Day 625 Road Closed

Our list of things we never got to see has grown: after driving all day from Vegas, through Nevada, across a corner of Arizona into Utah, then back down into Arizona we woke to cloudy skies, a mix of rain and snow (depending on the road segment) and a “Closed” sign at the Lower Antelope Canyon Navajo Parking Lot.  I hope I hadn’t neglected to read some essential tourist information somewhere that we had to book ahead and be there by 09:00.  We got there at 10:00 and everything was shut up. Even the State Road #89 Southward to the Grand Canyon was “Closed”.  So, we’re driving along a temporary #89 South, and hopefully will make it to the Grand Canyon at least, before back to Vegas tonight.

As we left the closed entrance to Antelope Canyon I joked to Dan that we were accruing a list of Places We’ve Never Actually Got to See.  He jinxed us by exclaiming, “How do you know it’s not over yet?”  When we got to the Grand Canyon, one of the most famous natural vistas in the world, after having driven since yesterday morning, we were greeted by snowfall, snow plows and a view of… snow.  It may as well have been the top of Whistler, looking out into clouds for the lack of any visibility.  Quickly we realised that to see the Grand Canyon would be another trip; we’d better just start the long drive back to Vegas.  Dan drove the half hour, or hour, time lost meaning after the 179th tree-covered-in-snow to the Visitors’ Centre.  I bought a coffee and a croissant.  Dan bought a bagel.  I got into the driver’s seat and began the 4-hour drive back to Vegas.

We’ve had 111 Classical Masterpieces playing off my iPhone most of the day.  Somehow I can listen to classical music and concentrate and relax. Pop music is distracting.  Silence is sleep-provoking.

I’ve never driven in snow before.  I couldn’t reverse out of the parking spot.  The tires wouldn’t grip the slushy ice on snow.  Was I getting us bogged tapping the accelerator?  Would I flood the tank with petrol?  Dan got out.  There wasn’t much snow behind the tyres; the problem must be a lack of friction.  I cursed Dan choosing to forward-park downhill facing another car when he could’ve gone a few bays over where there was either no car in front or have parked through, so we’d coast downhill on leaving.  We weren’t to know.  I got out of the car, ready to dig us out.  Without a shovel.  Or to find cardboard to chock under the tyres.  That was the only solution I’d seen before, short of tying a rope to a 4WD, neither of which we had.

Two bays to my left I saw a red car, doing the same thing I had been doing, except the woman driving was accelerating, rolling back down in the grooves her tyres had made, and accelerating, in a rocking motion.  Maybe that was the trick!  Soon she got over the bump and kept moving.  I approached, asking how she’d done it.  A man, presumably the father of the children in the back seat replied, “I pushed it!”  Ah! “I’ve never driven in snow before!” I explained.  “Are yoo from Australia?” he actually correctly identified my accent.  “Yes!” “Do you want a push?” he asked, well he said “poosh” because he had a Scottish accent.  “No, it’s OK.  He can push!” I pointed at Dan who was settling himself into the passenger seat.  Dan pushed us out, all by himself, plus then two other guys walking past lent a hand.

How to guarantee that the happily married couple are not talking to each other by halfway back to Vegas: drive in snow, then falling snow, then icy roads, then rain for hundreds of miles but try to keep to the 75 miles per hour speed limit at all times.  In the face of danger and new conditions Dan and I have opposite approaches.  It’s the same when we ski down a challenging hill.  I’ll slow right down, even stop, until I’ve assessed my situation and comfortable I’ve not only considered a solution but solutions to the potential complications that I’m thinking of.  If it’s a ski hill, I ski across the hill, all my weight on the downhill ski, maybe even turning up hill to stop. Dan just skis straight downhill, getting it over as fast as possible, leaving me alone and furious.   We had our first driving argument this morning when I asked Dan to slow down one too many times, Dan got annoyed at the perceived constant criticism and we quickly weren’t on talking terms. I hadn’t said, “You’re driving too fast.”  I’d asked, “Please slow down.”  Dan didn’t hear any difference.  In the afternoon it was my turn.  “You’re driving ON THE LINE AGAIN!” Dan yelled in frustration, as I hugged the solid white line on the right of the road as a car overtook me on the left.  There is a rumble strip on it’s outer margin so technically if I was actually on the line I would’ve heard it.  Dan was as interested in being technically correct as I was in hearing him tell me I was on the line.  Again.  “KEEP LEFT!” he yelled, as I  kept slightly left of midline, on a fork in the road towards Vegas.  It’s best if when one of us is driving the other is not looking out the windscreen.  It’s even better if the passenger is asleep.

We’ve passed one police car on the side of the road, stopping at a car without its lights on at a 45º angle in the ditch off the road.  I was horrified.  That could be us.  Dan was curious.  Eyes on the road! “You watch the road! I’ll look at the police car!” I ordered. In my head.  Apparently I never said this out loud, according to Dan.  I think he just wasn’t listening any more. Dan’s driving.  It’s my turn to nap.  He’s driving way too fast and too close to the lane on the left.  And not leaving enough breaking distance to the car in front, or the car 100 m ahead who’s break lights just came on.

(Events selectively edited for humour, we both begrudgingly acknowledged the other’s apparent criticisms were warranted cries for safety.)

Vegas, Nevada.
Vegas, Nevada.
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