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WOSTER: White-knuckle driving in Denver

We spent most of a week in the Denver area recently, and I didn't catch a glimpse of a single mountain, majestic or otherwise. I don't travel much, at least not beyond the borders of South Dakota. The rare trips to places like Minneapolis or Denv...

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We spent most of a week in the Denver area recently, and I didn't catch a glimpse of a single mountain, majestic or otherwise.

I don't travel much, at least not beyond the borders of South Dakota. The rare trips to places like Minneapolis or Denver, then, are opportunities for me to remember why I don't travel much to the bigger cities. The traffic is seriously wacky.

That's one reason I didn't see any mountains. I was watching highway traffic and highway signs and highway exits and highway construction. Another reason is that it rained several days and was overcast a lot. I saw shadows. Some of the bigger shadows could have been mountains, I suppose. Sometimes through the shadows all I could see were buildings. Mountains might have been just the other side of the buildings but I couldn't swear to it.

Back to the traffic. When I'm driving in the greater Denver area, I'm not kicked back checking the scenery and admiring the snow-capped Rockies, if they exist. I'm focused on the highway in front of me, the right and left side mirrors and the rear-view mirror. Oh, and the road signs that sometimes match my maps app, which is telling me things like "in 300 yards, prepare to continue straight.'' I'm not being critical of the app. When I'm driving in a city, I take all of the direction I can get. I'm locked into the task of driving, with a blood pressure up in the danger zone and knuckles white from my death grip on the steering wheel.

For good reason, too. As we headed home along a toll highway toward Interstate 76 and the high plains on Wednesday morning, I saw what must have been an official transportation or highway safety sign blinking a "drive safely" message. The message said something like 134 people have died on Colorado highways so far this year. It added, "31 just this past week." If I got those numbers right, that's a pretty sobering message.

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We traveled up to Longmont one afternoon to see a couple of Nancy's brothers. Our son drove, fortunately, because a major highway crash had us socked into the middle of an I-25 traffic jam that turned the place into a parking garage for about four miles and 45 minutes. Our kid, finally tired of the wait, worked his way over to an exit and zig-zagged around several neighborhoods to find his way back onto the interstate on the far side of the crash site.

(I will say this about most of the drivers out there. They allow people to switch lanes if given a signal. Let them know you want to move over, and someone will ease off the gas pedal for a moment. They won't wait forever, though, so you don't want to hesitate when you see an opening to the next lane.)

On the trip back from Longmont, we saw flashing lights and emergency responders along the southbound side of the highway and a vehicle overturned in a field. It looked pretty bad. Early on the morning we traveled home, we watched a television news team's traffic report with aerial footage of two or three vehicles lying on their sides along the shoulder of the highway.

I wanted to avoid that scene, so the kid gave us alternate directions out of town. Unfortunately, I wrote "right'' instead of "left'' in one spot on the directions. That took Nancy and me on a big loop through some really nice neighborhoods before we got back on track after a panicked call to the kid. The neighborhoods were, as I said, really nice. Still, adding an unnecessary 30 minutes to the start of an eight-hour trip is never a good way to begin a journey.

A granddaughter's graduation from grad school was the point of the trip. We stayed some extra days to hang out with our younger son and our daughter-in-law. I'm pretty sure I told them I loved them before we left town. If not, the fact that I faced big-city traffic should be all the proof they needed.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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