I’ve taken this from my LiveJournal. It’s not about the longest trip I ever had in terms of distance, but it was certainly the longest day of driving I’d ever endured, simply because for a good while I was afraid for my life.
So now to tell you the tale of how Tanya [note: my girlfriend] came to visit me in Colorado: I didn’t want her to drive herself all the way from Lubbock, because that would be, well, foolish. We’d be driving back in separate cars, and that’s just senseless. So, I tried to work out a way for her folks (who live in Clovis) to get her somewhere approaching halfway, so I could come pick her up. Well, I thought we were on track to have her dropped off in Albuquerque.
But then, days before I was to pick her up, she tells me that she’ll ride up with her mother and stepfather to visit her brother in Colorado Springs. I propose Fort Garland as a meeting point on their way back; it would take them about 45 minutes out of their way on the way back to Clovis. Fair, I think. Her stepfather, however, doesn’t want to do that. I have to drive all the way to Walsenburg to pick her up. So, in essence, I have to drive 270 miles out of my way to pick her up, and her folks drive about 50 feet out of their way. Even that, I wouldn’t mind so much, except for one thing: driving across southern Colorado is not a simple task. Two hundred and seventy miles of interstate highway is one thing; two hundred and seventy miles of narrow roads winding through mountain passes, well, that’s another.
So I prepare for my trip. Without an alarm, of my own volition, I wake up at 5:45 AM. I’m ready to leave by 6:30. I borrow my parents’ Explorer, because I’ll need a heavy vehicle with four-wheel drive. It’s snowing as I leave, and I have to go slow. Things get clearer after Pagosa Springs, but then I face my first major obstacle: Wolf Creek Pass.
If you’ve never been there, Wolf Creek Pass (yes, it deserves to be in bold all the time) is a narrow road up through the mountains. It plateaus at an altitude of 10,856 feet. There’s lots of good skiing up there, because storms tend to really drop their loads on that mountain. And when I hit it the first time, in the morning, the roads were icy, snowpacked, and hazardous, what with the several-hundred-foot drops and all. I’m sure it’s beautiful, in the summer, when you’re not fearing for your life and whatnot.
So I get to Walsenburg around 1 PM. Designated meeting time was 3 PM, but I’d left myself some extra time for potential problems. Tanya and her folks get there at around 2:45 PM, and I make for the door right away, knowing that that pass will only get worse. If her parents thought I was rude, fuck 'em. They didn’t drive through Wolf Creek Pass.
Which I have to do a second time. And the sun sets just as Tanya and I start our ascent. The ascent isn’t too bad. Plows have been through, so the roads are manageable, despite new snowfall.
And then we hit the summit.
The snowstorm that had passed through Cortez and Pagosa must have slammed into the western side of Wolf Creek Pass and just stopped, dropping its entire load on the mountain. We could barely see the front of the vehicle through the snow, much less the lines marking the road. On our way down, we passed a few drivers who had just pulled over and stopped; knowing that the pass was too narrow for that to be a good option, we pressed on, passing “runaway truck” peeloff lanes. We crept down that mountain at around 10 miles an hour, for the longest 5-10 miles of my life. Tanya was nearly in tears from fear.
But we made it. We lived. And to settle our nerves, we stopped in Pagosa Springs at a restaurant called “Hog’s Breath”. The wait for a table was around an hour, because, we heard, there were only like 5 restaurants in driving distance that were open on Sunday nights. That place was PACKED. By the time we got a table, they were out of chicken; by the time we were leaving, we heard a waitress tell another table that they were out of hamburgers.
So, we drove on to Cortez. We arrived at around 10:15 PM. In all, I spent around 12 hours driving that day, through 500 miles of misery and about 40 miles of pure hell. I could strangle Tanya’s stepfather.