Move to Utah, Car 2: via Leadville

So I have two cars. One is the Jeep. The Jeep’s journey from Norman, Okla. to Cache Valley is chronicled under separate cover.

Then there’s Car 2. My house in Utah was going to close on April 27th, but I still had to be in Oklahoma teaching until May 10th or so. Some point around the first of the year, I’d decided to make it a goal to spend as few weekends in Oklahoma as possible. So it occurred to me that, right after my house closed on the 27th, I should deliver Car 2 to its new home.

Got on the road on Friday the 28th. Had plane tickets back from SLC-OKC for Sunday the 30th. Drove up 35 to 240 to 40 west. Everything was fine. Passed through Elk City: everything was fine. Decided I should buy gas at the next town, called “Sayre”, which seemed fine. Then, while doing 85 and passing a pickup truck, the pavement started feeling rough or something. I finished the pass, but there definitely was a thing going on between my car and the road. Exit was 3/4 mile ahead.

Pulled off, car handled weird. Went to the gas station that was not advertising Indian food. Bought gas. Looked at tires: sidewall blown out of the left-rear.

This car is a 2000 BMW M Coupe. It’s built to be a very uncompromising sports car. Uncompromising meaning, for instance, that in an attempt to lower the car’s weight and thereby improve performance, the designers decided against including a spare tire of any kind.

Took it to the shop behind the gas station and was told they only look at semis. Drove back across the freeway to the Indian food truck stop. Apparently Indian food truck stops are really just Indian truck stops. Like from India. The garage at the Indian truck stop, though, was mostly run by a Mexican dude, who was very helpful, except that “uncompromising” also means having really wide, low-profile tires, the kind that totally don’t go on pickups. Meaning that neither the Indian truck stop nor anyone else in Sayre, Okla. carried that size. Called three places in Elk City, and one could get a set in on Tuesday. Called El Reno: nothing.

At which point I realized I’d be spending another weekend in Oklahoma. Called my insurance company to see how much they’d pay toward a tow back to Norman. It was non-zero. Got a towing company that could handle getting a way-low sports car on their flatbed to come out and give me a lift.

And then was on my way back to Norman, Okla. The tow was 154 miles and cost me, after State Farm picked up the tab for the first nine miles, I think $397? Which honestly seems almost cheap. It wasn’t like the driver had a car waiting for him in Norman to bring back to Elk City or something. I don’t think a cab, without the tow, would have been less.

Also, every time I’ve had a tow truck (once during the 48-state road trip for a good 60 miles from Olympia to Auburn, and a couple of short tows in Pittsburgh), the drivers have been pretty awesome. This guy and I had wide-ranging conversations about skiing, religion, renaissance fairs, social media, etc. I should break down more often I guess. Haines & Son Towing, Elk City, Okla. One more good thing for the list of good things in Oklahoma.

Just FYI, when you have tires with very low profiles, blowing one out isn’t a violent event. It felt like any other flat tire I’d ever had. Which isn’t very many, but still, it wasn’t like the car collapsed onto its axel and then careened into a guardrail.

One more thing. At the Indian truck stop garage, I met a married couple who were on their way from Arkansas to Reno, where an online casino had hired them and their six chickens whom they were towing in their 20-foot trailer. The chickens had been trained to play tic-tac-toe competitively. So that’s a thing that exists.

Now on to other more things.

Once that trip was scrubbed, I finished the semester, then moved everything but the Coupe to Utah. The stars didn’t align for me to go back and pick it up until middle of June. Used what value was left on the plane ticket from April I’d had to cancel, flew down to OKC, eventually got picked up by the shuttle I’d reserved (this wasn’t something for the good things in Oklahoma list), then was reunited with my Titanium Silver shooting brake.

I tried to optimize this trip around finding “fun roads” for the Coupe to ply. First day made it all the way to Salida. It’s a cool town that I’d particularly liked when I visited it last winter. There aren’t any fun roads between Norman and New Mexico, but things started turning around near Raton and stayed at least pretty good from then on. The stretch from the freeway out to Salida was particularly good. I saw a bear (black).

Next day headed up the mountains to Leadville. When I drove through that area over the winter, it was a white-knuckle ride, especially for someone accustomed to driving the non-iced-over low-lands. More easy going in the summer.

Leadville’s a cool town. I think I first heard of it when reading The Making of a Hardrock Miner, which is still one of my top five non-fiction books of all time. It’s a first-person account of a guy (Steve Voynick) who needed money and ended up finding himself working as a miner. Leadville’s a place that’s really only about a half-hour south of Copper Mountain and Breckenridge and is located above 10,000′, which is pretty high. It’s a pretty little mining town that’s touristy enough to be interesting without having yet turned into Park City, Jackson, or Frisco.

^^ Town from the top of the main drag.

So I went to this museum. It’s fun, worthwhile, particularly if you’re in Leadville already. The Hall of Fame is a little tough to get excited about without being an industry insider, but they had some mine mock-ups to walk through that were fun, gave you a little bit of a sense that you were actually in a mine.

So those were highlights of the museum. They also had some fun dioramas that explored important historical events in the development of the Colorado mining industry.

I mean, look how happy they are!

There’s also an associated mine tour. Although you don’t actually get to go into the mine, you get to see some of the century-old buildings around it. The tour guide was a former work colleague of Steve Voynick, which was also interesting to find out (the tour guide asked how I’d decided to come to Leadville). He said the book was pretty dead-on (it would’ve been surprising if that hadn’t been the case).

Here’s a picture of my car parked at the mine tour. This way any time you think about my car, you won’t have to picture it on the back of a flatbed truck.

And then I left. Stayed the night at a motel in Craig, Colo., where I was assigned to The Bear Room.

The bedspread was probably my favorite part, although everything else in the room was similarly bear-themed (the artwork, the phone, the floor mat, soap holder, shower curtain, towel bar, etc.). Impressive.

And then it turned out that the funnest stretch of road on the whole trip was the stretch of US-89 through Logan Canyon.