Traveling from Shreveport Louisiana area to Steamboat Spring Colorado in winter is not for the faint of heart.
I’m originally from upstate New York so I know a little about driving in the snow. Thus I took a few precautionary measures ahead of time. I put a 40 lb bag of kitty litter in the trunk, and a pair of new tires on the front drive wheels of our 2000 Toyota Camry. Snow tires are not available in Louisiana. At my wife’s instance I bought a shovel for the trunk. Just in case we might get stranded along the way we also brought along our sleeping bags. We had all this plus our regular provisions of food for staying a week at a condo.
Our first leg of the journey was to Taos New Mexico. We didn’t expect much difficulty other than a long drive. We packed the car the night before and left at 5:30 am Saturday December 20. I was especially pleased with the early start. I’m a J personality and when it’s time to go I want to go. Brenda is the opposite, but on this morning she went from sleep to car in less than an hour.
Our first stop was at Tyler Texas as a Shell travel center we know well. We often stop there as part of Brenda’s work as an RN workman’s comp case manager. It’s about 20 minutes from the doctors’ offices were she meets clients at their appointments. As I was paying for breakfast I had a brief mental dialogue with my self as to pay with cash from my money clip or with my debit card from my wallet. They were both in my front right pants pocket. The debit card was chosen. After a good breakfast we headed on. Driving through Dallas was busy for a Saturday with lots of construction. However, uneventful except for making me a little tense. Brenda slept through Dallas and few hundred boring miles of the Pan Handle.
At the next stop for gas I reached for my money clip to give Brenda some cash for snacks. To my chagrin it was not in my pockets or the car no matter how any times I looked. I’m guessing it fell out in the Bathroom back in Tyler. Way to far to go back even for $190, not to mention the $25 leather money clip. Brenda is very calm about things like this, but did insist we divide our remaining cash between us and have me keep my wallet in a different button down pocket! She was more relaxed knowing how much financial resources we still had available and that we both agreed to be home with much of it remaining. I let the incident rent space in my head for several hours trying with out hope or success to reach the Tyler rest stop by phone. No one answered the number we found on the web. The number I got by calling information was answered by a fax machine.
The rest of the trip to Taos was long but uneventful. The pan handle is a long boring stretch of nothing. One interesting sight was miles and miles of huge windmills.. I have Timeshare with Whyndam and able to book single night stays. Thus we had small but first class accommodations in World Mark Taos. When I say small I mean we had a genuine original Murphy fold out of the wall bed. It was actually very comfortable. After about 14 hours on the road we slept well. I awoke early the next morning with cramps on both legs. My left was very strange. It was causing my big toe to be straight up in the air!
Brenda was up and we were gone by 9:15. It is often tricky when following state roads instead of Interstate highways. A few miles out our town where the route took a sharp turn to the left I continued straight ahead for about 20 miles. Thankfully I had Brenda check the map app on my phone to see how we were progressing and she discovered we were making good time on the wrong road! She did however get some great pictures.
The next part of our adventure was shortly after passing into Colorado. We crossed a bridge over a deep canyon. It was in fact “The Grand Canyon of Colorado”. This turned into an expensive as well as beautiful stop. There were tables of local artisans by the side of the road next to the bridge. We purchased a colored pencil print, five sets of ear rings, and a knife gorgeously inlaid with turquoise and other semi precious stones.
Brenda walked out to the middle of the bridge to take some excellent pictures. I waited at the end of the bridge. Already I didn’t have extra energy to fight back my vertigo.
The day progressed with wide open spaces bordered by tall snow capped mountains. We passed a solar panel electric farm and some kind of settlement with homes built into the ground, with southern exposure walls of windows and solar panels on the roofs.
Once we began to climb into the mountains it began to snow harder and harder. We stopped at Leadville for gas and I asked if there might be any place open on a Sunday afternoon that sold chains for my car. Surprisingly there was. I spent $66 on a set, although another customer advised I probably didn’t need them yet. So I didn’t put them on and almost got stuck leaving their parking lot!
It was rather difficult going up through the pass outside of town and getting on towards dark. However we made it to Interstate 70 where we thought the going would be easier, NOT!
Half of Denver was leaving a ski slope and headed home. It was bumper to bumper on three lanes with blowing snow and travel at 5 miles an hour or less. After a few miles we got off at the first town, Frisco , for a potty stop. We found a level place to park and decided to put on the chains. I’ve never done that before. We lay them out and drove over them. It was a chore to attach especially the inside. It was cold and blowing blinding snow. A man walked by and I asked him for help/advice. He said one was on good but we needed to redo the other. He didn’t hang around to help. So another twenty minutes later and we headed out again.
Turning right into the street I managed to go too far and was facing on coming traffic. I could not just get over to my lane as there was too much snow. Three or four cars squeezed passed before I could make enough headway to get to my lane. Then a couple of blocks later I pulled over to check the chains before getting on the ramp to I 70 again. One was just fine . The other was gone! I decided we should go back into town and stay the night. Brenda thought not.
