HEY GRACE, LET'S FLY TO COLORADO, BUY A CAR AND DRIVE IT HOME

Way, way back in August of last year when our dear Grace turned ten (ten?!?!?) my gift to her was a daddy daughter road trip just for us. Well, as it usually does, life got all in the way and it took all the way until February for me to figure out how and where to go. Granted, I might have been killing two birds with one stone *just* a bit but when the opportunity to fly to Colorado to buy a new to me Toyota 4runner came up, I knew I also had the perfect road trip opportunity for us. See, having lived in Southern California my whole life and road tripped a good many times, the idea of doing another out and back trip around here in as far as we could get in a few days was just not quite as exciting. Now, a one way road trip across the best of the west? Now that is something I can get very excited about. So anyway, I found this car, arranged a deal, and a couple days later Grace and I packed up clothes, camping gear, and cameras and hopped on a flight to Denver. We met the seller at the airport, threw down some cash, and embarked on a 5 day road trip back home. 

It goes without saying, I love my dear daughter to the moon and back...but in all honesty, sometimes it's difficult to remember that when you're at home all the time dealing with homeschooling, breaking up fights between her and Jasper, and getting way too much attitude thrown at you from someone so small (do i have a 10 year old or a 13 year old?!?!?). Getting out on the road with just Grace and I was such a gift for the both us. It's amazing how when all of the factors that make her have drama, and me in turn have to be a disciplinary dad are removed we were just able to be two friends who love exploring, nature, and wide open spaces. We saw some truly amazing things during our time together, but most of the time I just sat back in awe at the amazing human my baby girl is turning into. Grace turns eleven in a week and I think it might be time for another one of these trips...

Me, in my new to me, 1999 Toyota 4runner.

Me, in my new to me, 1999 Toyota 4runner.

First stop, Chipotle of course.

First stop, Chipotle of course.

What better way to break in your new ride than driving across a blizzard in the rockies right? We left Denver heading for Carbondale to crash at our good friend Carl Zoch's place and quickly found out that blizzard driving is a lot slower going than regular driving. What should have been a five hour drive ended up taking us well over 8 hours, all in white knuckle white out conditions. Grace was such an awesome co-pilot during this sketchy part of the drive...constantly wiping down the inside of the windshield that kept fogging up and reaching out her window to break ice chunks off the wiper blades.

What better way to break in your new ride than driving across a blizzard in the rockies right? We left Denver heading for Carbondale to crash at our good friend Carl Zoch's place and quickly found out that blizzard driving is a lot slower going than regular driving. What should have been a five hour drive ended up taking us well over 8 hours, all in white knuckle white out conditions. Grace was such an awesome co-pilot during this sketchy part of the drive...constantly wiping down the inside of the windshield that kept fogging up and reaching out her window to break ice chunks off the wiper blades.

Coffee (for me) / hot chocolate (for her) stop.

Coffee (for me) / hot chocolate (for her) stop.

Shortly after I took this pic, a 4wd Tundra in front of us spun off the road into the shoulder, burying itself almost to it's roof.

Shortly after I took this pic, a 4wd Tundra in front of us spun off the road into the shoulder, burying itself almost to it's roof.

Once that Tundra crashed I stopped taking photos and white knuckled it through the night to Carl's where we had a wonderful dinner, great conversation, and a very welcome warm sleep. We awoke in the morning to a white winter wonderland.

Once that Tundra crashed I stopped taking photos and white knuckled it through the night to Carl's where we had a wonderful dinner, great conversation, and a very welcome warm sleep. We awoke in the morning to a white winter wonderland.

Grace, Sarah, Carl, and Joe.

Grace, Sarah, Carl, and Joe.

Setting off the next morning with a hand drawn map given to us by Carl and friends.

Setting off the next morning with a hand drawn map given to us by Carl and friends.

