It’s now Monday morning. After spending a wonderful day in Denver with my friends, it was time to move on. The mileage on the car now read 123628 and I set out looking for I-70 West. Now, I knew I’d be driving through the Rockies, but I never imagined this. I’ve driven through the Smoky Mountains on numerous occasions and I’ve loved it every single time, but this drive was on a completely different level, literally. Up and down and side to side, the interstate winds through this beautiful mountain range and provides such unbelievable scenic views from every angle. It was another crisp, clear morning in Colorado, which only made the drive that much better. I had been on the road for over an hour and each turn seemed to provide a better view than the previous one, a few of which I put at the top of this post. But they kept coming and kept coming. With every elevation drop came a new set of picturesque views and with every rise came another. Hell, you even drive underneath a mountain for a while through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Through Vail, through Eagle, through temperature changes, there was something different to see.
A little after 3:30, I entered state number five on my journey, Utah…Life Elevated. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here. I’d always heard nice things about Salt Lake City, but that was much further north from where I was. What Utah gave me, however, was possibly the best stretch of road I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. For one, the speed limit had jumped to 80 in many places, so that was nice. But the feel of this open road with more scenic views than I ever expected was heavenly.
Another great thing about Utah is that those pictures you see is how that part of that state really is. It’s not those views, then a city, then those views again. It’s all scenic highway. At one point, there’s a stretch of about 60 miles where there are no services available. Then, you get to Green River, Utah, and they’re sure to let you know that if you need gas, then get it here, because there is another 106 miles where there are no services available to you. The only signs you see is to let you know there’s a spot you can pull over to take some amazing pictures, which I took full advantage of.
So, I’ve been in Utah for a couple of hours and I see yet another place to pull off and it looks absolutely beautiful, so I do. Only this time, the rest area, if you want to call it that, is really close to the mountain range. There’s a small parking lot and beyond that, there are actually a few smaller looking mountains that look climbable, even to somebody like me. So I get it into my head that this is going to happen. I’m in jeans and a t-shirt, but I’m going up there. Now, this was not a large mountain by any stretch of the imagination, but when is this opportunity really going to present itself again? So I start to climb, immediately after having a cigarette of course, but I did make it up eventually. Just one more thing I can say I did on my travels, I guess.
I will admit that coming back down, I nearly took quite a spill. I actually had to run the last portion of it due to the momentum that I had built up after tripping. I can only imagine how long I could have been there had I actually fallen, as I had only seen a handful of cars since I entered the state. But, I did make it down and continued on my way. The next car I saw put a smile on my face. The license plate was from California and looked like your average family just heading home. But the little girl in the back was smiling and pointing at my car and I’m pretty sure that my Illinois plates had just given her a point in the classic license plate game. I’m not sure why that made me so happy, but it did. Soon after that, the sun would finally set on my scenic views. There was no rest area, but I pulled to the shoulder and just sat and watched as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. The slight glimmer bouncing off of the top of the mountains created an orange sky that I don’t think I’d ever seen before and it was breathtaking. Who knew that Utah was capable of such beauty?
After a few more hours, I made it to I-15 South and soon entered Arizona for a little while before finally hitting my destination for the night: Las Vegas. Now, most people I know that have been to Vegas have flown in, but if you ever get the chance to drive in, I highly recommend it. There’s a point where you come in and all of a sudden, you know you’re close because the light that comes from that city is truly astonishing. Look left, look right, they’re just everywhere. But once you get into the heart of Vegas, it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. I pulled onto the Strip at about 10:30 Pacific time on a Monday night and the streets are just jammed with people. I checked into my $215 room, which I booked for $35, at Harrah’s, took a quick shower and hit the town. And again, it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. I took a little stroll down the Strip (Britney Spears was nowhere to be found), and just headed back to my hotel. I sat in the casino for a little while just playing some cheap slots, because that’s what my dad would have done. The nice thing about Vegas is that no matter what you’re playing, even if it’s penny slots, is that as long as you’re playing something, you don’t have to pay for drinks, so that was nice. I hit the roulette wheel after a bit, pretty much broke even, and called it a night around 4:30. Sorry, I don’t have the crazy Vegas stories to tell, but that’s how it went. Outside of the occasional prostitute telling me how lonely I looked and that I could use some company, my night in Vegas was pretty uneventful. I think people watching is the best thing to do there. It’s 3 a.m. at the roulette wheel and you’ve got the drunken couple arguing, while only five feet away, the 80 year old grandmother is still trying to hit the progressive jackpot at the slot machines. Meanwhile, the all-girl group is still screaming at the top of their lungs, while the all-guy group is still trying to figure out how they’re going to get those girls back to their room without drugging them. And then there’s me.
It’s funny what Vegas does to people. For me, it just seemed like another night. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I went, but to be honest, what I took out of that day had nothing to do with finally making it to Sin City. Believe me, I’ve sinned enough for multiple lifetimes and I didn’t need Vegas to come to that realization. The time I spent on the road that day was priceless. It really gave me a chance to think about so many different things that have gone on in my life, and the drive itself was exhilarating. Honestly, the drive from Denver to Las Vegas could really be made into one big metaphor for life. You go up, you go down, you go left, you go right and everything in between. I’ve been on top of a mountain and nearly killed myself on the way down. But then there’s beauty again. And then there’s darkness again. And then all of a sudden, in the middle of nowhere, light. As far as the eye can see.