I turned into what I thought was an Inn. Turned out to be just a bar. No place to turn around. Backing up a slight grade the car wheels were spinning. After several tries up and back up and back, I had Brenda get in the drivers seat and just barely was able to push us out. Further into town, mind you it is a blizzard out there and dark, I see a vacancy sign. I find a place to park around the corner where I think I might be able to back out and head to check in. After waiting in line behind three others the clerk asks for my reservation. I say I have none but saw the vacancy sign. She says, “Oh, the no burned out last week! She is very unhelpful,regarding other possibilities in town. Begrudgingly she lets me look at a list but I can only copy the numbers. I take out my cell phone and take a picture of the list. Then I try to call the Holiday Inn but the signal on my phone is breaking up. I go back to the car and we wind our way way to the second on ramp and get back onto I-70 which at this point has barer pavement. I am troubled about driving with one chain on at over 30; so in about a mile i pull into a rest area that is plowed enough that I think I can get out again. After several tries of having Brenda move the car back and for to get the right spot for me to reach the inside of the tire I finally get the chain off. Meanwhile the snow and blowing wind seems to be back to a blizzard.
Back into three lane bumper to bumper traffic we move along at 0-5 mph up a slippery road expecting at any minute to spin out and hit another vehicle. After forever, maybe an hour, we reach a very long tunnel where we are able to go about 45. However more of the same but down hill and about 20 Mph at the other end. As we reach Silverton doing close to 50 we are passed by a truck that splashes slush across our windshield totally blinding our vision until I can get my hand to the wipers! Still alive we continue on at about 30 mph until we reach state route 40 that will take us to Steamboat. We stop by the side of the road for a pit stop then proceed on with me praying aloud.
“Dear Lord you know I lack confidence praying for good weather, but we need you help now!”
The prayer seemed to be answered with a slight let up in the blowing snow and relatively clear road. It didn’t last long. However, we were blessed with another car in front of us. Between his tail lights and his tracks in the snow I managed fairly well for some time, including several hairpin, and I mean 180 turns uphill, and multiple whiteouts. However, eventually he pulled a bit too far ahead at a sharp turn to the left and whiteout caught me mid turn and into the snow against the guard rail we stuck!!!
As I surveyed the situation a pick up slowed as he passed but moved on. Then another pulled to a stop next to me and put down the window. I explained how I was from Louisiana, with no snow tires, but front wheel drive, new tires and a shovel. He pulled over in front of me to help and a police car pulled up behind. I think perhaps the first truck called him. He too had a shovel. We only had to dig the snow from in front of the car up to the outside tire. Brenda crawled over the hump in the middle to the drivers seat and we three men were able to push her out.!
I asked the officer to be our pilot car. He agreed but I ended up leading the way, driving in about the center of the road at 5 mph accept during whiteouts that were frequent, with a line of about 13 vehicles behind me, including a bus, champing at the bit. Eventually we came to a wide point in the road where I could pull over to let the all pass doing twice my speed.
With them in the lead I endeavored with some success to follow either their lights or tracks in the ever deepening snow for at least another hour down the mountain to Steamboat where we checked in exhausted but alive at 12:30 am!!!
Our accommodations were first class,as always the case with these TimeShares. We grabbed a luggage dolly and loaded down with all our stuff! Unpacking as little as possible we went to bed, a very comfortable large Queen.
Next morning I was rudely awaken with the most excruciating cramp in my upper right leg. All those hours of driving for two days had tightened my muscles. We spent the day resting, shopping for Colorado souvenirs, and picking up some groceries. Brenda tool a short walk on the path by the river. By now I had a cold and waited for her in the car. On the way back we decided to stop in at the visitor center. The young lady was very helpful with information we used for the rest of the week. She told us about the cross country place and said her parents who are about our age like the gentle trails very much!
Our big event on Tuesday was a trip to the Haymaker Golf/Cross Country Club. It has been my goal for the last year to go cross country skiing again following knee replacement surgery. I love the sport and have my own equipment (left at home for reason that will be odious). I had only skied twice since leaving Massachusetts in 1985 and the last time was ten years ago. My skis are in our storage shed as they have been over the years in Tucson, Charlotte, and Jacksonville. As the lady at the ski center remarked they are not ready to be hung on a wall as antiques!
Brenda was going to participate as well but after twenty yards decided discretion was the better part of valor and retreated inside.
It was a bit as the saying goes, like riding a bicycle. I was sushing along in no time. The knee gave me no trouble at all. However, I am still so out of shape that I had to stop and pant every 20 or 30 yards. There was one very slight down hill section. I did fall. However, I just snapped out of my skis, stood up and snapped back into them. I did the whole 1.7 miles of the easy trail!
The price included lunch which was a very delicious shepherd’s pie and soup. Brenda got lots of pictures not only this day but during the whole week.i have posted a sampling on my Facebook page. One of our gifts to ourselves this year was a zoom lens for the camera that we got last Christmas!
