We set forth on August 6th. I've fixed the stereo (or so I thought, paid 65$ at a local sound place, drove a hundred miles and it stopped working...FUCK!).

But anyways, pick up the daughter, exchange my cash at Chinook, ready to go...

And a mere 7 hours driving later and we're here...

Sort of. We're deep enough in Montana that the information signs are giving us information about the gold rushes, the geography, well, it's different, mountains (due south of SE Alberta), old mines, I'm kinda home. It's all here. But we're not stopping, unless it's for gas...

Gas, $1.95 a gallon, in a torrential downpour outside a bar and pump, "It's a bit slow" the bartender warns me, it's a lot slow, it takes 10 minutes for 25 gallons, I wait in the car...

And we're off, out of the torrential downpours and into low-slung mountains, sunshine, then again into the torrential downpours. We're on a mission, the rain, it makes it impossible to camp, drive on as far as we can....

Through Billings and then south into Wyoming...

Wyoming, the storm, the sky flashing a hundred times a minute, we're in the thick of the worst electrical storm I've seen in my life (and later I checked with the locals, they're not uncommon) - lightning, striking the ground every minute, licking and illuminating the clouds, 

...finally, a rest stop outside of Casper. 1st night we sleep in the car, get up in the morning, drive into Casper, the perfect US town, cheap thrift shops, run down, everywhere squalor and poverty. Breakfast and we continue, the daughter the navigator we're trying to get to the state-line district, Red Feathers Campground is marked on the map, we'll camp there for a couple of days and go prospecting onwards...

And we're there, early enough, get set up, the campsite is lovely, if a trifle expensive for the states ($20 per night, other campsites can be found, as good or better, for $10.00 per night or even free, but they're not marked on the AAA provided map...we discover this later...). The rocks, granite massifs, the trees, different, only a days long drive from Calgary yet the world is a very different place...

...and somehow, that evening, emptying the trash from the car, a miscommunication and we end up locked out. Keys inside dangling ...

The next morning, an hour trying to break in with her locksmithing kit, we have no luck, she's for breaking a window, I'm a little opposed, we call the AAA, it's a long call, they can't figure out where we are (it's a busy campsite, it's on their map, but it doesn't have a physical land address...), finally someone competent takes over the call, I'm discouraged to say the least, but they sort us out, we're a long way from anywhere but a locksmith is dispatched, an hour's drive for a minute's work, and we're back in business and it's only 1:00 PM...

YAYY FOR AAA.

We set out for Laramie, check a few thrift shops, and then circle back - long way around - to the campsite, the double back is long, but we pass a hundred unmarked campsites, drive through beautiful mountains and wilderness, I dip my pan once, a not so promising location, but the diamonds, now, they're less of a priority, we're here...

(Clouds boiling around Laramie, tried out the "Hyperlapse" app on the phone to try and get a time lapse...didn't work.)

***

Next day, break camp, head towards Denver. And I thought Denver was a sleepy mountain town, but I was wrong, it's a suburban sprawl nightmare, for a hundred miles in every direction suburb leads into town into suburb and town and we're on the interstate, detoured, trying to find it again ...

I never thought Colorado was this urbanized...

Through Denver and now towards Utah, the I70, we're on our way, we're on our way...

The I70, outside of Denver, it's nothing but a slow grade up into the mountains. Up, up, up, trucks in the right lane for 30 miles straight, up, up, and the idiot light begins blinking on the dash and the temperature reaches the far right and we pull over and I pop the hood. Antifreeze everywhere...

2nd Call to the AAA in 2 days. We've used up 2 of our A's. It's a 2 hour wait in the blistering heat by the road, finally the tow truck driver, he tells us this stretch of the I70, it's the death of a lot of cars, if you can make it past Evergreen you're usually OK, but Denver to Evergreen is a nightmare. He drives past a roadside graveyard of cars that he's towed, waiting for their owners to pick them up, and while we're driving he gets 2 more calls, similar issues, 3 cars an hour, it's a good job...we're towed into Evergreen, a posh little retirement west of Denver, too late to diagnose, it's 4:30, they'll let us know in the morning. And the mechanic helps us to book a botel, 10 miles back on the highway, and they won't take cash, need a credit card for deposit, and a hundred other trifles to be solved before we have a place for the night. 

