Day 19: In Which I Inadvertently Take My Life Into My Own Hands.
3 October, 2009 § Leave a comment
Does anyone else have the problem of being overly ambitious when scheduling their high school visits ahead of time? Seriously, it’s become a routine experience in which I a) think I can easily fit in four visits plus an evening fair without running into any double-booking, b) regularly underestimate how tired I will be if I check in to my hotel after 11 pm and hit the road the next morning by 6.30 am or c) forget to take into account driving distances. Noble? Not so much. Foolish? That’s more like it. Yesterday, though, definitely took the cake – – attempting to cross the Rockies in order to visit a high school in Vail.
As I turned on I-70 going west around 8.15 on my way to the high school which was located about 75 miles away from Denver, I passed a blinking road sign that read in bright neon letters, “Warning: expect winter conditions in mountains ahead.” When taking into consideration that the temperatures here in sunny Colorado have remained in the high 80s all week, not to mention my mildly arrogant self-perception of being a veteran western New Yorker driver, I remained completely unfazed by the warning… unfazed, that is, until I turned a sharp hairline curve and entered the Arctic Circle. Seriously. The flurries turned into white-out conditions, the dry roads became slippery with mush-turned-to-ice and the speedy Subarus were surpassed by struggling Semis. Drivers were crawling along at 35 miles per hour and even that snail’s pace felt too fast at times. The wipers on my windshield were working overtime, my heater was on full-blast and my adreline was pumping as I struggled to peer ahead and use the snow-covered yellow road lines (thereby avoiding a game of bumper cars with the guard rails, thank you very much) as my guide.
Honestly, these photos don’t do it justice – – it was by far one of the most treacherous stretches of highway I’ve ever driven on. Ever. Well over two hours after re-emerging from the snowy heights down into the sunny valley again, my shoulders remained stiff with tension and my poor rental car with its out-of-state license plates received many a pitying look as I struggled to navigate unfamiliar territory in an unknown vehicle. When all is said and done, while I was never truly scared, just tense; however, it was definitely a situation I hope to never have to repeat again and let me tell you, when I got out of my car in a very dry, very bright, very clear Colorado Springs again, I uttered one of the most heartfelt prayers of thanksgiving ever known to this traveler.
In the meanwhile, the last of the college fairs came and went last night – – and all 70+ of us college reps were feted with a two-course dinner (complete with glass goblets for our iced tea), a cadre of tie-wearing student hosts, a multi-media presentation and thank you gifts in the form of Colorado toffee fudge from the week’s organizational crew. Hopefully the connections formed over the past five days with guidance counselors, high school students and admission reps alike will continue after we’ve all scattered to our various corners of the country… and hey! Speaking of connections, tune in next time to hear stories of our adventure today up to what is only the world’s second most visited mountain, topped only (no pun intended, of course) by Mt. Fuji itself (!). O man. Good times. Good. Times!