Ups and Downs of Traveling in Utah

I find it hard to select the one thing that most thrills me about my drive from Vernal, Utah to Capitol Reef National Park.  A narrow, twisty, two lane shoulder-less, ravine lined roller coaster of a road, Hwy 191 awaits me on this journey.  But I don’t know all that until I get on the mountain.  The thing that has me all worked up in advance is the 6%, then 8% grades over 6 or so miles that I have to climb.  Or maybe they are the other way around, but at any rate – STEEP!

This car would have been a MUCH more FUN way to blast through the mountains to Capitol Reef. Thanks to our host, Dan at Fossil Valley RV Park, for a relaxing visit and for sharing his car collection with us!

Highway 191 is clearly labelled as challenging in my book of mountain roads to try to avoid.   Internet posts from other RVers and truckers suggest that I avoid the section of this road between Helper and Duchesne at all costs.  Great – now I am truly terrified!  On previous trips, I have been able to route myself around most difficult roads without prolonging my day’s ride too much.  But for this trip, a less mountainous route is not an option.

A Long Climb and Slow Descent

I have only had a little practice over the last year managing the heat of my engine when climbing and saving my brakes when descending. Not yet ready for the advanced stuff, I feel like am an preparing for the final exam.  I am extremely concerned about the unavoidable vertical climbs and rapid descents on this road.  Seeking guidance and reassurance, I call my brother-in-law, Weldon, for some advice. 

The RV will climb any grade without overheating he explains .  As long as I am willing to downshift and slow down I will not overtax the engine.  Perhaps, he suggests, that Stormy (surely this can’t be true) may not have wanted to patiently and slowly ascend choosing instead to cope with rising temps.  Weldon contends that the worst that can happen is that I wind up climbing at 5 mph in 1st gear but with engine temps in normal range.  Thank goodness it does not (quite) come to that.

The truck and auto drivers queued up behind me probably use all sorts of descriptive words to convey their pleasure at my 25 mph crawl up the mountain and matching descent back down.  The one thing I clearly remember from Truck Driving School is to use the same gear going down as I had to use going up.  Terrorized, I can barely stand to look while winding my way along this road course.  Up, down and sideways like a giant snail I creep toward southern Utah.  But I can’t really comment on the scenery between Duchesne and Helper.  Although I can say with great certainty that the lines on the left and right side of my lane are extremely clear, but much too close together.

A Capitol Time

Once I unload the Jeep and can maneuver more easily, Matt, Sherry and I explore Capitol Reef National Park.  The views here are magnificent.  I think we all agree that Cathedral Valley, a lonely off-road trek that ends with a ford up the Fremont River, is the most scenic.  Although not a very technical drive for the Rubicon, some very deep sand on the way out gives us a thrill.  The photos below capture some of my favorite sights from this adventure!

Matt and Sherry in front of "Queen of the Wash" in Cathedral Valley

In Loving Memory

Stormy Weathers

About Sunny Weathers

Pilot, motorcyclist and full time RVer. Follow me as I travel all over the US in my Country Coach RV volunteering, making new friends and pursuing a constant outdoor temperature between 70F and 80F. I'll share the fun and the tribulations and any great survival tricks I learn!

6 Replies to “Ups and Downs of Traveling in Utah”

  1. Oh my! We’ve never traveled the roads around Vernal although we’ve heard stories about 191. Several years ago we went to Capital Reef but before the Jeep. Would like to visit southern Utah again. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

    Stay safe! I’m sure Charlie is smiling!

    1. I think he is smiling too – or maybe laughing at me! Southern Utah is the best – so much beautiful stuff to see!

  2. jim Sandy dukeman says: Reply

    WOW what a ride, guess you could say that your “getting the hang of it” :>) Your turning to a “pro” driver weather you want to be or not, good job. Just keep being careful out there. You got us hooked on the blogs so don’t let anything happen to you to stop them from coming. ;>) Still Love ya kid. GOD BLESS
    Jim & Sandy

    1. You are too sweet. I do feel much better about mountain passes now, but I will probably still do my best to avoid the really steep ones – just in case!

  3. And dear Ms Sunny, is this an advanced course in ravine avoidance driving ? It reminded me of places past, way past. Don’t forget to have the truck pop parachute installed.
    Winter is almost here, the temperature dropped to freezings of the 50’s.
    And center line, 1.5 ft to the left of left cheek.

    1. LOL – I will keep all that in mind! I like the truck pop parachute idea – thanks for the great advice!!

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