Monday, October 25, 2010

Moab to Ft. Collins. Day 5

I'm still a little under the weather. This damn head cold has been around for a week and a half. A night in a hotel room has helped, but I'm still stuffed and not sleeping well. I'm awake and fighting getting out of bed. I still haven't seen any of Moab other than some cliff silhouettes lit by the night moon.

I check my oil, fill up the tank, grab a coffee, and head to road 128 that runs along the Sorrel River. I start out thinking that I need to move quick to make up for a slow morning, but the road tells me otherwise. It's time to slow down, enjoy each turn, and admire it.

This is red cliff country. It's stunning, and each turn of the road is another reveal of natural art. It's hard to keep your eyes on the road. 

I turn off the radio, and listen to nothing but the sound of the wind and the engine. The air smells like sage. My road trip was worth this road.

So I reconnect to highway 70 and work my way into Colorado. I've driven this road three times now, almost always at night, and each time in the middle of summer. The Aspen leave are just starting to change, and this is likely the last weekend I'm getting over the pass before the early snows start to hit.

The air is dry. I pull over to fill the tank and the air tells me just how dry it is - I have to sit in the parking lot for about 20 minutes to stop a bloody nose. The nose bleed is bad, the view isn't.

Back on the road, twists and turns through the mountain passes.

I'm getting passed by everyone, some of them slow down and stare. Some smile and wave. One trucker gives me the finger. I can see him mouthing an obscenity at me as he passes by. I can still picture his face, his scrunched up red cheeks, and the irrational fury that was behind the wheel screaming at me impotently. I remember it, because every other trucker out there has been a gentlemen of the road. Passing gracefully, reaching a distance that his draft doesn't make me bounce around, some waving, some with big smiles. At night they have flashed their lights to let me know when I could pass them. I have to drive in their lane, they share it with me even though I'm not one of them.

Vail. Breckenridge. Other mountain towns. And now the big hill.

The Eisenhower-Johnson memorial tunnel is 60 miles outside of Denver, and is 11,158 ft high. The only higher tunnel is in China, and you have to take a train through it. Coming from the west, the climb is a two mile ascension. I'm moving at 20 MPH, and drafting and being drafted by, a semi. We are all in this really slow boat together, and only patience is going to get us over this hill.

I reach the top. The bus finishes its chorus of "I think I can" and begins the "I thought I could" song as it reaps the reward of a downhill descent to 5280 ft.

The rest of the ride is uneventful. I'm in Ft. Collins at 7:30 that night.

For those who asked, full sized pictures can be found here.

Next. The drive back. Far less enjoyable. At least I had company.


  1. Pretty brave cranking up the speedometer like that. I buried Ludwig's once (going down Townes Pass into Death Valley, at night) and when we got to the bottom I vowed never to do it again.


  2. Agreed. Truthfully, I was doing about 80, which wasn't that bad going down the incline. Most cars were doing much more than that.

    Note to self: Seriously get my speedometer calibrated. 10 MPH off is... just lame.

  3. I got pretty nervous coasting downhill in our bus at 70 mph a little while back. i would never try 90... or 80.


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