It’s not a vacation; it’s a mission
A week after departing from Denver I’m still reeling from the whirlwind experience better known as this epic trip. In reality it had a lifetime of planning, and was only meticulously put together well from nights of being up and tweaking the route. Maps and navigation has always come easy, and with much joy, to me. In grade school I collected maps, drew my own maps, and even asked for maps/atlases for birthdays and Christmas. My imagination has always carried me far, and wanting to explore and travel is something I was born to do. It’s just unfortunate that I had always put off these aspirations till now.
With my diagnosis and the passing of my mom; a conversation with my dad come up on a Sunday afternoon about taking advantage of the present. Already I had done that in regards to traveling when, despite being unemployed, took a trip to Germany. In the perpetual battle of time v’s money we seem to always either have one or the other, but not both. Back then of course I had plenty of time, and money came together with some sacrificing and some premature financial decisions which in retrospect was now a sound decision. Mom & dad were always spontaneous and would take unplanned short trips either by themselves, or semi-planned trips with friends of theirs. Either way that weren’t waiting around till retirement to see the places they desired; it was now. Once again, sound decisions given that mom would never get the opportunity to enjoy her 60’s, 70’s, or beyond. Bottom line; don’t wait till you’re retired to go see the world because you be either broke, disabled, or worse; dead.
Their Las Vegas trip is what got the ball rolling in regards to taking a trip out west. I still had no desire to go to Vegas, but even though I made it there I wish now I would have flown in and out of there. Though the Rockies were majestic, and offered some unforgettable sights, they left me with more challenges and constraints/regrets in the end. But overall west offered more mountains than I could have ever imagined beyond the Rockies.
So to bring imagination and reality together from the days I stared at maps it was my quite a quest to take on. I thought my sister said it best when she explained to her friends and co-workers what I was doing. “It’s not a vacation; it’s a mission”. And really it was all that and more filled with mini-adventures. Though the mountains calmed me, I certainly wasn’t refreshed when I got back. Actually I’m still really needing a full down day.
I knew it was going to be a lot in a few days, but for the most part I accomplished my mission.
So day 1 didn’t get off to a good start actually, and may have set the tone of running late and missing a few stops along the way. Already the night before my flight out to Denver the flight was already delayed because of the weather. That was not only bad in regards to already getting to my first destination late enough, but also added snow of all things to the equation. Oh no! I had pretty much avoided snow all winter here. The last thing I wanted to endure was snow in April.
As Friday morning arrived I checked the flight delay which seemed to fluctuate between 60-90 minutes, and I tell you it made me antsy. I ran some errands and even a load of laundry to pass the time. Finally I got on the TANK and headed for the airport. It’s the first time I had flown in 4 years. Of course once I got there security was a breeze and it was hurry up and wait. Even though the delay time had dropped significantly it seemed like the plane we were waiting to board was never going to arrive. By time we actually got off the ground it was late about 2 hours. Ouch.
Upon my arrival in Denver it was crunch time. Daylight was burning, and the objective of my planned driving time was to maximize daylight driving. What good is it to take a picturesque drive in the dark? I already knew time wasn’t on my side. By time I picked up my bag and waited forever in line for my car it was 5:30pm and I wasn’t wasting anymore time. As I shot across Denver at rush hour the mountains could get there any sooner. And there they were.
Fortunately the snow had hit hard that morning, but the roads were clean and the snow was nicely nestled on the mountains. It was smooth sailing and the Rockies did not disappoint. It also became a welcome surprise that a non-interstate highway had a 65mph speed limit. Cruising these mountains at maximum speed was going to be necessary to get all the eye candy I could. About the only thing that got in my way was nearly hitting a deer. That was certainly a reminder of how quickly this ‘vacation’ could turn into a nightmare.
As the sun began to set I was just amazed of the beauty I had in every corner around me. Even my rear view mirror brought me vistas of mountain tops as I headed into a flat area. The mountain tops wouldn’t be the last thing my rear view mirror brought me.
After driving about 200 miles and darkness had set in; daylight and views was no longer the objective. Making sure I had fuel for the car, and caffeine and protein for me was at the utmost importance. My first stop for gas led me inside for some milk (my second biggest source of protein), but they were out. Dang. So off I went hoping it wouldn’t be too long before finding another place to stop. That next stop had some special significance. One it was finally meeting with Hwy 160 which was the last road I needed to connect with for Durango, and second, it was where my rear view mirror brought another unexpected view – red & blue lights. Perhaps the excitement of either finding milk or the last highway or both got me in trouble; I got stopped not because 65 wasn’t good enough – it was for going 45 in a 35. Those little towns along the highway drop from 65, to 55, 45, 35, 25, then climbs back out to 65. Right as I got to the edge of town on my way out I was stopped. I hadn’t been stopped for speeding in about 20 years and have never had a ticket. Surely I wouldn’t end that streak in Colorado. Oh yes he did.
I didn’t care at the moment though. I needed to get to Durango. I needed to get to sleep. As I leaned forward a little harder, apparently missing crossing the continental divide, going through a tunnel through mountains I couldn’t see, and still thinking about how this day aside from the beauty I had experienced earlier that this day has stunk.
Finally I arrived in Durango well after midnight which I knew very clearly was well after 2am Eastern. I turned on the heat (It was 16º going through the mountains), curled up and went to sleep knowing a short night and many states were ahead.
Daylight would come soon.