When they fly they seem as though they are having fun. With one of the largest brains of all birds they are known to work out problems. They are noisy, mischievous, can recognize and remember faces, and above all are opportunists.
They are loyal and mate for life. They protect their territory and young vigorously. When used to humans they are somewhat fearless. While you may see their cousins (crows and grackles) in the city, ravens prefer the wide open spaces.
In different cultures, superstitions, and mythologies, ravens have known as a trickster (one I can believe), a bad omen, or a god. Wooly just thinks they are opportunists.
When Wooly and Raeski arrived at a trailhead in Canyonlands National Park we were greeted by a Raven. He? was bold and vocal. As Wooly pulled out the camera Mr. Raven took a liking to Miss Mini and flew onto her. Now Wooly knew enough to make sure there wasn’t anything handy for Mr. Raven to make off with. Raeski on the other hand was more concerned with Mr. Raven scratching Miss Mini’s sensitive paint. And this wasn’t Miss Mini’s first encounter with ravens. Apparently her shiny chrome is irresistible!
However Wooly happens to enjoy the decidedly uncommon Common Raven of the Southwest. When I spoke to this one I got a very vocal CAW CAW back. My guess is he was telling me, “I know you have food and shiny bobbles in this car, now hand them over!”
After a stop at Utah’s Goosenecks State Park, Raeski and I continued driving up route UT-261 to reach Natural Bridges National Monument. I didn’t know if we would be able to go this route because of an obstacle called the Moki Dugway. This is a portion of the highway that goes from pavement to dirt and our topless Miss Mini Cooper much prefers the nice paved roads she was built to drive on instead of rough dirt roads.
As you approach the dugway the first road sign the state of Utah deems to warn the casual driver of is impending doom and destruction if you are in something they consider oversize or overweight. I guess they are leaving it up to you to decide if you fall in that category. In the photo you can see the next sign warns you about 5mph switchbacks and 10% grades which means you’re in for a steep road that gains 10 feet in elevation for every 100 feet you travel.
Upon reaching the dusty dirt portion of the road we find it is in very good condition and not rough at all but with some rain it could be a very different story. Wooly loves roads that are like spaghetti. The switchbacks reminded us of our trip between Santiago Chile and Mendoza Argentina. However the Moki doesn’t have 29 switchbacks like that road. As you climb the views are impressive and fortunately there are wide spots in the road where you can stop and sneak in a photo or two.
There is one vista where you can pull completely off the road and are greeted with a view of the road below and some of the switchbacks and the plateau below. It was a bit of fortune that I was able to shoot a photo of a truck pulling a horse trailer up the road that gives size perspective. This seems to be a popular stopping point because if you look online you will find many photos taken from this spot and now I’m adding mine to the mix.
While it’s not Mt. Everest, when you get to the top the views makes it
seem like you are on top of the world. Looking east you see a portion of Monument Valley and to the south you see the twisted canyon of the San Juan River. To the north you enter a forest of Juniper trees, open range, and cattle standing in the middle of the road. Yes, we literally had to make our way around a cow standing in the middle of the road.
Okay, so how in the world did ‘they’ (the ever present unidentified corporate they) come up with the name Moki Dugway?
In deference to our Spanish speaking friends, it should really be spelled Moqui which was
a term the Spanish explorers used to describe the Pueblo Indians they met in the area. Of course Americans being Americans have to change the word to something more pronounceable to their tongue instead of learning the rules of Spanish pronunciation. So you get the new name of Moki. But wouldn’t Mokee have served that purpose better? Maybe they were just lazy and didn’t want to use an extra vowel.
And a dugway is a road or path excavated from a high land form for means of transport. From this you get the name Moki Dugway as the road cuts through roughly 1,100 feet of the sheer walls of Cedar Mesa.
Raeski found this seat removal kit for Minis online and ordered it. Wow, what a difference it makes. After installing it the choice was simple. There’s an amazing amount of room in that little car once the back seats are gone.
Tomorrow we take off for a three week adventure. The first day will be a long one as we will be driving over 500 miles. I’m looking forward to it because we are escaping the heat. Today it reached 109F or for those living in most of the world, 43C.
Our first side trip tomorrow will be a side trip to Goosenecks State Park to catch an outstanding view of the San Juan River a few miles upstream before it flows into the Colorado River. It’s 10 miles of dirt road that’s going to really mess up a clean car. I’m curious to see if we get much dirt in the car while driving with the top down. My guess is we might end up having to put the top up. In the past when on dirt roads the back of the car got quite dusty.
After the Goosenecks we head to the Moki Dugway which has a couple of great viewpoints overlooking the Valley of the Gods. From what I have seen and read the valley is like a miniature Monument Valley. After that we head to Blanding to check into our hotel.
But we’re not done yet. Tomorrow night we are going to Natural Bridges National Monument. Why at night? Because they have some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 and Wooly wants to try to photograph the Milky Way.
The great debate rages on in the Wooly and Raeski home. Raeski wants to go topless on our summer trips. Wooly is concerned about the compromised security when going topless. Of course all that time we spent in the sun getting some color might go to waste if we don’t go topless. We’re not concerned about the stares and smiles we get when we go topless because we’re used to it. When you drive a Mini Cooper convertible with the top down you get lots of smiles.
But the problem the Mini and countless other convertibles have is security. How do you keep your valuables safe? Let’s face it; a bit of canvas isn’t much of a deterrent to the common thief. Actually there won’t be any irreplaceable valuables in the car when it’s unattended. There will be food, clothes, and stuff like that but nothing irreplaceable. My camera gear will always be with me. But it’s the perception of something of value being in the car that worries me along with some stupid thief cutting the top to get to some clothes and food. But one also might say we run that risk every day when the car is parked.
The alternative is driving a car that’s not nearly as much fun but a little more comfortable with more room and a trunk. Yeah, it has a sunroof but it’s not the same. A sunroof lacks the element of freedom and lack of restraint a convertible affords. Plus you really do see more when you’re topless.
Maybe I have to think a bit more creatively to figure out how to jam what we need into the Mini. We could reduce the amount of food by shopping more often. Fewer clothes and a stop at a Laundromat once or twice (being stinky is not an option) could cut down on the amount of clothes required which would allow us to use smaller suitcases that will fit in the tiny trunk of the Mini. That would leave just the ice-chest and food visible. It’s food for thought… (Yes, I did it again. Sometimes a good pun is irresistible.)
Or we could play it safe and drive the Lexus I don’t like even though it’s my car. It would have more room, and much larger trunk and a better stereo. The ride is smoother, bumps in the road don’t jar you, and your hair looks good when you get out of the car. We could certainly take more stuff. The Lexus is a simple solution to a vexing problem and those of you who know Wooly know he’s a simple guy.
So let us know what your vote is. Should Wooly and Raeski go topless this summer? Vote and let us know. And if you have any ideas leave us a comment. Cheers, Wooly.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain