While driving home to Castle Valleyafter a long day of work, we found a car parked on a hill in the northbound lane of Highway 128. We had to stop behind him because there was a no-pass double yellow line and three cars driving toward us in the southbound lane.
The passenger sat in the car window to aim his camera over the roof of the car to capture the light on the red cliffs and storm clouds across the river. He smiled at us with a face alight with joy.
I did not smile at him.
Rather, I stuck my head out the window and yelled, “This is a highway – this is not safe!”
The tourist’s smile faded.
My husband told me the guy wouldn’t remember the landscape, only the crazy woman yelling.
I didn’t care.
As the weather warms, we have to cope with more and more tourists who are bewitched by the scenery on theRiver Road. They have no concept that this is a highway people use to commute to work each day.
They drive slowly, stop without warning and seem to think that foot traffic on a major highway is a good idea. Then there are the well-meaning few who pull over where there is no shoulder and encourage motorists to pass them in the other lane – around a blind curve.
There is a double-line for a reason. Cross it and you can die. And while I want to be on time for work and get home for dinner, I’d rather tailgate a tourist than die.
Sure, there is a part of me that empathizes.
I’ve driven this road thousands of times. Our family was one of the first to settle inCastleValleyin the late 1970s. I rode the bus to school each day. I learned how to manage the curves while I still had a learner’s permit. I was on theRiver Roadevery day.
Upon returning to my hometown in the past year, those drives have increased. Sometimes it is two or three roundtrips to transport schoolchildren into town, or my parents who no longer drive.
In the last year of driving theRiver Road, I have taken at least one picture each day.
Of course, I do not stop and park in the middle of the road. But much like the tourist I chastised, I can feel my face beaming with the joy of knowing such beauty.
And I get to see it every day.
I’m trying to be more patient with Moab’s visitors. I can only imagine how awe-inspiring our scenery is for first-time eyes.
But may I offer a little advice?
This is a highway.
Please drive the speed limit unless there are weather conditions that warrant going under the speed limit. The signs that state 25 miles per hour on sharp curves are suggesting a very safe speed. Going 15 to 25 miles per hour on straight stretches where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour is not considerate to drivers who are not on vacation.
If a car, or a very long line of cars, is tailgating you because you are going very, very slow, please pull over when there is a safe place for you to do so. Please do not partially pull over and request that I pass you on a blind curve.
Do not stop in the middle of the road to take photos.
Do not walk in the middle of the road, particularly on blind curves.
Do not play games with your children and dogs in the middle of the road. Just because your campsite is only a few yards off the road, it is still a highway and not part of the campground.
Please remain in your lane instead of straddling the dotted line. This will allow locals to pass you safely in the passing lane.
If you are riding a bike, please remain in single file and on the far right. If you are riding a bike at night, please wear light-colored clothing and have reflectors on your bike.
Dear visitors, if you don’t follow these suggestions, you could die. This is a highway and it is not safe. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I want to live another day to enjoy this drive again and again.
I invite those of you who can follow these suggestions to make this a repeat trip. Take a drink from Matrimony Springs at the south end of the road near the junction at Highway 191. The legend states that those who drink from this spring will return. You’re welcome to do so and enjoy the beauty.
Truly, it never gets old.
Kristin Millis is married with five children and two grandchildren. She likes to play outside with Ubu the Wonder Dog, and she blogs at intersect.com/Kristin.