I've been through this before. It's annoying, I'm thinking if I can plot down $1000 US cash for a deposit I should be able to book a room, but they want a credit card, no if's-ands-or but's about it, no credit-card, no room.

We in the end prevail, $150 a night, the next morning we get the diagnosis on the Jeep. Water Pump, Head Gasket, $1300 or so dollars....US, should be ready the next day, if there are no other complications...

We check in for another night at the hotel, walk towards town, it's about 8 or 10 miles along a busy minor highway, roadcuts, admire the geology, lots of degraded quartz, mica, an excellent location for prospecting gold, and the tow truck driver had told us how everywhere up the valley there was gold as the daughter rolled her eyes...

 The day passes, we get a call at 4:00, the jeep is ready, $1361.00, (US!), I go to the bank, they pick us up and we're off again...

Well, not off, we're booked into the hotel, we'll be off the next morning...the day, relaxing, in the pool, dinner, we didn't know but the rate went up, the first night was $150 US, the second was $211, floating rate depending on the day, it's a nice hotel, but it's a little out of my range...I'm startled by the bill, but that's how it goes...

***

The next morning, Continental Breakfast and then onward and upward, past the gold mining towns of Idaho Springs and everywhere beside the road there are the tailings and workings of the old gold mines. And still we're climbing. up, up, up, through tunnels and the geography changes, always climbing, finally the Eisenhower Tunnel and we begin our descent...

***

Passing through Grand Junction, Exiting the rockies, the mountains behind us like the valleys of Drumheller, colorful, painted, only at 10,000 times the scale, cliffs and hoodoos, everywhere you want to stop and take a picture. But pictures don't do it justice. We see a sign for Colorado National Monument, curiosity, and make the detour. There are no signs telling us how far, only indicating direction, all in all it's about 20 miles off the road, we have no idea what to expect...

The road, winding up, a 1 inch shoulder, if you go over it's generally a 1000 foot drop to the bottom of the canyon. And I wouldn't have thought, but it makes me nervous, every glance to your right gives you vertigo, the views are jawdropping, on occasion there are pullouts where you can go and take your photos, otherwise, drive slowly, drive in the left lane and hope there's no oncoming traffic, the daughter is delighted at my discomfort...

We stop at the Visitor Center and she does her Junior Ranger Badge. This is her thing, her Pokemon, she's "Gotta catch them all". it's good...

***

From here on to Arches National Park, she wants a picture inside the Delicate Arch, wants to add this to her list of travel trophy's, it's impressive, her list, already, for someone a mere 15 years old. It would be impressive for someone my age...

And we drive towards Moab, the spectacular drive into the valley, between Canyonlands and Arches, we find a campsite - Arches is full (all year 'round, reservations recommended, don't even try without.) in Moab, one of those generic all-you-can-fit in tents and camper trailers, $20 per night but flush toilets, showers, laundry and WiFi and the daughter has no complaints.

(A view of the river, entering Moab)

A quick walk, some photos, the geology, geography, landscape, breathtaking, always, but since coming through Colorado to Utah it's somehow been more grand, bigger, the photos don't do it justice, the canyons not hundred but thousands of feet deep, and the red rock, the blue sky, the landscapes have colors you never see, and there's the urge to explore...

Evening, the girl takes advantage of the WiFi to watch her TV shows, I watch the Perseids, 2 good meteors, and everywhere giant bats flit and devour the insects, lie on the picnic bench, watch the sky, the daughter doesn't like the taste of the water so we walk a mile into town to buy her a bottle,...

Morning, a giant moth the size of a robin, trapped in the sink, a striped beetle a good inch long, the desert, it's good for the insects.

