Day two: February 12, 2004
Even though I was eager to continue west, I decided to sleep in a little and give the morning sun a chance to melt away some that black ice along I-80. I took my time getting ready, as well as grabbing a full breakfast at a restaurant next door.
It was cold that morning. Painfully cold. In the parking lot, an older gentleman and I struck up a conversation about the road conditions, and he noticed my Michigan plates and asked me where I was headed. “San Diego!” I said proudly. He was headed the other way, exactly where I can’t recall, but we wished each other a safe journey and continued on our way.
The bad news was that even at 9:30am, the interstate was still covered in ice. I thought for sure that the blazing sun would have melted some of that away, but it hadn’t happened yet. It was an eerie experience crawling along I-80 west looking a big tractor-trailers jackknifed into the ditches all around me. It must have been one heck of a night and I felt lucky to have made it safely to a hotel. But I needed to concentrate on the moment at hand to make sure I didn’t end up in a ditch after all.
Within an hour, the black ice was dissipating and I was soon back up to a cruising speed of 80mph. I truly felt as if I had dodged a bullet and I felt thankful that I was safely on my way.
It was a very fast and mile-devouring drive for the next few hours, just blasting across western Nebraska and eastern Colorado at an average speed of 80-90mph. It was during this time that I thought about the line in Bob Seger’s song “Roll Me Away” where he sings “took a beat on the northern plains and just rolled that power on…”. Yeah, it felt good to run like that across the heart of America.
After about an hour into eastern Colorado, I was getting frustrated. Yeah, I knew that the mountains wouldn’t begin until west of Denver, but wow…it was flat out there and it didn’t look all that much different than Nebraska did. Just farmland for as far as the eyes could see. It was also at this point that, for the first time, I felt like I was truly out in the middle of nowhere. I had lost the signal on my mobile phone, and there weren’t any other cars anywhere – I truly was out there alone. Kind of a weird feeling.
I eventually made it to Denver and the front range of the Rocky Mountains. It was a beautiful sight to see, and I was anxious for the coming journey across the mountain west.
Up I-70 West I went, climbing higher and higher. It was downright beautiful up there, and to this day, I cannot even fathom my reasoning for not stopping and taking a few pics along the way. I’m not a religious person at all but it truly is God’s country up there. Just absolutely downright beautiful.
The Celica handled it well, though she struggled a bit on the steeper grades – especially since it was fully loaded with all my worldly possessions! The descents were a bit scary though, for two reasons: first, I didn’t want to overheat the brakes. Second, I was still paranoid about black ice from the night before. Driving in this region required 100% attention.
I eventually stopped for a quick lunch at a roadside Subway, which I must say was the most beautiful location for a Subway restaurant that I’ve ever been in. The scenery was rugged all around, with a natural stream running along side. It was a really nice lunch.
Back into the car, I continued west for another hour or so. It was 4pm by then and I started seeing exit signs for Vail and the local ski resorts. I couldn’t resist stopping for the night! It was a beautiful winter evening in the Colorado Rockies, and I was happy with the distance I had covered for the day. It was an easy decision to call it a day and find a hotel, though I have to say that prices were outrageously expensive. I didn’t mind paying though – there’s something about the ambiance of being in a busy ski town that is really cool to me.
I found a room, relaxed for a bit, and then went out to grab a bite to eat. Subway again. Hey – I was trying to be somewhat healthy.