By Valerie C.
Welcome to colorful Colorado! In early October, we passed through southwestern Colorado all too briefly on our way between Arizona and Moab, Utah. We took a day to drive the scenic route into the Rockies between Durango, Silverton, and Ouray (pronounced “your-RAY”), Colorado.
I remembered my parents taking my sister and me to Silverton from Grand Junction (where we lived) via the Million Dollar Highway back in the ’70s. Road builder and transportation magnate Otto Mears began constructing the highway in 1880 and finished it in 1924. The road operated as a mail, stage, and freight line until Mears finished building the “Rainbow Route railway,” a narrow-gauge railway that still operates through the pass today. A narrow-gauge rail way is “skinnier” than typical railroads, enabling transport on narrow ledges through mountain gorges. The road and railway were originally built to take gold and silver from the rich mines at the summit of Red Mountain Pass down to the towns, but what makes it famous still today is its view. The section of the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Red Mountain Pass cost about a million dollars to build, which gave the highway its name.
The older man who was part of the vacationing couple above from Littleton, MA told us a great small-world story to beat our own. He said when he was first married (presumably several decades ago), his first wife went with him on a “bucket-list” trip to Alaska so he could visit the Arctic Circle. He said they left their home in Dorchester, MA, flew from Boston to Anchorage, and drove north for three days to Fairbanks, which was only halfway there. At that point, he said, his wife got a little sick of his obsession. So he left his wife in Fairbanks and hired a plane to take him the rest of the way. When he arrived, he got out of the plane and saw only two buildings. One was the post office and the bank. The other was the general store and gas station. He went into the grocery store and asked the clerk if there was a place he could camp out for the night. The clerk pointed him to a field across the road. “Is it safe?” asked the man. “Are there bears around here?” The clerk pointed at a gas pump and said, “See that pump theyah? Earliah this mornin’, they was a beyah leaning up against it.” The man recognized a Boston accent and found that the clerk was from the same home town — Dorchester, MA.
Life Lesson #1: No matter how far you travel, it’s a small world.
Val always says it might be a nice day, but it isn’t a vacation until you see animals!
After the neat road trip of the day, I called my parents to tell them I was thinking of them and to ask them what they remembered from our drive on the Million Dollar Highway when I was little. My dad said I must have been five or six years old. My sister was ten or eleven. He said they took us on the trip because they thought we would like it. My parents wanted us to be thrilled by the scary drop-offs and gorgeous scenery, but my sister and I were too busy playing with our Barbie dolls in the backseat to bother looking. My dad was disgusted.
Mitch and I both laughed loudly immediately, recognizing the experience as our own with our kids.
I took my son Richard to Hawaii when he was 11, and my friend Ken became frustrated that Richard wasn’t paying much attention to the personal tour of Oahu he was giving us. I mean, it’s Hawaii! Richard had never been there and it’s an 11-hour flight from New England, so he probably wouldn’t be coming back any day soon. But Richard was in the back seat focused on playing games on his Nintendo Gameboy. He would look up only briefly when Ken pointed out the sights. Ken was subsequently annoyed enough to pull over, open the back door, snatch the game out of Richard’s hands and lock it in the trunk (an act that I heartily agreed with).
Mitch said his son Greg and his girlfriend’s son, Nicholas, did the same thing during their trip to the island of Oahu in 2011 when they were 15 and 10. The two boys sat in the backseat completely absorbed in their iPhone games and Gameboy, respectively. Mitch told them many times to stop but finally pulled over the car, took the iPhone and Gameboy away, and locked it in the trunk.
So here’s to my mom and dad! I’m glad you’re around, guys, so I can tell you this, which is a message to parents everywhere and is Life Lesson #2: your kids may not seem to be paying any attention to that fabulous thing you’re exposing them to, but they *are* looking, and they will remember that you took them. And maybe someday they’ll even design their lives around going back for a second (more-engaged) look at the sights.
Next post: And Now A Word From Mitch: This is Not My Beautiful House!
If you’d like to start reading about our adventures from the beginning, start with our first post at https://rvluckyorwhat.com/2014/08/20/hello-world-its-the-mitch-and-val-show-tour-2014-15/.
I welcome your feedback and comments. Don’t miss a blog post! Subscribe to receive new posts via email.
Pingback: The Trouble with the Love Shack – Continued… | rvluckyorwhat
March 2, 2015 at 12:58 pm
We drove the Million Dollar Highway in 2013…except we did it in our RV! We argued for a week before we did it – I was too scared, my husband was insistent on doing it. He won. We lived. I’m a lot more accustomed to mountain passes in the RV now, but this particular one will always stick out in my mind!
March 2, 2015 at 2:58 pm
Wow, Jennifer, that’s wild! We saw 18-wheeler big rigs driving it, but I was glad we were in our little car. How big was your RV?
March 2, 2015 at 3:02 pm
Our RV is 35 feet long, so smaller than yours. And at the time we did not have a tow car. Also, we were driving from Ouray towards Silverton, so we were on the “inside” lane most of the time. But still it was a white knuckle drive for sure! At least for me it was – Deas handled it with considerably less nervousness than I did!
March 2, 2015 at 3:05 pm
Oops I said that wrong…we went from Silverton to Ouray.
LikeLiked by 1 person
April 15, 2016 at 6:56 am
Awesome place “Colorado”. Wanna to come here with my family 🙂
July 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm
Drove through the million dollar highway in a 18 wheeler. One of the worst experiences/horrifying acknowledging my kids where with me. When we got over the highway going southbound my shirt was sweating like I got out of the shower.