Monday, 1 June 2009

The Penultimate Travel Post

We're home. I have the dust conquered, the laundry mostly done, JG has cut the lawn twice, once in the rain and I'm........... tired. I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. I want to write up a trip diary and the pile of maps and mementoes is more than daunting. I'm right back into the Board schedule (I am off to Toronto for a three day conference on Wednesday) and I feel burned out. Not motivated. All I want to do is sleep in my own bed, where I can get the knee comfortable enough to allow me to snooze for at least four hours at a time, catch up on my reading and stare at the sky. No energy. No concentration. I'm a sad mess. Obviously, holidays are bad for me.

It doesn't help that once you point my husband's face in the direction of home, he just wants to get there. We drove from Colorado Springs to Fort Erie in two and a half days, trading the actual driving every few hours. We stopped at Fort Erie to visit my MIL, who is just adjusting to her new nursing home, and then we put the foot on the pedal and came the rest of the way. Long days and lots and lots of trucks on the interstates. More than I ever remember seeing in past trips. What recession? Commerce is alive and well in the US of A. But trucks make the driving tougher, for me, especially when they pay no attention at all to the speed limits and play leap frog with one another. Uphill. Lovely.

The holiday was made easier in one way by our time staying at the YD's condo. Normally JG wants to be on the move every day when we take one of these marathon trips and so it was nice to have a few days at a time where we did not have to pack and load every morning, unload and unpack every evening, after trolling for a suitable motel. And we had Effie, who is a great help with finding accommodation. Effie is what we named JG's nice new GPS (a Garmin, for those of you interested in these machines), for her efficiency (my father once had a marvellous executive secretary of that name) and so that we could tell her to Effie Off when she tried to make us drive through city cores instead of taking bypasses. When you tell Effie to look for hotels, she comes up with a list by location; I would find a location where there were three or four places listed and we would go there and look for a good spot. Worked beautifully.

Even so, Effie is not an unmixed blessing. I would not rely on her totally as she has some quirks, the most annoying being this desire to have us drive down town. She has some choices you can pre program, fastest route vs most Interstate being one, but she has a low opinion of bypass routes and babbles on trying to persuade the driver to turn off the bypass until you shut her off. Her screen is not really big enough to show the detail we wanted on secondary roads and scenic drives, either. But she is a wonderful help with a lot of stuff. In the USA she shows speed limits for almost all roads (her Canada info is not as detailed, alas) and gives you a countdown to turns with warnings that correlate with the speed you are driving. I also use state maps, an interstate map of all of the USA and touring books (the National Geographic Scenic By Ways book is excellent) and find that this combination gives me everything I need.

More than I want, sometimes. Unfortunately I married a man who thinks it is lots of fun to drive a road that crosses the continental divide three times in two hours. He combed the maps in search of places we could see snow and did we ever find a lot. He's picky about his snow, too. The snowbanks in the Rabbit Ears Pass in Colorado was dirty, he thought, and he was all for driving Independence Pass between Aspen and Colorado Springs to get clean stuff for a photo op. Luckily it was still closed. I am not a happy passenger when I am ascending to 11,000+ feet on a road with no shoulder or guardrail. And I could not drive such a road if my life depended on it. I get dizzy, short breathed with sheer terror and tense to the point of pain from holding on to the car so it will not fall over the edge.

And no, logic has nothing to do with it.

All worth it, for the sheer glory of the scenery in the mountains and on the plains. We drove along with John Denver's Colorado Rocky Mountain High ringing in our ears, stopping at every view point and pull off we could find, taking huge numbers of photographs or just looking and listening. There were some joys that were entirely unexpected. One, for me, was finding tiny villages in New Mexico lush with cottonwood and lilac all in flower, ringing with bird song, tucked into the crevices of the dry and harsh plateaus in places where the rivers ran. Another was a high mesa just east of Raton where there are constant small ponds again alive with birds, dotted through the sere land.

I think it is contrasts that will stay with me the longest. The huge rock formations in their many coloured striations. The equally huge sky. The creeks, swollen with snow melt, rushing down their stony beds. Driving from summer to late spring to early spring as we climbed a pass and dropping down and down to summer once again. The roar of the wind at the top of a pass and the eerie quiet of the inland plateau below it. Black cattle against a green, green hill. The sight of the huge dome of the state capital at Jefferson City seen across the flats as we drove toward it. So much land and so few people.

And, a silly thing, many many squashed raccoons on the highways in the Midwest. Until, as we reached western Kansas and the high plains, there were no more and the roads were clean. It's strange, the things you notice and will remember, sometimes.

At some point I am going to sort and cull my photographs and probably do one more trip post about them. And then I'll be done. Sometime after I have a few more naps.


  1. glad you're back. i'm sorry that it was exhausting. but exhilarating, too, yes?

    get some sleep.

  2. welcome back--hope you get to the resting up part. Sounds like it was a wonderful trip

  3. i'm still trying to figure out why a man from Canada needed to see so much snow

  4. Lovely as usual!

    There's a little award for you here:

  5. Wow, that does sound exhausting. I hope that you can get those naps.

    Reading about your travels in the passes made me nostalgic for the camping trips I would take with my grandmother in Colorado. She was a woman who never met a road she wouldn't drive, and it was in a hulking monster of a camper, too. I remember steep drop-offs, hairpin turns, and deeply rutted dirt roads. And yes, the scenery.

    (And yeah. What Painted said. Don't you guys get enough snow up there?)