Our Drive from Toronto to Utah

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Cathy and I spread our drive from Toronto to Utah over 4 days.  We have driven across the USA often, and this time our route ends up being I-80 to Salt Lake City and then south on I-15 to St George in southern Utah.  Winter weather is expected on this route.  We avoided the worst by some clever route adjustments by Cathy, however still had a harrowing last day.  Here is our daily journal.  We are here for 6 weeks so stay tuned for future posts about hiking, golf and side trips to Zion and such.

Day 1

Today is a 500 mile / 825 kilometre trek from Toronto to Joliet, just west of Chicago.  We cross the border at Port Huron, Michigan and breeze through US immigration.  We spend 8 hours on the road including USA immigration and breaks.  Our major challenge is to avoid the potholes in the potholes.  Interstate highways in Michigan are really ripped up.

We get into Joliet early enough to take a short hike along the Illinois Michigan Canal.  This is the first connection between Lake Michigan (Great Lakes) and the Illinois River that flows to the Mississippi River.  Built in 1832 at a cost of $6.5M, this 100+ miles long canal is now partly silted, however in its day was the last of the great canal projects.

Cathy and I have dinner and enjoy  SuperBowl festivities at Heros West Sports Grill.  Try it out if you like a good sports bar environment with interesting beers on tap.  I like the taco salad.  Cathy is less thrilled with the house salad with chicken.

Day 2

Today is a 700 mile / 1150 kilometre run from Joliet to North Platte in western Nebraska, all on I-80.  With speed limits of 75 and 80 mph, we are on the road for 11 hours including stops.  What an unusual day with bluebird sun and 60 F / 16 C temperatures.

We cross the Mississippi River.  Later we drive through the North Platte River Valley near Kearney and see thousands of snow geese circling in the sky after feeding in the corn fields.

In North Platte, we have dinner at Capones, a good local place for burgers and beer from the PegLeg Brewery across the street.

Tonight we start worrying  about a major storm buildup up that is going to affect Vail Pass, Denver and eastern Colorado, exactly our route for tommorrow.


Day 3

As soon as we reach the I-80 and I-76 intersection, we change plans due to the winter storm now in full blizzard mode in Vail Pass, Denver and eastern Colorado.   Cathy re-routes us  to stay on I80 over to Salt Lake City and we successfully stay north of the storm.

So today’s drive is 600 miles / 950 kilometres from North Platte in Nebraska to Evanston Wyoming.  The day is sunny, the road is dry, however temperatures are below freezing and we have a headwind of  60 mph / 100 kmh.  Today we are on the road for 9 hours including many gas stops. Gas mileage traveling at 75 mph into that headwind is horrible.  However gas prices at US$3.20 per gallon are the cheapest of the trip, so I guess it all evens out.

We cross the Continental Divide near Laramie, Wyoming at 7000 feet elevation.

Cathy and I celebrate Valentines Day at the Evanstan’s Ichiban Japanese Steak House.  It is very popular with the locals.  They had an interesting darts game for St Valentine – our combined score got us a free cocktail of our choice.  Nice touch.


Day 4

Today we travel 280 miles / 450 kilometres south on I-15 from Evaston Wyoming to St George Utah. We have clear sailing until the mountain pass at the junction with I-70,  about 125 miles north of St George.  We end up wth a slow 7 hours on the road including stops, and here is why.

It is a harrowing drive through the pass.  Some parts are single track, other parts totally snow covered.  There is no salting, sanding or plowing on the downhill parts (not sure why they only salt/sand the uphills).  Maximum speed is about 30 mph and snow is falling and blowing around.  We are thankful for our Subura Outback 4 wheel drive.  There are lots of vehicles in the snowbanks.  Most notable is a pickup pulling a 20+ feet trailer that has done a 180 spin and is aimed at us.  Finally we get through this stretch and complete the last few miles into St George.

We are now checked into our condo for the next 6 weeks.  You can’t beat the view from our balcony.  My reward is courtesy of the Moab Brewery.

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