Asher on Aspen: A post-quarantine road trip |

Asher on Aspen: A post-quarantine road trip

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when reality began to take hold. Not even 24 hours ago, three friends and I spontaneously decided to drive 11 hours from Aspen to Lake Havasu in hopes of getting some sun and escaping the walls of our apartments. Some might call it crazy to go on a road trip during a worldwide pandemic. But with the stay-at-home restrictions beginning to loosen, we decided to take our chances with catching and spreading the virus, while taking precautions to lower our chances of doing so.

The plan was to only stop for food and gas and to use hand sanitizer incessantly along the way. We wore masks at every pit-stop and practiced social distancing whenever we weren’t around our designated travel buddies. It was established early on that my three friends and I were now a team and we would all need to keep each other accountable for being extremely cautious throughout the duration of the trip.

Steady tapping, steering-wheel drumming, and obnoxious singing created the ambiance of our all-day drive to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Despite our bug-gut covered windshield, the mounds of rock along the way seemed more and more majestic as we traversed down the never-ending picturesque stretch of highway. We stared into a sea of mirages on the road for hours on end with constant anticipation of what the next country tune or conversation topic would be.

There is nothing quite like that initial feeling of stepping out of the car and into the heat after many long winter months. Our first experience with this was the moment we arrived in Las Vegas. We agreed on this brief stop along the way so that we could observe the vacant Vegas strip with our very own eyes. It was eerily quiet as we drove down Las Vegas Boulevard with not a soul in sight — a rare, once-in-a-lifetime scene to observe.

Upon arrival at Havasu, our plan was to meet my uncle and a few of his friends to explore the lake on his boat, a StarCraft SCX, and catch endless waves behind the boat while wake-surfing. Once we established our crew of about 10 people on the boat, we remained with those people for the duration of the trip and didn’t come into contact with anyone else. Because of the close quarters on the boat, we chose not to social distance or wear masks while on the water. We would obtain a killer tan to come back to Aspen with, bond with our new-found quaranteam and my surfing skills would be through the wazoo. It was a good plan, or so I thought.

Admittedly, the first few days of our trip were pretty epic. Lake Havasu boasts the most beautiful blue-green water — so clear that you can actually see one’s legs paddling underneath the water from up above. The lake extends for 30 miles along the Colorado River on the border of California and Arizona and is enclosed by barren mountains. The water felt incredibly satisfying against the 100-degree temperatures.

It wasn’t until the very last day of the trip that something very unfortunate happened. We were just shy of max capacity on the boat, my cousins were tubing behind us and I was the lucky one who got asked to drive. We were cruising for a steady 15 minutes after I took the wheel before it all happened. Almost as suddenly as a flash of lightning, the boat abruptly stopped as if someone had slammed on the breaks of a car. Everything and everyone on the boat flew forward in a flash.

“I didn’t touch anything!” I cried out. All 10 boat attendees whipped their heads around to look at me, as if I had an explanation as to what had just happened. I was flabbergasted to say the least. Apparently, we had hit a sandbar. “Everyone get off the boat,” my uncle demanded. We all hopped off in somewhat of a frenzy, no one really knowing or understanding what had just happened. It felt as if we had all just been in a car accident — shook up and speechless.

Our entire crew, now standing in knee-deep water, worked vigorously to lift the boat off the sandbar. The task at the time seemed impossible, even with 10 people all lifting and pushing at the same time. After about 10 minutes of giving our best effort, a tow boat approached us with a driver who was smirking from ear to ear, as if he’d seen this a million times.

After he pulled us out, we discovered that the boat was taking on water. Sadly, this meant that we needed a ride back to the marina and that our day on the water was over. Getting dragged behind the tow boat wasn’t exactly how we envisioned our last day in paradise. With all the other boats staring at us, the journey back to the marina felt an awful lot like a dreaded walk of shame. What had I just gotten us into? I was humiliated, to say the least.

We learned later that the sandbars shift so much with the tides in Lake Havasu that they are unable to mark them off. Considering I have only ever driven a boat at Ruedi Reservoir where there are no sandbars, I wasn’t aware that I should have been keeping an eye on the depth finder. I know, boating 101. Lesson learned.

No one got hurt, and that is most important. At the end of the day, it was a super unfortunate accident that I would like to think could have happened to anyone. We’ll all laugh about it one day (Right, Uncle Mark?).

We left Arizona the next day with many mixed emotions. Or, at least I did. The incredible time we had surfing, exploring the canyons and jumping off cliffs was now all overshadowed by this horrible finale of a vacation. It wasn’t exactly the way I had wished the trip would come to an end, but at least I learned a valuable lesson about sandbars and depth finders. But who am I kidding? I won’t be driving a boat for a very, very long time.