First stop - Arches. And, debating, we buy a national parks pass, there will be more, and renew our campsite, there's much to see here...

 

Entering the valley, the set-up for every spaghetti western we've ever watched...

And then the pullout, the mandatory photo in front of balancing misfortune, the shepherded conventional photos of which I gathered almost 500. But it's impressive, and the hoodoos of Drumheller are put to shame, they've nothing on this, nothing at all, drive south, 30 hours tops, see real canyons and hoodoos...but we learn to love what we know...

There are innumerable stops in the park, the 100+ car lineup to get in is a clue, but we're after one specific one, and so we drive to the end before stopping to work our way back...

Getting out of the car, it's a 3 mile round trip. There are hundreds of cars parked, this is why everyone is here. This is it. And we diligently, dutifully, join the line of tourists on their way up to the delicate arch. This is the photo-op the daughter wants, this is the photo-op everyone wants, a warden stands at the gate with a recommendation that everyone pack enough water. We've packed none, I'm a camel, I need none, I assume the daughter is the same. She isn't.

The complaining starts a half mile up the walk, that I didn't bring water, and I defend myself, I don't need water, I'm a camel, this is not a problem, but she's annoyed, and it dawns on me that she, who has spent the last 6 years in the desert, didn't pack water because she thought I would/should do it for her...

Keep quiet.

We make the delicate arch, wait our turn in line for the photo-op (there are a dozen people waiting for the same picture, the line is orderly, moves along, and I conceive the grand business idea of hauling up bottled water and selling it to the tourists, $5.00 a bottle sounds reasonable, lots of people are in our boat, we'd make a killing, cover the cost of the repairs to the Jeep...)

***

Waiting, waiting, she gets her picture, approves it, doesn't want to wait in line again. I'm impressed by how orderly everyone is, everyone wants their picture here, but it's not chaos, they form a line, the photographers wait on the sidelines, countless girls in their lulu-lemon pants walk in, strike the "Y" pose (the "Y" pose - ??? WTF, "I love my Yoni", "Y am I here", "Y are we wasting our time on cliches and hackneyed photo-ops"?

There is the thought, too, while waiting her turn, of our inadvertent celebrity, just by being here we'll end up in the background of a thousand tourist pictures, posted all over the interwideweb, future algorithms will be able to track us ...

***

Next stop, on the way out of the park, the Sand Arch, beautifully situated with sand beaches (but no water) in a narrow canyon...

The colors, again, are amazing, it's bigger than it looks, and there are a hundred other places here to visit, but we're on the grand tour, only Chevy Chase on his European Vacation was as thorough as us, the sun is climbing and we return to the campsite to pass the heat of the day...

***

Evening, cooler, we head off for the north viewpoint of Canyonlands ...

The sun is setting, quickly, and there's the rush to get the perfect photos...

***

The next morning, pack up the campsite, we're heading south and west, we'll visit canyonlands by another route, but first, the daughter makes a charming find by the sink...

***

(Newspaper Rock, on the way to Canyonlands)

Canyonlands, the first stop after breaking camp, the girl does her Junior Ranger badge. We do a couple of hikes, to the cowboy camp and Indian Petroglyphs, I have a thing for these, the native American history...

And, on the way back across the sandstone tops, the potholes take on the appearance of dinosaur footprints to me. It's possible, they're all around, but the daughter's a little skeptical...

***

Probably I said it before, if I didn't I should clarify, any one of these parks - Canyonlands, Arches, - an entire vacation could be spent here, in one or the other or in one of the ones that will follow, they are big, and even with the traffic still largely unexplored. After the 100 car lineup to get into Arches Canyonlands is a bit of a relief, largely empty ...

From here, she's got her badge, on, now towards Bridges National Monument, more Anasazi or Ute Ruins in the canyons, 800-1000 years old, more petroglyphs upon the walls, it's a short hike off the road but the daughter is getting annoyed and bored with my preoccupation with Native American History, for me, it's never old, I could explore these canyons for years...

(serpent and circle incised in the rock, paint long faded).

