Behind the Wheel: Leaf-looking in Vail
September 27, 2012
VAIL – It’s tough to be a leaf-looker right now. The fall colors that were bright gold and brilliant in late September 2011 are a bit on the lackluster side this year. Some say this is a product of the late-spring and early-summer drought. Even in the areas that have trees with a nice array of gold, maroon and green leaves, there is no dazzle, no shine. I say that’s because the skies have been too overcast.
But I am no expert on nature. I usually appreciate it from the window of a car or a bus. I’m willing to hike a little if there is a fishing-hole payoff at the end of the trail. As I’ve stated before in this space, too much uphill walking bums me out. I’m fine with going downhill so long as there is no return trip. I think I like skiing so much because a lot of it is spent just sitting and taking in the views.
On Sunday at around 2 p.m. I was going uphill, in my classic 2003 S-10 pickup, headed east on Interstate 70 over Vail Pass. Earlier in the day I had an itch to do some easy traveling, but the journey proved to be a hellish misadventure. As I was admiring the fall colors once I had passed the Vail area, my clutch failed as I attempted to shift into a lower gear. I pulled over to the shoulder, called a tow truck and waited a good 20 minutes until it arrived. There was plenty of time to admire the fall colors on Vail Pass while waiting and also while being towed back to West Vail at a cost of $11 per mile.
Stuck at the Holiday Inn off exit 173, with my truck in the repair shop next door, there was more time to enjoy fall colors. My room had a balcony overlooking the McDonald’s and Safeway parking lots. Beyond that, there was the interstate and the associated noises I could have done without. A little farther off in the distance were some mountains that flank the area they call Vail Village. There was an incredible mix of gold and red colors on the hillside. The afternoon sun was hitting them perfectly. It was more impressive than anything I’ve seen in the Aspen area lately.
But facing a four-figure car-repair bill, I couldn’t really enjoy it. So I went back to watching the Broncos as they went down in defeat, and I wallowed in self-pity with a few cold ones. There’s not much to do in Vail this time of year, especially when you’re depressed.
All things considered, the best way to view the fall colors is from a RFTA bus window, circling the town of Aspen on the Hunter Creek route. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper, too. I learned a hard lesson: Don’t leave home unless you absolutely, positively have to.