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Getting Behind the Wheel of Life

(6/10/2016) Back in 2011, I had the privilege of taking my first trip to Colorado.  I traveled alone from Florida and I was a little nervous about that, as I didn't know a soul there!  The inspiration for said trip was to attend a 3 day course in Boulder with a teacher whose work I follow.  Coincidentally, some close friends were planning a trip to Winter Park, Colorado at the same time.  I agreed to meet up with them when I was done with my weekend and spend the night at the home they had rented.


On the night before I was to depart Boulder, I received a phone call from my friend John, also from Florida, reporting on what the drive had been like from Denver.  He sounded nervous.  He wasn’t sure that I’d want to make the trip to Winter Park, given that one has to drive up a mountain, essentially. He reported that there were many switchbacks and no railings and apparently had been a bit scary.  “If you don’t want to come, we’ll understand,” he said.


Great, I thought.  The three of them made it up there together, and now I'm supposed to go up this mountain pass alone, in the snow.  Have I mentioned it was January?  Have I mentioned that I'd never driven in snow?


I've always tended towards having an anxious personality.  And my imagination gets the best of me at times.  All of the sudden, I'm imagining driving up an extremely steep mountain pass like one drives up and down the hills of San Francisco.....where you can't see anything but sky as you drive up the hill....except with snow and cliffs to fall off of......I was quite busy that night terrifying myself.  But equally terrifying to me was the thought that I would not even try to accept the challenge set before me.  I was just as terrified at the thought of not feeling capable of driving up that mountain.  At some point that evening, I remember smacking some sense into myself and for some reason, wrote this note:


I walked over to the rental car agency the next morning and told the customer service lady what I had planned to do, just in case she thought it was a very bad idea for an inexperienced Floridian to make this drive.  She was very optimistic, though, and put me in a Toyota Camry and sent me on my way.  I started the drive out of Boulder and it was beautiful and scenic and just the sort of driving that makes my soul sing.


I went I-70 West and got off at US-40 West that would take me up to Winter Park.  If memory serves, all of the sudden, it was quite clear it was time to really concentrate.  The road got very interesting in that it was more bumpy.....I could see the terrain before me was about to change distinctly.  The intense praying began.  Haha.  (Seriously, though...)


Somehow, the drive up the mountain began and I managed to navigate my way through Berthoud Pass.  Yes, there were definitely switchbacks, it was steep and whoa were there curves!  In Wikipedia's words:  "the pass is one of the most notoriously difficult passes in Colorado for motorists, based on its height as well as the steep grades on both sides (6.3%) and the large number of switchbacks on the southern side of the pass."  Quite a juxtaposition to driving in flat Florida.  It felt like I was actually driving.


As I made my way up that mountain pass, I was elated I'd accepted the challenge.  The scenery was so magnificent, that my eyes teared up and I wanted to cry.  I had never seen the Rockies.  I had never seen the trees alongside the mountains, covered in snow.  So graceful, so majestic.  Again, I experienced all of this and my soul sang.


When I made it to my friends' place in Winter Park, the first thing I said to my friends was, "I kept waiting for the bad part!"  Their eyes got real big.  I had made it, I was fine.  And I could live with myself, because I had been brave.


I've carried the note pictured above with me ever since.  When I got back to Florida, I taped it to the inside of my yearly planner.  Every year when I switch to a new planner, I make sure to tape it on the inside cover.  It's easy to feel like life is coming at us and personally, I need to be reminded to stand up and take responsibility for myself, for my life.  It's a great question to ask yourself every day.  "Are you brave enough to concentrate and get behind the wheel of your life?"


To amuse myself, I looked up the map to Winter Park today.  And if you continue to the north on US-40, at the very top of the map, would be Winter Park.  But if you follow the road from the bottom of the picture to the top.....it's funny.....maybe on the way to our goals, this is what the path might look like.....



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