At The Pace Of A Wagon: P1 / by chris miele

The universe helped me acquire a second, slightly less banged-up Adventure Wagon back in January, it was time to stretch her legs.  Why not take her across the country??  Kelso Dunes. Mojave Desert, CA

The Adventure Wagon.  Nearly 20 years old and with close to $2K in new parts, all 4 cylinders were ready to limp through the next 3000 miles from LA to Detroit.  It had been nearly 7 years since my first cross country journey in search of manifest destiny, now it was time to do a little return route and test my newfound knowledge and skills.  Looking to pass through as many new locations as possible, I headed first for the Mojave Desert.  Windows down, gear packed full, and pitbull in tow, it was time to cruise. 

Prime office space in mountain lion laded BLM land.  Red Rock Canyon, NV.

While I hadn't covered much distance, Vegas signified the 2nd leg of the drive and the real jump-off point.  Needing some adventure, my girlfriend flew to Vegas to meet me and join in on the majority of the cruise.  Next stops: Zion, Bryce, Escalante, and the Canyonlands.  It was here in Southern Utah that I had set aside the biggest chunk of time to wander and explore.  California was officially in the rearview (tear.)

Just a girl and her dog frolicking through the Escalante River wash.  Petrified Forest State Park, Escalante, UT.

Creepy towns, gnarly switchbacks, and painted deserts, the Escalante area of Southern Utah did not disappoint.  Perhaps the only unfortunate discovery was learning that a high clearance 4x4 was needed to access much of what I'd hope to explore.  Thankfully there were plenty of areas to dig around and enjoy.  Getting to run through river washes with our dog and finding petrified wood reminded us that we were right where we were supposed to be. 

Much needed mid-cruise meditation.  Canyonlands National Park, UT.

Much like other scenic highways, HWY 12 was absolutely gorgeous and absolutely death defying in sections.  After driving the "Hogsback" section I was a certified white knuckle wheelman.  With the heaviest driving thus far behind us, it was time to continue our snake route through Utah and hit the famed Canyonlands.  Upon arrival we were greeted with (mini) Grand Canyon like views and wild cattle roaming.  Watching cattle migrate over red sandstone and under a crisp blue sky was perhaps the most "Western" scene I have ever witnessed.  Pretty sure John Wayne was watching from the nearby ridge.