Do I have your curiosity piqued?
Oh good! I am trying to build the suspense, in part because even though this is THE story from our magnificent vacation that has any element of drama, as Lawrence stories go, it’s rather on the tame side.
After a week of beautiful weather(and even more beautiful scenery) we awoke in Pueblo, Colorado on Saturday to snow.
Now, as Alaska dwellers for many years (or most of a lifetime, in the case of Dave), the snow did not concern us. A bit annoying, sure, as we were bound to be a little chilly and I have learned to love not wearing a big heavy coat. So, we set out for Colorado Springs, just an hour north, to meet up with my dear niece, my sister and her hubby at the Air Force Academy. This was something all parties had been looking forward to for weeks!
Once on the interstate, it was soon apparent that the snow was not an issue, but the wind was a different story. Visibility was reduced to less than 2 car lengths, and from the right hand lane it was impossible to see the opposite side of the left hand lane. Sometimes it was hard to see the shoulder of the road. We decided to turn around, hang out in Pueblo a couple of hours and wait for the weather to settle down a bit, then try again.
It was not to be. After a couple hours, and loads of weather and road condition website checking, we determined that the prudent thing to do would be to drive south, out of the storm, headi back to Tulsa a little bit earlier than planned.
I was very very sad. But, Dave, as a driving safety guy,made a good case by stating that he would not allow his employees to drive in those conditions, hence…
we went south. And for about 35 miles it seemed as though we had made a good decision. The wind slowed, the snow just about stopped and the roads were nearly bare. Then traffic came to a standstill. For 2 hours. There was no where to turn around, and so we sat. And while we sat, the storm front caught up.
Eventually the line of cars began to move. Slowly, up a mountain. Too slowly. Without enough forward momentum, vehicles were struggling. One by one, cars were drifting to the sides of the road, either giving up or getting stuck. Having loads of winter/mountain driving experience, dave was able to get us farther than most, even in our rented low slung front wheel drive sedan. Farther than most. But not all the way to the top.
Dave, Kjell and Broder hopped out of the car,I moved into the driver’s seat, and with a whole lot of work on the part of my strong men, we were able to get out. Dave had given me strict instructions to “get to the top, don’t stop until you are at the top”. The boys would run up the hill and meet up with Sunny and me there.
So that is what I did, threading the needle between cars on the right, and overturned semi on my left, and then a semi chaining up on my right, and cars on my left. Within a few minutes an old battered truck pulled up behind me and out hop Dave and the boys, picked up by a good Samaritan. Everyone loaded back up in our car,and we were on our merry way.
Until we weren’t.
(hang in there, the prisoner thing is ahead).
As we drove into Raton Pass, the weather became a bit more hostile, and the farther we climbed, the more snow, wind and disabled cars we came upon. 2 miles from the top of the pass, we had to slow down, then stop as the cars in front of us were no longer able to get traction. Dave decided to try pushing one more time, on the off chance we could recreate our past success.
It worked, and once again, I just kept going to the top of the hill. 2 miles and it felt like it took forever. Finally, at the top of the pass, I pulled over next to the weigh station, and waited. Waited for dave and the boys to appear, as I assumed they would be picked up by someone again, after all, who would not stop?
After 15 minutes, I was a little concerned. By the time I had been sitting there for 30 minutes, I was rather upset. And after 45 minutes, I was stressed, worried that they had somehow lost their way in the blowing snow, or had been hit by a car that did not see them. (now, in all this time, I had only seen one car pass by. And they did not have my family as passengers, so I don’t like those people).
With Sunny wailing inconsolably in the backseat (she was certain her boys were all dead) and my gas tank down by a quarter, a Colorado state trooper pulled up next to me..
He asked if I was ok, if I was having car trouble. I said I was fine, and the car was fine, I was just waiting for my husband and sons, as they had pushed us out when we were stuck. The trooper asked where they were, I explained that they were walking up the mountain to meet the car.
The poor man looked at me as if I had 3 heads and said “They are WALKING?”
“Yes”, I said “I was hoping someone would pick them up and bring them to the top”
Now he looked at me as if I had 3 heads and each of those heads had some serious mental impairment. “No one is going to pick them up, ma’am. The pass is closed and no one is moving”.
And with that he rolled up his window and sped off.
And so I sat there. A little past worried, but not quite ready to panic. Sunny was a different story. She was wailing and praying and hyperventilating.
And then I saw Kjell. And Dave 20 yards behind him. But no Broder. I called out to Kjell “where ‘s Broder?”. “back there” he replied. And all I could think was BACK WHERE????? Had Broder fallen down, had they left him? That did not seem possible, unless he was dead, but then why wouldn’t they carry his body. I was very confused and very upset.
Then I saw the trooper. As Kjell and Dave reached the car, the trooper pulled up, and out popped Broder. For some reason Kjell and Dave declined a ride, but Broder accepted.
The menfolk loaded up into the car, and the trooper, without another word, moved his car in front of ours, and led us through the remainder of the mountain pass, breaking trail. As soon as we were out of harms way, he did a u-turn, undoubtably on his way back to the next car in line.
(wait! Wait! Where are the prisoners?)
Within moments of descending out of pass, it became apparent that we had moved past the storm front. Visibility went from 20 ft to miles. Sunshine and blue sky as far as one could see. As it had taken us 5.5 hours to go less than 100 miles, we were pretty excited for this turn of events.
We consulted our beloved atlas and figured out that by heading south and east on some New Mexico county roads we could save a couple hours over following the interstate (which would have us backtracking for about 200 miles) and so we went on our way. Much more relaxed and rather excited about seeing some new territory.
And we weren’t disappointed. The back roads were lovely. Charming little towns, rolling hills at sunset. The day had started out kind of tough, but things were looking up!
And then there was a road block.
State police SUVs lit up like Christmas. Barricades. It wasn’t one of those “local traffic only” kind of things. It was more like a “ain’t nobody getting through here and if you try we will shoot out your tires” kind of thing.
Turns out there was a prison break at a local correction facility. After turning around, and being advised against picking up hitch hikers(thanks for that, New mexico law enforcement, because i would be so inclined) we made our way back to the interstate, and miles and miles of road already traveled.
Over all, it as an idillic vacation,but thanks to our last day, we have a story that will live on (and grow) for years and years.