Red Rocks & Broken Hearts

Moab to Monument Valley

Monument Valley was a three hour detour in the opposite direction of Bryce, our next official stop, but when someone in the family says, “I’ve wanted to go there since I was four years old,” you go.

Monument Valley is in Navajo Nation, bordering Utah and Arizona. The Navajo name is actually Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, which roughly translates to the valley of rocks. It is magnificent. Eruptions of massive rocks from the Earth dotted like tombstones in an old, long forgotten cemetery where only a few headstones remain standing. It’s beautiful in a haunting way.

Double Arches, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

We crossed into Arizona to go to Navajo Nation and back into Utah to sleep. The drive from Moab was sweaty. Not only because it was 100 degrees when we left Arches, and the RV never feels cold without the generator on, but because I had no cell signal and joined my client’s Zoom (the one I was supposed to be facilitating) 53 minutes late. Then the Zoom kept freezing on me making some dumb expression. It was a long, hot three hour ride.

We rumbled up to the gates and saw a massive sign, “NAVAJO NATION MONUMENT VALLEY CLOSED. RESIDENTS ONLY.”

Coronavirus strikes again. Matthew was crushed. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so sad. In March, we took a long planned family trip to Switzerland to visit the #1 son during his semester abroad. Matthew is a “thusie” (a roller coaster enthusiast) and plane tickets were cheap like $500/person cheap if we had a layover in Denmark. As everyone knows, (if everyone is my mother and Matthew) Copenhagen is home of the famed Tivoli Gardens and a roller coaster Math was desperate to ride. Sadly for all of us, the park opened two weeks after our trip. Like good Americans who traveled 4,047 miles, we snuck through the open gates to be chased by a worker. Gillian laughed as I explained, it was fine and we just needed to sneak a peak to see the Gardens. Deja vu all over again. We were somewhere we desperately wanted to be and couldn’t get there. The curse of 2020.

In a rare, almost maternal moment, Gillian was the one to console Matthew. She immediately connected, knew all the right words and just took care of him. Anyone who has a sibling or is raising them understands the significance.

The bright side? We finally made it to camp before dark, giving us time to hike in the red rocks. Also, like the old MTV show, I was able to “pimp my ride”. It’s when we also realized that (Eric points at Matthew. Matthew points at Eric.) “someone” left the water pressure regulator at Spanish Trails RV Resort in Moab. We made a point to stop at the first hardware store to replace it.

Pro-tip: a water pressure regulator is essential to keep your RV’s water system protected. If you hook-up without a pressure regulator, you could burst your pipes and cause significant damage.

Our drive to Monument Valley
We split up the family and I took this guy on our happy hour hike.
The views were spectacular.
Not quite professional RV’er yet… Monument Valley in distance.

While the boys hiked, I set up appetizers and sat outside writing, Gillian made tacos for dinner. The hikers got back until long after the sun had set keeping our record of late dinners intact. The mood was definitely off. Everyone was fussy. It was not our best night.

In the morning, the RV step was stuck. Eric was about to lose his mind until he realized that someone had accidentally flipped the switch on the retractable step. Relived that finally, we didn’t screw anything up with the RV, we started on our way to Bryce Canyon. Then there was the flood.

We thought the tap on the cooler had come lose. After several long moments of water pouring across the floor and most of our towels used to stem the flow, we realized that the shower had turned itself on while we were driving and water was streaming from the bathroom floor. Good news? No damage done and the RV was now really clean! Plus its so hot that any dampness dried almost immediately.

The drive to Bryce was breathtaking. We pulled over in Glen Canyon to see the massive dam that powers most of Southern Utah. Matthew informs me the power plant produces five billion kilowatt hours of hydroelectric power annually which is distributed by the Western Area Power Administration powering Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Nebraska.

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook (a lesson in hydropower.)
Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest

The nearly five hour drive was so beautiful we were distracted by our view. Tumbleweeds rolled across the desert. Horses galloped in fields. In Kanab, Utah a massive dust devil swirled across the main street. When the dramatic topography, cliffs polka dotted with evergreen trees evolved into rocks stretching into towers flaming red in the sunlight, we had to pull over.

The brilliant red spires look like a giant built dribble castles out of terracotta sand. Hoodoos, a signature of the Badlands, are tall, thin spires of rock. Red Canyon just outside of Bryce was our first taste of the outer worldly terrain that makes up Bryce and the the surrounding Dixie National Forest. The family had a heated debate (because that’s our favorite pastime) about whether the forest name should be changed during this moment of owning our country’s racist heritage and the BLM movement. Gillian summed it up with, as white people we don’t get to decide if the name is offensive. She is no Karen and I am saving for law school.

After reading Gillian’s blog criticizing our late dinners, we ordered food and drove up to the restaurant adjacent to the General Store. Traveling note: we haven’t seen any grocery stores — only “General Stores.” Either we are driving along a tourist route or we are in the wild west. The plan was to set up camp and eat under the stars. Unfortunately it was just dark enough that Eric wearing his headlamp pulled the black hose of the RV during hook up and there was some spillage. This of course was the boys fault for not being there with flashlights. (Note. He was in fact wearing a flashlight on his head at the time of the incident.) Time for bed, neighbors called to their children. Toph and Math ran out to help, coming back seconds later asking for masks — this time not for virus protection. Eric did a fantastic job hosing things down and by the time dinner was over it was fine for them to go outside for tonight’s special dessert: “Smoreos” (Gillian’s invention. Smores with an option of adding mint Oreo and chocolate. Also known as food we never have at home.) I sat at the kitchen table working feeling sorry for myself. Next time instead of “working remote,” I’ll try for “vacation.”

Just the facts, with Eric

Day 5 — Moab to Monument Valley

1. 4th night, 4th request for help (minor request this time for the door getting stuck shut)
2. New cheapest day record- less than $100 spent on gas (yes, it’s only a 4 hour drive)
3. We had a tough afternoon when we found that Monument Valley Trail Park is closed due to Covid-19.
4. Luckily our RV campsite location was in an amazing location, partially offsetting our earlier disappointment.
5. We had an great hike right behind our campsite to see the setting sun glowing on the buttes.
6. Fun Fact #1— the home where John Wayne filmed She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is in Monument Valley and available to tour.
7. Its very difficult to keep an RV cool while driving when its 101 degrees outside
8. Fun Fact # 2 — if you drive with your hand out an open window, you stay cooler.
9. There is nothing Open in the Navajo nation due to a very large outbreak of Covid-19
10. The night stars were beautiful in Breckenridge, but even more amazing in Monument Valley.

Strategic communications/author who loves forcing her family into doing “fun things” like taking an RV trip across the country.