Oh the difference a couple hours can make. Not pictured for obvious reasons was the part of the drive that morning when driving along a rural road on the way up McClure Pass, I hit a patch of black ice on the road, spun out, and rolled the 4runner onto it's side (luckily onto the mountain side and not into the cliff and river on the other side). After making it through 8 hours of blizzard the day before, I was feeling pretty confident in my new steed and then, bam, slip slop spin, bam, flip, crash, boom. Shit. I hadn't seen a single car for 20+ minutes and here I was rolled on my side on a snow bank in the middle of nowhere, still snowing, Grace freaked out of her mind crying while her side was snow down as she was looking up at me above her suspended in the air. Shit. As I sat there trying to tell Grace everything would be ok...while in my mind having no damn clue how I was going to get us out of this mess...suddenly I hear someone outside the car yelling if we're ok. I roll down the window, which since I'm driver's side up, drops a bucket of snow inside the car. Beyond all odds, a local family which just happened to include two off duty burly firefighters had stopped to help us! They started trying to rock the 4runner back onto it's wheels but that wasn't happening so I climbed my way out of the window and we ended up getting one of the firefighters on the fallen side to lift and then myself and the other firefighter on the flipped side to pull down and after much rocking we got the 4runner back upright...only to realize the damn near perfect 4runner i had flown all the way to Colorado for now had a completely crushed in passenger's side door :( But we were both ok...and still stuck in the snow bank...my nose was still way buried in the drift with my rear driver's wheel floating in the air so I couldn't get enough traction to reverse out. At this time another local happened to be driving by on the road, stopped, hopped out with a snow shovel and started digging the nose of the car out. Then two guys got in the front to push, the other firefighter stood on the driver's rear side of the car to weigh it down enough for that 4th wheel to grab traction, I hit reverse and, boom, just like that we were out. This whole ordeal took no more than 15 minutes and could have been so so so so much worse. The fact that we were driving on a pretty much deserted road and within a few minutes of crashing had three men perfectly suited to deal with such a crash helping us was a miracle. After the crash, there wasn't much rest for us though as we embarked on hands down the most sketchy drive of my life...driving over the nearly 9000ft McClure Pass in white out blizzard conditions...cliffs just to the right of the car most of the way...this drive had a pucker factor of a million...holy crap I still sweat just thinking of it.

Oh the difference a couple hours can make. Not pictured for obvious reasons was the part of the drive that morning when driving along a rural road on the way up McClure Pass, I hit a patch of black ice on the road, spun out, and rolled the 4runner onto it's side (luckily onto the mountain side and not into the cliff and river on the other side). After making it through 8 hours of blizzard the day before, I was feeling pretty confident in my new steed and then, bam, slip slop spin, bam, flip, crash, boom. Shit. I hadn't seen a single car for 20+ minutes and here I was rolled on my side on a snow bank in the middle of nowhere, still snowing, Grace freaked out of her mind crying while her side was snow down as she was looking up at me above her suspended in the air. Shit. As I sat there trying to tell Grace everything would be ok...while in my mind having no damn clue how I was going to get us out of this mess...suddenly I hear someone outside the car yelling if we're ok. I roll down the window, which since I'm driver's side up, drops a bucket of snow inside the car. Beyond all odds, a local family which just happened to include two off duty burly firefighters had stopped to help us! They started trying to rock the 4runner back onto it's wheels but that wasn't happening so I climbed my way out of the window and we ended up getting one of the firefighters on the fallen side to lift and then myself and the other firefighter on the flipped side to pull down and after much rocking we got the 4runner back upright...only to realize the damn near perfect 4runner i had flown all the way to Colorado for now had a completely crushed in passenger's side door :( But we were both ok...and still stuck in the snow bank...my nose was still way buried in the drift with my rear driver's wheel floating in the air so I couldn't get enough traction to reverse out. At this time another local happened to be driving by on the road, stopped, hopped out with a snow shovel and started digging the nose of the car out. Then two guys got in the front to push, the other firefighter stood on the driver's rear side of the car to weigh it down enough for that 4th wheel to grab traction, I hit reverse and, boom, just like that we were out. This whole ordeal took no more than 15 minutes and could have been so so so so much worse. The fact that we were driving on a pretty much deserted road and within a few minutes of crashing had three men perfectly suited to deal with such a crash helping us was a miracle. After the crash, there wasn't much rest for us though as we embarked on hands down the most sketchy drive of my life...driving over the nearly 9000ft McClure Pass in white out blizzard conditions...cliffs just to the right of the car most of the way...this drive had a pucker factor of a million...holy crap I still sweat just thinking of it.

Well, after a few puckered hours of driving McClure pass, we made it down to less crazy roads and pulled over at a closed gas station to make pb&j sandwiches for lunch. Grace, who was shaken and crying uncontrollably only a few hours before was back to her normal self catching snowflakes in her mouth.

Well, after a few puckered hours of driving McClure pass, we made it down to less crazy roads and pulled over at a closed gas station to make pb&j sandwiches for lunch. Grace, who was shaken and crying uncontrollably only a few hours before was back to her normal self catching snowflakes in her mouth.

The road to Moab, UT.

The road to Moab, UT.

Golden eagle sighting!

Golden eagle sighting!

We made it to Arches National Park and camped in the back of the 4runner for an absolutely frigid sub zero night.

