I’m still shaking. I haven’t driven in snow that bad since the 1970s. Vail Pass is closed and I’m wondering whether to bother trying to make it to Telluride tomorrow, since they’re expecting 18-36 inches.
Now it didn’t snow all day. Well, there were a few flurries just before noon, but after that there was some sun. I wondered if the storm was just a myth, especially in ski country, they like to believe the flakes will fly.
And on the way to the airport it was RAINING! Now I’m sophisticated enough to know this is ultimately a bad sign, because as the night wears on the temperature drops and then you’ve got snow on top of ice, the worst of all possible worlds.
And Eagle County Regional Airport is at 6,540 feet. Downhill from Vail’s 8,150. And the temperature was in the mid-thirties. And visibility was good. So I was feeling confident, wondering if all my anxiety was ill-spent.
Kinda like the car rental.
Tempkins told me to go to Thrifty, he said they had the best deals. But no one was at the desk and Avis and Budget and Alamo told me they had no cars whatsoever.
I was just checking, because the Hertz website said they had no four wheel drives, I wanted a four wheel drive, I’d reserved a Chevy Venture, which comes in both iterations, front and all, but usually the rental fleet is just front so…
I went to Hertz.
I asked them about the Venture, whether it was two or four wheel drive.
They told me they hadn’t seen a Venture in months.
But they had my reservation.
They were gonna give me an SUV. And by time the clerk went through a few computer screens she told me I was gonna get an Infiniti, a QX80.
Now that’s living in style.
But that’s not what I got.
First I had to check for dents, I don’t want no extra charges.
And I already declined the $64 and change insurance policy. I know, I know, you don’t need it, but I’m only renting the car for one day…
Now I’m wondering whether I should have bought it, I still might call and request it.
So the car came with satellite radio, and even navigation and NeverLost, and there were too many switches to figure out and I had a hard time turning it on and getting out of the parking lot and then…
I couldn’t see a damn thing. The windshield wipers were bad. Or…
I mean you know you’re in trouble when you can’t see the road.
And I was far from the Interstate.
I blasted the defrosters. I turned up the music. And I tried to figure out where I was going.
Eagle, Colorado ain’t that complicated, but there are roundabouts and I couldn’t see anything and then… On the window, were those now snowflakes?
I didn’t want to believe it. It had been raining only minutes before, I’d gained no elevation.
But it was true, it was snowing.
And then it was a blizzard.
You know, the kind where the high beams render vision impossible and the low beams show you there’s snow, but you still can’t see the road.
I started off behind two trucks. But then I got worried they were going too slow, and the longer it took me to get back to Vail, 35.5 miles, the more snow there’d be on the road.
So I passed them.
I was feeling confident, my winter driving skills were still in evidence. I could ride this pony.
And then I couldn’t see the damn line on the road. Where the hell was I supposed to go? Left, right, center… I’d lost my guidance, believe me, you want to be following those red tail lights, they were the only thing giving me direction.
And the hills are getting steeper and I’m starting to go slower.
The speed limit is over 70, I started off doing 60, now I was down at 50, was I ever going to make it?
And then other drivers started to freak out, they started to go slow.
And then the left lane started to be covered by snow.
And then the heavens EXPLODED!
You’d think it’s the end of the world. But somehow in the midst of this winter storm there was lightning, happened three times, I could finally see the road, for an instant anyway, but I felt like I was experiencing Armageddon.
And I finally realize I’m listening to the Bridge, Sirius XM’s soft rock channel for the uninitiated. The Little River Band segued into Carole King and then I heard the bumper. I listen to the Bridge, I felt comforted. Carole King was my friend, the song never sounded better.
And then I heard Marshall Tucker‘s “Heard It In A Love Song”…
I hate that song. I love “Can’t You See,” but not this big hit.
But tonight I loved it. I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel, I had no idea how to change the channel, I endured it and it revealed itself to me, decades later.
Finally I was in Edwards. Civilization. People live there and ski Vail. I thought I was home free.
Until I got to Avon and found myself exiting without knowing it. There was no way you could see the highway. I was drifting right, headed for disaster, the only thing that saved me was that rough pavement they install that makes your tires roar and alerts you to the fact you’re flirting with disaster.
Now I had to pay attention.
BUT I ALREADY WAS!
I was wired, concentrating, doing my best, would it be enough?
Then I lost all perspective, I had no idea what lane I was in, all I know is there were two tire tracks and I was following them.
And then the lights started to blink and flashers were going and I thought there was an accident, but it’s just that everybody had slowed to a crawl, because there was no way you could make fruitful progress.
In the slowdown I passed a fire truck. Its lights were not flashing, it was barely moving, was it going to an accident, coming back from a fire, or had it lost its way?
And then there were lights. Visibility returned. But there was barely one lane and it was still four miles to Vail and off in the distance were flashing red and blue lights. Was it a snowplow?
And now I was starting to freak. Would I be able to find the exit?
I highly doubted it.
Who else would be going to Vail? Who could I follow? Wouldn’t they just be continuing down I-70?
There was no lane line visible. I figured I’d keep an eye out for the bending guardrail and try to follow it off the highway.
But then there was a huge blinking sign, whose yellow letters told us Vail Pass was closed, the highway ended here, we ALL had to get off at Vail.
But then the car started beeping, telling me people were too close, even though I couldn’t see anyone around me.
And in town an SUV was barreling, could he stop before he plowed into me on the roundabout?
And that guy in the Audi, entering from a side street, was he gonna maintain traction or slide into me?
And now I was alone.
But I was slippin’ and a’ slidin’, only a few feet from home.
But I made it.
Do I pack up and leave in the morning or…sit here in Vail?
And if I sit here in Vail, I’m racking up $130 in rental car fees every day.
Telluride is four hours and forty six minutes away.
Montrose is three hours and twenty six minutes, I can meet my buds at the airport there tomorrow…
If they can make it.
Buzz is they’re going to get fifty inches at Wolf Creek.
Now that’s just west of Telluride, but T’ride is gonna get double digits. Are we even gonna be able to make it from Montrose to Telluride, which sits at 8,750 at the end of a long, winding, two lane road?
My buddies on the east coast are clueless, they think they’re gonna make it, I emailed them and asked for flight info, told them to contact me if their flights were canceled or diverted.
So I’m sitting here wondering whether to pack or to punt.