How I Carpooled for Free over Utah’s Martian Desert Landscape

Without some form of proof, you might not believe this part of my story.

Before dawn, my carpool partner picked me up from the north side of Vegas for a journey that ended up spanning over 1,200 km (750 mi). And despite this 12+ hour trip through the deserts and forests, I arrived in Denver in time to be invited to a hilarious Halloween party. That’s right. We did the entire trek in one day. The surprising part? The entire ride didn’t cost me a dime.

So yes, I can understand if you have any trouble believing it. And I fully acknowledge that, although the photos below present the striking Utah deserts and Colorado mountains, it only proves that what I saw on our journey was bizarrely beautiful. The photos are not, however, proof that my ride was free. For that, you’ll just have to take my word for it. (But I swear on my mother’s life that it’s true.) And when we arrived in Denver, I was stunned by what happened.

Craigslist is Power

But once again I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re probably wondering how I found a ride all the way from Las Vegas though the desert and over the mountains to Denver. And if you’re a longtime reader, I’m sure you can already guess: Craigslist, of course! I’ve already written a guide about how I leverage craigslist, so I won’t repeat myself here. The short version is, through using craigslist, I got in touch with a man who was in the middle of moving to Denver. This would be his first trek to prepare the new place for his family who would come during the following trip. And he had one extra seat.

Divine fortune, indeed.

We swung by his place on the way out of Vegas; and I waved to his family from the car, wondering what they must be thinking of me, a cheerful blonde guy heading to Denver with nothing more than a Kestrel pack.

Everything went smoothly, and as we passed a Greyhound bus headed in the same direction, I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug (for the first time in months, actually) that I didn’t have to bother with the slowness (or the germs) of such a bus.

Soon we were in Utah, and I was stunned by the otherworldly formations around us. Rocks that seemed impossible were all around me, and for much of the trip we both sat in silence, admiring the view. The rocks were such that I almost felt as though I were on the surface of Mars. The hauntingly beautiful and bizarre red formations were unlike anything I’d seen on Earth before. (See the photos below.) Yet the moment we entered Colorado, the landscape became forest. In fact, I almost laughed at how closely Colorado’s border corresponds to the change of the land into a much greener complexion. Clearly this wasn’t by chance.

One Giant Leap Home

As it became evening, the snowcapped Rockies grew closer and closer. And when he dropped me off in Denver a few hours later, something amazing happened. When I went to pay him for my portion of the gas, he refused. He held up his hand and declined. He said it was fine. I was stunned. I looked at him and told him I could pay him, but he said no. He was being genuinely generous, and it really stunned me. I had just been given a huge leap home, for free.

Soon my friend picked me up and proceeded to tell me about a Halloween party that he’d been invited to.

I had done it. I had begun Halloween in Vegas and still made it to Denver in time for a Halloween party. (I had been hoping to be able to celebrate in some way even though I didn’t have a costume.) Yet upon arriving, I even found out that there were extra costume parts I could use.

And that’s how Zorro-Batman was born.


Orange dawnlight behind desert hills

Driving beside Greyhound bus

Strange eroded round rock formations by highway

Red sandstone formation above highway

Red sandstone formation beside highway

Eroded rock ridge in Utah

Glimpses of Snowcapped Rocky Mountains

— Bonus —

Marco appears in all 15 photos in the accompanying photo gallery. If you’re new to the “Where’s Marco” game, it’s similar to “Where’s Waldo” or “I Spy”.

Learn how to play →
Then find him in the photos! →

Coming up Next:

The story of the West Coast Adventure is now nearly complete! In the next article, a final look at Denver and rideshare match made in heaven:

See what happened next →

All accompanying photos are in the Crossing the Rockies photo gallery. With so much free, high-quality content, why not tell a friend and share this article?

3 bits on How I Carpooled for Free over Utah’s Martian Desert Landscape

  1. Stunning photo gallery. Desert places are really unique in their magical beauty and mystery.

  2. Desert places are beautiful. You’re so blessed to have a photo like this.

  3. Pingback Traveler’s Show & Tell: Chihuly Nights, Swimming with Manta Rays & Homeless by Choice « Tui Snider's blog – writing, photos & travel