Friday, May 22, 2015

Avoiding interstates

An interesting aside: I'm driving from SE Michigan, where I live, to Vernal, UT where my sister-in-law lives, and which will serve as a "base-camp" for my foray in the High Uintas Wilderness.  I really dislike driving on Interstates.  They're busy, crowded, and boring.  Whenever I can, if it's reasonable, I like to duck off of interstates and drive on some other type of road.  While small two-lane roads may seem slower, they often have so much less traffic that you don't necessarily make worse time.  While getting to central Nebraska pretty much requires driving non-stop on interstates--I-80 mostly, but also some I-94 between Detroit and Chicago--it's not hard to avoid much of the interstate travel other than that, and get much more relaxed and even scenic drives for what will be my second day (of two) of driving to Vernal and my first day (of two) of driving back home can be spent mostly on other roads, which I'll enjoy quite a bit.  Here's the plan for North Platte, NE to Vernal first, followed by the plan from Vernal to Omaha.

Head west for just a little bit until you get to Ogallala.  I actually hoped to stay in Ogallala for the first night, but I couldn't get a place.  But this is a short hop, done very early in the morning (I'll start before sunrise) and then I get off and take little US-26 up towards Gering and Scottsbluff.  This is a nice drive, with a scenic overlook on Lake McConaughy, up past Ancient Ruins Bluffs, a stop at Chimney Rock, and then an exploration of Scott's Bluff National Monument.

After spending no more than an hour to an hour and a half there, head out of town south on 71, turn west on 88, and then turn southwest again on 85 which takes us into Cheyenne.  Not only is this a scenic and interesting little aside, but it's a very nice, smooth drive; when I did it last year, I hardly saw any other traffic on the road at all.  It was relaxed and the happiest part of my entire driving experience (which isn't ever going to be as fun as my hiking experience, but still.)

I've got to bear another couple of hours of I-80 after getting to Cheyenne, but at Rock Springs I can head south on 191, which is a great scenic drive through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and the eastern end of the Uintas, before coming back down again into Vernal.

On the way back home, rather than going back north to Rock Springs, I'm going to head directly east on US-40.  Take this quite a ways; just past Steamboat Springs, actually, then turn northeastish on 14.  This will give me the extremely scenic North Park-Cache le Poudre route into Fort Colllins.  Staying on 14 after exiting the mountains will take me directly east where I'll eventually combine with I-76 which angles upwards to join I-80 not far from Ogallala, actually.  This way, I get to avoid interstates for most of two (out of four) driving days, and in fact even specifically get to visit some scenic byways while I'm at it.

I'm quite excited, actually, that I've managed to come across this.  It was a pure accident of noodling over a road atlas and noticing that I'm not really going very far out of my way to do it this way.  And no doubt I'll really enjoy the driving experience that much more.

I'll still have the same Ogallala-Detroit interstate experience--twice, both west and eastbound--but that's tolerable.  I'll survive.

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