Truthfully, as far as Intercontinental road trips go we’ve been pretty lucky to date. After about 20,000km in a 20 year old car it was probably about time we encountered some issues. Especially considering some of the states of the forest service roads we so often sleep on…We had our timely oil change in Jackson, outside the Tetons and got the mechanics there to have a look at the front axle as we’d been hearing a rattle recently. They round the driver side tie rod was on it’s last legs and needed replacing but the wouldn’t be able to do it until the next day, so we decided to drive to Salt Lake City (home of the Mormons) and get it repaired there.
Probably not the wisest decision, considering it was a 300 mile drive. About 200 of those miles in the van violently veered on it’s own accord and we were suddenly trapped in the middle of nowhere in 34 degree heat. After flagging down a local we discovered a mechanic 1 mile down the road so painfully drove with what felt like a wheel about to fall off towards ‘Teds’. As we have been on so many times this trip, we were greeted by a generous owner who, despite it being 4:30pm, spent 2 hours fixing our driver side wheel repairing the tie rod & also replacing the wheel bearing which was completely shattered.
Car troubles over, we carried on through salt lake city very happy. The alignment was off as the small garage we had the repair didn’t have the equipment to line up the steering but we just booked into have that done closer to the national park. About 1 hour out of the park, the same problem happened on the passenger side wheel. Guessing the issue we took it into a local mechanic who found the tie rod was fine, but the wheel bearing was shot on that wheel too… so we had it replaced. The final piece to the puzzle, having the car aligned also didn’t go to plan. We were fitted in late, at 4pm for an hour-long job but after jacking up the van it became apparent we’d need a lot more work, as we were 9º off – quite bad! We were then stuck in a small town, limited with how far we could drive due to the alignment and in even hotter heat. We had highs of 41º and when we were trying to sleep it was still in the thirties.
We passed the time during those two days moving from building to building, utilising their air conditioning. When Monday came around we went back to finish the alignment – it took 4 hours in total but we were still charged the standard 1 hour price by the garage which was generous. Finally we could go and explore Zion national park! Not before Mikey was stopped by the police for speedy speeding but graciously let off with a warning…
Zion is quite a contrast to Yellowstone, most obviously in the landscape. We’d left the lush green plains and meandering riverbanks full of bison & bears, and arrived at the harsh desert full of snakes & lizards. The natural landscape, whilst hard to compare to Yellowstone, was absolutely breathtaking though. We heard a local describe it as humbling, and think that’s a pretty accurate description.
Our first day took us on a ‘secret hike’ in a blog we’d read – the irony wasn’t lost on the name of it considering we’d found it online but it did turn out to be almost empty. This was in contrast to the rest of the park – July meant summer was really upon us and with it came the crowds of tourists. We also spied that the main road with all the attractions wasn’t accessible by car – you had to take a free shuttle bus. We get it – it reduces road wear and all that good stuff, but bearing in mind we’ve lived out of our van for the past 3 months we’re so used to having everything we need with us. Packing day packs felt like a chore, but we endeavoured and started our hike to emerald pools. They sound more glamorous than the algae filled pools they really are, but still the top opened up breathtaking views across the park. We retired to our free campsite afterwards via the checkerboard mesa – which Annie enjoyed climbing around on!On our second day we parked the car early & took the shuttle to the last stop, the riverside walk and started what we thought would be a 4 – 6 hour hike. It’s fair to say we came ill prepared as it turns out the hike is actually through a running river! Mikey tried barefoot but the stones were too much, then Annie’s sandals (and the lack of toilets) drove us to turn around after around an hour. Still, trudging along up a stream took a lot of the energy out of us, and it was a novelty for us!
After Zion & back country desert it was time for a change of scenery. On to Vegas!