Colorado Highway 10 to US 160

Colorado Highway 10

If this doesn’t make you dizzy you ain’t doin it right

Oh my lord, chilluns, what a life I lead now. Never was a matter of being normal. More like trying and failing and landing on the other side. Oh, the wages of sin! I did everything crazy. Just look at what it got me: here I am as old as atom bombs, shooting across America on a Tuesday afternoon. The road is smooth and empty. The air is perfect. It’s like ingesting raw god. We’re talking chromosomal thrill. Are you listening dammit. Before this is all over, I’m going to end up having proved something. I’m just not sure what.

My wife drove this stretch of Colorado Highway 10 while I shot pictures through the windshield or out the window. It’s best heading west in late afternoon, so you see the mountains and volcanic cones. I took over at US 160 on the other side of Walsenburg to drive us over La Veta Pass. The eight-mile climb to 9,431 feet bogs a lot of drivers down, but I go flying by, even in the supposedly underpowered Vibe with the little Corolla engine. What you have to do is charge the mountain. There isn’t going to be a speed trap going up, right? I usually try for eighty in fourth gear, about 4,000 rpm, and that will hold it there if no one blocks my climbing lane. Today I caught some gravity in a dip halfway up the mountain and touched ninety in fourth, which took us nearly to the summit before I had to downshift into third. What a rush!

There was a semi in front of me for the descent to Fort Garland on the other side. A chicken truck, actually, and he (?) was an unpassable demon doing 75 to 80 mph, tall stacks of chicken cages swaying back and forth, poor goddamn chickens thinking what the holy hell with feathers blowing back at us like autumn leaves. By the time the truck got to wherever it was going, those birds were probably all naked! I could have made the wildest video.

My wife said, “That was masterful!” Twice, in fact. I told her we hit 90 mph and she laughed. Love is so exciting. Are you listening dammit. Nothing normal, everything crazy, old as atom bombs.

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John Hamilton Farr lives in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. with his classical pianist wife. “Possibly the only place I can get away with this,” he says. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore (Bush’s Brain) put it in a review of John’s first book, Buffalo Lights is the work of a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” John is the author of BUFFALO LIGHTS, TAOS SOUL, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, and THE HELEN CHRONICLES. He has been publishing online since 1996 (Zoo Zone, Farr Site, MacFaust, GRACK!, FarrFeed) and blogs regularly here at JHFARR.COM. See also → John’s Twitter profile, Amazon Author Page, video channel at YouTube, and website photos at SmugMug. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page.  

  • Byron September 17, 2014, 9:11 AM

    John, reading about your excusion by Vibe up, over and down La Veta Pass and the flying chicken feathers brings to mind the old Cscape trip

  • Byron September 17, 2014, 9:23 AM

    John, excuse the broken link. As I was saying- reading about your excursion over La Veta Pass and the flying chicken feathers reminds me of the old Commander Cody song entitled ‘Too Much Fun, I Ain’t Never Had Too Much Fun’. I guess he never heard of chromosomal thrills.

    • JHF September 17, 2014, 1:05 PM

      That chicken truck driver was doing his best to have “too much fun.” I’ll bet the poor chickens had never been as high as nine thousand feet, either.

  • Joe September 17, 2014, 10:56 AM

    When I was in my early 20s my dad owned some semi-trucks and I drove a Mack from the Rio Grande Valley to Denver then from Walsenburg over La Veta Pass to Alamosa in the San Luis Valley. I drove that route in January and February and there was often ice and snow from the Panhandle of Texas up there and back. Occasionally I would come back down Hwy. 285 (I think it was) from Alamosa to Santa Fe and down to Las Cruces.
    I loved that, seeing that beautiful country all covered in snow.
    There used to be a little truck stop just west of Walsenburg I would stop at and sometimes I would just stand by my truck and look up that highway at what was up ahead for me.

    • JHF September 17, 2014, 1:03 PM

      I can imagine…

      Yesterday there was something even scarier on the highway heading up to the pass from Fort Garland: a Mercedes Smart! What kind of an idiot tries that? He’s probably still inching up the grade, if the thing’s still running.

  • Marti Fenton Whitedeersong September 17, 2014, 1:05 PM

    I used to go over la Veta pass coming and going to and from Denver several times a year with four different cars. I remember the plan to gain momentum before starting the climb. You did good! On the way back the plan was to pass all big trucks before the passing lane petered out at the top. I remember some pretty scary weather at times, and always big trucks.

    • JHF September 17, 2014, 1:06 PM

      I love mountain passes. Pleases the explorer in me. 🙂

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