Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Pic: The Hardest Stretch of Interstate To Drive Award


IF YOU ENJOY INTENSE, DIFFICULT DRIVING THROUGH THE AMERICAN COUNTRYSIDE, then I have a great recommendation for you: try driving I-70 from Evergreen, Colorado west of Denver to Grand Junction, 20 miles from the Utah border. If you want to hone your driving skills---perhaps you're thinking of entering a NASCAR competition somewhere---then this stretch is a perfect training run for you. Especially if you don't mind mind-blowing concentration with both eyes glued to the road with no time to blink, and both hands gripping the steering wheel for almost 250 miles. Be my guest. Each time I drive this stretch, I seem to have forgotten how much it takes out of me when I do it.

Here are some of the things you'll encounter: High 10,000' mountain passes, steep downhill grades, breath-taking uphill climbs, big tunnels through mountains, falling rocks, wildlife on the road warning signs, curvy canyons, cantilevered split lanes, runaway truck ramps, mighty rivers rushing below, beside and in front of you and lots of traffic going in both directions. Occasionally there's a big tractor trailer rig hauling what appears to be a massive part of the Space Station. For much of the trip the posted speed limit is less than 50 mph. Yesterday there was a hail and wind storm for 20 miles.

Sure, between Glenwood and DeBeque canyons----the road tames down and you can open up the throttle full-steam. It's like a reprieve. But most of this trip is with sweaty palms, a wing and a prayer.

I cannot imagine what this---the last stretch of I-70 to open in the early 90s---cost to construct. It is an engineering feat of the major proportions!

It's beautiful countryside, but who's looking? I only took the time to relax for a minute of two when I was able to find a rest stop and get out to walk and breath deeply. This drive is not for anyone who needs to check their Blackberry every few minutes, or take their hands off the wheel. Take it from me, this is a tough drive and to do it safely requires mandatory concentration and patience. An amazing stretch of American road. But I wouldn't want to do it often. If I were a trucker, I'd avoid it like the plague and find a way to go cross-country on the tamer I-40 or I-80 by-ways. When you're done, you know you've been on a real drive.


gcotharn said...

We have crossed a few of the same places. I've been through Boulder, stayed two separate weeks in Grand Junction, and gotten stomach bug (spyragelia[sic]?) from drinking water from the Truckee River.

I like adrenaline, and drama, and driving, and therefore LOVE the the drive across Colorado, which is one of my favorite drives in America, and which have made several times - although, since the early 1990s, have only gone as far west as Vail/Beaver Creek - except for a mid 90s drive south from Vail on 24, then slowly working southwest to Durango - and therefore have not made the exact drive you are describing on the newer I-70. My curiosity is piqued. The drive is intense? I love love it!

Webutante said...

Wow, didn't know that about you! Adrenaline junkie?!

For my money one of the only drives I simply will not ever do again (that I know of) is that drive on the Million Dollar Hwy from Ouray to Silverton going towards Durango. I'll give you my car, my wallet.....whatever it takes, just please let me outta the car. Too much adrenaline for one woman to handle!! It's henceforth all yours, Greg!

If it doesn't have at least a few guardrails---if only for the illusion of safety---then it's not a drive I'll take if possible....