Copyright © 2007 Henrietta W. Hay
Driving to Denver
November 3, 2007
Four and a half hours to Denver by car. Impossible. Ridiculous.
It takes at least eight hours if you have a fast car (that will go 40
mph on the level) and it doesn't break down.
The drive between Denver and Grand Junction ain't what it used to be.
Of course, Denver ain't what it used to be. In the early days of the
last century it was known as a Cow Town. Even then, though, it was
developing a distinctive culture that had nothing to do with cows.
The Brown Palace was already one of the great hotels. The Daniels and
Fisher Tower was a landmark. Then there was the Broadway Theater with
New York shows.
But what if somebody wanted to go to Grand Junction? We did in 1945,
as we were moving to the big city of the Western slope. My parents
and I had traveled the state in the old Hudson, but this was my first
trip as between Denver and Grand Junction as an adult. But it was
certainly not my last and it has been interesting to watch the
There are a lot of high mountains between the two cities.
Loveland Pass was the first hurdle. It was carved out of the mountain
in 1879, probably a mere trail for gold wagons. We can only imagine
what it was like in those early mining days. Eventually it was built
into an automobile road: well, sort of.
I really believe that my first trip over Loveland Pass was in 1945.
Surely even a kid could not have forgotten something that
spectacular. On the 1945 trip I remember seeing wild mountain
sheep, deer and the bottom of the canyon when the front right wheel of
our Plymouth went off the road close to the top with nothing but
mountain air below us. Why it happened and how we got back on the
road has mercifully been erased from my mind. But I will never forget
For the benefit of the younger generation, the Eisenhower Tunnel was
cut through the mountain in the seventies so that drivers would not
have to climb over Loveland Pass.
A few miles from the bottom the pass, there was the first sign of
life, a filling station and garage. We got well acquainted with them
through the years, because our car usually needed help after that 7%
climb and hot brakes on the other side.
The garage would be very hard to find today. It is on the bottom of
the Dillon Reservoir. It has been replaced by the he thriving town of
Dillon, which doubtless has several garages.
In 1945 there wasn't much but trees between the lonely garage and
Eagle. But some 30 miles this side of Eagle, there was, fortunately,
a filling station on the left side of the road. The next time we
went by there was a small cafe and a few other buildings. It is now
known as the famous ski resort named Vail.
One of my neighbors here at the Commons was involved in the growth of
Vail and she and her husband owned the first inn. Who knows: we
may have met one day.
Then there was Glenwood Canyon, a narrow dirt road winding along the
Grand River, later changed to the Colorado. There was one special spot
in the canyon where I always stopped to empty the thermos of coffee and have a short walk. It is
now long gone.
From Glenwood Springs to home there was along, narrow dirt road and
Four hours to Denver. Ridiculous.