Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs You might want to make a note of this in case you are ever stuck in Green River, Utah. Room 102 at the Super 8 has a large, heart-shaped jetted tub smack dab in the middle of the floor.
Tell me the truth. When was the last time you did the backstroke in a heart-shaped bathtub?
The honeymoon suite in a mid-grade chain motel was not exactly what we had in mind May 26 when we packed up our camping gear and headed west from Steamboat Springs toward our destination the San Rafael Swell. It is a lightly visited wilderness about 130 miles west of Grand Junction with uplifted sandstone canyons and buttes and very little water. But the howling winds that plagued eastern Utah and Northwest Colorado on that Saturday afternoon made pitching a camp in a remote canyon, where the air was filled with dust, something less than appealing.
The San Rafael Swell is about 75 miles long and roughly bisected by Interstate 70. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and includes a couple of wilderness study areas.
If you’ve ever driven to Las Vegas or Southern California on I-70, you’ve whizzed past the San Raf or maybe stopped to admire the view of the dramatic landscape from a highway rest stop.
We had done the same thing on multiple trips and always vowed to someday make the region a destination. On prior trips to Capitol Reef National Park, we had sampled the region with an overnight stay in Goblin Valley State Park. But as intriguing as the rock hoodoos in Goblin Valley are, they don’t begin to sum up the totality of the sprawling San Rafael Swell.
There’s a lot to say about the uncrowded canyons west of Green River and the discoveries to be made there. There are rock art panels to be tracked down, surprisingly diverse bird life and the little San Rafael River still ran cold and clear on its way to the Green River with snowmelt from the Wasatch Plateau to the west.
But I have limited space for this column, and I owe you a little explanation about the honeymoon suite.
Anytime we go on a road trip, Judy starts out as the driver. That’s just the way it is. And I noticed as she drove down Colorado Highway 13 from Craig that the wind was buffeting the car and causing her to fight the steering wheel a little bit.
When I took over in Rifle and hit I-70, the wind was really becoming an issue. By the time we reached Grand Junction, the atmospheric haze was obscuring the views of the Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument.
“It’s not smoke,” a waitress told us. “It’s all dust.”
We pushed on through the desolate plains east of the Moab turnoff, and I found myself battling wind gusts that must have been blowing 60 miles per hour. I noticed that some of the over-the-road truckers even had pulled off on the exits. By the time we got off the highway in Green River, my left hand was numb and my right arm was beginning to cramp up.
There is an unavoidable gas station/convenience store with a Burger King at the east end of Green River, and the cashier informed us that she had heard of three camper rigs being blown onto their sides out on the highway. She said that there was no end in sight for the wind.
Our phone, which is smarter than I am, indicated that all of the motels in Green River, the only town of any consequence for miles and miles, were filling up with campers fleeing the canyons. So we hopped on over to the Super 8 next door and learned that the only available room was the motel’s “suite.”
In my experience, a hotel suite has two rooms and a couch, but the only thing that distinguished Room 102 from any other average motel room was some extra empty space (no couch, not even an upholstered chair) and the heart-shaped tub.
As soon as we entered the room, we looked at the tub and began to giggle. Really? I’m perfectly comfortable in a Super 8, but a honeymoon suite? To make it all the more surreal, the plain, white-tiled tub was without any décor. No red-flocked wallpaper on the wall, no velvet Elvis and no little chandelier — just a cockeyed ventilation fan stuck into the ceiling where the effects of some old water damage still were visible.
Still, our 28th wedding anniversary is coming up this month, and it’s a funny thing: When a couple has shared that many years together, taking a pass on an unexpected in-room hot tub, even a slightly tacky one, really isn’t an option.