Thelma & Louise: The Sequel
Story and Photos by Terri Marshall
As Thanksgiving nears, many of us reflect on all the things we are thankful for in our lives. I know I do. I also know I could write 5,000 words about all the things I have to be thankful for – which include health, extensive travel, laughter, love, friends and family. As I reflect on my dream come true life, I can’t help but look back to the people who have hung in there with me for adventures no one could have predicted. One of those people is my BFF, Nancy a/k/a Thelma.
Nancy and I have known each other since we were in our twenties. We met in a dorm at the University of Florida where we were staying while attending Florida Trust School. We’ve seen each other through the child rearing years, graduations, weddings, divorces and a host of other things I won’t even try to explain. Through it all we’ve kept our friendship strong – despite living over a thousand miles apart.
Seven years ago we embarked on a cross country Thelma and Louise road trip. We flew to Seattle, rented a red convertible and drove to New York. Along the way we met cowboys, detoured through corn fields and checked out roadside attractions like the CornPalace in South Dakota. The most memorable event on the trip was the birth of my first grandchild, Katherine, which occurred at the exact moment we watched a herd of buffalo crossing a snowy river in YellowstoneNational Park.
This past July we decided to embark on the long overdue Thelma and Louise sequel. We flew into Las Vegas – me from New York, Nancy from Orlando. We spent one night gilded in gold at the Trump Hotel where we were most impressed with the television screen set into the bathroom mirror. After a night of luxurious sleep, we set out to conquer the road.
Despite being the best of friends, Nancy and I have distinctly different personalities. She’s cautious, reasonable and prefers to be in control – as in driving. I’m an eternal optimist, unreasonable at times and constantly pushing the limits – which is probably why she prefers to drive. Our personality differences were visible immediately upon arrival at the rental car counter when we were informed there were no cars available. Nancy showed the unfeeling man who delivered this disturbing news a copy of her reservation which had been booked weeks ahead. Unmoved, he repeated the no wheels deal. On the verge of a panic, she walked away from the counter and attempted to reach AAA on the phone.
I wasn’t moving from that counter. We reserved a car and we were going to get one. I explained to this moron that we were embarking on a road trip which, by definition, requires a car. I further explained that we hadn’t reserved just any car, we had reserved a convertible because that is how we travel. Apparently I had found the magic words. Turns out Mr. Bad News did have cars available – all convertibles. It seems no one wants to rent a convertible in the blazing July heat…no one but us. We went from having no car to having a smorgasbord of Mustang convertibles in every imaginable color at our disposal.
Crisis averted, we headed north out of Las Vegas toward Utah where we planned to see all five National Parks, cruise along Scenic Byway 12 and check out that big Salt Lake. It was 100 degrees when we left Las Vegas but we had the top down breathing in the hot dry air as we rolled along. As we entered Zion National Park in the Southwestern part of Utah we were immediately moved by the grandeur of the towering monoliths and deep canyons. The road led us through tunnels carved into the mountains and around the rim of the dramatic plunging canyons. Each turn brought yet another jaw dropping sight. It was hard to imagine anything more beautiful existed – yet we had four more parks to see!
Our next park, Bryce Canyon, with its trademark towers called “hoodoos” beckoned us for a hike. As we made our way down the steep descent to the floor of the canyon we marveled at the massive boulders teetering at the top of spikes looking as if they could break loose at any moment. Standing at the bottom of the canyon looking up at the surrounding wonder is one of those moments when you realize just how small we are compared to nature’s grandeur. It’s also one of those moments when you realize the hike down was the easy part. The saying goes “what goes up must come down” but when you’ve hiked to the bottom of a canyon the reality is what goes down must come up and that included us. It wasn’t easy but it was worth every drop of sweat.
In south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capital Reef National Park is filled with cliffs, canyons, comes and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle on the earth (geologic monocline) that extends 100 miles. We stopped for the night at the edge of the park and took advantage of the hotel’s hot tub. As the sunset illuminated the surrounding red rocks, it seemed as if we had been dropped into a movie set – Thelma and Louise of course.
Three hundred million years of patient erosion has resulted in Arches National Park’s unbelievably dramatic landscape. More than 2,000 arches give the park its name, but the park also contains fields of spires, pinnacles, domes and ridiculously balanced formations that defy the laws of physics. We hiked among the sandstone spans to the world-famous Delicate Arch in the scorching 112 degree midday temperature where we were rewarded with a view through a window into time. Granted we would have been rewarded the same view later in the day when the temperatures were a chilly 90 degrees, but that approach is for wimps.
The largest of the five Utah parks, Canyonlands National Park resides toward the eastern edge of the state. The convergence of the powerful Colorado and Green rivers, combined with millions of years of uplift and erosion, have created this giant expanse of impossibly epic views. As we wound our way along the road gasping at every turn we knew we had found the perfect place to stage our Thelma and Louise over the cliff scene – without actually going over the cliff.
Our drive between the parks took us along Scenic Byway 12…one of the most beautiful drives on Earth. We felt the wind in our hair, stopped for impossibly bad selfies, baked our skin in the brilliant sunshine and sang along to the Dixie Chicks. I am thankful for every moment.
Terri is a freelance writer with regular columns on travel, chocolate and bar reviews. She is busy each month visiting new places to bring unique travel destinations and events to you. Yes, it is a sacrifice – but she is willing to do that for her readers! You can see more of Terri’s writing at www.examiner.com where she is the National Chocolate Examiner and at www.barzz.net. Also, check out her blog at www.trippingwithterri.com. You can contact Terri at email@example.com.