suburbia behind. Far behind. For
hours we plunge deep into the high dessert landscape of the Navajo 
Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. Fences rope off the road
from the Indian world. Their low-slung houses and roundhouses (called
hogans) infrequent the landscaoe.

At Shiprock, NM, where we pick up Route 64, there's a dollup of city
life (fast food restaurants, a daily flea market, other businesses and
lots of roaming dogs). And an ominous sky that begs us to turn back.
Fluffy clouds blot out the blues; whites and greys slide into blacks.
We ignore the warning.

We turn on 64, and notice few others travel with us. And we're driving
toward an expansive black cloud consuming the mountaintops ahead.

"Do we drive up into those mountains?" Allen sounds concerned.

I'm clueless, but say, "Of course not."

Splat. Splat.

Yes. Those are ice-laden huge raindrops coming down on our windshield. 
We turn on Route 160, and we're heading uphill. Into those mountains.

Splat. Splish. Shhh. Mixed with snow. But its 40 degrees. We're fine.

When we arrive at the monument, we find it's maintained and managed by
the Navajo Nation. And we discover only die-hard tourists venture this
far into nowhere in April. Because it's cold.

And it's on the Colorado Plateau. It's where snow and rain storms
stabilize before heading east. We didn't know that.

And that big black cloud? That's a storm stabilizing right now. So
we take the obligatory picture of us in four states (that's our shoes
in the picture) and then we're outta here.

Route 160 (remember that mountain?) is our two-lane roadway out (see
the top picture). Now and then cars pass by, but not often. We're
surrounded by lava-black mountains salted with snow. Swimming-pool
sized boulders balance on themselves at roadside.

The storm percolates, spitting sleet and rain down on us. And then the
sleep turns to snow, the sky darkens to black and we're driving
through a snowstorm the areas to our east will get tomorrow. The
temperature's dropped into the 30s and the snow is sticking.


Wait. Up ahead. We see the brilliant southwestern sun battling with
the storm's raging blackness. Who'll win?

We endure lightening, snow, hail, spittles of rain.

Then, yeah! The sun's victorious!

Well, we actually drive out of the darkness into the sun. We turn and
see the storm still brews behind us, but it's in our dust.

The day finally ends, and we climb into bed with our map, our GPS and
our wits. We've driven east, so as we plan our journey to a warm East
Coast beach, that southwestern storm catches up with us again. And
rocks our motor home with snow, sleet and hail. We turn out the lights.

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