Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chapter 58 Rocky Mountain High

In 1954 we decided to take a little vacation and go to Colorado to cool off and see Charlotte’s brother and his family in Denver. Charlotte had to call a locksmith to make a key for the house. We had lived there for several years without locking the house when we left. We never took our keys out of the car when we went to the store or down town. I would park at my office and leave the keys in the car all day. No cars were ever stolen and no house was burglarized. Times have changed haven’t they?

We had a 1953 Pontiac sedan and, of course, no air conditioning. I had bought the best thing available at that time and it was a window cooler. It was a round cylinder contraption that fit in the window of the car. The cylinder had excelsior inside and a reservoir of water. When you pulled on the rope, it would rotate the cylinder through the water at the bottom of the tank. The front of the cooler was open so when you drove down the road the hot air would enter the front, pass through the wet excelsior, and emerge a little cooler as it entered the car.

We were to leave that morning at 7 AM and as usual we did not make the EDT. At about ten that morning we were finally ready to leave. I had packed half the house in the car and Charlotte was worried about her two babies, as it clip_image001[5]was hot and so was I. When we had gotten out on the highway and had enough wind to let the cooler work I explained to Charlotte how the cooler worked. I told her to pull on the cord and the cool air would start to come through. She tentatively pulled on the cord and nothing happened because she was not pulling hard enough to rotate the cylinder. I told her-several times-that she had to pull harder.  She was holding 12 month old Tom with one hand and pulling the cord with the other. After giving increasingly expressive instructions to “pull harder”, I watched as she really gave it a jerk. Of course, it did rotate-but by pulling so hard it emptied the water reservoir on Charlotte and Tom. Tom was crying and Charlotte was wet and furious, and that was the way we started our vacation.

We spent the first night in Amarillo and early the next morning weclip_image001[9]stopped at the Canadian river to fix our breakfast. I got our Coleman stove out and Charlotte fixed us bacon and eggs there by the river. We drove on to Denver that day. After a nice visit we left for Mt Evans. Mt Evans had the highest automobile road in the country at that time, 14,560 feet, as I remember. The last four or five thousand feet was a narrow gravel road with no guardrail. The boys could look out the side window straight down for thousands of feet. When we met another car it would crowd us over to the edge and Charlotte and the boys were all ready to turn around but there was no way to do that. Then we met a big motor grader, it was on the side next to the mountain and we were on the cliff edge. The boys dropped to the floor in the back and Charlotte was beside herself. We barely squeezed by.

clip_image002Because of the altitude the car kept stalling. I would start it and race the engine and we would lurch ahead for a few hundred feet before it stalled again. About this time we came up behind two elderly ladies in their car that was barely moving before it stalled again and again. We finally got to the top, and it was quite a view as well as a relief that we had finally made it all the way up. On the way up I noticed the people coming down, over next to the mountain away from the edge, were laughing and smiling. On the way down we too were laughing and smiling too but I noticed the people we met who were next to the unguarded edge had clinched teeth and grim looks on their faces. On the way up we probably looked as grim as any of them. The way back down was uneventful but the boys talked about their experience for years

Photo of 1953 Pontiac sedan found here.

Photo of stone age car cooler found here.

Amazing photo of the Canadian River by Wyman Meinzer found here.

Photo of the road up Mt. Evans found here.

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