Epic Road Trip to the Rockies, Part 3

A Quick Look Back then on We Go

I have to admit that the decision to take my 21-year-old 4Runner with 280,000 miles on it from LA to CB during winter was not the best. I wanted to see Zion with snow so bad, that it clouded my thinking. It all worked out for the best in the end, but getting through the experience was far from stress free. On the way to Zion, the truck started pulling to the left. As much as I wanted to keep rolling, my gut said “bad idea.” I pulled over, checked the tire pressure and sure enough it was leaking. Thankfully, we were two miles from the main drag in Barstow, and there was a tire shop super close to the offramp. I had a new tire mounted and we were back on the road in less than 30 minutes. The truck performed well all the way through Utah and on to Crested Butte and continued to work great in town. When it was time to leave for our trip back to Zion (then on to LA) however, things went sideways. We got an early start and expected to be in Zion before sunset, but that was not in the cards. We got about two miles away from Nathan and Monica’s home, and my baby started spewing steam from the engine compartment. Sure enough, in the 10-degree morning air, the truck had somehow expelled its coolant and had overheated.

My truck being taken to the mechanic; photo by Richard Bilow

To make a long story short, I spent two hours and 40 minutes stuck on the side of the road waiting for AAA to send a tow truck (which ended up coming from less than 2 miles down the road). While I waited, Nathan took my wife Kathy back to his house, dropped her off so she could continue to write her reviews, and then he left for a photo shoot on the mountain. I was shivering from the cold, because I did not have my warm layers on. I tried putting my snowboard boots on, but they were basically frozen and made matters worse. A nice young woman stopped to offer her help, but by that point there was nothing to do but wait. I knew I would see the tow truck when it arrived, so I decided to kill some time by taking photos. It was just as cold inside the truck as it was outside, and I could not turn the heat on without risking damaging the engine. So, I made the best of the situation.

A beautiful scene shot from the side of the road while waiting for a tow; photo by Richard Bilow

Apparently, we were meant to stay one more night in Crested Butte. Nathan’s wife Monica was coming in from a trip to Israel the same day we were leaving, and we were pretty bummed about missing her. With the truck broken down however, we ended up seeing her and had a blast back at the crib. Having just flown in, Monica returned with major jet lag, so Nathan ended up nurturing us all with a healthy delicious multi-course dinner, complete with red wine. The broken down 4Runner turned out to be a blessing in disguise, giving us a chance to enjoy the company of my cousin’s super sweet wife.

Regarding the status of the truck, let’s just say that a miracle occurred. Earl the mechanic not only found the time to diagnose the problem, he acted fast enough to order needed parts and got them delivered to his shop in the morning the following day. Then he fixed everything before noon, and we hit the road running. It all seemed like a miracle to me, because the weather forecast for Crested Butte showed 6 straight days of snow would be arriving the following day. 

Had we not been able to leave, getting parts for the truck would have been delayed, and I would have been extremely hesitant to attempt a drive out through back-to back storms. Besides that, Earl was looking forward to all the fresh powder and would be out of the shop for a couple days riding his snowmobile. The residents of Crested Butte live there for good reason. They love the outdoors and try their best not to let the epic days pass them by while they are stuck at work. The small part of me that wanted to get stuck (so I too could shred a couple feet of fresh powder) was overshadowed by my desire to make it home safely.

The serious dump that arrived after we left CB; photo by Nathan Bilow

Trying to Beat the Storm

We knew we were headed into the storm as we made our way towards Zion, but at least we would get past the snow zone, as long as the repair held up. If the vehicle failed again, we would still have a brief window of time to get towed. Fortunately, my baby ran like a dream, and we made it to Dessert Pearl Inn (a boutique hotel on the river’s edge at the entrance to Zion National Park) around 11pm. I can’t tell you how great it felt to make it there. Kathy was quick to fill the in-room jacuzzi bathtub, while I collapsed into the unbelievably comfortable bed. We woke up to the sound of a flowing river and chirping birds, while we indulged in our essential morning joe on the covered patio, set against the red rock cliffs of Zion National Park. The rain was just arriving, and the surrounding scenery had a very different look than it had when we first past through for our stay on March 2. It was mystical, like something one might see in a fantasy. CLICK HERE to read Kathy’s review of Desert Pearl Inn.

Zion peaks as the storm moved in; photo by Richard Bilow

We had a great plan that would have placed us in Zion under blue skies had our truck not broken down. I had all my professional camera gear ready and was psyched to get into the park a second time, before the shuttle started running. Unfortunately, the universe had a different plan. When I got up in the morning, hikers were already returning from their failed attempt at hiking. They informed me that the trails were dangerously slippery, so my idea of going to shoot photos in the rain was put to rest. I was not about to push my luck and end our glorious trip on a sour note. I had already survived 4 straight days of shredding Crested Butte Mountain without injury, despite a couple high-speed wipe outs. I had captured some very nice shots in Zion on our first stop and also had a bunch of stunning images “in the can” from the top of The Rockies. Kathy had walked the icy streets of Crested Butte shopping, and visiting galleries without incident for several days, and we both agreed that it was time to head back home. Kathy wrote a couple articles featuring the Galleries of CB and the Boutiques of CB, so if you are accompanied by a non skier, or snowboarder, find out more on the Destinations Page. 

Home Sweet Home

So, off we went, headed straight into a series of storms that were relentlessly pounding Los Angeles, as the atmospheric river of winter 2023 continued bringing rain and snow to our home town. Our anticipated 7-hour drive took 9 exhausting hours, but we made it through our “Epic Road-Trip to the Rockies” in pretty good shape with lots of great memories. We enjoyed good times with family, had a bunch of delicious meals (see ETG’s Stories Section; Dining/Drinking; Reviews), saw gorgeous scenery, met wonderful people, experienced a great adventure and made it home in one piece. We will be heading back to Zion when snow and rain are not an issue, and conditions permitting, I will be flying back to Crested Butte next winter; as I chase the powder to hit “The Extremes” in the type of conditions I dream of. As luck would have it, Mammoth picked up 3 more feet of quality powder right after we returned, so the epic powder session I was after turned out to be at my home mountain (and you can bet I took full advantage of that)….stay tuned for more ETG adventures. 

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