Well, I'm not sure what triggered this post but it may have been WSF (or Maytag if you prefer). It's nothing he said or did. But he lives in Colorado. Seeing a comment from him made me think of Colorado. Which took me back in time to when I drove from Fort Collins down to San Antonio in January. Then did the reverse in April.
The weather was actually better in January!
This was back in 1987.
The Air Force wanted me in San Antonio. As it would be a longish TDY* assignment, I elected to drive to Texas. How hard could that be? In the dead of winter...
So there I was...**
Truth be told, the drive to San Antonio wasn't that bad. Sure it was bitter cold out when I hit the road but the sun was shining with no snow in the forecast. But good Lord, was that a long and lonely trip. For I was by myself, The Missus Herself and the progeny remained behind.
|I-25, about 35 miles south of Pueblo, Colorado (Google Street View)|
See those mountains up there? Picture snow on the ground, all the way to the horizon in every direction. The sky was very much like the picture, a washed out blue with high scattered cloud. There was not much wind down on the plains but those mountains had lots of snow on the tops and the wind was definitely blowing up there.
|Photo by Lance Trumbull CC|
Okay, not exactly like that (that's Mt. Everest in the photo) but it gives you an idea of what it was like.
When it's winter and you're all alone, heading farther and farther from home with each passing mile, that's kind of a foreboding view.
I had plenty of time to get to San Antonio, so I took my time. Though it's "only" a thousand miles (or so) and I could have done it in two days, I took three.
|Going Up? (I-25 SB, south of Trinidad, Colorado) (Google Street View)|
Going over the Raton Pass from Colorado into New Mexico was fairly uneventful on the trip south. Like I said, though it was cold, the weather was cooperative.
Once I got through a very lonely and remote part of New Mexico and got into Texas, I made my first stop for the night. A wee motel just inside Texas. They were open, they had vacancies (I doubt there's a lot of tourist action in the Texas panhandle in January, just sayin'...) so I got a room. A room where the heat had apparently not been on since sometime in September. Oh my freaking word it was cold!
I stood in front of the heater, fully dressed in winter garb until the room began to thaw out. Once it was safe to start removing clothing without danger of frostbite, I disrobed and hit the sack. It had been a long, long day.
Upon awakening I realized something when I looked out the window. I had heard of the "middle of nowhere" but had never really seen it. Well, outside that little motel room was, yup, the middle of nowhere. Miles and miles of nothing, all the way to the horizon.
Except for the occasional passing truck and the long brown grass poking up through the snow, I might as well have been on another planet.
Did I mention how cold it was?
I suited up and headed down the road. Spent a second night in San Angelo, then headed on in to San Antonio, for a very long and painful TDY. Which is a story I might tell someday, but not today. While I like San Antonio, I hated damn near every millisecond of that trip. I could not wait to get the Hell out of Texas and get back home again. (Wasn't Texas' fault, but again, a story for another time. Maybe. We have our demons, I met mine on that trip.)
Finally a clear and sunny day in San Antonio and I had
No stopping to take in the sights this time. No sirree Bob. With lots of caffeinated beverages and a full carton of smokes I was ready to tackle that 1000 miles (or so) in one go.
I mean it's April, the weather is beautiful, should be a great trip. At the end will be my family, breathlessly awaiting my return.
Just before getting on to I-25 for the trip north over the Raton Pass, I stopped for fuel. The first thing I noticed upon dismounting the vehicle was that it was screaming bloody cold. I'm still dressed for San Antonio in the early spring, not the high-plains-almost-into-the-Rockies late winter.
Tearing open my suitcase I put on another 27 layers of clothing. Car is all fueled-up and I climb, awkwardly, into the driver's seat. For I am now approximately the same bulk as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man of Ghostbusters fame.
Once I squeezed into the cockpit, I headed out onto the highway. Started gaining altitude almost immediately. Oh, you know what? It was starting to snow. A lot.
So much for April in Texas. Welcome back to the Rockies muchacho!
|Going Up?(I-25 NB, north of Raton, New Mexico) (Google Street View)|
Oh yes indeed, it was snowing like a sum-bitch. (Oh yeah, forgot to mention it but it's night by now, about 0200 local as I recall.) Visibility is starting to drop but the road isn't too bad. Almost like a plow had just come through. Near the top of the pass, I see a plow turning around and headed back towards New Mexico, I figured he had prepared the road for me. What a swell guy. But now I'm in Colorado, I wonder what the roads are like?
|Welcome (back) to Colorado! Yes, we're at 7,800 plus feet at this point. (Google Street View)|
|Exit 8, just south of Trinidad. What it looks like in nice weather. (Google Street View)|
|Exit 8 as it appears today. (Colorado Traffic Cam)|
|What Exit 8 looked like to me, very near sun-up on the 2nd of April, 1987. (Colorado Traffic Cam via here.)|
It was snowing like crazy all the way through the pass and just past Pueblo. There it appears that they had not gotten snow as much as having received a "wintry mix," which is fancy talk for rain, snow, freezing rain, sleet and all manner of nasty precipitation.
Driving from Pueblo to Colorado Springs was akin to driving on a hockey rink. Except I was not in a Zamboni! Slow and steady it was until I was through the "Springs" and up onto the Palmer Divide. Up there it was all snow again. In fact it was all snow from there up to Fort Collins, where it seemed they had received a good foot and a half in just the last few hours.
Yes, Virginia, it snows in Colorado in April.
But it was good to be home.
Off to the bedroom to shed those 27 layers of clothing, a nice hot shower and then to bed. The start of a very pleasant and relaxing 30 day leave period.
One final note, if you've never been to Texas, I'm here to tell you: Texas is big.
As a matter of fact, it's freaking huge. Alaska dwarfs my small mind. I'm a man of hills, trees and ocean vistas. Big is okay. The Texans are welcome to it. (I'm sure Juvat might have a word or two to offer on the subject. We shall see.)
Oh yeah, Shaun. Before you start telling us all about the wide open spaces of Nebraska, bear in mind, this trip to Texas was before I lived in Nebraska. Eventually I got used to the wide open spaces (buffalo roaming, antelope playing, though I did hear a discouraging word or two) but once I returned to my native lands, looking back on it, all that space kinda freaks me out.
* TDY = Temporary Duty
** SJC applies.