Part of the journey is about finding that happy medium between survival and crackin’ good times. I lost visibility near the hot springs. Let me be clear. We had endured several mini blizzards prior to hitting Colorado. Once we were deep in the pass, it was the roads that caused my trouble. I was praying to God to help out at the second tunnel. The windows were a mess. My mechanic tried to help me by topping off fluids but he forgot that water freezes. My lines were frozen outside of Vegas and beyond. So in a last ditch effort, I pulled to the side of a very dangerous section of the 70, prayed for ten seconds of no traffic and dumped washer fluid on the windshield. The real trouble was that in the pass there were loads of off ramps, but no matching on ramps. So I had no choice but to put ourselves in danger so that we could get back our visibility.
We patiently resumed speed to get to the next catastrophe once the windshield was clean. The windows were clear, but then at Vail the snow came down in sheets. The truck began to fishtail the way up the mountain out of Vail. I promptly ended my call with my Mother. My good fortune was having the sense to go with the flow. Driving a car out of control was simply a dance. So I set my hazards on and slowed to 35 miles per hour. One idiot, yes, he’s an idiot, actually had the nerve to honk at me. I was following protocol by staying in the right lane. It was simply the right place to be.
Tears welled up in my eyes. My stomach muscles were clenched tight. I kept my thumbs up and relaxed hoping the rest of my body would follow. Then in a panic, my eyes struggled to read the signs ahead: “11 miles to the 14 mile tunnel and chains would be required for CMV’s.” There was time enough to emotionally prepare for the tunnel, but the chains were going to put me over the edge. We got off at Silverthorne to find out how to install the chains. The man at the checkout didn’t offer to assist me. So we drove to the next town, Dillon, to find a hotel. None of the main streets were plowed.
The day started with a 5 am wake up call from yours truly. My clock was off. So when we hit the streets of Dillon, I was overwhelmed by my trucks inability to actually move forward without slipping and sliding. Cars veered away from me. I forced the truck to drive sideways across the intersection. Then in the stress of the moment, I allowed all the people around me to watch me despair. My hands intuitively shifted the truck in to second gear and I drove sideways up the entrance to the nearest shopping mall right in front of an outdoors store. I figured someone in that shop must know how to put chains on. A really nice guy came out and we worked through the chains. It was enough to get me to the nearest hotel.
In order to understand the next paragraph, you must understand that I originally had planned a great spiritual journey to Ireland. The cost of the flight and the 37 hours of travel time detoured me from taking the trip. However, I kept wondering between Utah and Colorado, “what the hell am I doing here?” Cedar Springs made sense. Dillon was a rescue stop. Why was this so difficult. Granted, I did choose the winter to travel. So what could be gained from fish tailing trucks, frozen wiper fluid lines and wonky chains. I will be honest. You learn a lot about yourself, your wants and needs, desires and dreams while your left toe goes numb trying to untangle metal chains in a snow storm. For the five seconds in that second tunnel I was sure this was a near death experience. The light at the end of the tunnel was blinding. The car to the left was foolishly trying to pass a crazy chick in a dirty truck. Surely he could see me squinting and leaning forward hoping to catch a glimpse of a dashed line? I actually feared for the outcome and this was the first time since I was 17 that I felt that way.
At 17, I was stranded with Wesley, an adorable environmental scientist, at the wrong end of a copper mine in Kennicot, Alaska. We were so proud of our trek to the main entrance. We spelunked our way through the moist, ore filled caverns following the train tracks to the workmen’s room then to the TNT room. The trouble was that we had chosen a specific path and got lucky. Turning back, we could have chosen any path with no guarantee of ever getting back out again. So as I dangled from a 70 year old weather worn rope, we quickly discovered that the only way down was on a steep slope of nearly 300 feet of loose rock. Wesley was doing his best to keep me from freaking out. Ironically, other than feeling the urge to burp, I sucked up my fear and skied down the loose rock to the tundra below. My uncle, Simon and the idiot helper we brought along had gone ahead. They managed to find a trail. Wesley and I spent hours pushing through scrub just to find “a more logical path.” We eventually found a path. Hope kept us from collapsing and thankfully the remainder of the journey was downhill. The seventeenth hour of our journey brought us along the glacial moraines just an hour from Kennicot. Wesley was an amazing companion. We just kept encouraging each other. Dinner. Bed. Survival. No bears.
Which brings me to a new point. While I appreciate the journey, I would prefer to share the experience with a partner who knows how to put chains on tires. Also he can’t bitch when I need to stop every two to three hours. It’s not an adventure if you just focus on point A and point B. Plus after 100 miles of no services, you just have to stop. It could be another 100 miles to the next rest stop with clean toilet!