Now that we are settled, not at home but nearby, and I have a little time to relax and reflect on our cross country journey, I find the horror and misery of the trip fading and being replaced with happy memories. I even look forward to travelling more. I cannot wait to visit Montana, my father’s family’s home. The Pacific Northwest beckons. And my next destination is absolutely Maine, home of my idol, Stephen King.
For now though, I am just going to look back on the memories I recently made and the one thing that stands out the most is Colorado.
We woke on a Wednesday morning in Beaver, Utah and set that day’s goal for Denver, Colorado. According to the GPS we would arrive at 7:30 PM. Yeah. Not so much, but we will get to that. Since we had finally dropped our load and the roads in Utah were fantastic, I volunteered to drive. I crossed Utah without incident and made it exactly one mile into Colorado. The change in terrain was immediate and drastic. Suddenly we were on top of the world with no guard rails! I pulled over and let Tim take the wheel again and that was definitely the right decision. We wove our way through the Rockies for the rest of the day and late into the night. The GPS continuously readjusted its time frame. 8:30. 9:30. 10:30. Even Tim, who is a confident and experienced driver, was driving at about half the speed limit. We finally decided we needed to get a hotel room for the night but were unable to find a room, even in Vail! So we forged ahead. And that’s when it started to rain. We pulled into a rest area determined to just sleep in the car until dawn. So naturally, the rest area had an hour parking limit. Again, we forged ahead. Mostly it was a nightmare driving the Rockies at night, but there were highlights we enjoyed; the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel was especially enjoyable because when we emerged on the far side, we had left the rain behind us. Glenwood Springs was lovely and graced us with a beautiful rainbow. And it was really, really cool to cross the Continental Divide (especially since it meant we were halfway home!).
We stopped for the last time around 11PM, ate dinner and forced ourselves into making the final push for Denver. This leg of the journey is when I learned that Colorado has quite the sense of humor. As we finally spotted the glittering lights of Denver laying ahead of us, we also spotted this:
And then this:
It didn’t scare us though; we had finally reached our destination. At 12:30AM, a full five hours later than the GPS had originally indicated. We checked into the first Motel 6 we came across and passed out. We woke the next morning, bright, early and horribly ill. Now if you scroll back up and take another look at the Loveland Pass/Continental Divide sign, you will note that the elevation was near 12,000 feet. Turns out there is such a thing as altitude sickness. Who knew?! The symptoms were mostly flu like with awful headaches. It was tempting to take the day off and stay in bed, but there was something very special awaiting me in Denver.
Three years ago, my dear friend Lynne set off on a year long cross country trip (she’s tougher than me) and finally settled in Denver. So we forced ourselves up and out and headed downtown. Lynne is the only friend we had the opportunity to visit along the way and it was totally worth it. She took us on a walking tour of her very cool neighborhood; we saw a real life hooker (pretty shocking for this small town girl) and a cannabis dispensary. We spent the afternoon catching up and then headed back to our hotel to “nap”. That nap of course wound up lasting all night and we woke the next morning feeling even worse than we had the day before. So we chose to cut our Denver visit short, in favor of descending to a lower elevation and set our sites on Kansas. Before we left Colorado behind, though, the state surprised us with one more of their uniquely, hilarious signs.
On I-70, the mile marker sign for mile 420 has been replaced by mile marker 419.99. The reason? 420 is an iconic number to the many potheads who have flocked to Colorado since they legalized marijuana in the state. After replacing the sign numerous times following thefts, they decided to eliminate it altogether and replaced it with 419.99. Hands down, Colorado has the most clever road signs in all of America. Thank you for that Colorado. Hopefully some day I will only remember Lynne and the signs, and forget the horror of driving the Rockies at night in the rain and the misery of altitude sickness.