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Posts Tagged ‘Highway 666’

 “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” — Matsuo Basho

I passed by Mesa Verde National Park today, but last year when I came this same way I stopped for a visit and took this photo of the Balcony House. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie*

I awoke this morning to an alarm clock of geese honking as they flew overhead. The sound, as always, soothed my soul. Wild things flying free, sharing the burden of making headway against the wind as they flew to whether they were going.

It was time for me to get up and get going, too.

While yesterday’s awesome drive over Wolf Creek Pass through the San Juan Mountains was a new experience for me, today’s drive would be through quite familiar territory.

Over the years, I’ve made numerous trips between my home in Northern Utah and family members in Texas. While I’ve always tried to find new roads to travel to get between the two states, more often than not on the return trip, I headed north at Santa Fe to Pagosa Springs and then went west on Highway 160 to Cortez and then north again through Moab to Ogden. It was the shortest way back home. .

On one of those trips, back in the late 1970s, I took the longer, steeper way home, heading north at Durango to Silverton and on to Grand Junction, Colorado. It was one of the first solo cross-country trips I made. And I can still recall the excitement of traveling through such fantastic country.

In my memory I can still see Twilight Peak from Highway 550, a route I didn't take this day. -- Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Up above Silverton, I came around a high, sharp curve and there, floating almost in front of me, was a hang glider. I pulled my car over to the side, got out and waved. To this day I still wonder where he came from and where he was going to land.

This day, however, I continued west through Durango, past the shadow of Mesa Verde, which I visited last year, and on to Cortez, where I stopped to resupply my refrigerator with fresh vegetables from a local market.

At the far side of Cortez, I turned north on Highway 491, which used to be Highway 666 until the name was changed because of the number’s “devilish” association. I’ve driven it under both names without any mishaps.

I ended the day’s drive in Utah, at a small RV park in the town of Monticello, where I slept soundly with the La Salle Mountains looking down on me and my dog, Maggie, curled up beside me..

*Day 9 of the journey, April 27, 2011

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“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson

Day 20 

My drive today took me onto the Devil’s Highway, a route whose New Mexico portion includes steep, twisting sections. The high number of fatalities along the southern portion — along with the road’s original, satanic-mark-of-the-beast 666 numbered designation — earned it the nickname.

In 2003, transportation officials came up with the bright idea of renaming it Highway 491, their thinking being to end its cursed reputation. I guess they never read Shakespeare’s “… that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The 53-mile section I drove – from Cortez, Colorado, to Monticello, Utah – was not devilish at all, just hilly and lonely, giving one ample opportunity to drink in the high desert landscape from various vantages. I’ve driven it many times and always have found it a relaxing stretch of road.

At Monticello I turned north onto Highway 191, which I would follow this day into Moab. Western kingbirds and kestrels watched me go past as the drive took me through a landscape of red rock gardens set off by the snow-covered peaks of the La Salle Mountains in the background.

That night, from my RV window, I watched those same snow-clad mountain fade into pink as the sun set opposite them behind yet more red rocks.

It was yet another perfect day.

Wilson's Arch as seen from Highway 191 20 miles south of Moab -- Photo by Pat Bean

 

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