I really like to drive. I really really like to drive. I don't know what it is, but going places (especially if I haven't been there before) and listening to music and finding new and unexpected things is basically my drug. I loved to walk all over my town as a kid, to hike further into the mountains than I had before, or go to a new area I'd never explored. I felt like my town had an ever-shifting personality that changed as you went from South to North, or from East to West. Some places felt industrial, some very suburban, some very rural, and all the in-between parts and areas where those things got jumbled together...
At some point in time I'd love to write a book about Utah roads, all the random roads that run out of pavement before running out of road. Or never had pavement, or only have pavement and then suddenly just stop. There's a huge variety of surfaces over which to travel in Utah, some of which my car handles fine and some that it does not. This might be a good time to mention that the Pony Express trail is NOT the place for a Prius. I did it anyways, and survived, and my car survived, but 3-foot-deep ruts are no laughing matter and you have to understand what getting high-centered is and how to avoid it. A few times I determined that the road ahead really was too much and turned around. I probably should have done that a few more times than I did.
Highway 88 is paved, and well-paved, over almost its entire length. Taking off from Highway 40 near Roosevelt, it shoots South all the way to the Book Cliffs. If you've driven the 70 to Grand Junction, you've seen the imposing cliffs and mountains on the North side from about Green River on almost all the way to the border. Well, up on top of those is a road, believe it or not. It's kind of silly that the road is not paved all the way through to the 70, but things in Utah don't always make sense like that. In theory you can drive from Roosevelt to the 70, but the last stretch will be over dirt roads of unknown (to me) quality down the mountains and across variable terrain until you attach to the 70 where the old highway 6/50 diverges from the 70, a mile or two before the Colorado border. I haven't gone that far on (actually off) Highway 88, so buyer beware and be sure you're driving something sturdy if you want to try.
The real shame of Utah is that this could be "Northern Moab". The Green River etches through the landscape in a similar way, only the valleys and canyons are more white and brown than the outrageous red that paints large swaths of Central and Southern Utah. It's a few clicks more gentle than Canyonlands National Park, but still breathtaking in person and deserving of some actual photography. But we don't get that. Instead, we get hundreds of oil wells all over that landscape, of varying ages and functionality. Several times as I hopped out on 88 to take photos the air was thick with the smell of petroleum. I could hear the pumps sputtering and creaking, and I could smell their product, and I'm pretty sure it'd give a person cancer if they had to spend large amounts of time around it.
I guess the consolation prize is the dirt roads that splinter through and end in wells are well-maintained. 88 itself is pretty amazing, with passing lanes and well-set pavement, and it winds for 50+ miles only to end on top of the Book Cliffs at an oil facility. Beyond that are more dirt roads, well-kept because they too lead to oil wells. Oil wells everywhere, bleeding the earth and my heart. I hope when they're gone (and I hope they go soon), a few of the dirt roads can be paved to take people through the spectacular scenery that, for now at least, is probably safest enjoyed from Highway 88. Assuming, of course, you are not as dumb as myself and stick to lower highways in the middle of lightning storms.
POSTSCRIPT: Oh yeah, I should probably mention that along Highway 88 is Pelican Lake, which may or may not be healthy but probably sports wildlife, like the spill-over from the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge that is also located along this road and a must-visit if you like living things at all. Come on, Utah, let's do better for this part of our state.