There’s no cover when you’re roaming rural Utah with a gathering storm growing ever larger in your rear-view mirror. The kids playing baseball amid a sea of rolling green hills around 6,800 feet above sea level? About to be rained out. The steep inclines and declines of Utah State Road 24? About to become both steep and slick. The tree-lined streets of the small town of Torrey, UT up ahead? A paltry shelter at best.
All we could do was barrel on as the skies darkened around us. And then the storm skirted the road, passed us by, and directly hit the town.
We rolled into Torrey (2020 population: 231) a few minutes after the storm hit. By then the skies were clear, the roads wet, and nearly every surface covered with hail the size of pebbles. An intermittent sea of white covered the ground, roads, buildings, and cars. The hail pooled and floated atop the churning water running through the storm runoff drains alongside 24, Torrey’s main east-west artery.
At the edge of town, the skies remained the same but the landscape shifted dramatically. The rolling green hills dropped off the horizon as 24 plunged down into a valley of arid buttes and jagged red rocks. The road – and our plans – continued eastward to Capitol Reef National Park, but we stopped at the threshold of green and red to look up at the last remnant of the storm: a rainbow arcing above the westscape, a welcome banner announcing the next stage of our trip.
Just as we pulled over to photograph the scene, a fellow traveler did the same. He jumped off his motorcycle, pulled out a camera (phone?), shot his shot, and continued on.
The photo of his photo captures so much of the trip: natural beauty criss-crossed with roads that make it both more accessible and more susceptible to degradation, a landscape which changes in extreme ways every few hundred miles, European tourists popping up everywhere (zoom in – the motorcyclist’s jacket indicates he’s from Slovenija), and American weirdos with cameras photographing it all like it was their jobs.
Having shot the rider and the rainbow, we doublebacked to our cabin, kicked aside some hail, and settled in for a night in town before hitting the park the next morning.
Essay & photos by Dan Meade
Date of rainbow: 8/23/2017
More Road Stories: