July 21-24, Flagstaff- One of the most surreal experiences of road travel is finding oneself among perfect strangers, in a night setting, when there is no light, either overhead or around. This happened to me, briefly, when I was driving between Port Jervis and Hershey, and twilight was fading, with no bright moon- and plenty of rain.
The Rocky Mountains, though, offer a far different scene, in the dark overhead. The majesty that exists, both day and night, in the place of 10,000-14,000 foot promontories, also imparts a sense of caution- whilst also bringing people together.
After three days spent at an informative, albeit de rigeur, Essential Oils Summer Summit, followed by a brief visit with my 90-year-old uncle, I headed south on I-25, certain that I would settle in, somewhere around Colorado Springs, and perhaps stop by to see an online friend, in that picturesque city. Along about Castle Rock, two things occurred: I got a message from said friend, asking that I “think of him, as I was passing through.” Translation- “I’m too busy, tomorrow.” The second thing was that a message appeared on a sign board: “Major accident on I-25, South, 18 miles north of Colorado Springs. Traffic will be slow.” No one in Castle Rock had any information, as to alternative routes to CS, and all places of accommodation were full,so I drove on, to Larkspur. There, in the pitch black, several people were pulled off, in and around Yogi Bear Campground- pretty much trying to figure out how long they could stay along the road, before someone came along to make them move. Another enterprising person was driving through the grass, between exits, essentially making a new “frontage road”.
I rejoined the crowd that was inching their way down I-25, and exited at the second Larkspur off ramp. There, we all formed a 2-mile-long queue, headed westward, taking 40 minutes to cover the five miles between I-25 and a county line road, which led, in turn, to the outskirts of Colorado Springs! The darkness of said detour also featured several families, pulling off to the side, and trying to make sense of things. It gave me an air of Armageddon, just a bit.
By this time, I just wanted to find a place for my head to hit a pillow. It was raining, and near midnight, so camping was out. Plaza Inn, a magnificent place, on the north side of CS, had rooms which were being renovated. The young lady staffing the front desk gave me such a room, for $ 100, instead of the normal $175. With a gargantuan hot breakfast buffet, in the morning, this was well worth it. She gets an A+, for entrepreneurship!
I actually felt refreshed, the next morning, so after the aforementioned breakfast blowout, which was excellent, I said farewell to Colorado Springs, being sure to offer a hefty tip to the housekeeping staff. The only things missing, in the “under renovation” room, were a microwave oven and a chair. I know how to sit on a King-sized bed.
I took a lovely drive, along US Highway 160, from Walsenburg to Tuba City Junction. In noted, wistfully, that one of my favourite road eateries, Peace of Art Cafe, in Del Norte, had closed, and had not been bought by anyone. This was a staple of my southern Colorado jaunts, over the past five years. My next two stops, in Mancos and Cortez, were also happy returns to familiar towns. I spent a bit of photo time in Mancos’ historic district, noting that a few homes there were also up for grabs. Here are a few photos, in case anyone wants to take a closer look at a home near the San Juan Mountains, and Mesa Verde National Park. Mancos has excellent soil and fairly plentiful water.
Zuma isn’t for sale. It was just a nice place to pick up a lunch item for the next day, in case I didn’t get all the way to Prescott, on Sunday night. Dinner, was to be at Jack and Janelle’s, another of my favourite stops,in Cortez. There, I was greeted by Janelle, and a bubbly little girl, who waved hello, and shyly smiled, while I was waiting for a table. It’s sweet to be welcomed by someone who just picks up on good feelings. I left the darling child to her own subsequent mischief at the family’s table, and gratefully enjoyed a modest helping of grilled salmon and Caesar salad. Jack & Janelle will see me again.
The drive down through the Navajo Nation was relatively uneventful, until I reached Tuba City. All the lights in my old place of residence and livelihood (1981-86) were out, courtesy of a lightning strike to a transformer. The one major intersection was being monitored by a police car, its flashing lights the only indication that there was indeed an intersection. All three gas station/convenience stores, and both large hotels, were pitch black. I did not investigate further.
At Gray Mountain, some twenty-five miles southwest, on the road to Flagstaff, there were fifteen of us who stopped for gas, centering and potty breaks. Two children had been sent by their mother to buy a couple of items and tend to their business. I found myself reassuring the little girl that everything would be fine now, and Flagstaff was bound to be relatively safe. The scene outside was moderately chaotic, but we all got gas, the kids got their snacks and no one fell victim to Nature’s Call.
I made it to Americana Motel, my usual Flagstaff resting place, slept well and had nothing more serious than a WiFi outage, for the rest of my journey back to Home Base. The Hyundai Elantra’s first “Garython” was a good maiden ride.