DAY 158 2/15/2013 Farewell Friends and Monarch!

Rolling down off the site

Rolling down off the site

Today we packed up, hitched up and rolled out.  This was a near daily event on the Voyage until Heart of the Rockies where we’ve been docked since January one.  Here we skied.  Here we met our hosts, Hollly, Gayle, and the ever-so-happy Aiden.  Here we met The LivingstonFamilyAdventure!  Gabe, Marci, Mason, Adin, Asher, Mark, Niko.  We met Jeff and Snoogins.  And all have found their way into our hearts.  We were a community surviving the cold with the common Mountain interest.  Living in the venturi above Salida we all braved the scouring high winds.  We cooked out apres- ski at 10 degrees as the sun went down.  We opened our door to the wind ripping it out of our hands more times than not.  Double dates, potlucks of Gumbo, Curry, Ribs and laughter will not be forgotten or taken for granted.  Gathering those joys is truly life’s bounty.  Warmth in the cold of Winter.

Bye Bye Monarch

Bye Bye Monarch

Another odd thing for David to do is leave a ski area just as the season gets rolling, all trails opened and the backcountry getting deeper.  But this is not a ski trip.  This is not JUST a ski trip.  It is longer, deeper and open to a tomorrow with whatever it brings.

We have left family, new friends and new places before.  Sometimes just a few days after meeting them.  Its hard, but the road calls…the next adventure hides around the corner.  This time it was much  harder.  Climbing Monarch Pass to cross the Continental Divide felt like leaving old friends again!  Unprompted, I looked over at Jane once and knew she had the same lump in her throat.

But here we go.  Yup, another milestone driven.  Colorado DOT webcams to give a limited idea of road conditions.  Four new inches of snow at Monarch was not “EPIC” enough to delay leaving.  The roads below the pass were dry, and above 10,000 feet looked like just a little snow pack.  Ice too would have kept us safely parked at “home”.

Poor Marfa (the Faithful 4Runner, as you’ll recall), strolled up the pass with her 3400 lb load, going only 25 mph on the steeper sections.  Coloradans have no hesitation to pass, but I don’t put myself in a ditch for their convenience.  Hazard lights flashing and a caution triangle emblazoned on the spare should be enough to send ’em around.  Even the downhill!

Rolling down slowly

Rolling down slowly

Especially the downhill gave me caution.  30 mph caution signs at cliff-edged curves, a “runaway truck ramp” and snow packed surface combined; I went 25-30 downhill too.  Never have I driven a rig that demands attention like this.  Adrenaline is usually served only for sports, not just driving!

We pulled a big “hundred mile day” and found a National Forest access road to the Cimarron River.  A peaceful night capped off our dusky walk seeing an eagle and nice herd of elk!  Quiet, 0 degrees, cozy.  Off we went again in the AM.

Off West past Gunnison, Wifi’d our safe departure to family and the Colorado community and on we went.  South on 550.  Had I known Red Mountain Pass I may have gone another way.  It was dry, clear and sunny;I definitely would have detoured if it weren’t…but wow!

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Jane peers out the window into the abyss (note small piece of road in right corner)

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Nice scenery-NO GUARDRAILS!

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The Valley Looms 500-1000 feet below!  Did I mention NO GUARDRAILS?

Sometimes a glimpse of the road ahead has you wondering where it squeezes through?

Sometimes a glimpse of the road ahead has you wondering where it squeezes through?

 

Coalbank Pass' road as an engineering marvel stretches out below

Molas and Coalbank Pass’ road as an engineering marvel stretches out below

I had heard Monarch is one of the higher passes, but had no idea normal cars would be routed over anything like Red Mt (and it’s requisite partners Molas and Coalbank) year round.  Poor Marfa, her transmission started to overheat as indicated by a little red warning light.

Removing ALL cardboard from radiators and checking transmission fluid!

Removing ALL cardboard from radiator, trans cooler and checking transmission fluid!

14 miles uphill at 20-28 mph, no guard rails, thousand foot cliffs, very few pullouts, warnings not to stop secondary to avalanche areas and more than a few ice chunks falling on us while we crawled!  WOW!  Did I say Monarch was stressful?  We pulled into a small passing area and I pulled all of the cardboard that had been shielding the shivering radiator and transmission cooler from the Winter’s air for the past months.  Poor gal, she needed all the air we could give her on THIS climb!  We made it.

