#1147 Created Updated 12/08/2019
The movie begins at home. Alarm clock, shower, breakfast. The women grab purses, and men fill pockets.
I rush around the house, collecting all the bits and pieces -- homework from the night before, coffee cup, pocket radio, coat and gloves, cassette tapes, dry cleaning, exposed film for the drug store, chewing gum and breath freshener, calculator, comb, Leatherman (thanks, Mike), handkerchief, Swiss Army knife. Where are the damn car keys? Did I get the sunglasses? Left front pocket for lighter and knife, right front for keys, wallet left rear, handkerchief and comb right rear, mechanical pencil and favorite ball point pen and sunglasses in shirt pocket, grab a briefcase for the calendar and diary and homework and cell phone, distribute the rest to the various coat pockets.
Clanking like a royal knight, I stagger to the driveway and climb aboard my truck.
Frost on the windshield, the steering wheel is cold. The usual suspense: is the battery dead again? "No!", the engine roars back on the first surge of the starter. Click the seatbelt, pull down the armrest, check mirrors, roll backward onto the street. "It's not too late," I think, watching Sunset Street swing into the rear view mirror. "I can work at home today."
But the tug of reality pulls the shift selector into Drive, the transmission slams into gear with its usual morning enthusiasm, and the truck jolts forward.
The commute begins.
West from Longmont across the flat terrain, the last little stretch of the Great Plains grassland' before the dramatic wall of the Colorado Front Range. Twelve minutes to Lyons, right where the prairie gives way to sudden uplifts of beautiful red sandstone. South on Colorado 7 climbing between sandstone mesas, following the canyon of the South St. Vrain River.
As I plunge up the dark canyon, the "little mountains" of the Foothills rise more than a thousand feet above me. The walls close in, crushing the highway and the tumbling stream close together. The South St. Vrain River is quiescent this morning, a placid gurgle appearing through great gaps in the icy cloak that coats the banks and boulders. A frigid fog hangs over the river.
The giant V-8 pours a merciless cocoon of hot air up around my legs and torso, the icy blast from the open windows batters my ears and tosses my hair. I'm still wearing the heavy winter parka, but my gloves are off, and the overall sensation is like an early spring day -- the warmth of the direct sun, the freshness of the still-cool air.
But here the contrast is dramatic: the heater is hotter than hell, and the outside temperature is near zero. I remember the joke about the statistician who says "It's about average" with one foot in boiling water and the other on a block of ice. "I'm an idiot," I think to myself. I can't stop grinning.
The ground and road are covered with snow, the sky is incredibly blue, everything is brilliantly lit. The tall, snow-covered thick pine trees that line the winding mountain road block the rising sun, creating a picket-fence pattern of deep shadow and bright sunlight across the road. The road breaks through a thick stand of aspen trees, naked for the winter, and comes out on the side of a steep mountain slope.
Driving as fast as I dare, I slowly catch up to a big orange Colorado Department of Transportation snowplow, content to match his incredible 70 mph on the winding road. His 12 ft. plow blade catches the fresh three inches of snow on the road, and turns it into a roaring stream of blinding white that arcs up into the crystal clear air. The jet of snow instantly dissipates into a new, sparkling snowfall on the side of the road.
The mountain rises more than a thousand feet above me on the right, and drops dramatically 600 feet into a deep, deep valley on the left. The Peak to Peak Highway cuts south from Rocky Mountain National Park, paralleling the Continental Divide about six miles to the east. The soaring Colorado Front Range, covered with the thick snow of late winter, glares brilliantly in the sunrise, the last touches of red giving way to bleached white. The highway misses the old mining town of Jamestown, and winds further south, nicking the edge of Ward but missing Gold Hill on its way toward Rollinsville, and the highway over the Great Divide. Nothing ahead by mountains, and snow.
The truck roars with contentment, happy to be hot and heavy and in four-wheel drive. Another 15 minutes on this road, and I'll be at the office. But for now, the view ahead stretches all the way to heaven.