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VOL. 131 | NO. 230 | Thursday, November 17, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Finding Epic In Trip to The American West

LANCE WIEDOWER, Special to The Daily News

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Call it my Griswold moment.

Driving 3,500 miles over two weeks is something Clark W. Griswold surely would support, based on his epic trip from Chicago to Walley World in the classic “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movie.

We didn’t have our car vandalized in East St. Louis, and I didn’t drive it off a closed road in Monument Valley. Much like their long journey to an amusement park, ours also ended at one, but instead of it being closed ours was a crowded Disneyland.

We didn’t make the drive just to cross the Continental Divide, although driving west from Denver across the Rockies is the first time I’ve been so inspired with the beauty along a U.S. interstate highway.

In all the places I’ve traveled, there hasn’t been much time in the western U.S. In fact, this was my first time in Colorado and Utah, which along with New Mexico and Arizona now goes down as what I consider the most beautiful region I’ve visited.

So how and why did it all happen? Earlier this year I decided to take an epic road trip. The initial plan was to drive Route 66 from St. Louis to California, but it didn’t take a long look at a map to realize a detour north of Route 66 would provide epic scenery in Colorado and Utah.

The Grand Canyon would’ve been part of the Route 66 journey; Flagstaff and the Mother Road sit just an hour south of the South Rim. But then we would’ve missed the real grandeur of this trip that exists in Utah.

Yes, the Grand Canyon lives up to the hype, but gazing out over the expansiveness at Canyonlands National Park and lying beneath the massive South Window Arch at Arches National Park exceeds any expectations.

And hiking into The Narrows at Zion National Park topped it all. As I gazed up at the majestic canyon walls, I was grateful the U.S. National Parks exist.

This trip was epic, and I hope the past several columns detailing our journey from Memphis to the Pacific Ocean have provided inspiration to visit some of these places.

It’s a trip I’d recommend, but with the caveat that it really will take about two weeks. Our longest day of driving was the first when we drove 7.5 hours to Oklahoma City. The other days had no more than a few hours here and there, and that made it manageable.

Also consider shortening the drive and fly in and out of Denver to then venture north toward Yellowstone and Grand Tetons along with time in Utah and Colorado.

Lastly, remember we rented a car for the drive west and flew home from Los Angeles. I can’t imagine two weeks spent getting out west followed by two or three days of nonstop driving to get back home. But I guess that would be a way to throw in Route 66 on the return drive.

Maybe next time.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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