Tales of the 2016 Road: Long Nights’ Journeys Into Light

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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.

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Historic home, Mancos, CO

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Historic home, Mancos, CO

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Alice Ann’s, Mancos, CO

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A jazz-themed porch, Mancos, CO

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Zuma Natural Foods, Mancos, CO

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.

 

The Road in Winter: Part I

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This is the first of three posts I will make tonight.  Please read at your leisure.

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Prescott, on the First of February, 2016

When the Essential Oils Winter Summit concluded, on Saturday evening, I made the choice to drive twenty miles northward, to visit my 90-year-old paternal uncle.  As Nature would have it, snow began falling as soon as I drove north, out of Longmont, where he lived until the middle of last year.

I found  the vicinity of his new residence, in the pleasantly-named city of Loveland, and gave ring.  His response was predictable:  “Gary, I appreciate your coming up here, but it’s dark and snowy, and it’s hard enough to find my building during the day.  Come back in summer, and please head as far south as you can, out of this snow.”

I listened to my father more often than either he or Mom ever thought I did, and now Uncle George is the closest I have to a father, so I was on my way south along I-25, in short order.

When we in the Mountain West are faced with dark, snowy roads, we stick together.  My fellow travelers and I made it out of the whiteness around the middle of Denver.  I didn’t stop for a bite to eat until I had reached the north side of Castle Rock, midway between the Mile-High City and Colorado Springs.  A meatball sub at Mama Lisa’s got me back on an even keel, and I enjoyed the banter between the four or five workers and a Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy, who is apparently one of the regulars.

Three hours later, I called it a night, in Trinidad, near the New Mexico state line.  The Tower Motel is unique, and has large, affordable rooms.  That last part is getting repetitive, which is exquisitely comforting.  The road in winter does not lend itself to comfortable camping, after all.  I enjoyed four nights of such accommodations, and would go back to any one of these establishments again.

Tower uses a “European” system of card entry.  As in France and Belgium, I placed the card against a magnetic pad on the door, and was buzzed in. It was nearly midnight, so before long, I was fast asleep.

Morning came quickly, with gray sky overhead, but no snow.  I got packed on the double, and was down the mountain, and in metro Albuquerque, in three hours’ time.  The day in Duke City was gorgeous.  It was time for a respite at one of my favourite spots there.

Next up:  Rio Grande Nature Center, and how I dodged the storm.