|Subject: Death-defying car trips|
Good topic Debbie!
There have been quite a few of these for me. I can't say that I get anxious on mountain roads. Actually, I like driving them. But it can be quite intense. Especially with inclement weather, a less than tip-top shape vehicle, etc. Here are a couple of my favorite memories:
Driving from Durango to Telluride one snowy morning in my little Honda wagon fully loaded with friends anxious to get on the powder covered slopes. Just south of Telluride is a U-shaped hanging valley that the road clings to high up on both the south and north entry and exit points. The locals refer to it as the Ophir Loop (the town of Ophir located up a dirt road at the east end of the loop). As we began to enter the Loop we hit a patch of ice resulting in complete loss of traction. I managed to turn the wheels enough to get the car sideways before we plowed into the 3 ft. snowbank deposited by snowplows. We all scrambled out the passenger-side doors, walked around to the front of the car to see the front 1/3 of the vehicle stopped parallel to a 300 ft. drop. Fortunately, the skid had taken us into the snowbank (which luckily was firm enough to stop the slow forward momentum of the sideways car). A few feet more to the right and we'd be tumbling down the steep slope. Of course, being the immortal young souls that we were we shrugged it off, backed the car up, and drove off for a great day of skiing.
Driving from Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico over the Sierra Madre Occidental to the Mayan ruins of Palenque in my 1968 VW Kombi Camper I encountered extremely heavy rains as I passed through the cloud forests of the Lacondon jungle. This very remote, extremely narrow two-lane blacktop was horribly pitted with 2 to 3 ft. deep potholes. In essence, a typical Mexican rural road but under extremely difficult weather conditions. As I climbed higher into the clouds the rain increased and bits of the road began sliding off on the downward slope. I continued to encounter more and more of these slides with ever-increasing volumes of the road missing. Maneuvering my VW closer and closer to the hillside I kept my fingers crossed that nothing would slide from above. At some inside turns streams of water were rushing down the hillside from above (out of the dark green jungle), cleaving through the road (leaving just enough for my car to traverse), then dropping off into dark holes in the canopy below (accompanied by large chunks of asphalt ripped from the road). Finally, I came upon one of these sudden waterfalls which had undercut the road at the precise time that a fairly large truck was passing, plunging it and all aboard into the dank vegetation below. Mexican soldiers were waving what little traffic was on the road around the disaster. I continued on eventually making it back down to the lowlands of Tabasco. I was never so happy to see flat terrain.
Finally, a couple of years ago we were driving up from Aix-les-Thermes, France into the Pyrennees to Andorra. As we climbed into the mountains the rain we'd been driving through at lower elevations turned to snow. And then soon we were in the clouds resulting in that favorite of all mountain driving...snow and fog. The roads were replete with twists and turns which, due to the fog, had to be approached with extreme caution. Unfortunately, for some drivers this meant at a speed not much faster than if one were walking. After an interminable time behind one of these type of drivers from the Netherlands a faster car approached from behind us. As this driver passed us both I caught a glimpse of his license plate. Sure enough it was a local Andorran. Seizing my opportunity I accelerated past the Dutch driver and hung onto that Andorran's tail lights for dear life. My plan paid out and at no time at all we were above the clouds making our way to beautiful little village of Ordino.
Ahhh yess! Mountain driving ... I just love it.
John in San Diego