Learning to Drive in the Mountains of Colorado

I learned to drive in the high country of western Colorado. As a new driver, I never wrecked the family car, but I always remained aware that mountains seldom tolerate mistakes.

Though I no longer live near the mountains, I’m glad I spent my formative years there. Today, I am a better driver and even a better person because of what I learned as a novice there on those winding, high-altitude roads.

The road I was driving on (from old postcard - circa 1940)

The road where dad took me driving. (from old postcard—circa 1940)

Here are three lessons I learned from driving in Colorado:

1. Actions have consequences.

One Saturday afternoon dad took me driving up into the Colorado National Monument. The narrow, winding road snakes its way around the brim of deep, magnificent red-rock canyons. No guardrails or shoulder on the road would have kept us from plunging hundreds of feet to a certain demise.

I vividly recall one treacherous curve where dad glanced down into the abyss below, looked back at me and then calmly said, “You realize that both of our lives are in your hands.”

Those were powerful words for a teenage boy to hear from his father, yet that admonition was burnished into my memory. I never forgot that my actions affect others and will always carry consequences.

2. Expect the unexpected.

Driving—and life—always have a way of surprising us.

In the mountains I learned to anticipate what might be around the next curve. One never knows what will obstruct the road ahead—perhaps a rockslide, an elk or bear or maybe just a slow-moving car with wide-eyed tourists from the flatlands below.

In real life, I’ve learned that around every twist in the road, I will encounter something I’ve never before experienced. Though I try to anticipate and prepare, I will need to immediately react without overreacting, and respond without over correcting.

3. Stop to enjoy the scenery.

Long before I had the option of texting and driving, I learned I could not drive and do other things. It’s never a good idea to multitask while driving.

I could never truly enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Colorado while also keeping my eyes on the road. Sometimes it’s best to pull over and take a brief “sabbatical” to absorb the magnificent beauty that we would otherwise miss.

The years have passed since the innocence of my youth, yet I carry with me the important values I learned on Colorado’s roads.

During my life and throughout my career I’ve been driven to pursue goals and to reach new horizons. Yet I instinctively know that not every journey requires a destination. Sometimes life is best lived when we take the less-traveled road simply because we’re curious to discover where that path might take us.

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One Response to Learning to Drive in the Mountains of Colorado

  1. Tina Johnson says:

    Another “winner” Duane. May I use it in the newsletter sometime?

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