Click for larger imageFor 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

Click for larger imageWHEREAS, 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 Bible; and

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.

Click for larger imageSorry, 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.

Click for larger imageMoab 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. 

Arches 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 Click for larger imagefilled 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" Click for larger imageday.  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.

Tomorrow - Eureka, Nevada and one more day until I return to San Francisco...

Road Trip 2003 Statistics
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San Francisco to Maine, twenty two states, two countries and 8,000 miles...[More]
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