Today I drove through the Colorado Rockies on I-70 for the first time, and it was beautiful. Also, altitude sickness kicked in at 7000 feet. At 8400 I had to stop for a half-hour break because my hands were tingling and words on road signs were doubling. After that I felt fine, except for a bit more tingling and dizziness as I neared 14,000 feet.
No, I-70 doesn’t go up to 14,000 feet. That was somewhere else. The highest point of I-70, and in fact the highest point on the entire interstate system, is just over 11,000 feet at the west entrance of a 1.5 mile long tunnel. I pulled over just before the entrance because there was a thunderstorm going on. I saw several bolts of lightning strike the peak above the tunnel, and I took some pictures and moved on after the storm passed.
I had planned to go hiking just south of Breckenridge, but the thunderstorms foiled those plans. Instead I hurried up to Mt. Evans, and just barely beat the clouds to the top. That’s where I neared 14,000 feet, because the parking lot on the mountain is at 14,130 feet (it’s the highest paved road in North America), and the peak is at 14,265. It’s the highest I’ve been outside of an airplane. I climbed up and stood on the absolute top of the mountain, which was so incredibly beautiful I almost forgot to be afraid of heights. Almost.
The clouds rolled in quickly and the drive back down the mountain was slightly less terrifying than going up because I could barely see more than fifty feet. For some reason, I prefer a spooky whitish-gray void over actually seeing the tremendous drop right beside the road…even though I knew it was there, invisible in the mist.
Perhaps that’s why they call it an irrational fear, but in this case I think fear was very rational.
After Mt. Evans I got stuck in construction traffic on my way back to the interstate. Then I went to a Les Schwab in Denver to have my truck’s suspension checked out, because I heard some suspicious noises on the bumpy road up the mountain. While I was there, a thunderstorm rolled through and pummeled Les Schwab with an incredible downpour. Fortunately the suspension is okay, which is to say it needs work but it won’t kill me. I’ll deal with it when I get home.
I had made a reservation for seven p.m. at the oldest restaurant in Denver, the Buckhorn Exchange. Because of the thunderstorms that were following me around, I ended up fleeing to Denver much sooner than expected, and showed up at the restaurant 45 minutes before they opened their kitchen for dinner.
To pass the time I sat at the bar next to an ancient man with long hair, a mustache, a leather Indian Motorcycles vest, and a straw cowboy hat. Apparently he bought the hat as a Father’s Day gift for himself. He seemed to be a regular, and had a conversation with the bartender about her brother that involved blood squirting all over the place. At the bar I had a Colorado beer…a beer so Colorado that every ingredient comes from the state. It was perfect and delicious. I also had some bourbon, which was very nice.
The Buckhorn Exchange was founded in 1893 by a man who met Buffalo Bill at ten years old, and subsequently rode with him as a scout. He became a lifelong friend of Chief Sitting Bull, and took Theodore Roosevelt hunting. And yes, Teddy Roosevelt ate at his restaurant. So did Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and many other famous people. The history of the place is incredible.
My waitress at dinner was a friendly older woman who asked if I was from around there. I told her I was from Washington, and she said she’d just been there for the first time; her daughter took her for Mother’s Day. The food was magnificent. It started with beer and cheese soup, plus sourdough and rye bread with butter. The main course was a buffalo steak with a side of wild rice. It’s one of those restaurants I would visit too often if I lived near it.
After dinner I drove down to Colorado Springs to stay with friends. The drive was awful due to traffic and the thunderstorms that continued to harass me, but I made it safely.
Day 3 Statistics
Daily Miles: 376
Total Miles: 1897.5