As we get ready for our vacation, we inevitably talk about the experiences that were great, the ones that were okay and the ones which were disasters – but there is one we talk about every time and we all have a different opinion on the category this one would fit into. My husband would say it was great, I think it was a disaster (and embarrassing) and the children think it was hilarious which would equate to great — apparently I am in the minority on this.
We had gone to Pueblo, Colorado to pick up Pat’s mom to take her to Gunnison, Colorado – my home town – for a week’s vacation in a cabin by the Tomichi River. We decided to take a different route than we usually do (through Denver and over Monarch Pass) – so we could visit the Royal Gorge. I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid and my family had never seen it. If you have never visited the Royal Gorge, it is definitely worth the visit — until 2001 it was the home of the highest suspension bridge in the world (955 feet above the Arkansas River). It is a wooden suspension bridge which is 1260 feet long and 18 feet wide – and you can walk over it or even drive you car over it! It truly is a sight to behold – and my family had to help me almost crawl across the bridge to experience all of its grandeur because I am not overly fond of heights or being suspended over a large gash in the earth on a swaying bunch of wooden planks!
However, I did make it across and we had a great time during the day at the park, see all of the sights and even taking a tram to the bottom of the gorge. Then it came time to leave. We were in two cars since we had so many people. I was driving one car and my insane (and slightly malicious) husband was driving the other car. The children were with their dad and I had Pat’s mom in my car. Pat REALLY wanted to drive over that swaying bridge of death and I had flatly refused over and over again. I should have know that would not be the end of it.
Pat started his car up and I was to follow him out the gate – since the park was closing, we needed to take the closest exit which was nowhere near the bridge. But leave it to Pat to get his way and he started driving across the bridge! I had to follow him or else we wouldn’t be able to join up again later (this was in the days before cell phones — I know — hard to believe – but true!). So as I drove over the bridge praying and swearing all at the same time, I was sure that God was going to send me my death because I was so angry at the crazy man in front of me — but he spared me! When we got to the other side, Pat got out of the car and started pointing and laughing at me. Me? I was crying and so angry I couldn’t even spit – but the ordeal was over and we could get out of the park where I could murder him in his sleep.
However, this was not to be — when we got to the other side of the park, the exit was closed! So — you guessed it — we had to go BACK OVER THE BRIDGE to get out of the park! I was no longer going murder Pat in his sleep — that would be too kind — I was going to find hundreds of ways to torture him for the rest of his life!
Oh – but it only gets better! When we arrived at the bridge, we found that it had been closed because they were having a national square dancing contest ON THE BRIDGE! What the heck was wrong with these people — doesn’t the darn thing sway enough by itself without having 500 people swinging their partners around? The park ranger couldn’t just let us stay there and sleep in our cars for the night — no, he insisted on stopping the dancing and having the dancers stand to the side as we drove our cars across the bridge.
As we drove across with our Nebraska plates (which does NOT endear you to anyone from Colorado!), the words which came out of these square dancers would have made a mule driver blush! I didn’t know some of those words existed! My only defense was to roll down my window and tell everyone who would listen — blame the idiot in the first car — this was all his idea!
After driving for what seemed an eternity through crinoline enhanced skirts, matching cowboy shirts, cowboy boots and hats — we finally made it to the other side — not without a genuine fear of being thrown off the bridge by the unruly crowd. I’m sure if the square dance caller had said, “Swing your partner. Throw those idiots off the bridge. Now bow to your corner.”, we would not have made it out alive.
Needless to say, the anger of having to go over the Wooden Death Bridge not once, but twice was far overshadowed by my anger at being embarrassed — after I told Pat I didn’t want to drive in that direction. Pat? He was thrilled with the whole experience, as were his children! He got to drive over this wonderful bridge twice – and see 500 angry square dancers — this was the coolest vacation ever!
The lesson of the day? If you want to get out of the Royal Gorge without being killed by 500 angry square dancers — you take the lead!