Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Overcoming Fear, Well Not Quite

I wrote about Arches’ dramatic entry road. Arches can’t hold a candle to Mesa Verde.

In 2003, we went to Mesa Verde. Well shall I say we got to the Visitor Center 15 miles into the park. I was in hysterics—shaking and sobbing. Why? They are what I call vertical miles. The ascent from the park entrance was 1040 ft. to the Visitor Center. We drove up in our old motorhome, the squirrelliest thing on 4 wheels. All I could see out my window was sheer drop-offs. Tom did an excellent job driving that was not the issue. It was the way the motorhome handled and the road.

I was determined this time to tour Mesa Verde. We took the car and I drove up, and down, as well as the tour of the mesa. I had to drive to help me overcome my fear. Again this had nothing to do with Tom’s driving, just my extreme fear that has been built up in my mind since 2003.

Tuesday morning we began the long haul home. This leg was 257 miles. That took us over two mountain passes on US Hwy 160, which for the most part is a two-lane road. They do have passing lanes when there is a grade for slower moving vehicles. Wolf Creek pass was the first and by far the worse one at 10,850 ft. The climb was very slow. First we shut the overdrive off, then down to second and finally first gear straining up at 15 mph. If that wasn’t enough there was road construction near the summit.

Of course what goes up must go down. The descent is mostly 6%, which is a relatively easy grade but there was 12 miles of it. Many of the curves were posted as 25 or 30 mph. I think to go at those speeds would have taken nerves of steel. One of the 30 mph curves was through one of the two tunnels.

The next was La Veta pass at 9413 ft. This would have not been bad either way had it not been for one section without a shoulder or guardrail and the wind. Fortunately the time the wind really caught us, there was a shoulder. The speed limit was generally set at 65 mph with some curves down to 50 mph. We went considerably slower.

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