Zion Canyon Or: Storms of thunder
It is not so much the 600 miles in one go that dominated the first day, as the impressive thunderstorms which all at a sudden took charge over the scenery - and forced me to turn off my AM radio. For a Californian fellow such as me, not by choice nor birth but by necessity I should stress, driving into a "dark something" in the middle of the afternoon is not quite what I would call an everyday occurrence. The rain itself was also not what the Californians would call "rain" - i.e., a drizzle - but more of a binary state: faucet on or off. In the middle of nowhere and with the windshield full of no longer happy bugs it was quite amazing that each time the faucet was about to be turned on there was a gas station with the appropriate squeegee.
I have spent several nights in one or the other Motel6 across this big nation, but the beds seem to be getting smaller and smaller, at least for 6'1" people like me. After a short sleep (by all means), with speed limits well within the "reasonable" bounds, i.e. 70 or above, and with "reasonable" enforcement of the same, i.e. none, I soon entered Zion Natl. Park and shot my first rolls of Velvia and filled my 1st Flash card.
This was the first time that along with my box full of film I carried a Zip drive. The invention of power inverters shall be hailed, since Toto (Rebecca's PowerBook which also traveled with me to Australia) doesn't have an internal Zip. Once in a Zion campground there was no thunderstorm to take pictures of. This brought me early to tent so that I could follow the good old yet shocking tradition of getting up early when on vacation.
Being up at 5:30 is quite something. I made again some shy attempts at color night photography, and my first impression was that things went really wrong. But this didn't deter me from grabbing my hiking gear and hike to a place where I expected a spectacular sunrise. The sunrise was between the sun, the ranger, and me, until later the masses crawled out of their tents and, more notably, RVs.
Soon I was able to join the line before the road tunnel which is usually two-way, unless one of these obese American RVs has to pass through. Peacefully I was standing right in front of the crosswalk (AT, not ON, please note. Big trap for foreign speakers, as I had to notice on the CA driver's test). A group of French speaking individuals were crossing the road in a very solid march, in a way no German could have done better, and suddenly one pointed out "oh, regard, il a une quattro!" and pointed his thumb up. In what followed (and what optimistically inclined citizens could call "a dialogue in French") I explained that the puddle under the car was a normal function of the thing called "climatisation".
With the sun now high in the sky I returned to the campground to eat and to take care of an appointment. I didn't get to see that much of my neighbor at the campsite until his departure. The neighbor had "Jesus saves" and such all over his RV, and just before his departure he did a prayer - and then took off straight through the road labeled "Don't Enter - Wrong Way". I'd be praying, too.
My appointment with was with the friendly campsite host, Dean Jones. He took me in his adventurous vehicle through the service road, off limits to others, saying there was beautiful scenery for photography. At this time of the day the photography opportunities were not so big, but half an hour with this unique fellow was worth being up at noon anytime.
The afternoon was dedicated to the trip to Lava Point, and the "en passant" visit to Grafton, a ghost-town. While I didn't see any ghosts, there was not that much else either, so in a sense ghostly after all. The car spontaneously changed color from blue to red, and the high-quality thunderstorm that hit me at Lava Point could not undo this change. Most impressive was the change in ambient temperature, though: I noticed that the A/C had suddenly stopped blowing, happily achieving the pre-set 22.5c. A glance at the outside temperature gauge revealed that we just experienced a drop in entropy, from 33c to 9c, in about two minutes. Also, after a 15-mile downhill drive, the trip computer was predicting quite an impressive range - better than any diesel engine... Well, then, ready to move on to Bryce...