Miracle On Red Mountain Pass
As we set out to tour through the Red Mountain Pass route and over to Telluride, we were overcome with a sense of wonder at the beauty of this mountainous terrain. The day was perfect, sunny – crisp and clear. Red Mountain Pass was approximately 80 miles and Google told us to plan on a couple hours. I anticipated an exciting trip considering Red Mountain Pass is 11,017 feet in elevation and the relatively narrow two lane road, with a multitude of switchbacks, did not have any guardrails. The pass is traversed by US 550 and is considered one of the 10 most dangerous roads in America due to massive rock slides, continuous falling rocks and rubble and the often steep 8% grade blasted into near-vertical cliffs of quartzite thousands of feet above Red Mountain Creek and the Uncompahgre River.
On our way up the mountain the weather changed and with a darkening sky it started to rain and got very cold. As we approached the summit, traffic slowed and came to a halt. After about 5 minutes of sitting stopped, people started to get out of their cars and mill around a bit. Friendly hello’s and “wonder why we’re stopped” were common. Then, from the other direction approached a motorcycle that pulled up and stopped to talk with our little group of people standing on the road. He let us know that just up around the next corner a truck camper had gone off the road. He said it was going to be awhile because with no cellphone coverage up on the mountain top, someone had to drive back down the mountain to call the authorities and tow truck, etc. With time apparently on our hands we decided to lock the car and take a hike up and around the next corner.
I couldn’t believe what I saw…. there was a pickup truck with a truck camper in the bed and hauling a utility trailer carrying four wheeler ATV’s, driven off the road and into a large tree. The truck was almost completely over the edge and the utility trailer was still coupled to the truck. Had the truck gone off 10 feet in either direction, to the right or left, it would have missed the tree towards impending doom. We were virtually at the summit but there was a plateau about 2000 feet down that would have interrupted a free fall to the bottom with a very definite and abrupt stop. When it’s not your time….well you know the rest.
We were talking to some of the others bystanders and one of them said he was two cars back, behind the camper, and watched it all unfold. He told us that from the other direction the large Ford LTD, that was sitting there smashed and obviously involved in the wreck, had been driving crazy and passing cars around the corner when he smashed into the side of the pickup camper and pushed him off the road. The eyewitness I was talking with said that at that point the driver of the Ford LTD stepped out of his car with a blanket over his shoulders and a beer in his hand and walked over to the pickup to see if they were ok, and as miracles would have it, they were. Was I really hearing this, “with a beer”?
About 15 minutes later the police, ambulance, fire truck and 2 tow trucks showed up, announced by sirens and flashers. It took another 2 hours to clear the road. We watched the “first responders” as they pursued the scene with a sense of urgency, clearly demonstrating that this wasn’t their first rodeo. Rappelling equipment was attached to secure the firemen to the fire truck so they could work their way around the front of the pickup and secure it on all sides with winch lines and safety lines to get it extracted and back on the road to be towed down the mountain. The driver of the Ford LTD found a ride in the police car and the second tow truck took his car down the mountain.
We headed back to our cars and in about another 20 minutes we were rolling past the scene.
I glanced down at the tree and thought to myself “Angels come in many shapes” !
We were quiet heading down the mountain, absorbed in thought with things like Divine Intervention and just how quickly life can change. Had the tree not been there, had the tree been smaller and broke off, had the tree been a little farther down the hill so that the utility trailer pulled the back of the truck around and off the tree, surely many more scenarios for catastrophe than this one scenario with a miracle ending.
As we headed into Telluride the weather cleared and the sun came back out. We were greeted by a very quaint and upscale town that was a far cry from the likes of Silverton from our last blog entry. We found a place to park and enjoy walking the downtown area. I couldn’t help noticing as some of the locals paraded the sidewalk in their $1000 cowboy boots and their designer jeans tucked in their boots with bandanas around their necks, tied in the back and the bandana opened in front into a perfect “V” with another matching bandana hanging out the back jeans pocket at just the perfect length. Being from Florida, I found the apparel expressions amusing.
As we continued down the street I saw a shop that grabbed my attention. Not because I considered myself a potential customer, but because I had never seen a shop like this and was, quite frankly, shocked! The name was “Delila’s Bud Shop” and this was my first legal marijuana store. Curiosity got the best of me and I had to go in. I was greeted by a young lady welcoming me and asking to see my ID. I chuckled and she explained that it was the law. Unfortunately, I had left my ID in the car and she politely asked me to leave. My curiosity wasn’t strong enough to walk back 6 blocks to get my ID, but we did sit on the park bench outside Delila’s and watched as the shop enjoyed a surprisingly bustling trade. I also was quite amazed that the clientele didn’t seem to fit any demographic models related to age, ethnicity, gender or means. We saw grandparents, professionals and seemingly less fortunate with the same look of enthusiasm heading into the store. As I think back, I don’t recall any sad faces as the patrons emerged with their paper bags in hand.
Did you know that in a “Bud Shop”, the person who waits on you is called your “Budtender” just like in a bar you have your bartender, and you are expected to tip them as you would a bartender? Neither did I!
It was getting dark and we had a plan to head back to the motorhome on a more express route, around the mountain. The experience in Telluride provided a sort of calming effect after our experience on the mountain. All in all, it was quite a day!