I've driven to San Bernardino, 200 miles roundtrip, way too many damn times to count. My family's out there, unfortunately.
Probably not doing this again. At 44 years of age the strain was real. Knees locking up, back sore, neck sore -- and that was before I got to Denver. This was my first trip to Denver, and it turns out that Denver is Hell on Earth.
It wasn't the people -- hi, Cody -- or the work. I won't name the company for a variety of reasons including the fact that I consulted for them in a set of buildings that for good reasons lacked the company's name or any other identifying mark ... but the work was interesting and the people were first rate.
But I couldn't breathe.
Denver is (famously) the Mile High City, officially 5280 feet above sea level. I've been higher than that -- I've been up near the peak of Mount Baldy in California, which is 10,000 feet -- but I've never spent more than a day there. I've spent the night in Big Bear, California, a few times -- that's 6,752 feet above sea level. And I drove to Mexico City once, which is up around 7000 feet.
But the week in Denver was the longest time I'd ever spent at high altitude. I didn't notice it the first day particularly, but the first night I had trouble sleeping despite being exhausted -- put it off to "too tired to sleep," which is rare but has happened to me before. The second night I woke up several times, irritable, missing having Amy in the bed with me -- the third night I woke up four or five times and realized that I was simply short of breath. It didn't get any better until I drove home, through Denver, Utah, Nevada -- Las Vegas itself is 4,000 feet above sea level. Las Vegas has always made me feel jittery and nervous -- which surprised me, because big cities don't; I've been to a variety of big cities and I cope with them fine. I'm from Los Angeles. I always wondered if I had some judgemental "people having too much fun" thing going on -- a puritan streak I hadn't suspected.
Turns out it's not a latent puritan streak -- I realized as I was driving through Vegas that I was still short of breath....
Outside Las Vegas, in a fairly short stretch, the 15 drops from 4000 feet to 2000 feet. Maybe it was psychological, but I found myself able to take a good deep breath, and feel I was getting enough air, since the first night I'd become aware of being short of breath in Denver.
Got home Saturday morning, slept most of the day, and spent Saturday evening and all day Sunday enjoying the feeling of being fit enough to walk fifty feet without gasping for air.
Pretty much planning on retiring to Cabo San Lucas. My rare flashes of "top of a mountain would be good" just took a serious body blow.
It had to happen eventually. I've driven 600,000 miles, and every ticket I've ever gotten -- I'd guess I've gotten a dozen or so moving violations since I've been driving, about 1 for every 50K miles -- every ticket I ever had, I deserved. (More broadly, whenever I've interacted with cops, which is its own statistical universe, they've been righteous in their conduct -- didn't always agree with what I was being cited/arrested/detained for, but at least they were doing their jobs as they were supposed to.) So cops have always been fair with me ...
Leaving Colorado hell on earth I was on cruise control on the two-lane 70 freeway, doing about 72 in a 75 zone. I wasn't looking for police -- I wasn't speeding. Traffic was booming by me (with Colorado plates, rather than my California plates) at 80 or 90 miles an hour, in the left-hand lane. It was dark and I was aware there was someone behind me following along at precisely my 72 mph, for miles and miles -- never bothered to check who it was: another responsible middle-aged guy like me, no doubt.
I came up on a guy doing about 65, got off cruise control, waited for half a dozen vehicles to go blasting by me at 80+, accelerated up to about 80 to get into the flow of traffic in the left hand lane, got around the guy doing 65, slowed down again, was reaching to set the cruise control -- and the guy who'd been following me hit the lights, turned on the bubble machine, and pulled my ass over. And wrote me for 87 mph.
I barely broke 80. That's not opinion; I was watching my spedometer. Half the known universe had blown by me while I tooled along at 72, this tool following me. But they had the right plates, and I didn't. I took my ticket ($77) and said thank you, without a hint of how I felt; getting into pissing contests with The Man is a young man's game, and I'm much too old for it. But I was ticked off for the next 500 miles.