Continued from . . . What Happens When a Determined Mom is in a “Road Trip State of Mind” . . .
Soon, I was in a State of Excitement and Anticipation
Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get when you hear the click of the seat belt as you are getting seated on a roller coaster ride? You know, when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Will it be fun? Will it make me sick? Will it be worth it? Will it be. . . . oh . . . here we goooooo! And it starts. It is exciting. Every breathtaking turn and each heart stopping plummet makes you smile from ear to ear. Your screams are screams of delight! And when it is over, you wonder if you will have time to take the ride again. You realize it was just a few minutes of joy. And now, it’s over. What’s next? Well – this was nothing like that!
It started slowly, after hours and hours of driving through dirt dry desert terrain and long twisty mountain roads with nothing to see but a giant blue dome overhead and the far off promise of a horizon in the distance. I kept thinking that in the near future we will get to our destination. We will be sleeping in Fort Collins, Colorado tonight and in the morning we will be touring the campus that my oldest son might be calling home before long. This might just be the first time I drive this road. It might be the first of many times. I was thinking about that when we started to drive up a long steady incline, through the foothills of a large mountain range stretched out before us. It was like the long tall ascent of a big rollercoaster and the car felt like it was being pulled by cables, slow and steady, and I couldn’t see what was at the top. My excitement was building. I felt somewhat breathless. That was probably my body adjusting to the altitude. I took some slow steady breaths. I drank some water. I looked over the railing to the land below, and I saw a vineyard. It seemed so out-of-place. The only thing that looked alive and colorful was the sign for the vineyard, and the buildings, and billboards around the area. Everything else was dry with just the hint that it had all survived the winter months and may be dormant just before Spring bursts through the vines. I took note of the place, Grande River Vineyards, and considered it might be thriving the next time I come through here, perhaps in the Fall. It might be worth a stop if we had time. I closed my eyes for a while. I repeated my mantra to myself, “I will be sleeping in Fort Collins tonight and I will wake to a new day!”
At this point my husband was driving. He had taken over at the last gas station where we had stopped to fuel up and stretch. I planned to drive longer, but he offered and I didn’t refuse. I figured I could rest and then take over again in a few hours. The next four hours of driving proved to be another testament of my husband’s stoic character. Over the years he has been my rock. He has the ability to stay calm and persevere through the most difficult times. I have seen him run into a burning building to fetch beloved items for my elderly aunt and give mouth to mouth and revive our newborn son – there is no doubt that he is an angel and a hero! He has to be patient, calm and understanding with me! I get nervous and I worry a lot. I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks in the past. I have had bouts of vertigo. I love driving curvy roads that I am familiar with, but I get nervous and sometimes dizzy when driving through canyons where there are steep cliffs or long tunnels. But I have learned to trust him and his abilities and boy was I glad he was driving at this point in time!
We are Southern California city drivers. We are used to rush hour traffic and freeways. I shared my husband’s concerns of the hazards of driving in a snow storm with no chains, battling poor visibility, and dealing with the dreaded black ice. This is the reason I pushed the kids to leave early that morning. I wanted to get through this mountain range before nightfall. I wanted to get to Fort Collins in time for dinner and a jacuzzi. But it was about 6 PM and all I could see was mountains ahead and it was getting cold, cloudy and dark.
Driving Through the Rocky Mountains Was a Wild Ride through the State of Fear
We travelled from Henderson, Nevada through Arizona, Utah, and Colorado that day. A total of 819 miles. The estimated driving time was exactly 12 hours. When we stopped for lunch in Green River, Utah, it was sometime around 1 PM. We had 400 miles to go driving along Interstate 70 through the majestic Rocky Mountains. We had already marveled at the breathtaking and gorgeous mountains and rock formations that we saw as we drove by Arches National Park and the Colorado National Monument areas. None of it was quite as exhilarating and exciting as driving along side the Colorado River through Aspen and Vail. The curving roads around mountain peaks, the steady ascent into higher and higher elevations, the river rushing past us, the quaint snow villages with their elegant homes and lush chalet style cabins, all of it was straight out of the Travel Channel!
Throughout the entire trip, my very techie family referred to Siri on their iPhones whenever my husband would ask a question. Where is the nearest burger joint? Where is the nearest gas station? “I wonder how cold it is outside?” My hubby would tease. Even though he could see that number get lower and lower on the dashboard thermometer, one of the boys would ask, “Siri, what is the temperature outside right now?” “It’s 38 degrees right now.” Siri would answer. We knew the forecast in Vail was snow. The weather was at the freezing point, there were dark clouds over head, and we were going up steep mountain roads. It began snowing as soon as we reached the summit of the mountain in Vail.
At first they were just pretty flurries of snow flakes hitting the windshield. We still had a light glow from the sky behind us and the mountainside looked so pretty with the tall fir trees lining the slopes covered with fresh snow. Ahead it was dark and looming. There seemed to be fewer cars on the road and at some points we were all alone. As the snow started to fall all around us, I was surprisingly calm. A part of me (I will admit, a huge part of me!) was all, “Yeah! I knew it would snow, take that Hertz! My husband knew what he was doing when he reserved this vehicle.” We were prepared for this moment. Did we know what we were doing exactly? Heck no! But we had our safe roadworthy brand new Chevy Traverse All Wheel Drive and we were damned well going to need it for the next several miles. The rest of me was holding on for dear life and praying the Rosary in my head as my husband tried not to show any sign of fear lest he freak me out. The next hour of my life was spent singing the soundtrack of Les Miserables with my sons in the back seats watching the original Superman on the DVD player with headphones on while I thought positive loving calm beautiful thoughts of kittens and puppies.
We followed another SUV with a Colorado license plate rather closely due to the very poor visibility. I figured they must be experienced driving through this area. My husband knows everything about cars and how to drive them and he is very skilled with using the proper gears and shifting at the right time . . . etcetera, so on and so forth. He knew what he was doing. But I felt his stress and concern. It wasn’t terribly dangerous or frightening and we were very lucky that the snow although it was sticking to the ground, was not wet or icy. We did not see any accidents or stalled vehicles. It was just slow going through heavy snow over the highest point of the mountain and then a very long slow descent down down down on a curvy road until we made it to the bottom. It felt like skiing down a black diamond run that you ended up on by accident when you are first learning to ski or snowboard. There is only one way down. We took our time and made it. We were incredibly encouraging to each other through it all. The boys were quietly enjoying their movie even though I interrupted them often with, “Did you see that? Look over there!”
Always the Adventuress, I loved every moment of this trip. My teen-aged sons rolled their eyes. To them, it was like you’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all. Overall it was impressive to them and they enjoyed it. But I was taking it all in like I would enjoy a bouquet of flowers admiring each flower for its individual beauty and scent. I loved that gorgeous drive and I hope to go back again, someday!
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