This report is from Day 5 of our 2005 Summer Vacation, on August 1, 2005.
The Froggie/LadyMegs 2005 Great Circle Tour, Day 5: a dry surprise,
Four Corners, and Dust Devils
- First item of note from this day wasn't road-related...it was car-related. After the problems I'd noticed with the car after we got to Santa Fe, NM, I searched out the local Toyota dealership and was basically the first in line when they opened for business in the morning. After waiting an hour or so, I received a very dry surprise...literally. My car was down to only ONE QUART of oil. Somehow, in the ~3,000 miles of vacation driving we had done thus far, my car managed to BURN four quarts of oil. Though the dealership refilled my oil, they couldn't figure out why it was burning oil. [Editor's Note: as I eventually discovered, this was the opening saga in an ongoing oil-burning fit my car's engine had for the rest of the time I had the car, which I eventually traded in about 10 months later.]
- Once the car engine saga was finished, and after grabbing Meaghan from the hotel and a case of oil for backup, we headed out of town, starting on I-25 south towards Albuquerque. First item of note was Exit 276, where NM 599 is signed from I-25 as the "Santa Fe Relief Route".
- Exit 271 had a CR 50F on the guide signage, using a basic white square shield with "C.R." on the upper line and "50 F" (with a space in between) for the route number.
- Exit 252 has a couple of casinos at it.
- Southbound I-25 drops from 75 MPH to 70 MPH just before the exit at US 550. Speaking of that exit, the guide signage on I-25 uses a 2dus-sized shield for US 550, and the guide sign at the exit looks like an older sign that had the US 550 shield overlaid on top of what had previously been a NM 44(?) shield.
- We took US 550 north from this point. As a general rule, US 550 is a 4-lane undivided highway, about 2-4ft "flush median" between the northbound and southbound lanes, with a 70 MPH speed limit between Bernalillo and Bloomfield. The speed limit is lower through the larger (i.e. incorporated) towns along the way...Bernalillo, San Ysidro, Cuba, and Bloomfield (as low as 30 MPH in Cuba), and those larger towns also have a center left turn lane along US 550, while there were also occasional left turn lanes at rural road junctions. While much of the trip was flat, empty, or a combination of the two, there are some very impressive-looking rock outcroppings in some areas. [Editor's Note: I have a US 550 photo page posted here.]
- There were also occasional county routes branching off of US 550. One was Sandoval CR 11, south of Cuba.
- US 550 crosses the Continental Divide northwest of Cuba, at an elevation of 7,380 ft.
- Things started getting greener near Bloomfield, and it was obvious that irrigation was being used in the fields.
- At US 64, US 550 turns right to briefly duplex with US 64, while we turned left and headed west.
- US 64 is generally a mix of 4-lane divided (rural) and 5-lane undivided (urban) from Bloomfield all the way to Shiprock. It generally stays within or skirts the edge of the San Juan River valley (an oasis of green amongst brown and tan) between the two cities.
- There's a BUSINESS US 64 within Farmington, which also appears to be the largest town in this northwest corner of New Mexico.
- Speed limit on US 64 between Farmington and Shiprock was 60 MPH.
- Ship Rock starts becoming visible to the southwest before approaching the town of the same name. It's visible for several miles along US 64 on both sides of town.
- US 64 and US 491 have a roughly 1-mile duplex in Shiprock, including a crossing of the San Juan River. US 64 is the "through route" at the eastern junction, while US 491 is the through route at the western junction. Though the river crossing is 4 lanes, the west/southbound river crossing utilizes the original river bridge...a relatively narrow pull-through truss.
- Stayed on US 64 west of Shiprock, along which US 64 is 2 lanes with an occasional left turn lane. It started off fairly flat (with Shiprock to the south), but before the Arizona line started going up and down through and across gulleys and small plateaus.
- US 64 ends at US 160 at a small rural T-junction called Teec Nos Pos. The "through route" here is US 64 to the east and US 160 to the west. We turned onto US 160 East here to head up to Four Corners.
- The access road into Four Corners (which itself is part monument, part tourist trap, with tourist booths on all four sides) is designated NM 597. The monument area itself sits at the edge of a small plateau overlooking the San Juan River valley (to the north) and another valley to the west. While we were there, thunderstorms were brewing to the southwest and were close enough for the thunder to be audible.
