Adventures on Highway 92

Highway 92 is the one in the middle, bisecting this rough oval that defines my world view. Note all the squiggles at the south end — it’s not a fast road to anywhere. Map from Cotrip.com.

Those of you who know me well understand that I am filled with derring-do, a sense of adventure that constantly needs to be slaked — wait, am I thinking of someone else?

I have been talking, I’m sure it feels endlessly, about roadways these last few days, although in my defense this is bound to be majorly impactful around here for a couple years. I mentioned that the proposed detour around the blockade of Highway 50 is state Highway 92, and also that as an option, this is not a great one.

I have not had cause to be on this highway for decades. It’s not that it goes nowhere; it just doesn’t go there fast. And the places it does go to just aren’t on my must-see list. But once I started thinking about this road that I haven’t thought of in years, I realized I have had adventures on it. Perhaps not of the swashbuckling variety you’ve come to expect from me, but they seem worth recounting. Especially since all I’m going to talk about from here on out — or so it seems — is highways.

Highway 92 is a slow, scenic route, not really the sort of place to put a lot of cars trying to get anywhere in a hurry. It was the route my friend Matt, his kids and I took to see my friend Janelle in her retirement, and once upon a time I attended an outdoor wedding somewhere along this highway’s stretch.

I would be remiss if I left out the trip I didn’t take on this highway while in high school. That was the time my friend Sheri, who had a complicated family life, and I left Gunnison, where she lived with a stepmother and three younger half-siblings, with her dad, who lived with his third wife and some stepchildren in Paonia, where Gunnison was competing against the Eagles in basketball. We left well after everyone else had driven over, and when people wanted to know how we got there, we nonchalantly replied, “We flew.” Sheri’s dad had his own plane, and he even let me take the yoke, briefly, on the return trip.

But really, to discuss the intersection of this highway and me we have to go back to my reportorial days at the Gunnison Country Times.

There was the time I set out for a volleyball tournament in Hotchkiss, a time like all the rest where I perhaps should have started sooner than I did. I feel I would have been on time, arriving at the Bulldogs’ gym even before the national anthem, had it not been for the traffic impediment I encountered.

I got waylaid by a cattle drive, which I recognize does not fly as an excuse in many parts of the country but which, at least in the days of yore, was a legitimate cause for delay in these here parts.

I don’t know that I should have specifically budgeted for a cattle drive in my planning, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. In case you’re from a part of the country where this isn’t a thing, ranchers move their cattle at certain times of the year, particularly in the spring and fall, and sometimes the most effective way to get from point A to B is down a highway.

Around here, the cattle have the right of way, not that you could do much about it even if you wanted to assert your authority. Someone tried that once on the road to Crested Butte, maybe not on purpose since the bull was black and perhaps it happened at night, but three-quarter ton of bovine can be a rather immovable force. Not immortal, since it did the bull in and no one did anything other than move it to the side of the road for many putrid days, but I’m going to advise against driving full-speed into cattle.

So when you come upon cattle meandering along the highway, whether it’s a single cow or the entire herd, the smart driver yields, particularly when bearing in mind that it’s you who will owe the rancher for the loss of income, no matter how unexpectedly that bull jumped out in front of you. (For the record, it was not me who smashed into and smushed the bull. But I did have to drive past it a lot, helping a friend out with a play in Crested Butte, so I had plenty of time to ponder the ramifications. Or bullifications.)

Not that there’s much else one can do when the roadway is filled with beef — you can beef about it, but actually a lot of people, of which I am one, are charmed to come upon this throwback to the Old West. Unless, of course, this throwback is making me late for my job.

It’s advantageous to run –not run, drive slowly — head-on to a cattle drive, because then you stand a better chance of making headway. They don’t care that you’re there, but they part like the red-haired Hereford sea they are, allowing you to move gingerly through.

But, come up behind them, as I did on my way to Hotchkiss, and they just really don’t care that you’re there at all. The minutes tick by as you all meander up the highway, the 35 miles per hour you were going now making you seem like a speed freak, and you realize volleyball is going to go on without you.

And it’s not even like you have a novel story to tell once you get there. “I was stuck in a cattle drive,” you report to anyone willing to listen — coach, player, parent — and they nod like yeah, heard this one before, try something new, and you feel bad for not anticipating a cattle drive and vow to start your next sports trip out of town sooner. This is, by the way, a vow you know you will break on that next trip.

Yesterday I was writing writing writing, busily toting up my adventures on Highway 92, when I finally came to the realization that they are too numerous to fit in one 1300-word ramble. So tune in tomorrow to learn all about the bike race that nearly did me in. I’m sure you won’t want to miss it.

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