What a sight we must have been, driving our motor home, climbing the narrow park road in Colorado Monument National Park. How incredulous was our response to the exquisite scenery deep in the canyons. Could there be still more unique and spectacular vistas than those we had already seen in places such as Zion, Bryce and Arches National Parks? As we ascended the mountain, we did have a niggling problem. Could we indeed negotiate the mountain tunnel that we knew lay ahead of us?
Two reliable sources, our host and the staff person at the Colorado visitor’s center had assured the accessibility to the tunnel. Our nerves were still tingling with doubt as we realized how narrow the road was and as we sighted the sign just in front of the tunnel; 10’ 6” clearance. I was at the wheel and had pulled as far to the right as I dared in case another vehicle entered the tunnel facing us. The traffic had been almost non-existent to say the least.
Should we indeed drive through the tunnel? After all, we had the assurances of experts and in “eyeballing” the tunnel; it did look higher than the prospect offered by the clearance sign. The story offered was that after an incident with a traveler “scraping” the side of his vehicle and suing the park authorities, the sign was changed to represent lower clearances than the actual height.
The weather was crispy, clear and sunny, We were about 7200’ above sea level. Turning around on this high ridge would be possible but tricky after unhitching the tow and pulling a tight K-turn with the motor home. We love adventure and challenge and the tunnel appeared “friendly.” We chose to charge onward.
Paul donned his barn coat and cap and exited the rig with the intent of leading me through, assuring that we would not scrape the air conditioners or air vents on the tunnel walls and stopping any on-coming traffic. We could see all the way through the tunnel, a big plus indeed. I centered myself on the entrance and he gave me the thumbs up. As I started to drive into the darkened mouth, a white van entered from the opposite direction and stopped about 20 feet from the rig, unable to get past me.
Paul tried to speak to the young woman driver, but as he said, “she ignored me or did not even notice me.” She just stared ahead, perhaps frozen or unsure of what to do. If she had just pulled a bit to her right, I could have adjusted my position to let her pass. I proceeded to move slowly to the right watching Paul’s hand direction like a hawk. The white van finally drove on. He urged me ahead, later declaring concern that he could not watch his back for oncoming traffic and lead me through as well. I returned to the middle of the road and continued to move ahead at about 2 miles an hour. It was dark and a bit difficult to see. Adding the headlights helped.
By now I was fairly confident that there was plenty of headroom but continued to move at a snail’s pace. Not a scrape, scratch or grinding noise. No more traffic faced us, and after an eternity we were through the tunnel. By this time, a red car caught up to our rear. Paul climbed aboard and we continued up the mountain as he sat down and belted in. I am sure our cheers of delight and relief could be heard for miles around. Perhaps we should have been more trusting of the words of our “advisors,” but fear of damaging our house on wheels was also strong.
This trip, we have finally reached the famous, natural sites of Nevada, Utah and now Colorado and it has made us so happy. Our destination in driving through the tunnel was Glade Park, CO just above the Colorado National Monument, to visit a delightful couple, my daughter in law’s sister and brother in law. They had invited us to park our behemoth RV on their property, alongside their exquisite new home. How excited we are to get to know them and to really be in Colorado for our first time. We are almost fully fueled with gas and propane. The temperatures are forecast for lows in the mid 20’s and highs in the mid 40’s.
In our minds, we are truly “failures” as snowbirds. The idea, as we understand it, is to leave the northeast in the winter to seek and find warm, even hot weather and to stay put for a while in these locations. We have had a few stretches of warm in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and Nevada, but our woolly hats and gloves have also been at the ready. The decision this year has been a thrill; to experience the heritage and witness the beauty and splendor of the national and state parks in the southwest, high in the mountains, chancing cold temperatures and ice and snow.
This has allowed us to have hiked, rock-hopped via Jeep, climbed high ridges, trekked through “hidden canyons,” been soaked by secret waterfalls, assaulted by sand storms in a deep canyon, met wonderful people and experienced some of our dreams of a lifetime.
Perhaps it is in our blood, in our genes, in our psyches to gravitate toward cold. Perhaps, we can’t help ourselves. Perhaps we are a bit crazed, but we seek adventure, beauty and the chance to enlarge our horizons. We have not really suffered one bit, more than some dry and cracked skin and runny noses. Our cheeks are brilliantly colored from wind, and sun, we are robust and feel so lucky to take the roads less traveled.