Don’t Look Down
I was scared. The kind of fear that tightens the stomach and dries out the throat.
When Rachel mentioned she had an assignment in Silverton and would “get to” drive over the Million Dollar Highway, I casually mentioned that I once tried to drive that road connecting Ouray and Silverton a few years ago but turned around in a panic about six miles up because I was certain I would die.
So…Rachel. Oh, beautiful, perma-tour-guide Rachel. It was unacceptable that I had never experienced the majesty of the Million Dollar Highway with its priceless views because I was afraid of the road.
On May 3, under blue skies, Rachel took me with her in a compact Mazda to Silverton, giddy that she was going to “get to” drive over the Mllion Dollar Highway and I got to go with her.
Outside Ouray, I admittedly got nervous and needed to stop to use the restroom and get some water because of the aforementioned dry throat. (I already had drank all the other water I brought on the trip.)
Then, we were off. The views of the San Juan Mountains along the Million Dollar Highway are something of a postcard. The waterfalls, rock canyons, running steams and snow-capped peaks are worth the drive. I'll admit it.
But, I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty hard to forget the view out the passenger door when I looked down. And it’s hard not to look down.
(Note the short distance between the car, the “shoulder” stripe, and the sharp drop into the canyon)
Rachel was super helpful by:
1. Taking her hand off the steering wheel to point out a waterfall.
2. Telling a story about how a couple got swept off the road in an avalanche but lived.
3. Saying things like, “You look out, and you’re like, ‘This is nuts. Who would drive this?’”
Anyway, I’m happy to report we lived, and we both snapped plenty of pictures along the way. That’s the funny thing about Colorado. Even natives such as Rachel never tire of this state’s splendor.
Although I’m not a native — I’m actually from Iowa so cut me a break on the panic attacks – I never grow tired of the scenery here. Sure, there are a few things about Iowa I miss: the lush green color that comes from actual rain water, legit thunderstorms, and my family and friends. But that's about it.
So, for all those other Midwesterners intimidated by hiking at altitude or riding along roads with no guardrails, just look up.
And remind the driver it’s best to keep BOTH hands on the steering wheel at all times except when they stop to take photos.