You guys asked for more of Jacque's Jeep trip memoirs so here goes...
Telling John he has a slow Jeep was probably not the best way to start our little roadtrip. I was figuring out how long it would take us to drive from Farmington to Ouray, Colorado. I figured 4 hours.
John asked how I got to 4 hours.
I said "It takes a regular car 3 hours but it would take 4 for us in a slow Jeep."
"Slow Jeep!" I'm not sure I ever saw anyone harumph! before but John did and then said "The Princess can go 85 MILES PER HOUR ON THE HIGHWAY!"
He gets touchy about the Princess and her capabilities in case you didn't notice. Obsessive might be a better word but it has it's advantages. He wants to make sure I don't have to rough it too much or else I won't go anymore.
He heard there might be snow up on Imogene Pass. He puts the hardtop on. Yes!
He heard there might be mud somewhere. On went the wheel flares. Yes!
He heard it might be slick up there. He needs to buy a whole new set of tires. NO!
"A skirt?" John asked. "You're wearing a skirt on our trip? That is NOT proper Jeep chic attire."
"We're only going from here to Ouray," I said. "And then we're going out to dinner." So I was dressed in a skirt and blouse and John was dressed in Grease Monkey Original. I had to hike my skirt up quite a bit and then leap up into the Princess. Off we went on our first roadtrip in the Princess.
We didn't have any windows. John had bought the hardtop one place, the half doors another place and he acquired the plastic windows somewhere else. His half door didn't fit quite right and the plastic windows didn't fit at all. It was about 100 degrees so I wasn't worried about it since we didn't have air conditioning anyway. As we left Farmington it felt like we were in a hot wind tunnel. I was breathless like I wasn't getting enough air. As we traveled though being inside this wind tunnel was kind of neat. I don't ride motorcycles but I think it's pretty much the same. We got to smell everything as we traveled along: the cows in the pasture, hay, a stand of scrub oak, greasewood, the La Plata River. Durango smelled different from Farmington. It smelled wet because it had started to rain and the temperature dropped about 35 degrees. I saw the immediate results of the fender flare things and was happy about that.
Even though I was leaning way over the middle of the Jeep my right ear and shoulder were very cold and wet. Climbing up from Durango to Silverton we saw snow patches along the side of the road. I was sure glad I brought a coat but I wished I had brought a stocking cap.
I never saw the Princess do 85 mph but she clipped along well at 65. We passed a Mercedes sedan and a Durango SUV with flat tires. There were all these little sharp granite rocks all over the road. John slowed down. I knew our spare tire took up half the space behind me and wasn't worried until John said "Mmmmm. Should have brought the jack."
"You didn't bring a jack?" I asked. "How could you change a tire if you needed to?"
"Well, you can just drive up on a rock and change the other tire" John said.
I didn't see any convenient tire changing rocks around and added that on my list of things to try not to worry about.
We woke up July 4th and had breakfast at the Ouray firehouse to benefit the Ouray Search and Rescue Unit. I want these guys on my good side. Afterwards the Princess would not start. John did something to the fuel pump above the right rear tire and she started right up but there was a big red engine light on the dashboard. Even I know not to drive anywhere but your local service dealer when that happens. John replaced one thing and wiggled a few wires. Then we counted flashes from the red light after he switched off and on the ignition switch three times. This gave him a diagnostic number of what is wrong. Too bad he left the number sheet at home. I was ready to call the tow truck when John pronounced us ready to go over Imogene Pass.
"Hello?" I said, "What about the big red dashboard light?"
"Oh, I don't think that's anything to worry about," he said. Then he started mumbling about idling time. Oh great! Another thing not to worry about.
I thought that after Hell's revenge in Moab I could go anywhere without fear. Imogene Pass is just fear in another territory. The trail book rated Imogene 7 - 8 and said that going up from Ouray was worse than going down to Telluride on the other side. My saving grace was that most the sheer drops off - most the road - were on the driver's side. Take note of this! Trail books should have this important information for innocent passengers. I also discovered that you have to keep breathing. When I get tense I tend to hold my breath. Imogene Pass at 13,114 is the second highest navigable pass in the US and you have to keep breathing what air there is or you start feeling woozy.
At a little stopping off place we encountered a young man in a Tahoe with two young boys. He was looking wisfully at the Princess and said he had to leave his C6 back home in Texas. His Tahoe fit his family so here he was out wheeling in it. I thought of John and how he has only me to take Jeeping. He makes sure I'm always having fun so I'll keep going with him. This young man might have had more fun of he had his Jeep though. He looked pretty sad missing his Jeep.
Going up the last 1/2 mile to the top of Imogene I realized every child knows about unseen terrors - they were usually lurking under the bed or in the closet. When you're about 18 you loose all sense of fear. We saw some of these guys hot-dogging around in their pickup with pretty girls. It takes a little age to appreciate seen terrors.
Three big Triumph street bikes couldn't do Imogene all the way. One of them was being loaded into the back of a pickup truck and the process was blocking the road. The Triumph had made it up the pass but quickly ran out of brakes coming down. We were first in line to go through and there were about 4 vehicles behind us. I suggested to John that we pull over and let the others pass. John glared at me, put the Princess in gear and declared "A CJ shall lead the way." It's a little known fact that testosterone levels go up at high altitudes.
The Princess kept wanting to die on the way up with her idle. John had to heel and toe the pedals a lot. I alternated between holding my breath and panting. We made it to the top of Imogene though. It's almost the top of the world and the views are spectacular. Coming down we passed a lady walking down the mountain. I thought she just wanted the exercise. I later found out that this is a common wife-husband wheeling occurrence on these Colorado passes. She's mad he subjected these conditions on her so she's going to walk. We heard later this is especially common on Engineer Pass.
Coming down is long and windey. Eventually we got to Telluride and met our friends there. John saw Darryl Hannah at dinner. He claimed she was staring at him. After dinner we walked to the park and watched a great fireworks display. Since it's an old mining town they use a lot of dynamite as a special sound effect and all the sounds reverberate around the mountain walls.
The next morning John revealed his plan to go over Ophir Pass since itís almost on the way home. Yeah, the really long way. I got out my trail book and it rated Ophir as a 5 - 6. "This should be cake," John said. Cake is so very relative. When he was looking for an allen wrench to adjust the idle he found his diagnostic code sheet. It said the throttle was bad. I already knew that by that time.
After the narrow roads at Imogene, Ophir seemed like a 4 lane highway - at first. This time the drop offs were on MY SIDE. Also deceptive was Imogene was mostly rocks all the way and Ophir, except for the rocks above the tundra line - was mostly high alpine meadows and streams. Since it was a holiday we saw some people on motorized mountain bikes. They think it's a lot of fun to kick up dirt on the turns and hop over any and all bumps. They reminded me of little goats jumping around. Then we saw some people on four wheelers. They were passing all the other vehicles and running around like dogs do. We managed Ophir Pass just fine and had a picnic at the bottom near Silverton. We started for home after I helped air up the tires.
During the intermittent rain in the past two days I asked John about mud. He said for really wet weather we needed knobby tires. I have a birthday coming in about two weeks and told him that maybe WE need some knobby tires. I swear he glowed and had a wet sparkle in his eye. I was probably going to graduate from Jeep Chic Trainee real soon.
Jacque sure has a good natured and funny take on things, doesn't she?
Here's a pic of her in her infamous Jeep skirt ...