- After finishing up at Four Corners, we headed back out to US 160 and north briefly into Colorado. The NM/CO line is just south of a fairly long crossing of the San Juan River. We weren't on US 160 long, or in Colorado long either, as we turned left onto CO 41, which becomes UT 162 at the CO/UT line.
- UT 162 eventually enters the San Juan River valley and follows the edge of it for several miles. At Montezuma Creek, we opted for UT 262 to try and cut the corner over to US 191. This was a generally successful endeavor, although the pavement on UT 262 was fair at best and there was one narrow section with some tight curves and even a switchback while climbing up onto a plateau.
- It was on that plateau that we saw the first of three or four dust devils during the course of the afternoon.
- Overall, UDOT was fairly generous on left turn lanes and climbing lanes on the longer grades along US 191.
- US 191 widens out to 5-lanes undivided on the southern approach into Blanding, then narrows to 4-lanes undivided through the south part of town before hitting an intersection in the middle of town where US 191 turns. The highway was also 4/5-lanes on the north side of Blanding and kept a center left turn lane for about 2 miles north of town.
- While heading north out of Blanding, signs warned of construction work and expected delays through "Devil's Canyon". UDOT looked to be in the middle of a reconstruction project on that stretch through Devil's Canyon, with some partial realignment and also possibly a couple of climbing lanes. Traffic was generally along the new alignment, albeit unpaved, and during the day it looks like 1-lane operation controlled by flaggers and a pace car. Our delay was about 10-15 minutes or so.
- US 191 widens out to 5-lanes through Monticello.
- Things got more scenic north of Monticello, with several impressive rock formations (Church Rock, Wilson Arch, "Hole-In-The-Rock") and valley/gulley drives.
- We stopped for an early dinner in Moab. Moab is not only the county seat of Grand County, but it's also a jumping off point for both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. US 191 widens to 5-lanes through most of the town.
- US 191 narrows back to 2 lanes through the northern part of Moab. There's a crossing of the Colorado River just north of UT 128. North of there, US 191 briefly widens out to 4 lanes from north of the Arches Nat'l Park entrance up to UT 313.
- In that same general area and further north, there were hints of a current or former railroad line that parallels US 191 in the area. None of my photos show it, but it appears in Google Earth. No telling if it's still an active line or not.
- US 191 returned to fairly flat and very empty north of UT 313, all the way up to I-70.
- Though there were trailblazers for US 6 and US 191 (none for US 50) where US 191 met I-70, there were no reassurance shields on I-70 itself.
- Took I-70 west to past Green River, then up US 6/191. Remnants of the old US 6 alignment were very apparent in areas.
- A passing lane was under construction north of the Emery/Carbon County line.
- US 6/191 widens to 3 lanes through Wellington, then to 5-lanes undivided from the west side of Wellington to Exit 243 (south end of the Price bypass).
- The Price bypass itself (from Exit 243 to Exit 240) is a Super-2 freeway. There are 3 interchanges: 240 (north end), 241 (UT 10), and 243 (south end). 240 and 241 are diamonds, and 243 is a trumpet with the EB off-ramp being the loop.
- North of the bypass, US 6/191 is 4-lanes divided and technically controlled-access (more like NO access) from Exit 240 north to the turnoff for Carbonville...about 3.5 miles. North of here, US 6/191 became 5-lanes undivided for a couple more miles.
- West of US 191, through the Spanish Fork Canyon, was an interesting drive. Several curves on US 6, though UDOT was generous with left turn lanes and passing lanes, trying to squeeze in 4-lane and 5-lane segments where they could without requiring massive earth moving. There were also good views of the parallel Union Pacific rail line. Several crossings of US 6 and the UP tracks, all of them grade-separated. Alas, by the time we got on this stretch of US 6, it was getting dark so photo opportunity was limited.
- US 6 started crossing the Wasatch Range past where US 89 joins from the south.
- US 6 widens to 5 lanes just west of where US 89 splits off to the north, and stays 5 lanes to the interchange with I-15 (a trumpet with a SB on-loop).
- The I-15/US 6 junction is the start of a long segment of I-15 where it maintains at least 6 lanes (3 in each direction) through Provo, Salt Lake City, and all the way to Ogden.
- Somewhere between Provo and the Salt Lake area was a widening project on I-15, where it was being widened from 6 to 8 lanes. Unfortunately, it was dark and I don't recall the endpoints of this construction zone.
- We stopped for the night in Midvale.
Coming next: berries, lakes, and 2 hours of NOTHING!
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