Yesterday's spring storm closed Denver International Airport for only the second time ever (DIA is open again, but delays remain) and turned some of the highways in and around the metro area into parking lots for hours at a time.
I can personally testify about the latter.
I was stuck in a jam for hours as a result of closures on Interstate 70 and C-470 — a situation that forced me to use the cup seen in the photo above for something other than drinking.
Granted, hydrating had gotten me into trouble in the first place.
Prior to my drive from the Ken-Caryl Ranch area in unincorporated Jefferson County to Westword's office at 10th and Broadway, I loaded the 32-ounce cup with ice, as I do every morning.
Moreover, I filled and refilled it with water from the time of my arrival, at around 4:55 a.m. (after a toboggan ride of a commute along the foothills), until 1:20 p.m. or so, when I headed home in the hope of avoiding rush hour.
Getting out of Westword's parking lot was a challenge, thanks to the foot or so of snow that had piled up around my 1999 Honda Accord over the previous eight-plus hours, but 6th Avenue was a breeze owing to a bare handful of additional vehicles on the road. For a while there, I thought I'd actually make better time than expected on a stormy day.
Little did I realize that I'd committed a series of critical mistakes. I'd heard about ramp closures on my commute earlier in the day, but rather than checking them before I took off, I simply assumed they'd have been cleared by the time I reached them. On top of that, I tuned in Colorado Public Radio instead of a station offering traffic updates — and when I saw the ramp from 6th Avenue to I-70 backed up (although initially not that far), I simply drove onto it with the expectation that things would start moving again soon.
Wrong. Dead wrong.
I sat on the ramp for the better part of an hour — and because other cars had come up behind me, I couldn't simply back out and escape.
This wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't start feeling the need for relief at about the 45 minute point. I'd made a pit stop before leaving the office, but the tank was already nearing capacity again.
Finally, we began to move — but not very far. I cleared the ramp, but wound up in rows of rides lined up at another one, leading to C-470, which was closed because of multiple accidents.
My view for a really long time yesterday.
Photo by Michael Roberts
This had never happened on C-470 in my more than 25 years of making the commute, and it was something new for me. I'm a Colorado native who's been driving in the state for more than 35 years, and I've been fortunate enough to never have had to face a weather-related highway closure. The worst delays I've experienced were due to construction or accidents, and no shut-down ever lasted for more than an hour.
Yesterday's did — and my brimming bladder made the situation infinitely worse.
As I reached the two-hour point of my "commute," and entered into a state of humiliated agony, I realized that emergency action was necessary. So I began to weigh my options.
At first, I thought about stepping out of the car and going over to a hill just beyond the right shoulder of the roadway. But even moving down it a bit probably wouldn't have entirely blocked me from the view of other motorists, and it was so steep that sliding to the bottom fifty to a hundred feet below was a definite possibility. I probably wouldn't die if that happened, but getting back to the top might require assistance from a mountaineering team.
That meant finding a container of some type in my car. My first thought was a pill bottle in my glove compartment in which I keep Ibuprofen. Problem is, I'd have to fill it multiple times in a virtual one-bucket brigade, and once the flow started, I wasn't sure I could stop it even once, let alone over and over again.
Finally, I remembered the cup, which I'd tossed into the backseat. Hallelujah!
Doing my business in private was going to be difficult, I knew. My Honda was surrounded on all sides, with the cars closer than would normally be the case on a highway. So I turned off the defroster to let the windows fog up, then unzipped, tipped the cup toward me and let it fly.
And fly. And fly.
The volume build-up was incredible — so much so that the fluid was soon headed in my direction because of the angle at which the cup was tipped. I had to come as close as I could to a standing position — difficult in a compact car — in order to straighten out the cup, and even then, the danger remained.
Surely I couldn't fill up an entire 32-ounce cup. Or could I?
Not quite, but damn close. I had to hold the cup very steadily as I opened the door and dumped it out, hoping all the while that the drivers around me figured I was getting rid of an old soda.
Apparently they did, because I wasn't accosted by anyone angrily accusing me of public exposure — or improper waste disposal.
From then on, the wait was no big deal. Ten to fifteen minutes later, the ramp reopened, and while it was a slow go the rest of the way, I enjoyed every minute of it — since I was no longer doubled over in pain.
Total commute time for a drive that usually takes 25 minutes: Two hours and 45 minutes.
The first lesson I learned: Always check your route before heading into a blizzard.
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Second lesson: Keep a cup on hand at all times — and the larger, the better.