Rendered Fat Content


Building the New Road (mural study, Golden, Colorado Post Office), Kenneth Evett, 1941: Smithsonian American Art Museum
"The asylum doors once again successfully breached."

A ColoradoWelcome seems similar to a Bronx Cheer in that both terms describe the opposite of lived experience. A Bronx Cheer turns out to be nothing more than a slobbery demeaning jeer, more mocking than welcoming. A ColoradoWelcome works more like a prolonged dedication test seemingly intended to determine whether an arrival can be broken before allowing entry. Both localities prove to be tough places to live, let alone to visit, so the local Welcome Wagon® tries its darndest to chase off that newcomer or returning resident to either keep the riffraff out or, perhaps, to preserve the place exclusively for the riffraff already there. Try entering Colorado by air and you'll experience turbulence like you never imagined possible, deplaning to swear to never set foot onto another airplane again. Attempt entry by road and you'll come to experience more than you ever wanted to know about harrowing. No road leads directly to Colorado but must pass through some deeply discouraging buffer zone first. Once inside, something will encumber your passage. Escaping's every bit as daunting as gaining entry.

A hundred years ago, Colorado experienced one of those periodic squirts of All American optimism so common to the nation's history.
Impossible roads were built over unlikely terrain. They began as rough dirt tracks but over subsequent decades became surrogates for all the familiar sorts of highways common to the other states. Freeways careen around rocky outcroppings, with the major East/West route even carved through the top of the Continental Divide. Long climbs and terrifying drops twist through crooked canyons, with speed limits set to what might seem ordinary on a flat Texas plain, but over-state possibilities through this state's terrain. Even usually reliably two-lane blacktop can take on terrifying dimensions given enough truck traffic and a few irreverent dually drivers. Weather through this mid-latitude, high-altitude place proves unpredictable and often life-threatening. However many precautions taken, some fresh threat seems ever-present, and frequently manifesting.

The drive up from Northern New Mexico proves so beautiful that I choked back tears much of the way. Up and out of the Rio Grande Valley onto the Taos Plateau winds through dusty villages ringed with cottonwoods and eroded mountain sides. I felt as though I was driving through ancient times before modern presumption took over civilization. Some of the towns seemed half decimated, with crumbling adobe and displaced tin roofs as common as intact places. Toward Colorado, the road climbs onto a vast plateau a mile and a half into the sky. The Colorado line brings an expected increase in the posted speed limit and glowering ranges closing on on three sides. The distance looked like wilderness luring us to enter and leaving us helpless in its grasp. I figure the weather would turn from merely fierce wind into fierce wind with snow once we capped the upcoming pass, and my expectations were not disappointed.

Ground blizzards occur when strong wind pushes already fallen snow across a road surface. Even when the ambient temperature measures in the single digits, some melting and refreezing occurs as that wind-whipped snow streams across, leaving patches of bumpy ice. At high speed, the wind might push a high profile vehicle right off a slick road, but I drive like an old Italian lady even in the best of times, so my best defense would likely keep us safe. The ColoradoWelcome dedication test came in multiple choice form this trip, with no clearly correct answers offered. Each choice carried certain risks and none could guarantee a passing grade. A malevolent schoolmarm seemed to have concocted it, even a passing grade would inevitably leave us somewhat scathed. I kept my ego at bay, for competition seems the one certain way to fail catastrophically. I remained indifferent to every vehicle choosing to drive faster, even slowing down to ease their way around me. Later, we came upon a Subaru smashed into a tree and I felt a flood of vindication wash over me. Even a ninny like me can sometimes pass the ColoradoWelcome Dedication Test.

I had not noticed how fried I felt until we stopped by a supermarket to score a quick take-out supper. We knew that none of us would be in any way capable of cooking and plating a meal, even though we'd foregone lunch in the interest of making it home before dark. The icy roadways might have added two hours over our projected travel time, but we were not staying overnight at the alligator tourist trap or the alien intruders one out on the desert adjacent to The Great Sand Dune National Park. The Muse would make it in for that important meeting the next morning and The Kittens would show off what they'd learned in our absence before we retired early and thoroughly exhausted to a once-familiar bed. The riffraff were home again. The asylum doors once again successfully breached.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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