hello, part two

Oh hey, I promised more crappy photos from our moving convoy and dadgum, I’ll deliver.

By the time we groggily made it out the door of the hotel around 8:00 a.m. the following morning, the Future Farmers of America were gone. Mystery! Intrigue! Had they been there at all? Or had our road delirium caused us to hallucinate a gaggle of giddy teenagers?

True story: while driving all night from San Antonio, Texas, to his new assignment in Sacramento, California, when I was only a month or two old, my father hallucinated a giant diapered baby sitting in the middle of the highway, for which he immediately stomped on the brakes.

Sleep is good, I guess, is the moral of that story.

Sleep was not kind to us the night before, however — at least not to me — so a stop for coffee on the way out of Richfield was required. While standing in line we were baffled by the sight of two red-haired tots being handed miniature soft-serve cones over the counter. Did you know McDonald’s served frozen treats that early? NOW YOU DO.

You know, skimming over what I’ve written so far, I can really see why my readership has drastically dwindled.

Moving on.

The hills around Richfield were skimmed with snow, and as we headed east we got a closer look at it:

Annnd just as quickly as that happened, we descended in elevation and the landscape changed again:

This is the only existing shot of the third vehicle in our entourage. I got it by sticking my phone out the window at speeds approaching 70 miles per hour. Only those licensed in the art of stupidity, like me, should attempt this.

There was no one around — this stretch of highway was empty save for us. It would have been creepy if it wasn’t so pretty. We began passing scenic viewpoints, but I couldn’t quite get the beau’s attention to pull over. Phone service was out, so when I saw an opportunity to floor it to the front of the pack and lead the others off the road, I took it.

The view did not disappoint:

I even had time to shoot an artfully composed scene of my compatriots walking back to the cars:

After our break there was more ducking and weaving between large rocks:

Just after noon we turned south and jogged down to Moab. It added 60 miles to our trip, two and a half hours to our schedule, and $20 to our expenses, but it was well worth the hassle. Our plan was to hike the first trail we came to in the park and then GTFO — Denver was still six-hour haul. I left my phone in the car, so you’re spared the visuals from this jaunt. But the sun searing the top of my head (it was gratifyingly warm there) and the way the light cast one side of the canyon into moody silhouette and the other into blazing, primal color — I won’t forget these things.

My exuberance lasted until we got back to the cars and realized the beau’s was burning oil. Despite having just been changed, it was probably down to a quart. We added more, but it set an uneasy tone for the rest of the trip.

On our way back to the main highway we stopped at a hippie-ish cafe in the heart of Moab. I ordered a tofu Indonesian satay and ate it from a box on my lap, one carefully-balanced forkful at a time, as the other hand guided the wheel.

We motored on through the remnants of eastern Utah. Slowly, surely, the red drained from the landscape:

Finally, finally, we crossed that last state line. I thought about laying on the horn, but I didn’t. Instead I smiled, just a little bit. 

“Welcome to Colorful Colorado,” the sign says. My aunt, on this photo: “The most colorful thing is the truck.”

I watched the rain on the horizon; that sort of furious, localized downpour that the lonely western states do so well:

Once more, the mountains grew taller around us. True to their name, the Rockies were… well:

The higher we climbed, the snowier it got around us. Until suddenly, we were in it. Sort of. 

As we approached Vail, it started raining. I checked the weather — 37 degrees. We should be fine, I thought. The roads through the worst part of the pass will be wet, but at least it will be navigable.

Then the temperature dropped to 30, and it started snowing.

Traffic came to a crawl, and a stop. Lights from emergency vehicles flashed ahead, up the grade, as we inched forward. I passed a three-car accident, then a two-car accident, and then watched helplessly as a car skidded into the concrete barrier on the opposite side. I passed semi trucks whose wheels were spinning, unable to get traction. I was having trouble in that department myself — every time I tried to get going my front tires would slip and stutter. I had to countersteer coming out of a dead stop.

It was getting colder, but perhaps worst of all, it was getting dark.

I will not lie to you — this was the most stressful, unnerving, and terrifying part of the trip. I can’t tell you how naive I felt when I thought everything was just fine and very suddenly, it was not. I can’t tell you how naked I felt in a tiny manual two-wheel-drive car, skinning around on ice and slush at 10,000 feet. Not only was I worried about me, I was worried about my husband somewhere in the line of cars ahead, navigating a truck with all our worldly possessions. Not only was I worried about my husband, I was worried about my friend in the second car behind me, who had never driven in snow before. 

Everything was okay in the end, of course. It was rough, tense going, but after the summit the roads gradually improved. The downhill was not so kind to the beau — the brakes got so hot that every time he’d so much as tap them the entire truck would shudder and shake. But we made it. We got to the hotel in Denver late that night, and the first thing I did was drink some scotch, followed in quick succession by three margaritas.

And the next day we moved into our new, temporary home.

16 Responses to “hello, part two”

  1. Even though I know you made it to Denver alive and well, that last part still had me nervous! We’ve driven over those high mountain passes of the rockies here in BC (my dad lives on the other side) and they are terrifying. Glad you all made it without incident!

  2. Quite the trip. I’m so glad you took that hike, it sounds like you needed it and it’ll be one of the bits you hang on to when you tell the moving story to others or run it over in your head in the years to come.

    I really got nothin’ today, sorry. But as to why your readership has apparently dwindled I am *completely* at a loss. Because I loves ya x

  3. Alright. That’s it. I love your writing, and I feel like I always miss your new posts. You’re getting added to my google reader, whether it’s going away in July or no. I WILL read this blog.

    I’m glad you arrived safely… xo

  4. Wait, WHY won’t it let me add you to google reader or to feedly?! This is tragic.

  5. I’m really excited for your new adventures in Colorado, even if the change is scary. Also, love the daring driving photos!

  6. Oh man, driving over unexpected mountain snow. The first time that happened to me I was driving home from college and a) had gotten no sleep and been driving for about 10 hours, b) just learned how to drive a year before, and c) was surrounded by semis. I had a little automatic hatchback and was trying to figure out if I needed to shift into the mysterious 1 or 2 or something, so I started calling everyone I could. By the time someone answered, I was through the rough part. Lesson- always do hard, dangerous things while distracted by a phone. Or something.
    I’m glad you made it safely, and I’m super excited to hear about setting up and exploring your new place!

  7. Love the words, photos, story. So glad you all made it safe and sound and hope you are settling down well. Seeing the landscapes change is amazing. Reminds what an awesome (in the truest sense of the word) place America is.

    • It’s truly remarkable, and since I’ve gotten used to flying everywhere over the last several years to save time, it was nice to actually get back on the road and see the land up close. Thanks!

  8. What beautiful landscapes. I love those lonely places and I love how you write about them!

  9. I hope your settling in is going well. I am glad to hear you made it okay. I got nervous when I read about you crossing the mountains in the bed weather… Looking forward to hearing more as you discover your new home.

  10. I’m late to the party. Glad you made it safely over that pass. I have harrowing memories of the Vale pass from a family holiday. Our mini-van nearly died going up and then the brakes caught on fire coming down the other side. I quickly learned about gear-breaking, a skill I never thought I would need living in Ohio, but one I thanked the Gods for when I was driving that motorhome in the circus up and down Appalachian ‘hills.’

    It’s all about the journey, not the destination, right? In these instances, the destination is damn sweet.

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