My twenties and thirties were marked by nothing so much as extreme foolhardiness. There was nothing I wouldn’t try; I wouldn’t let anyone know I was afraid of anything. Hell, I wouldn’t be afraid of anything. I would try anything anyone dared me to do, and I would do anything I dared myself to do.
I went on a ski trip to Vail around 2001 with my then boyfriend, an attorney from Atlanta. He flew in on a different flight and was meeting me later on in the evening. I was waiting to go skiing until he got there, so I was trying to figure out an afternoon activity. I was an avid jewelry maker at the time (still am) and when I found a bead store on the other side of Vail pass, I decided to spend a pleasant afternoon over there browsing and buying beads. There was snow predicted for that afternoon, a good bit of it, so that would be great for skiing. I had a rental car from the airport, which notably had no snow chains.
I am from Alabama, and as such, have not spent an awful lot of time driving on ice and snow. I had a former boyfriend who had showed me the basics during a winter trip to Montreal; he made me do donuts and skids in an empty parking lot until I could control the car on ice. This was mainly because he wanted me to drive for most of the trip. After all, it was my car. So I felt ridiculously confident that I could drive my car in the snow through Vail Pass just because I wanted to go buy some beads.
I hopped in the car and took off. Those were the days without GPS, so I was armed with a map and verbal instructions from the store owner. The shop was right on the main road once I got through Vail Pass to the other side, so I felt pretty confident. The snow started on my way over there, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I got to the shop and spent a pleasant few hours browsing, shopping and buying. As usual, I dropped quite a bit of money on jewelry supplies. After all, I was a doctor, I was single, and had nothing but an apartment payment to make. My car was paid for.
Time came to leave and go back and meet the boyfriend. There was quite a lot of snow in the parking lot and on the car. I hopped in, turned on the heat, and drove brashly off. I began to notice, on my way up into the Pass, that my car was doing a bit of slipping and sliding. I had been taught how to handle a skid, so I kept correcting the car, steering the car into the skid as I had been taught. The radio I was listening to had a break-in announcement – shortly they would be closing the Pass to all but those with snow chains, and a bit afterward, they would be closing the pass entirely. This got my attention, because if I got trapped on the wrong side of the Pass, I wouldn’t be going skiing or meeting my boyfriend at all.
I got through the pass just as they were closing to all without snow chains. Now I just had to get down the other side without landing in a ditch. I skewed and slid my way down the road, becoming a bit more nervous and a bit less brash than previously as I contemplated the steep road and the guard rails, with mountains dropping off to the side. Unbelievably, I made it back to the lodge through piles of snow, parked in front of our lodge and met the boyfriend just in time. I’d like to say I learned my lesson that day and didn’t do any other stupid things, but I had many, many more foolhardy actions to go before I finally grew up. My age and mortality finally caught up with me. I am now just nervous when I have to put my minivan in reverse. I would no more traverse Vail Pass in a snowstorm than fly. The interesting thing is, I may be taking a temporary job in North Dakota this winter, and I am feeling absolutely terrified of driving into town from the airport. Go figure. Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Or maybe the mighty have risen, because I finally feel like I might have a lick of sense. Having a husband and a daughter to look out for makes all the difference in the world.