Arriving at Durango Mountain Resort (formerly Purgatory) we knew the right move.  Pull in, stay, ski!   (hee hee)  A great dinner was had and improved immensely by visiting across tables with two new friends from Tucson, Angelo and Debbie.  Plus there was a torchlight parade!  Could  it get any better with careful planning?  (As you know, “Serendipity is often our guide!”)

-David

(Fast Wifi allowed lots of pictures today courtesy of Durango Joe’s Coffee)

20 responses to “DAY 158 2/15/2013 Farewell Friends and Monarch!

  1. Awesome post David. Glad you made it through the pass safe and sound. I know how those Coloradoans like for you to pull over for them to pass. Have another adventure for me tomorrow.

    • Texans too like the trailers and slowpokes to pull aside. We only do what’s safe…amazing how that state carries into most activity, yet mt biking and skiing is still with a “reasonable state of abandon”. That mindless, trusting state where “WE” belong on the planet! Make decisions that fit the instant. I do, however, listen to the little voice: “Oh that’s easy”…jump right in /vs/ “that rock looks loose” or “something pauses me” and step right off. We are looking at touring Spruce Treehouse at Mesa Verde and hiking or snowshoeing tomorrow! I really won’t mind having a job again when I get home; so much reminiscing! For now though, Tramp-on
      -David

  2. livingstonfamilyadventures

    Wow. What an adventure!!! Glad you made it over the pass safely. I am so thankful for internet to keep us virtually close.

    • Virtual IS really something! Thanks for following, we are safe at Mesa verde and looking forward to seeing what we can see! Say hi to the boys and be sure they know we miss ’em and wish we’d made a more proper goodbye. Guess they meet a lot of folks on the road…see us all coming and going.
      -David

  3. your story reminds me of driving a truck for Dot Foods in the mid west in freezing rain…it takes ALL of your attention and is terribly draining…I’m sure you slept well afterwards!

    • WOW Dot Foods Truckers! Glad you survived. Tis amazing how much attention decent driving takes, yet people readily devote their attention to so much else while driving… I always sleep well. Such a blessing!
      -David

  4. Colorado winter driving….fun isn’t it? If they plowed back east like CO plows, the roads would be shut down for weeks. After living in CO for the past 17 years, the roads and lack of guard rails are just the norm now. I’m reminded when family from IL visits it can be scarey and add in a little ice and snow…..white knuckles for sure. Enjoy Durango!

    • Thanks Ingrid. I am not a timid driver, but the little train who could was puffing and puffing. (Check out recalcroute ‘s blog to see their financials…they are >2 years RV on the road with three daughters, while dad works online!)
      -David

  5. Great writing, great photos. So glad you made it to the safety of a ski resort! Your trajectory looks like you are headed to the Grand Canyon – just saying…

    • At Mesa Verde now! As usual we don’t plan much and we just see how much daylight, dry road and alertness the driver has. Next stop, Navajo “headquarters” to see if we can camp on the way to Grand Canyon? 289 miles can be done, but we’d rather do two days and visit the Navajo National Monument along the way. By the way, any idea who inspired this trip…?

  6. vminichiello@gpstrategies.com

    I’m even stressed reading this!! Looks awesome though! much love from MD

  7. Can’t wait to hear about Mesa Verde! Take your time – you probably won’t be out that way again any time soon. Great part of the country. So what is your inspiration?

  8. We passed you outside of Cortez on Tuesday. Sounds like a great trip. You may enjoy reading about ours, as well: http://www.ourlifeontheroad.com.

    Best of luck!

    • WOW, our first known unsolicited comment. Knew we put those stickers on for a reason…ha ha ha…
      I’ll go see what you are up to. No wonder you passed us, we go uphill SLOW. Thats OK though, I get to look around more. We just parked at Grand Canyon…looks like they had snow and freezing rain…slow was good here too. Can’t wait to see what you’re up to.
      -David

    • David and Jane, I hope you had the time to check out this blog. There journey was inspirational! It’s a good reminder that there is a journey to come after the trip. Who knows where this will lead you!

  9. Glad you made it safe. Miss you guys! Riding Monarch isn’t the same without hearing David’s “woohoo’s” through the trees!

    – Jeff, and Snoogans

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