Stolen Time

I still can’t believe we pulled this off!

Somehow – in a miracle of scheduling – we got four of our five children together at the same time.

And somehow – in a miracle of packing – squished all of our luggage and bodies into the mini-van…

That's true!…and traveled 10 hours packed like sardines all the way to Colorado to see our firstborn Matt.

We stole three precious days from our very busy fall schedules and spent them together.

By day we played tourist – taking in the highlights of Matt’s adopted city.
DSC_0197We saw where Matt worked, met his co-workers, admired the awesome mountain view from his desk.

We hiked.

We explored.

We climbed.

We shopped.

But by night – we were just us.

DSC_0193Playing games.

Watching movies.

Eating popcorn.

Sharing inside jokes.

Laughing.

Cherishing every moment.

Knowing that time was short and family was precious.

And that soon we would be heading home and leaving one behind.

it was stolen time.

And it was so, so sweet.

The Great Western Adventure: Winter Edition Part 2

After a very discouraging day in airports with canceled flights, driving on icy packed snow and a night in the “Hovel Hotel”, we are ready to cross the mountains to visit our first born son.

If you study a map of Colorado you will soon realize that Pagosa Springs is on the other side of the Rocky Mountains from Denver.

If you look carefully at that same map you would see that there are two mountain passes that we must cross before we find our son.

Two. In the winter. Remember me? I’m the one who freaked out on Teton Pass on a sunny day in September!

We started west out of Walsenburg and began the climb toward La Veta pass. The roads got slicker and the snow started to fly as we reached the summit and started down, very thankful that although the elevation was over 9000 feet, the grades were not steep.

We made it! Piece of cake! One pass conquered – one to go.

The roads cleared and the snow ended as we headed down. We had dry roads, clear skies, and sunshine as we drove across the high plains of Colorado.

Our spirits lifted as we settled in and enjoyed the adventure!

But we soon discovered that Colorado wasn’t done with us yet. We started the climb toward the next pass – the granddaddy of mountain passes – the infamous – the dreaded – Wolf Creek Pass.

We hit snow just outside of the city of South Pass.

It got deeper and visibility got poor.

Still we climbed.

We noticed that cars were just crawling down the mountain in the other lane – a mute reminder that it’s easier going up a mountain than coming down. At least going up we have gravity to help us stop.

We saw an accident that had just happened – it was a miracle that both drivers were still alive when you looked at the condition of the car and the position of the truck on top of the guard rail.

We reached the Summit and started the nail biting descent into Pagosa Springs. Steep 7% grades that end in a hairpin turn. Down and around the mountain.

Low gear. Top speed is twenty miles an hour. Poor visibility and the roads are snow covered.

Finally we reach the bottom and drive right out of the snow into Pagosa Springs!

As I peeled Jan’s hands off the steering wheel, I said, “Never ever again will I take that pass. Never again in a million, trillion years – especially in a snowstorm!”

We drove out to Wolf Creek Lodge and finally- finally got to see Matt!

I didn’t even cry – much. 🙂

Wolf Creek LodgeAnd he took this picture of Jan and I to prove that we made it. Notice that white stuff on the ground? Oh yeah…

We had a tour, got to meet his roommates and friends – and it started to snow – again.

I ignored it as we sat down to lunch and tried to just soak up the time with Matt. But it was getting harder to ignore – especially when the director mentioned the Winter Storm Warning that was going into effect.

I tried not to meet Jan’s eyes – because I knew what he was thinking – Wolf Creek Pass.

He talked to the director to see if there were any other options for getting out of there.  There were none. If we wanted to go home, it would be over that pass.

Graduation was at five o’clock. If we stayed for that – we would be traveling over the pass after dark – and after it had snowed all day.

If we left on Saturday – we may not make it out at all.

We said our good-byes and left.

Three hours. We traveled a day and half for three hours with Matt. 🙁

And we missed graduation.

We bought some chains for the rental car before heading east out of Pagosa Springs and started climbing up that pass that I had just said I never wanted to go over again ever in my lifetime.

And I got to do it twice – in one day – in a snowstorm.

Thankfully the grade on the east side of the pass wasn’t as steep and winding as the west side, because the snow was deeper and the visibility worse.

Once again the snow stopped at the town of South Pass and we started across the high plains of Colorado in sunshine with dry roads.

Can I pause a minute here and say what an incredible man my husband is?! I was amazed at his driving skills and cool under pressure.

We drove hard and fast – making it over La Veta Pass after dark – despite the blowing snow and black ice. We just kept driving north on Interstate 25, thinking that if the roads were good – we were going to get as close to the airport as we could.

