Colorado Call

For thirty-six years I’d anticipated this moment of freedom, we had finally escaped from Louisiana. Colorado was a perfect choice, liberal, progressive, with stunning terrain, enough culture, arts, and city life tempered with spaciousness.

We’d been in Littleton for a few weeks and I longed to explore. It felt like we were on a grand adventure. I couldn’t believe it was real yet and wanted tangible proof, evidence that we’d truly arrived in a more warm and inviting reality.

The move and prior years of hardship thanks to a contentious divorce on my end left us strapped, so a scenic drive would do for starters. As I googled, the Lariat Loop kept popping up with good reviews.

I gathered up my reticent partner. It was clear he was just along for the ride. I knew he’d rather stay home, but I was bursting to see what’s out there, even if it was just a leisurely drive.

Yeah, it was stressful being in an unfamiliar place after giving away everything we owned except what would fit in our trusty Camry, not knowing a soul at our new destination. Then searching for an apartment and orienting at a new job after being virtually hired, it was a lot. Yet, I still had this spontaneous drive to explore. I felt like a kid walking into the gates of an amusement park, so thrilling!

Google maps navigated us to the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway in Golden, Colorado. We weren’t disappointed as we oooohd and ahhhhd at the breathtaking mountain vistas.

As we curved around the mountain there was a large bird of prey hovering at eye level and below was a vast expanse of lush, green valley with a halo of evergreen studded mountains hazy in the distance. My brain took a snapshot, click. All was quiet for an instant, like a freeze frame.

I made the mistake of glancing over the edge of the flimsy, rusted railing. My heart shuddered, shocked at the sight of the dead drop to the valley below. We were perched precariously on the side of a towering mountain! My eyes screeched back to the safety of the road only to find threatening curves ahead. I instinctively braked, my breathing growing rapid and shallow as I gripped the wheel tightly as if that would save us.

I heard, “Look at the bird!” I wanted to look, I wanted to enjoy the ride, I tried, saw the majestic bird for a millisecond before my mind took over imagining the car careening into the air in a standoff with the startled raptor, us screaming like banshees, eyes wide, mouths wider before dropping to our deaths like a Wyle E. Coyote anvil in a puff of smoke, poof, beep beep!

“I can’t look! It’s too scary! I have to concentrate on driving!” I tried to deep breathe and relax my grip deciding to keep my eyes fixed on the road for the remainder. The vertiginous height and impossibly narrow and winding roads were terrorizing me. With each ascending loop, the mountains were closing in. I felt panicky thinking, “One false move and we’re goners! Aaaaagh! Kaput!” I inched along, it felt like we were encased in invisible jelly, viscous and slug-like. My whole body felt electric, my nerve endings zapping with fear.

For lagniappe, cyclists, bikers, and pedestrians were haphazardly sharing the road. It was like a jump scare effect at every sudden encounter around a blind bend. “Oh god! I almost killed someone,” would invade my frenzied fear addled brain. I crept along desperately scanning for any exit off the hellish road of peril and death.

Locals were tailgating impatiently waiting to pass me, the slowpoke, scaredy-cat flatlander from Lousiana. Our license plate was a tattletale. I kept apologizing out loud, “I’m sorry I’m going so slow!” I talked myself down off the ledge saying, “You Speedy Gonzales daredevil locals can just hold your horses, better slow than dead!”

The ascent was an agonizing, slow-mo eternity. Even through the daze of anxiety I was able to appreciate the splendor and admired the engineering and ingenuity of roads built in such harrowing places.

I cheered as we began our descent and gasped as my jaw dropped at the sight of a skateboarder pummeling past us down the dizzying decline. My eyes furtively tracked the zooming figure gradually disappearing behind the jagged side of the mountain. I abandoned my fears in that instant worrying for their safety, envisioning them hurtling into the abyss like a crash test dummy or having to rescue their splattered form from the middle of the deathly road. “Did you see that? They weren’t even wearing a helmet! OMG! Death wish much?”

“This is taking forever! ” I was hanging on, but barely. I was so exhausted from fright. I was reassured from the passenger side, “You’re doing fine, it’s okay, but I sure am glad you’re driving!” We both laughed, what a relief to be able to laugh. “If we make it out of here alive, I vow never to try this again!”

It felt like we’d been stranded in the desert for days with no water, crusty, desiccated, crawling face down like a cowboy in an old western, one hand outstretched, clinging to life by the time we reached the exit to the main highway. We both exhaled gusty sighs, “Whew!” Bodies wooshing, relaxing, unclenched hands, teeth, and buttcheeks. “OMG! We made it! We survived! I didn’t kill us!” In my mind, we narrowly escaped certain death. I’d lasted to the finish line, I felt victorious, lol.

Not only did we break clean from the decay of our haunted Louisiana past, but we also made safe passage through the Lariat Loop setting the stage for the wild west Colorado adventure that awaits. Maybe not as warm and inviting as anticipated, but more of a call to glory. Yeehaw!

Michelle Miyagi
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