6427 Miles: A Tour of America by Car

By Gerard Forgnone

Day 26

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WaKeeney, Kansas to Raton, New Mexico

For a day that started out rather flat and boring, it sure turned out to be one of the most exciting, terrifying, and memorable days of the trip.

This is Western Kansas, almost to Colorado.  You may be able to make out a bump just above the truck in the picture below.  Those are the Rocky Mountains!

Yeeehaw!  Mountains ahead!  Destination: Pike's Peak, where there has been a car race to the top for many years, and you can drive your street car most of the time in the summer.  I checked the road conditions in advance, and the road to the top was open.

The entry kiosk to Pike's Peak

You start out in deciduous forest...the trees drop their leaves in the Fall.  Beautiful!

Now, we're getting a little higher, and the forest turns coniferous.  These trees stay green all year long.

Eventually, you get to where the trees get smaller and scrawnier, because the growing season is shorter at higher elevations.

Pretty soon, no more trees.  This is what is called the "tree line."  Look above the trees.  Yes, that's THE ROAD!  Oh. My. Gosh.

The interesting thing about this road is that most of it does NOT have guardrails.  When you're in the forest, you don't notice that fact, because there are trees to keep you from falling off the side of the mountain.  Once past the tree line, NO trees and NO guardrail!  It's steep, too, and in many places like this, all you see is the road's edge and SKY!

So, by this time, I'm rightfully terrified.  One false move, and it's certain death.  Over.  Done.  You can go about 25 or 30 miles an hour on the road...it's smooth, and relatively flat, and wide. 


One false move, one jerk of the wheel, and YOU'RE DEAD!

I drove 5 to 10 mph the rest of the way up this mountain, and if there was no oncoming traffic, I drove in the opposite lane to get as far away from the edge as possible.

They mean TEN MPH!

You may notice here...my left wheel is over the line.  I'm not getting any closer to that edge than is necessary!  If you go off the edge, your car will roll until it gets to the next road.  In some places, that's hundreds of feet down.

Nothin' but SKY!

End of the road for this day.  It was too windy and snowy further up, so the managers closed the road at this point.  Getting turned around was tough, because you have to make a 3-point turn, one point being straight out into certain death!  I did my turn very slowly.

Beautiful views today!

Ok, do I look terrified?  I am, really!

Look how far down that road is!!!!

Ok, the wind is blowing 25-30 MPH, and this dude passed me.  He was going pretty slow, too.

Nice to be back down off the road of terror!

Ok, heading south out of Colorado.  Whew, I never thought I'd be happy to see flat ground again!

I made it just over the border into New Mexico this night.  More tomorrow!

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