Op-Ed: Come for the Mountains...

Joe Weeg
Colorado: Come for the mountains...stay for the traffic jams?

Listen, bumper-to-bumper traffic is not a concept I’m promoting. Trust me. And without a doubt, an interstate that turns into a very long parking lot doesn’t seem the best idea to sell the wonders of Colorado. Right? I’m guessing a slogan that promotes being caught in a traffic jam on the interstate might not be the jingle that draws in the tourist dollars.


Nope. That doesn’t work. But here we are at sunrise, on the way to Copper Mountain on Interstate 70, a straight shot out of Denver. Suddenly, a Colorado traffic jam in the making.

Much to my son’s chagrin, we left 25 minutes late.

“A disaster!” he informs me, as we sit with hundreds of cars in front of us and an equal number behind.

And whose fault is that? Who caused this momentous catastrophe? Who is to blame for all of our ills?

I don’t think pointing fingers really helps the dialogue move in a positive direction, do you? Isn’t that part of the problem in our troubled political times? Doesn’t blaming someone just play into the bullying culture that now seems to exist? Fire off a tweet. Honk your horn. Yell at the person in the grocery-store line. We all want to justify our righteousness before God on the poor back of the person who stumbles in front of us.

I say “no” to blaming.

And in any case, can a person in good conscience start the day without a coffee? Let’s say a tsunami is coming or the North Koreans have lobbed the big one or the flashing light in your eyes forecasts a small brain tumor. Isn’t that the very reason to stop for coffee? The coffee shops in Denver...please. Superb! And while you’re there, what about a bagel egg sandwich? I call it the Paleo Plus Diet. Forget the Whole 30, try the Whole Nine Yards.

My son is not amused by any of this.

“Unfortunately, those 25 minutes translate into another hour or two on the road,” my son informs me.

Listen, I’ve got to give him credit for remaining respectful of his elderly father, although I notice he is speed-dialing potential nursing homes as we talk.

Stuck, barely moving, part of a gas-consuming nightmare. Yikes.

On the other hand, look at the view.


And instead of skiing down a hill in mute silence or hiking up a snow-packed trail unable to breathe, the car allows us to have that family conversation, the one that used to take place after church while sitting around the dining room table eating Mom’s cinnamon rolls. Well, almost.

“Dad, why are you squirming?”

You guessed it, I need to visit a restroom. This does seem to be a problem. Here and there, I see a car pulled over with a young man standing upright on the other side of the car, feet splayed, apparently staring intently at the amazing panorama. Or I see a woman sprint toward a pathetically small tree, pulling at her pants, apparently bending over to gather pine cones to spray-paint for the next holiday season.

But a bathroom? None in sight.

At last. A lonely gas station on the horizon.

Look. A portable toilet out front. Oh, no: A line thirty-deep awaits. People are shifting back and forth from leg to leg like a giant centipede on hot coals.

Ahhhhhhhhhh . . . . . . . .

So I wait in line. I shift like a centipede on hot coals.

By the way, while we are waiting, did you know there are some amazing studies and books out these days about the power of the mind to affect the health of the body? I recently read one of these books involving aging, a wonderful compilation of science-based experiments that show you have the ability to actually think yourself younger. By the time I finished the book, it was clear as day: It’s your fault if you die!

Well, I have my own anecdotal support for the mind’s affect on the body. See, I finally make it to the portable toilet. Shut the door. Prepare myself for action. And...nothing. Yup, I’m a little shy. The mere idea that thirty folks are sitting outside that door dancing from leg to leg is too much. I leave the portable toilet in failure.

But also a success. Duh, mind over body. I’m going to live forever, I tell myself, as I sit squirming in the front seat.

At last we make it to our destination, hike a little bit and...
Of course. Mountains to die for. So it must be true.

Colorado: Come for the mountains...

Joe Weeg is a retired criminal prosecutor reincarnated as a freelance writer and columnist. Email him at [email protected]

Westword occasionally publishes essays and op-eds on Colorado issues. If you have one that you think would work well here, send it to [email protected]
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