Winter’s coming, and soon we locals with cars will experience an annual rite of the season: Dragging ass behind elephantine luxury SUVs with Texas license plates as they drive 20 mph on the Spur on sunny days with 40-degree temperatures. Yes, Telluride visitor: Snow does indeed exist alongside the road, and a few wet spots litter the tarmac, but driving conditions are actually hunky-dory.
I’m thinking of purchasing a bullhorn, so I can yell pithy comments at lollygaggers, something along the lines of: “That thing by your right foot is a gas pedal. Feel free to use it!”
Turtles abound. Like everyone else around here, I’ve plodded behind hideously long wagon trains of cars all because a timid scaredy-cat ahead is terrified of approaching the posted limit. (These are no doubt the same geniuses who brake going uphill.)
Most states legislate a five-car-following limit, which requires slowpokes to pull over at the next safe opportunity. Colorado, maddeningly, does not. Sure, there’s a designated slow-vehicle turnout on Hughway 145 Down Valley, but does anybody ever use it? In August, I loitered behind a convertible-driving Californian as he meandered blithely past the turnout while impeding the progress of seven Colorado vehicles. Malibu Ken was apparently convinced that every other driver that day shared his desire to view the sparkling waters of the San Miguel in a relaxed, leisurely fashion.
Again, a need for the bullhorn: “Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean locals have no appointments to keep. Western Slope airports and dentists still insist we arrive on time, you selfish jerk.”
According to Claims Journal, “There are two types of drivers: (1) those who get upset when somebody is illegally hanging out in the left passing lane, and (2) those who are blissfully ignorant that hanging out in the passing lane is both illegal and dangerous. Do-gooders and know-it-alls driving the speed limit in the left lane, albeit slower than the flow of traffic, believe they are teaching faster drivers a lesson. In fact, they are breaking the law and endangering those around them.” Amen to that.
Our region, of course, contains fewer four-lane than two-lane byways. Consequently, we occasionally need to gun it left and around snails on stretches where the fine engineers of the Colorado Department of Transportation painted yellow dots instead of a solid yellow line. I love overtaking cattle this way, and have since I worked as a medical courier transporting urine, blood and once, an amputated leg from Leavenworth Federal Prison over two-lane roads to a Kansas City medical lab. (Note: the joy of passing increases if you simultaneously shout “Hyperspace, Chewie!”)
Alas, many drivers irrationally fear the pass, as if ventures into the opposite lane are innately wrong. My girlfriend is one. She views passing as rude, thinking my desire to move with more velocity on mountain roads might offend the driver of an overloaded semi or underpowered RV. When I protest that we’ll never, ever meet the slow drivers, so who cares, I’m arguing the matter on her terms, which is a mistake. Fact is, dawdlers are the bad guys here, disrespecting fellow motorists — and state highway patrollers! — who merely want traffic to flow smoothly, no matter the speed. The way I see it, reluctance to legally pass is an egregious insult to the fine engineers of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Getting around downtown Telluride entails its own miseries. I live near Hotel Telluride and regularly pedal a decrepit single-speed cruiser eastbound on Columbia Avenue to the post office. Idiocy often prevails at the intersection at Aspen Street. Steep in pitch, North Aspen rightly has no stop signs. Flatter Columbia does. Still, drivers on Aspen routinely freak out over my slow-moving bike and slam to a halt, waiting for me to cross. They think they’re being nice, but they’re actually embarrassing me: The last thing cyclists want is an audience for their wheezy labors. Not only do such drivers impede traffic, they force me to break the law by proceeding past the stop sign. Follow the rules of the road, folks, and we’ll all be fine!
Though the Telluride Film Festival wrapped up two months ago, the haunting memories still burn. The New Yorkers, Los Angelenos and other PIBs (People In Black) in attendance never, ever stroll the sidewalks. Instead, they ambulate our cute, narrow streets knowing full well a taxi cab would flatten them instantly if they pulled that crap back home in the city. Film fest PIBs cross Main Street wherever they feel, never bothering with crosswalks. I’m under no legal obligation to stop for PIBs that cross in the middle of the block, but don’t yet care to test this in court. Besides, bloodstains can decimate a car’s Blue Book value.
I hate the way some tourists crawl our roadways at 5 mph. I pull behind these simpletons and scream, “Dammit! We Telluriders don’t travel to Scottsdale, or wherever you live, then drive like a three-toed sloth! Is our 15-mph speed limit really not slow enough for you?” While I’m aware the torpid twerps can’t read lips through a rearview mirror, it’s nonetheless refreshing to vent.
I’m most peeved by a distinct habit of local drivers. I’m talking, of course, about the thoughtless, obnoxious practice of stopping your car in the middle of the street because someone you know is approaching from the other direction, and you feel positively compelled to roll down your window and flap gums. Well, that’s just super. But what are we folks stuck behind you supposed to do? Wait humbly and silently as you catch up? Should we thank the Lord Jesus for his blessed grace and the divine miracle that you somehow encountered an acquaintance in a little-populated, 14-block town?
Me, I honk the horn; twice, if necessary. It’s 2019 for chrissakes: You can learn about little Timmy’s soccer game on Facebook if you must. In the meantime, that thing by your right foot is a gas pedal. Step on it already.