What would prove to be the strangest, most body-shocking day of the road trip started just like any other day traveling with my sister: with coffee. We pulled up in front of the Park City Starbucks at around 7:45. The temperature was 36 degrees.
Our driving time was only 10 hours that day, and we would be gaining an hour as we moved back into the Pacific time zone, so we had given ourselves an extra hour of sleep than our previous travel days.
For the first two hours of the drive, the skies were grey and the car windows were cold. The thermometer in the car stayed around the mid thirties. The road curved around dewy green fields and blue glassy lakes, tall snowy mountains and flat snowy plains.
The highway was more or less empty. Cars passed us occasionally and big rigs faded into our rearview every once in a while. I put the car on the cruise control and got comfortable in my seat, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to whatever song came on the radio.
After a while it started to rain, making the pavement misty. When I would fall behind a car, their tires would spray a healthy dose of moisture on to my window, causing me to constantly flick my windshield wipers off and on, low to high. As we kept moving, the temperature gage held tighter to the lower thirties, and soon the raindrops sounded heavier.
“It’s snowing!” I said to my sister, who thankfully, being from Southern California as well, was just as amazed even though we were in Utah at the end of winter, making this not in the least bit remarkable.
Fog set in, making the view up ahead very scant. I slowed my speed and kept both hands on the wheel and watched as brake lights began to frequent the highway. Soon it snowed a little harder, nothing too serious, just enough to make an inexperienced driver/regularly paranoid human like me think of that old Carrie Underwood song, “Jesus Take the Wheel.”
It’s not that I was actually in need of some omnipotent assistance, it’s just that in the song she mentions black ice and I had no idea when that actually becomes a factor, and I wanted to make sure that I’d studied Fast & the Furious hard enough to know what to do should evasive driving become necessary in the next hour or so.
Thankfully, it didn’t.
As the road continued to wind, the snow passed and the skies cleared. When we made our way into Arizona, the mountains around us turned to red rocks and the snow became dirt. My sister and I quickly shed our jackets, though not our awed expressions, as the highway had seemed to take us from one beautiful site to another.
After another few hours, the red faded into brown, as did the blue sky. Vegas had appeared in the distance, marking us officially in the Nevada desert, and the temperature skyrocketed into the 70s. I fanned my face. Had I forgotten what it was like to be in a temperature that didn’t make me crave hot chocolate? How was this day in Vegas the same day that was happening in Utah?
As we rolled down the I-15 north, leaving Vegas in our rearview for the second time in a week, we watched the crowds start to flood in on the I-15 South. It was a Friday after all, primetime for Vegas arrivals. I wished them all a good vacation, well aware that mine was coming to an end, and then I turned to my sister and asked if she was up for one more adventure.
“Of course,” she said.
Now, if you’ve been following along, or if you’ve been in the Vegas area before, you might know what adventure I was referring to. But if you don’t, allow me to let this picture do all the talking for me.
That’s right, ladies and gentleman, The World’s Largest Thermometer! Found just about an hour outside of Vegas in the (not all that) beautiful town of Baker.
For anyone interested in adding this to their list of nerdy things to get your picture in front of, we parked in a Del Taco parking lot to get this museum worthy shot. I’m pretty sure a truck driver parked on the side of the road completely judged me, but as we were driving away he walked over to the same spot I was standing, so I think it’s safe to say his judgment quickly transformed into #SelfieInspiration
The next few hours of the trip were mostly uneventful, and perhaps the longest of the entire week, because we knew we were so close to home. As can be expected at a time like this, some minor delirium set in. I think at one point I made a joke about the California Aqueduct that had us laughing for longer than it should have, and my sister got into a one-sided fight with a suburban who’s driving was not up to par.
When we finally did arrive home, my sister and I took a deep breath and walked inside. It’s always a funny feeling to have your home feel not as homey once you’ve been away from it for a while. It’s like seeing an old friend and not knowing what to say at first. But after thoroughly showering the road off of us, we quickly fell into step with the rest. We unpacked, laughing at every souvenir we pulled out of our bags, reminiscing where we got them and what made them special, we made dinner, allowing our wallets the chance to breathe for the first time in a week, and we sat on the couch, once again filled with that grateful feeling.
In my bed that night, as I lay my head on my own pillow, I couldn’t even begin to try to wipe the smile off my face. The past week had been incredible, and to have made it home without losing anything, without crashing or getting murdered by a guy at a sketchy gas station, or without getting lost even once, I mean, what else could you want in a road trip? So as I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but ask myself the question we all ask ourselves after arriving home from a grand adventure: where are we going next?