It continued to snow at least some everyday. It is very beautiful here. Our next photo adventure was Wednesday. Taking the shuttle from the door of our accommodations we rode up the mountain and took a ride to the top on the Gondola. It was a “picture perfect day.” We splurged at Hazie’s the expensive choice for food and were blessed with a table by the window looking out and down over the valley with vistas to the distant hills.
Once back to the condo, Brenda again desired a walk along another section of the river walk. I drove her to the start and picked up at the next entrance about 3/4 of a mile along. She got more great pictures. That evening I took advantage of the hot tub, which in this part of the cold country is always outdoors! I had a good soak for my aching muscles.
Christmas Day we mostly stayed indoors. We went just around the corner to Crazy Horse Plaza and say the last Hobbit movie. They took some liberty with the story to make this last section long enough for a long movie. I called family and we at out. This to was nearby at The Ore House, a converted barn with good food and high prices!
Meanwhile my cold was getting worse and Brenda was also starting to cough. We decided to snuggle in for the day. However, thank idea didn’t last. Brenda decided she wanted to go Snow Shoeing. I agreed and we headed up the mountain. The Ski Center for this activity is only 15 minutes from our Time Share. We were in our equipment and on the shortest trail by 11 am. That is to say we thought we were on the shortest trail. I kept looking at the map they gave us of the trail and.it looked to me like someone had goofed and printed the trail in mirror image. Of course that was not the case. We made a wrong turn.mSo instead of finishing a non existent short loop we retraced our step and kept the walk at about the same distance had we been on the right trail. This location is run by the same people in the valley where I went cross country skiing earlier in the week. Like Haymaker they offer a package deal that includes lunch. This time the menu was all Italian. We had some great soup filled with savage and all kinds of other great flavored.
Meanwhile we discovered another, larger hot tub under a pavilion closer to our building. When we returned to the condo I took the short walk and slipped into the steaming water for a good soothing soak.
Friday our last day in Steamboat, Brenda got a hankering for more walking. This Louisiana girl just love the dry cold of Colorado. She hiked two more sections of the river walk. We also drove a couple of miles up the Mountain for her to find another popular trail. However, I wimped out in our no snow tires Camry when I learned the last mile was steep uphill with no place to turn around!
As I sat that evening I thought our varied exciting adventures were over, especially if the weather cooperated until we got far enough south before it started to snow again. Well that hope was dashed next morning. By the time we left at 8:30 about two inches had already fallen. However we made it up rt 40 to Kremlin and down to Silverthorn by 10:30 in time for a great Sunday breakfast at the Sun Shine Cafe.
About two hours later out of snow country Brenda says,”Did we pack the print?”
I slammed my hand down on the steering wheel, ” Damn!!”
No way we were going back for fro the $40 print. However, the called the TimeShare. They said they would let s know within 24 hours if they fond it. I said, ” it’s probably still on top of the fridge where I put it so it would be seen and not left behind!
In Mountain Vista, we stopped at Dairy Queen. While Brenda went in side I saw the street signs and thought we were in Alamosa and that the route continued straight the direction we were heading. As we drove out of town I thought to my self it was strange that the shoulders were now almost non existent. It was also strange to pass an Amish buggy on such a main route? But then the road turned to gravel and we knew we had gone 20 miles the wrong way,Again!
Back on track the rest of the trip to Santa Fe was long but uneventful. We thought we would not impose on ou host and stopped for dinner. There w as a 45 min wait for a table. So when Donna said Sunday dinner was done and waiting we hopped back in the car and got to their house in about 20 min.
Then surprise , surprise, when I went looking in the car for our overnight duffle it was nowhere to be found. Somehow we managed to drive out of the resort garage without noticing it sitting mournfully waiting to be packed into the car!!
It was good to catch up with old friends. however, by now Brenda had caught my cough and we had a fitful night sleep.
Next morning, after, coffee and conversation, we hit the road by 8:30 mountain time. It was a pleasant ride on down to I-40 where we stopped, shopped, and had a hearty breakfast at Clines World Famous ? Truck stop.
We continued on throughout the day with me driving and Brenda catching up on some work that had piled up during the week. I-40 to Amarillo, to Wichita Falls to Fort Wroth and home, pretty boring with again the exception of the 50 miles of Wind Farm.
We stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrell. I soothed my throat with tea and soup and refreshed we headed on the last 4 hours of our journey.
I decided I should call Virgil, my father in law, who had been feeding our dogs and birds while we were gone. The first thing he said was, “Does anybody else have a key to the house.” There in is another family tale not to be publicly shared!
We arrived home at 11:40 pm central time, exhausted, but glad to be home. The five days in the middle were worth the adventures and trials of the four days of travel. We discovered Brenda loves the Colorado climate, I can still cross country ski, and we took about 1000 pictures. What can I say, maybe we’re crazy but we will likely go back!
Post Script: New Years Eve, I put on my old jeans. I reached in my pocket and found my money clip!