As soon as the road started ascending, I was ready to turn around. As soon as I was ready to turn around, the road had narrowed, and I was stuck. In retrospect, I should have stopped the car and backed up all the way down Packer John Road until I hit that one-lane bridge, which was about a half mile away by now. But at the time, I knew I had no choice but to keep moving forward. The GPS was showing me a distinct route, still knew where I was, and still told me how far I had until I reached my destination. So I kept going. The road was so thin, and the ravine on the non-mountain side was so steep, but hey. I have driven the Vermillion Cliffs near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon several times at night, so this couldn’t be as bad as that. It was around 7 p.m., so I still had a good hour and a half of daylight left. I’d be in that cabin by 7:30, happily eating my lasagna and playing games with the church ladies, so I was okay.
I glanced up at the GPS. Fourteen miles to go. Making progress, I thought. Man, that lasagna smells so good.
I kept driving upward, confused but sane, and then I came to a fork in the road. The GPS said to go right at the fork, and again I ignored my instinct to turn around, a very stupid thing considering that I actually had room to turn around at this point. I went right. The road started to slope downward, and I felt a giant whoosh of relief. Then I rounded a bend and saw that the road was going up again. And then… things got bumpy. Every hundred feet or so, there were these giant bumps in the road. No, seriously. We’re talking two feet high. And I was going about ten miles an hour here, because the gravel was a little slippery and the road was becoming skinnier every minute. The best thing about these bumps? They were all preceded by little ditches that were themselves about a foot deep. So I would jolt down and then will the car to get itself and me over the giant hump. If I had been in the Explorer, I wouldn’t have made it. Too much car, too much weight, and too many times that the road tilted toward the ravine at the precise moment I was rocking over the enormous humps.
After about three of these humps, I was in all-out panic mode, quite sure I was going to die in the mountains.
I wasn’t crying yet — don’t worry, I eventually got there — but I was scared and smelling garlic and balsamic vinegar and imagining every possible way I could die in these mountains. I turned a corner after a particularly harsh bump in the road, and I saw a red Jeep coming the opposite direction. In the Jeep were four college boys, and I looked at them, obviously distressed, looking for any clue from them as to what was ahead for me. And they looked at me and kept going. Which is fine. Except that they gave me no inkling of what I was in for next. They didn’t wave or mouth “Don’t go that way!” or anything. Just looked at me and kept driving. It will take me a long time to stop hating them.
To be continued…