Road Tripping During COVID

Being the time of COVID, Linda and I like everyone else were becoming quite stir crazy with a need for a change of pace.   We needed adventure. Options for international travel were pretty much non-existent.   An RV trip was the answer.  After all we could stay home, but the home would change location.  Perfect.  Lots of remote spots we could go and conveniently distance ourselves from others.   But where to?  Which direction?  As we lounged around the house Linda loved to show me interesting episodes she saved from various television programs.  One afternoon she showed me an story from the CBS Morning Show that featured the AKAL Travel Center, a truck stop on I-80 just West of Laramie, Wyoming.

The truck stop was featured on CBS for its uniqueness and its quality of Indian in Wyoming.  When an East Indian immigrant bought it it just served up your typical greasy trucker fare. He thought why not give them some real food, something healthy and delicious. Thus the Taj Mahal restaurant was born, a literal hole in the wall through which you place your order from the menu on a nearby chalk board.

We were inspired!  We had a destination!  Linda and I have both traveled through India and it’s cuisine holds a special place in our hearts. So it was only logical that if a East Indian truck stop in Wyoming had food that was good enough to get it featured on a national TV show we would have to make the journey to try it for ourselves.   Road Trip!

Living  at Lake Tahoe it would of been very easy for us to get on Interstate 80 and just drive east for about 940 miles until we arrived at Hunt Rd, Exit 290, Wyoming.  Yet since we were on a quest for great Indian food we felt that it was appropriate to seek out the roads less traveled.  Roads that would expose us to new unanticipated experiences and adventures along the way.  Before we would return home almost a month later we would cover over 3,000 miles traveling the remote back roads of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. 

After a leisurely dash across Nevada we turned North at Salt Lake City.  Once in Ogden we left the interstate and sought out the small roads that would wind us through an America we had not yet seen or experienced.  Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area lined up nicely in our sights .

The Snowy Range Scenic Byway through the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming turned out to be an unexpected gem.  Majestic glacial carved granite mountains towered over 10,800 ft Snowy Pass with high alpine lakes dotting the landscape.  At these elevations spring comes late and wildflowers carpeted the meadows.

After 9 days we finally arrived at the AKAL Travel Center.  It was everything we expected.  On the outside, a fairly run down truck stop undergoing a complete renovation.  On the inside it was a stereotypical East Indian bazaar.  Lots of imported clothing, incense, foodstuffs, assorted Indian trinkets as well as spiritual iconic statuary.  Tucked away in the corner was the Taj Mahal restaurant.  Not really a restaurant, but a take out hole in the wall kitchen with a chalk board menu.  Perfect.  It was as if it was somehow just transported from the outskirts of Delhi to the wilds of Wyoming.   It could not of been more authentic.  We ordered numerous delectable delights to enjoy while sitting in the parking lot.  We were not disappointed, it was delicious.

Mission accomplished, it was time to head home.  The plan once again was to travel smaller roads and to stop at interesting places along the way.   At that time Colorado was experiencing the worst fire season in it's history.  It was if all of Colorado was burning and the smoke was oppressive.   Our route took us South hoping to skirt around the smoke for clear skies.  Rocky Mountain National Park was seen through a haze.  When we crested Loveland Pass at almost 12,000 ft the views in all directions had volumes of dark smoke billowing skyward.  We ventured through Florrisant Fossil Beds, Pikes Peak, Cripple Creek, Royal Gorge and finally to Sand Dunes National Park before the air cleared and no longer tasted like smoke.

After Sand Dunes National Park, it was time head West towards Durangol.  There we would then turn North to circumvent the state of Colorado.  Once in Durango it was only fitting that we took a ride on the Durango-Silverton Railroad before heading North along Colorado's Western Slope.  As with everywhere else in Colorado, the Western Slope was experiencing the same COVID related fate.  Services were cut back or non-existent,  businesses, restaurants and visitor centers closed.  For Linda and myself, this was not a deterrent, our RV had everything we needed.  Instead it promised off season crowds during peak season travel times at the State and National Parks we planned to visit on our final leg home.

Colorado National Monument  is a short side trip off of I-70 just outside of Grand Junction.  Easy enough to do a drive though in just a few hours yet it really deserves a few days to truly appreciate it's deep red rock canyons and towering sandstone spires.

Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is often overlooked because of its close proximity to the Moab area.  It contains thousands of eroded sandstone columns known as hoodoo's or locally, goblins.  Somewhat unimpressive when observed from above, yet when you hike into the valley and walk amongst them you will be seeing goblins yourself.  Goblin Valley is somewhat remote so in the evenings and early mornings the only others that you will be sharing it with are your fellow campers who either stayed in the campground or nearby on BLM land.

Our final stop was Great Basin National Park in central Eastern Nevada.  One of the least visited of all of the National Parks, it is home to the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (oldest single living organism on earth) and Wheeler Peak, the 2nd highest peak in Nevada (13,065 ft) Although purportedly the actual oldest Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, an unnamed tree almost 5,100 years old is in the White Mountains in California, it is a humbling experience to wander around trees that were alive when the Great Pyramid in Egypt was being built.

Not the first sunset nor the last, but a fitting image to close this page of a journey well traveled.

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