After leaving Arches National Park, although I was exhausted, I wanted to visit Dead Horse Point State Park. There is an iconic viewpoint of a bend in the Colorado River that I wanted to see in person.
I took the gravel side road off of the state highway and entered the State Park. I drove in and put my already exhausted feet back into my hiking shoes. The paved trail overlook was a welcome adjustment to my expectations. It didn’t take long to absorb it, snap some pictures, and I was out.
I have to reiterate at this point that this is not my preferred mode of travel. I only travel this quickly when I am doing R&D for work, which was common in my former life. I spend my personal trips listening to the music, eating the food, talking to the locals, seeing the sites and absorbing each experience. But, time and money limitations after leaving a stable income source behind and abandoning my belongings to travel for an undetermined amount of time, created a different reality.
Leaving Dead Horse Point State Park, I was unsure of the fastest route to my next stop, Torrey, Utah, so I took a few turns before I got back on track with some cell reception and Google Maps graciously returning to life. The theoretical plan was to take a short trip on the state road, a highway, and then a few more backroads through Capitol Reef National Park.
As I got off the highway, still covered in dirt from my hikes, I noticed how the landscape started to look more and more like Mars. I passed a pull off for Goblin Valley State Park (no joke, actual name) and then noticed my tire pressure light was on. A wave of dread passed through me as I prepared myself for whatever came next. Sure enough, it was a blowout.
As the sun still scorched overhead and the dark black tar road made it feel even hotter, I unpacked things quickly in ninja-like determination.
Obviously, this was not my first flat tire, but it was my first in a very long time. When I first left home after high school, I drove 14 hours back and forth to my chosen college in Vermont. It was a necessity to learn how to check the oil, change tires, troubleshoot, and take care of myself.
It was no surprise, after the miles I was racking up on this trip, that I would have a blow-out. Fortunately, I had inspected the car after I bought it and so wasn’t surprised by the small compressor and can of fix a flat in the wheel well built for a spare tire. Apparently, they don’t use spare tires any longer? Or Kia doesn’t? I pulled out the manual and began reading.
A car finally approached and pulled up behind me. I had almost figured it out, so the guy just calmed his frantic wife down. She was worried about being slightly on the road of a deserted highway while they were late for something hours away. Once I had it all figured out, I asked them if they could just follow me for five minutes to make sure it was going to hold. They did, and I waved them past so they could be on their merry way.
Did I mention, there was no cell reception? Most of the places I seemed to be frequenting out west have an unofficially strict “no AT&T” policy. After about 20 minutes, I make it to Hanksville and with cell service once again, Google and call a tire place. It ended up being a semi-tractor shop, and the nice lady told me in very clear terms not to stop in Hanksville. She said I was better off breaking down in the middle of Capital Reef National Park in the dark and having a park ranger find me in the middle of the night than having anyone in Hanksville fix it.
Adjusting to this new reality, I pull over in town anyway and check my tire pressure again. It was a sidewall blow-out, so I had a golf ball size bubble sticking out of the side of my tire. I have no idea how it happened as I didn’t hit anything (that I recall).
As I pulled over, two guys driving by, turned around and drove back to me. They asked if I needed help and I said I just had some tire issues but was all good. They saw the tire and said their friend owned the tire shop across the street and they would be happy to check to see if they had something. Long story short, the guy showed up, opened a mobile storage locker and rummaged around until he pulled out a tire that looked worse than the one on my car. I said, “thanks anyway!” and hit the road praying they wouldn’t follow me and with my 30 ft projectile bear spray within reach.
While driving, it started to look a bit like the backroads of New Mexico I had passed through, which wasn’t at all a friendly looking neighborhood. At this point, I wasn’t so sure that the advice from the tire lady was all that accurate. I made it into Capital Reef National Park and Torrey eventually. As I drove 40 mph and had several cars passed me, I kept track of the spots along the road that might make a good or bad place to sleep overnight – you know, just in case.
I also took a couple of cell phone videos accounts of my situation with hopes of having a good laugh later but also just in case anything actually happened. They are quite hilarious and no, I will never show anyone.
When I arrived in Torrey, my already paid for campsite ended up being an empty lot that would have been a lovely place to stay if it wasn’t completely deserted. The campsite host knew about my flat tire and that I would arrive late and left me instructions to find a spot and pay in the morning. It was pitch black and completely deserted aside from the sheep surrounding the property. There were also no bathrooms to be easily found.
Completely elated to have made it safely but deflated by the highs and lows of the day with no one to share, I found the nearest hotel and got a room. It was a cute small motel with a restaurant that was closing for the night as I arrived, but I was happy to go to my room with my box of wine and elk jerky and call my mother… to finally tell her of my adventures.