We made it to Arches National Park and camped in the back of the 4runner for an absolutely frigid sub zero night.

Out of the three or four cars we saw our whole time in Arches, of course one had to have a blow up doll strapped to it.

Out of the three or four cars we saw our whole time in Arches, of course one had to have a blow up doll strapped to it.

Hiking to Delicate Arch in the brisk morning.

Hiking to Delicate Arch in the brisk morning.

The best part about being at national parks in the winter is there are *no* people around. Normally, Delicate Arch looks like an amphitheater with people everywhere. We got there and were the only ones there for well over an hour, just enjoying the beauty all by ourselves, having full run of the place.

The best part about being at national parks in the winter is there are *no* people around. Normally, Delicate Arch looks like an amphitheater with people everywhere. We got there and were the only ones there for well over an hour, just enjoying the beauty all by ourselves, having full run of the place.

Random snowfall on the high plains at sunset.

Random snowfall on the high plains at sunset.

Lake Powell, AZ accommodations.

Lake Powell, AZ accommodations.

Kayaking Lake Powell...it didn't last too long since it was windy as hell, cold as hell, and my kayak was leaking.

Kayaking Lake Powell...it didn't last too long since it was windy as hell, cold as hell, and my kayak was leaking.

Drying clothes while choosing where we'd go next.

Drying clothes while choosing where we'd go next.

Ok then Grace, Zion National Park it is!

Ok then Grace, Zion National Park it is!

Spotted a herd of well over a hundred deer on the side of the road.

Spotted a herd of well over a hundred deer on the side of the road.

Grace after spotting and photographing a bald eagle! Neither of us had ever seen one and Grace randomly spotted one on the side of the road while we were driving...her shots of it are at the bottom of this post.

Grace after spotting and photographing a bald eagle! Neither of us had ever seen one and Grace randomly spotted one on the side of the road while we were driving...her shots of it are at the bottom of this post.

We spotted this bald eagle at the top of a pass and when we took off to follow it in the car, it soared in our sightline for miles and miles down this gorgeous pass...a visual I'll never forget.

We spotted this bald eagle at the top of a pass and when we took off to follow it in the car, it soared in our sightline for miles and miles down this gorgeous pass...a visual I'll never forget.

Bison on the way into Zion National Park.

Bison on the way into Zion National Park.

We made it to Zion in the dark of night, so after grabbing some pizza in town we snuck into a campsite in the park to camp in the back of the 4runner again.

We made it to Zion in the dark of night, so after grabbing some pizza in town we snuck into a campsite in the park to camp in the back of the 4runner again.

Icy morning hike up to the Emerald Pools. I really really wanted to hike Angel's Landing with Grace on this trip but the snow and ice on all the trails left it closed :(

Icy morning hike up to the Emerald Pools. I really really wanted to hike Angel's Landing with Grace on this trip but the snow and ice on all the trails left it closed :(

Leaving the park I pulled off on some random dirt trails outside of Hurricane, Utah to explore. We ended up driving out in the middle of nowhere and making pb&j's for lunch.

Leaving the park I pulled off on some random dirt trails outside of Hurricane, Utah to explore. We ended up driving out in the middle of nowhere and making pb&j's for lunch.

Somewhere in the Lake Mead recreation area, trying to throw rocks into the roles in the rock formations...hours of free entertainment :)

Somewhere in the Lake Mead recreation area, trying to throw rocks into the roles in the rock formations...hours of free entertainment :)

The next morning, making rock stacks by lake mead and having slingshot practice with our homemade slingshots :)

The next morning, making rock stacks by lake mead and having slingshot practice with our homemade slingshots :)

Our daddy daughter trip was pretty much coming to a close as we ventured away from Lake Mead and down towards the Colorado River to meet up with Jaclyn, Jasper, and our dear friends the Ellsworths for some time at the river. Before we met up with everyone though, I pulled off the highway on some random off road trail and drove a good ways out into the desert for one last picnic lunch with my dear sweet girl.

Our daddy daughter trip was pretty much coming to a close as we ventured away from Lake Mead and down towards the Colorado River to meet up with Jaclyn, Jasper, and our dear friends the Ellsworths for some time at the river. Before we met up with everyone though, I pulled off the highway on some random off road trail and drove a good ways out into the desert for one last picnic lunch with my dear sweet girl.

* Leica Mini2  /  Kodak Gold 200

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All the images below were taken by Grace on a manual focus (you go girl!) Nikon f3 with either a 35f2.8 or 180f2.8 on Kodak Gold 200 film.