the past seventy two years, Highway
666 carried people along a route from Gallup, New Mexico to Salt Lake
City, Utah. My route from Durango, Colorado to Moab, Utah includes
a section of Highway 666 and I'm carefully watching for the turn as I rumble
through Cortez, Colorado. Where is it? As of July 1, 2003,
Highway 666 is gone.
The states of Colorado, Utah and New Mexico petitioned
the Department of Transportation to change the name. Here is what
they said in their application:
"WHEREAS, people living near the road already
live under the cloud of opprobrium created by having a road that many believe
is cursed running near their homes and through their homeland; and
the number "666" carries the stigma of being the mark of the beast, the
mark of the devil, which was described in the book of revelations in the
HEREAS, there are people who refuse to travel
the road, not because of the issue of safety, but because of the fear that
the devil controls events along United States route 666; and
WHEREAS, the economy in the area is greatly
depressed when compared with many parts of the United States, and the infamy
brought by the inopportune naming of the road will only make development
in the area more difficult. "
...blah...blah...blah...please change the name.
I don't know what "opprobrium" is either. However, the same silly
creatures who brought you Homeland Security, the War on Terrorism and the
USA Patriot Act have now renamed Highway 666. They just neglected
to tell the people who publish maps and GPS software.
Once I locate the new route 461 (marked by a single
sign) I'm off to Utah.
The mountains of Colorado give way to flat plains
filled with bean farms. The bean farms taper off shortly after I
cross the Utah border while sandstone
cliffs and canyons fill the horizon.
is located in eastern Utah between the Canyonland and Arches National Parks.
The temperature is 102 when I arrive and will reach 105 later in the day.
I check in at my hotel, ensure the air conditioner is operating at full
tilt, then head out to explore the Arches.
Just outside Moab are the remains of the world's
second largest uranium processing mill - a giant pile of tailings surrounded
by a barbed wire fence and government warnings to stay away. Uranium
fueled the economy of this city until nuclear power fell out of fashion.
National Park rests to the west of the uranium tailings. A giant
red sandstone mesa rises up from the highway. Steep switchbacks take
me to the top of the mesa and into a land filled
with over two thousand natural sandstone
arches, hundreds of towering spires and odd rock formations (some of
which are decidedly
phallic). The largest of the arches is over three hundred feet
long. Like the geysers of Yellowstone, the mountains of Colorado
or the wide spaces of Quebec, the Arches are best experienced in person.
I climb up into an
arch, the arc of rock suspended above me, and stare out over miles
of Utah. In this moment I understand why humans are often motivated
to seek god in places of solitude.
It is Independence Day and I'm in the middle of
the United States (well, slightly left of the middle). This makes
it "My Bumper Sticker Flag is Bigger than Your Bumper Sticker Flag" day.
Moab features a fireworks show over the sandstone cliffs - something I
am looking forward to seeing. The children are gathering in the parking
lot across the street from my hotel and staring skyward as I type.
- Eureka, Nevada and one more day until I return to San Francisco...