Everywhere the pictographs and petroglyphs are disappearing, the sandstone, it's not forever, you see handprints on the walls of the caves, and the sandstone in thin sheets has peeled away around them, the context, the surrounding image, is lost in a pile of sand at your feet. But the canyons are filled with this, Pueblo ruins, vanishing images and shards of pottery, another thousand years and there will be nothing left. The daughter halts my exploring, we have to leave, there are Junior Ranger badges ahead...

***

We go onwards, to Bridges National Monument, we're out of cell range, have been for some time, we arrive in time for a quick tour of the Monument...

The sun is setting, there will be a badge here for sure, we get a campsite, the daughter is not so impressed: "No showers or WiFi", the water, she tastes, hates it, it's fine but she calls it sewer water and pleads with me for an hour to drive to the nearest town and get some bottled water.

The nearest town is 35 miles away, and it's doubtful at this time we can find any shop open, Sunday, Utah, very little is open, and even if it were so, I'm not driving 35 miles to get a bottle of water...

I make dinner, she's complaining all the while, about the flavour of the water, so subtle an oaf like me can't discern it, but she can, she's a connoisseur of water, she prefers distilled (and it dawns on me later, that with her countless international vacations with her mom, that's probably all she's drank, bottled and distilled water, most of these countries you don't even dare shower in the water that comes from the tap...), she disses the food, it's "Full of Additives and Preservatives", probably true, but it's 40 degrees in the desert and I can tell you nothing fresh will last even a couple of hours, rice-a-roni, canned beef stew, if you're hungry it tastes good, it tastes damned good...

...and she continues, about how she feels deprived of fresh fruit and vegetables (we're camping, goddamnit!), and I think back to the many camping trips I had with the boy, where if I announced I had brought food he would have been both overjoyed and flabbergasted, it simply didn't happen, wow, and what a different impression I'm making upon her, a hundred times better prepared and yet...

There is no pleasing some people.

And I ask her for some toilet paper to wipe out the pot when I'm done washing it and she goes to get it and then stands for a full five minutes blowing her nose, I have to come and retrieve it from her, and there's an unofficial war on the table, she retires to the jeep to charge her phone and search vainly for the absent wireless connection...

***

I'm not impressed. The next morning, up early, 6:00 AM, drinking my coffee while she sleeps in. A few pictures in the morning light near the campsite...

And I drink my coffee and I'm thinking, and I drink more coffee and I'm thinking some more.

She's too old to be spanked, and reason - and I've argued her every objection - has failed. We're not speaking, neither of us impressed with the other. And there's another 5 days of this vacation ahead of us, we've countless things yet to do, we've not searched for trilobites or topaz or red beryl or any of the possible gems, she's not done any of the caves, of which I'd made a list, that we should visit, we've not soaked in the primitive hot-springs or shot off guns for cheap at the outdoor ranges or bought magic underpants for the boy, ... There are problems. for sure...

And I'm thinking and thinking and I'm not impressed. Small things, but the sum of small things is adding up to a big problem...

***

We do her Junior Ranger badge and we leave, westward, through Glen Canyon, amazing, another place to spend a week or a month and not just drive through, and there was gold here, or so the legend tells us...

She's not speaking, passive aggressive lessons from her mother, who could not speak for months at a time, a blessing, really, if you knew her, but it's not going to work.

Our next stop, Capitol Reef National Park, a long haul out of the canyons and into the mountains, the geology changing, the geology, always interesting to me (although I never understand it as well as I should, could, and that's a good thing, the gaps are filled with imagination...), more petro, pictoglyphsy, the daughter waits in the car, she's disinterested. And I ask if her if she wants to do her Junior Ranger here, and she doesn't, she chastises me that she doesn't need to do it everywhere we stop... 

