by Bob Sparrow
When my daughter, Dana moved to Chicago she needed someone to drive her Toyota Corolla there from southern California. That road trip had my name all over it, so I happily volunteered. I kept a journal of my thoughts and observations along the way – here it is.
It’s early, it’s dark, I’m invigorated by my planned road trip across two-thirds of America as I shower and get dressed. Did I leave the shower on? No, I look outside, it’s raining. It will not dampen my enthusiasm. I set out. Where’s the windshield wiper lever? More importantly where’s some coffee? Gosh, these Corollas are small. I fumble to find the cruise control in the dark, unsuccessfully. OK, I’m serious now, what happened to the Starbucks on every corner? Discover that Corollas don’t have cruise control! Limited music on the radio at this time of the morning. Didn’t realize we had so many Spanish-speaking stations – Mariachis at 5:00 a.m.? My gosh what are they so happy about at this time of day? Got coffee and finally out on the open road, sun starting to peek over the mountains. I’m hungry. Find an ‘Open 24 Hours’ truck stop.
Wishing I still had that ‘TruckMasters Graduate’ ball cap as I feel like I’m not really fitting in here with my Bermuda shorts and Tommy Bahama shirt. I sit at the counter and order my coffee black, like the rest of the truckers – I’ll put some cream and sugar in it when I’m back in the car. I listen to the truckers’ stories and am reminded that I’m happy I have all my teeth. Back on the road. Soon the smell of rural American comes wafting through the car. I see horses and cows and acres of farmland. I see a little town ahead and slow down to read the sign . . . ‘Norco’. I’ve traveled nine miles. I’m thinking this could be a very long trip.
It requires significant will power to drive past Vegas; I didn’t even know there was a ‘past Vegas’ until now. But on through to St. George, and after 700 miles, pull into Grand Junction, CO, for the night. While it is a junction of sorts, I didn’t really find it all that grand.
The next morning’s drive was a ‘religious experience’ for me. There are few, if any, more scenic stretches of road in America than the one from Grand Junction, through the Rockies to Denver. The Colorado River has carved the most beautiful path through the mountains, and man has tunneled, cantilevered and laid his road next to the river. It makes one of the most beautiful blends of nature and man’s work that I’ve seen. I drove this road in the early morning hours, just as the sun reached the rim of the Rockies, providing a soft light to the freshly fallen snow. It was a quiet, cold (7 degrees at its coldest), breath-taking experience. I put in a John Denver CD, but decided that no sound was the best sound. The winter panoramas were purely magnificent. I pass the town of Rifle, the turn off for Aspen, Vail. I stopped to take ‘communion’ (a cup of coffee and a doughnut) in the village of Eagle. I parked the car, got out and just looked at the beautiful winter scape around me and listened to the quiet. The cold air fills my lungs and while it was unbelievably invigorating it was also damn cold. Back in the car and back on the road. I remind myself to tell anyone that has the opportunity to make this drive, particularly on a clear winter’s day, to do it.
As I emerge from the Rockies the city of Denver unfolds below me.
(Next post: Part II – Denver to Chicago)