Road Trip Report: Day 8, July 19

One day, three parts.

Part 1

I really wish that I had a cell signal right now so that I could post a Facebook status update, but no such luck. And this time it’s completely understandable.

I slept surprisingly well last night, considering that I was cooped up in the Miata. Woke up fully at 7:30am, and since I didn’t know what to do with myself I Googled “Denver attractions”. That led me to Mount Evans, just west of Denver, which has the continent’s highest paved road. So I fired up the Miata and was on my way shortly after 8am. Clearly there are some advantages to sleeping in your car.

‎After a very interesting drive down the very steep I-70, I arrived in Idaho Springs, where a nice lady at the visitors centre told me what I’d need to know. Following a quick change, rearranging my gear in the car, and getting out the sweater I packed for just such an occasion, I was on my way.

And that brings me to where I am now: the Echo Lake Lodge, about 14 miles in and 10,000ft up. The drive to get here was beautiful, and after breakfast I’ll head up to the peak…another 14 miles. ‎I’m told that it’ll take about 45 minutes, and that it’s supposed to rain this afternoon. So there’s no time to waste: check paid (I had the french toast) and I’m on my way.

Part 2

Before I get into it, I’ll say this. I grew up in Squamish, driving the Sea to Sky highway, and I know something about mountain roads. But when you see road signs for “falling rocks” and you’re in a convertible, you think a bit more about falling rocks.

The drive to Echo Lake was less intense than the old Squamish highway (pre-Olympics), but the drive to the top of Mount Evans was daunting, to say the least. It’s worth it though, and if you take it slow and focus on the road, you’ll be fine. There are plenty of stopping points to get photos along the way, too.

Summit Lake is a little farther along, and definitely worth stopping at before you proceed to the top. Then the roads get really tricky. I won’t try to explain it…just look it up on a map and remember that you’re always going steeply uphill or downhill while navigating the hairpin turns.

After you park, you can walk a little further up to the very top, or over to an observatory. Wherever you go, the view is spectacular. And then you realize how cold it is up amongst the clouds, and it’s time to go back down.

‎Now, I suspected that it would be scarier going down. Going up, you can sometimes see the road just turn around a corner, and there’s nothing but thin air ahead of you. But at least you don’t have to look at the ground waaaay below you.

At first, I was wrong about that. The peak was clear when I arrived, but cloudy when I left, and that actually helped. While it was difficult to see, the convoy I was in went so slowly that it wasn’t a big deal, and the clouds surrounding us created walls at the road’s edges beyond which you clearly didn’t want to go.

Then we got out of the clouds, and I was right. Going downhill (with judicious use of engine braking), you just look straight into the valleys far below–it would be easy to get mesmerized and forget yourself. I did fine though, and eventually made my way back to Idaho Springs around 2:30pm.

‎And now? Now I’m at a laundromat because I’m running out of clean clothes (relatively on schedule), and the Omni Interlocken Resort that I’m staying at ($74 on Hotwire) doesn’t have a guest laundry room. Otherwise, the resort seems pretty nice, though I haven’t looked around as of yet.

I thought that I might go to a Colorado Rockies game tonight, but after the last day and a half I’m pretty tired. So I think I’ll be calling it an early night. Tomorrow I’ve got things to do. Most important is to have lunch with a friend from my hometown. Also, I need to get the oil changed in the Miata before pushing on.

And after that? I’m not sure. Maybe Salt Lake, with a camping stop somewhere along the way. But we all know how that worked out the last time…

Part 3

Let’s get philosophical.

It’s worth wondering how much longer I can or want to do this, while also noting that the minimum answer requires 22 hours of driving to get me to Vancouver. Of course, I just did 10 hours yesterday without even blinking.

According to Google I’ve already covered 3,455km, plus perhaps another 100km or so of miscellaneous driving. Maybe a little more. I’m also somewhere around 40 hours spent on the road, again according to Google, plus miscellaneous driving and, of course, the fact that I slept in the car last night.

Thing is, this isn’t really a question of driving fatigue…it’s everything around it. I’m certainly enjoying myself, but at some point I’m going to get bored with all of it and want to go…well, I was going to say “home”, but that seems weird right now. Bottom line is, at some point there’s a good chance that I’ll just want to stop.

Which reminds me…as I drove across Nebraska, I thought about Forrest Gump and how he ran from coast to coast. Then he just stopped running, turned to the many people who had started following him, and said, “I’m pretty tired. Think I’m gonna go home.” (or something like that).

I see that happening to me sometime within the next week.

Now, you might wonder how I could get bored when I’ve done something different pretty much every day. You might point out that the driving is the only thing I’m constantly doing, and that that must be the boring part. Well, you might be right. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But I will say that my car is pretty much “home” right now. What I think I’ll tire of is being out and about all of the time. Spending all of Thursday at the Mall of America, for example. Having to think about places to go and things to keep doing. Always being on the go.

The more I write about it, the more I suspect that I’m already feeling it. And if I am, that’s okay. I’m still aiming to get to San Francisco, but we’ll see how things turn out. I might also find some new inspiration to keep going. And I might just decide that it’s really time to go and be with my family.

Whatever the path may be, I look forward to travelling it.