We finally got a hotel on the north side of Colorado Springs – which proved to be a wise decision since we woke up to another snow storm.

Unbelievable.

We had one more white-knuckled drive into Denver – but made it to the airport in time.

Our flight was an hour late – but considering everything else that we had gone through in the last few days – that was nothing.

Home never looked so good!

And you know – even though things didn’t go as planned, it was still a wonderful trip! I would do it again in a heartbeat – but only in July!

Post script-

We found out later that they closed Wolf Creek Pass a few hours after we got through. The other family hoping to drive home was still stranded on Sunday.

Northern New Mexico, from Albuquerque to Southern Colorado had a winter storm into the next week.  If we had stuck to our original plan – we might still be there. Some of the students who planned to travel that direction were still waiting on Tuesday.

Matt made it to Durango for his flight home on Sunday, but only after another white-knuckled drive west from Pagosa that included hitting a deer.

Remind me to avoid Colorado in the winter! 🙂

The Great Western Adventure: Winter Edition Part 1

You aren’t gonna believe what I did last weekend.

Not in a million – trillion years. I actually lived it – and I still don’t believe it!

I flew in an airplane – yes me, the claustrophobic one who can’t even sleep in a sleeping bag and is deathly afraid of heights  – flew in an airplane to see our oldest son Matt graduate from the Summit Semester Program in the Rockie Mountains near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

At least that was the original plan. But things don’t always go as planned…

We booked a flight to Denver, were we planned to catch a connecting flight to Albuquerque, rent a car and drive north to Pagosa Springs.

We were going to spend Thursday night in Pagosa Springs, all day Friday with Matt and fly out of Albuquerque on Saturday.

Oh – and did I mention that my husband went on line and found a super expensive hotel room in Pagosa Springs for Thursday night – at a bargain basement, non-refundable price? We’re talking a hot tub with a mountain view, king size bed with a dozen fluffy pillows, and thick cotton sheets. 🙂

Let me tell you folks – we are more of a Super 8 kind of people so I was really excited at the very thought!

flying above the cloudsThe first leg of the trip went well. We checked in, made it through security just fine, and I didn’t even have a panic attack on the plane! We was feeling pretty confident as we landed in Denver.

Then we saw the snow –  a lot of snow. We had flown right into a winter nightmare.

Our connecting flight was delayed. Then they changed our gate, then our plane, and finally 2 hours later they canceled our flight.  We were re-booked at a much later flight into Albuquerque – if it made it out at all.

We discussed our options. We could spend 6 hours waiting in the Denver airport and hope the flight makes it in to Albuquerque at midnight and then drive 3 hours to Pagosa Springs – or we could rent a car and drive the six hours to Pagosa Springs ourselves.

I mentally did the math and saw myself in the hot tub in Pagosa just about the time the flight was taking off. Take that United Airlines!

Besides, I trust Jan behind the wheel of any car in any weather before I would trust some pilot who looks younger than my 15 year old son to fly me over the Rocky Mountains in the dark in a snow storm.

Just saying.

So with the vision of a hot tub with a mountain view dancing in my head – we rented a car and headed south out of Denver. What’s a little snow – right?!

Wrong! The roads were slick and travel slow until we hit Pueblo, where for about 15 minutes Jan actually got up to speed before it starting snowing again. By the time we saw the exit to Walsenburg he was driving on sheet ice.

He turned in the first exit and into a motel. Remember what I had been anticipating for weeks? Hot tub with a mountain view, a dozen fluffy pillows, and heavy cotton sheets?

This is what I got.

the hotelCirca 1960.

Trust me – the furnishings were original. I walked in and felt like I was in Goodwill – on the wrong side of town.

It looked like the Brady Bunch should walk out – and I mean the early Brady Bunch before Greg’s voice changed.

Two flat pillows and no hot tub -actually there wasn’t even a tub. And the whole bathroom listed to the north making the toilet more of a rocking chair.

And it was cold. Really cold.

I put on layers of clothes, climbed in the lumpy 1960 mattress, pulled the threadbare blanket up to my chin and fell asleep listening to Vince Gill sing a duet to Miss Piggy on TV.

I’m not even kidding.

Not exactly the night of luxury I had anticipated.

Between the lumpy mattress, the cold, the worry about the weather, and second guessing our decisions, neither of us slept well.

But we must have slept some – because we woke up – and the sun was shining.

We hit the road early.

Of course we had to stop at a restaurant for breakfast since one wasn’t served at the “hovel hotel”. Come to think of it – it didn’t even have a coffee maker.

At this point, we were beginning to see the humor in the situation – at least until we headed west out of town.

To be continued…