July came around and we hi-tailed it out to Denver to visit GFIrene – the original American nomad. She who has lived all over the dang place. From Houston she went to LA and now to Denver. It’s a right, easy drive – 45 to Dallas, 35 to Salina (rhymes with vagina), Kansas, take a left, 70 west to Denver. Got there on a Thursday, headed back home on Sunday.
GFIrene, being the gracious and accommodating host that she is, asked what we wanted to see. Yes, she already knew the queen’s answer. For me, in Colorado, there was no way we’d leave without seeing some spectacular scenic scenery thing and indulge in some good brew. Microbrews are all over Colorado. Every wish was answered. Just call her Santa Irene.
For scenery I suggested a drive up to the summit of Mt. Evans, the highest, paved road in North America at 14, 100 and something feet. Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about – near death experiences on winding mountain roads with no guardrails. In the picture below, GFIrene smiles because guess what? She’s not driving up the winding mountain road with no guardrails.
Before we began our ascent to possible death, she handed me the keys and asked if I would drive. It was my idea, after all, so I couldn’t refuse. Deal is, her car has manual transmission and I hadn’t driven a stick shift in years. Like riding a bicycle, right?
Driving up a road like this is not for the faint of heart. We’ve been on some winding roads in our travels but none quite as harrowing. Luckily, because nobody wants to die, everyone understands the importance of cooperation. I fully admit to white knucklin’ it on the way up. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of traffic.
You would think at 14,000 feet it would be cold, even in July. I guess the extreme summer heat this year extends upward. It was chilly, certainly not cold. The info desk ranger told us we may encounter mountain goats at the summit trying to escape the warmth. They generally hang out on lower parts of the mountain, but this year it’s far too hot for them there. We did see them but I was too busy trying to not get us killed to take any pics. I mean, they’re goats. Imagine what a goat looks like. Now put it on a mountain.
About halfway up is a ‘forest’ of very old trees. Bristlecone pines are considered the oldest living organisms on earth. They’re older than I am. Yeah, I know, but even I’m not 5000 years old. The info ranger thought these old, twisted trees had to be the inspiration for the Ents in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I have to agree. Although this one looks like Droopy Dog.
As you get closer to the summit, the landscape changes from forest to tundra to a somewhat alien landscape of rocks. Maybe that’s why they call them the Rocky Mountains (I’m just thinking out load here, folks).
The view from every turn is like a hat from Beach Blanket Babylon – stupefyingly awesome. You just want to say, “Gol darnit, would ya look at that!” Although, I don’t think GFIrene would ever say “gol darnit”.
Finally, we make it to the tippy top. Never having been at 14,000 feet before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wobbled a bit, in a Weeble like wobble way, but didn’t feel like I was gasping for air. It took a few minutes to get acclimated, but after that, I was good. The queen stayed in the car, knitting of course.
The drive back down was not nearly as harrowing mainly because, by that time, I was an expert at avoiding possible death.