Wanderlust Part 4: The Journey West

After leaving Boston, I drove west through Massachusetts and New York surprised by the amount of money I had to pay for tolls on the freeway, nearly $30 to get to Niagara Falls! I arrived there late and found a place to park and spend the night close enough to hear the roar of the falls. I walked around the falls area the following morning on the U.S. side amazed by the beauty and power of the water and also the ability to stand at the edge of the dropoff with only a short railing as a barrier. I drove across the bridge to the Canadian side to admire the falls from there as well. Parking is more regulated on that side I'm guessing since the falls face that direction ($20 vs. free on the U.S. side).

I drove that day through Canada, crossing the border in Detroit which took 2 hours. It was the longest and most invasive border crossing I have been to yet. I chose the bridge route but was told the tunnel was just as bad. They even made some people get out of their cars during the search and rummaged through my things, not bothering to put anything back in its place. The evening, I met up with a friend for dinner in Kalamazoo, MI and stayed with his family that night. After breakfast the following morning, I drove to my parent's house in Gibbon, MN. They were in the middle of harvesting so I helped out driving people and tractors to and from fields and did a little bit of stock chopping myself. The weather there had changed from hot and humid in September to cold and snowy in early November.

My longest day of driving was 14 hours from Gibbon, MN to Longmont, CO where I would stay with relatives that evening. After hundreds of miles of a flat landscape of fields of corn, soybeans, wheat, etc. I arrived near the base of the Rockies in the dark. I caught up with my aunt, uncle and cousins and saw some of the damage from the flooding in September. I lucked out on crossing the I-70 pass since there was very little snow and a clear road. Driving on toward canyon country, I camped near Canyonlands National Park that evening. 

I explored southern Utah for a week, hiking in Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, Corona Arch, Arches, Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, Buckskin Gulch, and Grand Staircase-Escalante. I also entered the lottery for the Wave twice but didn't win (70 people for 10 spots!). Mid-November was a great time to be in the desert since there were fewer tourists and the weather was warm during the day, though a little cold at night with temps in the 30's, but my 20 degree down sleeping bag kept me warm! This was the second time I have traveled there and the next time I plan on spending more time in the area around Kanab and Escalante.

After Zion, I decided to drive to Vegas because I could find a cheap hotel room to spend the night and shower. I was exhausted when I arrived but wanted to walk the strip and see the fountain show at the Bellagio before heading to bed. The following day, I continued to drive west through the desert through Death Valley and then to the eastern base of the Sierra's. I slept in my car near Bishop that night and then drove north to the eastern entrance of Yosemite. Luckily, not much snow had fallen yet and the road was clear. I had only visited the valley before so it was a treat to experience the high country and to drive through the elevation changes. I also passed through the area where the fire raged this summer, the trees eerily covered with fire suppressant.

I continued on to Sacramento where I stayed with my friend for a couple of days, packed up my things and then drove north on I-5 to Portland. The Siskyou pass was clear of snow although quite foggy which was really disorienting to truckers who couldn't decide which lane to be in. I made a mental note to explore more of southern Oregon and Northern California on a future adventure since the scenery is so breathtaking. During the summer though so I don't have to worry about snow. The rest of the drive was smooth sailing and I arrived in Portland that evening and settled into my new home where I would be work-trading for rent and temporarily living without a full kitchen during the remodel. More on that later.