This is bullshit, this is why we're on this vacation, this is the reason for the tour, and I'm done. The next few days, the majority - the rockhounding, gem hunting, fossicking, these are my interests, there's a few of hers, but we'll be again well out of cell phone and wifi range, a long ways from towns and fresh fruit, the water will be fine but not bottled, and I'm wondering to myself, I've spent - on this vacation - $4500 Canadian so far, roughly, all expenses considered, on her, this year, the return from Qatar at Xmas, the child support, the vacation, associated expenses, a third of my income. Before Taxes. That's OK, I have nothing better to spend it on, that's why I make money, but...

...her values, they're not mine, she's missed a few important life lessons she should have learned a long time ago...

I tell her we're heading home, she's silent, and we begin the long drive out of Utah.

***

We stop at the rest stop at Cove Fort, it's interesting, there are an abundance of white shirts and black name badges next to it, the daughter, she looks at the fort..."Wanna go in?" she asks, and I agree, and before we've even set foot in that direction we're joined by an elderly missionary, Sister so-and-so, who offers us a tour, and so we're given the movie first, then the tour of the inside of the fort. The tour, it's good, the LDS church is not something I know a lot about other than what Southpark has taught me, every room in the fort is a faithfully replicated glimpse of yesteryear, and our missionary tells us about the church, with instructional parables offered at every turn...she senses the hostilities between us, we're father daughter but we're back to back with guns drawn, it's apparent, and these parables are designed to elevate us to the spiritual harmony enjoyed by members of the church, but she's not having any of it, and an hour and a half later when we get back to the car she vents with "That was an hour of my life wasted...!".

***

We drive, one break at a rest-stop in 30 hours, an hour's sleep, the daughter wakes me to carry on and once the car is in motion she falls asleep again, finally we reach Calgary, harsh words are spoken, this vacation is over...

There are pictures, loads of pictures, too many to embed here. Utah's a beautiful place. If you want to see more you can follow this link: https://goo.gl/photos/4DbTbFaX8ZR2dHM97. Feel free to use/recycle as you see fit, CC license applies, credit is not required but mannerly.

The many rock faces towards the end of the collection - cliffs, etc, - are ornamented with pictoglyphs and petroglyphs. Zoom in, look close, play with the contrast, you'll see them.

***

You still here? Didn't think you read the blog. OK. Here it is. You're pissed your vacation ended early. I'm pissed that I spent $4500 on a week with a kid that by the end couldn't stop complaining about trifles. Here's my breakdown:

1) I spend far too much money on far too little time with you. You complain about trifles, the taste of the water, the absence of showers & wifi, about the additives in the food and the lack of fresh produce. We return home. That's it. There's an upper limit to the bull sh*t I'll put up with when - yet again - I'm digging into September's rent to pay for August's vacation. We - our side of the Family - your brother and I - we don't complain. He knows the rules. Now you do too. Too long you've been the exalted and rare guest, and as your time was short things I would never overlook in the boy I overlooked in you. But they're wrong and they need fixing. You're 15. Almost an adult. Learn some manners and stop complaining. Grow up.

2) I bring you a hot dog to discover that you don't like sauerkraut. I'll add that to the list. You don't like mushrooms, fresh tomato, gnocci and sauerkraut. You know what? I don't care. You eat what's in front of you and say thank you. These tastes of yours, they're infantile, most babies don't like mushrooms, sauerkraut, fresh tomatoes. But they grow into liking them. When I was a kid it was chicken liver - once a week, the most disgusting food I've ever tasted. We didn't complain, we ate it. You wanna learn to like fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, sauerkraut? Have them as a side with some chicken liver. They'll become your new favorite. I'm not kidding. To dislike food is natural - you can't like everything - but to announce it displays a remarkable lack of maturity and sophistication. Your dislikes are a privilege the vast majority of the world will never afford. Eat your food and shut up.

3) The boy comps us tickets to a play he's involved in. You complain about it afterwards to the boy, you didn't enjoy it...Yeah. Not cool. You're 15. Learn some manners and grow up. When someone does you a favor you say "Thank You", not "I didn't like it...". 

There's a start. The beginnings of my expectations - I didn't think I had to spell them out, but apparently I do. Now you know.