Tuesday, June 24, 2008

our amazing trip: day 4

This is how I've been spending some of my non-driving time during this drive (Yes, I realize it's not on. Maybe that's why my updates take so long to complete?)

And this is how Charlie has been spending his non-driving time.

It's a good thing at least one of us is looking at a map, or we might be stranded on a road somewhere in eastern Utah.

Now, try as we might, we have been unable to get on to the road before 10:00 each morning.
Although we'd probably stand a much better chance if we weren't out eating huge Boulder style pizzas...

... and playing in the hotel pool until 10:30.

Actually, the theme of this driving experience has been to have fun and enjoy ourselves. We are taking our time, stopping every two hours to let the kids out to play, stretch our legs, switch drivers, and stock up on refreshments. Sometimes our stops are for 15 minutes, and sometimes they are for an hour. When we crossed over the Loveland Pass at 11,990 feet above mean sea level and the children saw snow for the first time ...

That warranted a much longer stop.

Thus far, we've been getting in around 400 miles of driving per day. But that number will probably bump up to 500 miles today and tomorrow if we want to get to Toronto before Thursday. But the scenery up until this point has been so MAGNIFICENT it's been very difficult for us to not stop and check out the incredible geologic features along the way.

This is I-70 east, climbing east in to Colorado.

Now for a quick roadside geology lesson...

The Colorado Plateau, is a large area in the Western United States that was uplifted by a series of mountain building events. Multiple rivers, including the Colorado River, would cut through exposing the various sedimentary layers of the Plateau as the land continued to be uplifted. (See the layers? They look like layers in a cake.)

So, what you see when you drive through this area, are multiple layers of sedimentary rock that represent different times and different environments of deposition. For instance, the rocks that we see could have been deposited at some location within an ocean - along a beach - or a desert.
And then, those layers - which were originally deposited horizontally (flat) - were uplifted because of various mountain building events such that the layers are sticking straight up right out of the ground. Whenever there is a surface of erosion between two separate depositions, that is called an "unconformity." Notice how the rocks in the picture below are at a 45 degree angle?

There are abundant fossils from the plants, animals and lil' critters that once lived here buried in the rocks. The Colorado Plateau is so big and covers such a large area geographically, that the rocks (and fossils) that you see in the Grand Canyon of Arizona - and Zion of Utah - and many of the other famous National Parks in the Southwestern United States (Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, etc.) are from the same "Formations" that we see here.

And thanks in large part to the Colorado River (see the rapids?), we are able to see this beautiful cross-section of geologic time that dates back millions of years.

We just crossed over from Colorado to Nebraska so tomorrow, I'll post more pictures from our trip thus far and some interesting geologic trivia thrown in for fun. I suspect that the photos for at least a little while won't consist of much more than plains and blue sky, since the roads for as far as I can see look like this...

Have I mentioned yet how thankful I am for the DVD player in our car?


  1. Looks like you guys are really having fun! Did Charlie do some mapping near Boulder during his field camp tenure? We did some amazing mapping in and around southern Colorado and took a geo-field trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Maybe you guys can hit that on the way back! Oh yeah, don't forget to get an oil change when you reach Toronto and one when you get back! I'm just sayin'...

  2. I-70 East is my growing up hometown backyard! Did you stop in Grand Junction? Aaahhhhh...My grandpa used to call the desert between Green River and Grand Junction "quaint" and the area around the Colorado Plateau the most beautiful place in the world to starve to death. :)

    I heart road trips. Even (or maybe especially?) with little kids - the getting out and looking around every so often is lovely, really. Sometimes preferrable to being trapped on an airplane, eh?

  3. Jill from Omaha6/24/08, 8:14 PM

    I've never commented before but love your blog. I live in Omaha and my in laws live in Chicago so if you need any suggestions for great stops along the way email me and I'll let you in all the fun. Yes the roads will look the same for hours and hours and the DVD player will be going strong but the heartland has some fun to offer.
    Great Outlet mall in Williamsburg IA with Gap, Old Navy etc.
    The Arch at Kearney in NE is fun.
    The Omaha Zoo is the best in the country. I can honestly say its better than your hometown San Diego Zoo. If you drive through you should stop.
    Jill from Omaha

  4. I wanted to tell you that my daughter and I have been checking your blog a few times a day just to see where you have been. Tonight, when she saw the picture of you, she said - "She is so pretty!" I thought you would like to know there is a 9 year old girl in SC that is in awe of you and your family for just jumping in the car and going. Makes us want to head out west sometime soon. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  5. I know. I know. I know this stuff!! Thanks inpart to my wonderful cousin who helped me pass my geology elective class some 15 years ago! (mmm who was that again ~ oh yeah! How things change ~ she's now a triplet MOM!)

    I'm sure the pictures don't do it justice ~ so much better in person. I will give the boys the lesson later when they wake up.

    By the way ...Why aren't you making a side trip to SC?? What's 600 miles out of your way when your on an adventure??

    Be careful and have fun. I can feel your excitement! It's great ~ I'm so envious! Be careful! Much love, Marg.

  6. You are doing it just the right way, stopping to smell the flowers. The photos are GREAT! Now I'm hungry for giant pizza.

  7. Y'all look like your having a fabulous time!!! Keep enjoying it!

  8. So glad you are relaxed and enjoying what you love most -- your family and the scenery!!! I've seen Zion and loved it, I love the "cake layers." Some of the rock formations in that area reminded me of wrinkly elephant skin.