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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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As expected, the flight out of LaGuardia was delayed. Equipment arrived on time, but there were 20 people ahead of us to depart, and they were pushing a plane only once every 5 minutes or so. Once in the air, we were informed that we also had to divert more southward in order to avoid weather systems.

Once I got to Denver, it was just about boarding time. Turns out I had to go completely across one terminal and then take a train to the adjacent one. Once there, the counter lady said “Oh, my, we didn’t actually expect you to make it, what a surprise!” I didn’t see my bags under the plane, but they did magically arrive in Vernal, so no complaints there.

The plane was bigger than I expected; a Beech 1900D, it was a small twin turboprop; small enough to get tossed around by thermals and wind, but fast enough that the trip from Denver to Vernal only took about 75 minutes. The view was very nice; I didn’t get much reading done on this flight; I saw a lot of gorgeous mountains, cliffs, and all sorts of geological things I don’t really understand.

Anyhow, arrived into Vernal’s airport, which is about the size of a small ranch home, and has a room for security (seriously, it’s just a room, there’s no gate, to speak of). Got my car rental sorted out (sort of; they’re not open today, but they left papers with the airline, it was very odd). And, my faithful steed for this journey is a silver 2008 Ford Focus:

Like virtually all American cars, it is a piece of shit. I know this comes as no surprise. Unlike most American cars, the A/C sucks, leaving only cupholders as its one uniquely American advantage.

I drove awkwardly through town for a while; people drive very slowly here. Very slowly. Most always 10 miles under the speed limit. They wait forever at intersections, giving themselves four to five times as much space as they need.

I realized rather quickly that this is not the New York Metro area. The most terrifying part was when I pulled up to an intersection simultaneously with three cops (perhaps all of Vernal’s force). I escaped alive.

Seriously though, think slow. Like mental damage slow, if you’ve been driving on either coast recently. We’re talking both speed, reaction, and decision-making. It’s painful.

There are more trucks here proportionally than anywhere I’ve ever seen before. Everybody seems to be driving Cummins-powered supercabs that have been modified for off-road use. Makes me stick out like a sore thumb.

That said, I have seen one BMW (E46 M3). The only other not-truck in the hotel parking lot is another silver 08 focus. It’s creepy.

Anyhow, I needed some dinner, so I stopped at a BBQ shack in the K-Mart parking lot; it looked like this:

Since you can’t make it out, the pig says:

Mmm, BBQ.

I’d seen this mountain feature since I drove into town from the airport, and wanted to try to get closer to it, so I set out driving towards it, in order to catch the sunset and enjoy my dinner.

My random approach lead me past a ton of Halliburton buildings, and down a whole bunch of roads that started to suggest why everybody has an off-road equipped pickup truck. At one point I thought I was going to have to go down a 60 degree incline, but then I noticed the shallow one-lane switchbacks. It was sort of terrifying in the focus.

It was at this point that I realized what I wanted more than anything was a fast car and all wheel drive. There are a ton of remarkable dirt roads back here, as well as some paved roads that seem to be arbitrarily made twisty just for the hell of it (seriously, they could have cut a straight path, but instead they have inclines and tight corners, it’s marvelous).

Here’s my dinner, which I enjoyed well watching the sun go down, and listen to the NASCAR racing in the background (supposedly). It was loud and sounded interesting, but I decided I didn’t want to drive down to the track and pay some money to see the tail end of a race.

It sort of sucked. Oh well. It was cheap.

While tossing my trash into the car, I saw a gift left me by a previous driver. You never know when one might come in handy, I guess.

This photo makes the Focus look cool. It isn’t.

Anyway, there are hideous dinosaur things all over town. Here’s one:

And, once I got back to the hotel, I quickly found the most lux liquor I could in town. It was between this and a Miller High Life 40oz. I went with the 24oz Corona.

Anyhow, some quick random thoughts in addition:

  • I get perfect-looking service on my cell phone out here; full bars, 3G indicator … and text messages won’t send. This cut my enthralling facebook updates short.
  • So far people seem pretty friendly. I stick out like a sore thumb with everybody wearing cowboy hats and driving pickup trucks. The guy who was standing in line with me at the BBQ place seemed to speak a different language, and eventually he just gave up on me. This destroys my hope that I could ever call a place like this home.
  • It’s very still and peaceful. The sky is really fucking dark. I’m going to go out stargazing one of these evenings.
  • There are a lot of bugs, but they don’t seem to bite; I’m fine with that.
  • I saw this huge crane sitting by a creek, and tried to nab some shots with the 70-200, but the lack of IS killed me. The IS version definitely needs to be on my to-buy lens list. In a rush to get out and photograph the sunset, I left the 300/4 IS and tripod in my backpack, and as such my shots of the thing were a waste. So, when I got back to the hotel, I make sure I had everything unpacked and ready for next time. The absurdity of the amount of gear I packed didn’t hit until I saw this: