Sunday, January 29, 2006

Vanishing in the Colorado Mountains

I was in Aspen last week doing some skiing. I've never been there before. I had always avoided Aspen because of the logistics of getting there. The flights to Aspen are expensive and constantly delayed or cancelled. In fact, a lot of times the 30 minute flight from Denver to Aspen is more expensive than the 3 hour flight from New York to Denver.

Lo and behold my flight to Aspen was cancelled due to bad weather. We let out a collective groan when the pilot made the announcement. We were actually on the plane and in our seats at the time of the announcement. Apparently, visibility was only a quarter of a mile. Disgruntled, we gathered our things and got off the plane and made a mad rush for the Customer Service Counter (aka CSC, which now replaces "deplane" as my new favorite piece of flight lingo.)

When I got to the CSC, I learned that there was about 0.0000001% chance I'd make it to Aspen that day. There was a big snowstorm that was just dumping Aspen. Good for skiing, but not good for my transportation needs. I had to decide whether to find alternate means or just spend the night in Denver. I considered spending the night in Denver. I had never spent any time there before and thought it might be fun. I could experience true Rocky Mountain Hospitality instead of the faux, pretentious scene in Aspen or Vail or Beaver Creek (where I went last year.)

I eventually decided that I wanted to be in Aspen that night. I didn't want to lose the hotel room that I had already paid for that night. So I had to decide whether I was going to rent a car or take a shuttle service. Since driving for 4 1/2-5 hours in a snowstorm did not sound too appealing to me, I investigated the shuttles and joined an impromptu group of passengers and got on a van to Aspen.

Last year when I went to Beaver Creek, that was what I had chosen to do in the first place through Colorado Mountain Express, the main ground transportation service from Denver to all the ski resorts. They do a pretty brisk business and they have drivers running all over, back and forth between Denver and the ski resorts and between the ski resorts too.

Last year, when I was in Beaver Creek, I took the shuttle both ways. On my return trip, I took the last shuttle back to Denver, which was around 6:30PM. The driver picked me up at my hotel and loaded my bags. We picked up a couple more passengers and we were soon on our way. I had a late red-eye flight on sucky JetBlue back to New York that night and so I had plenty of time.

We were about an hour into our drive. So far the drive had been uneventful. I was sitting in the front seat and was pretty comfortable. I had my Bose headphones, my iPod, and a seat to myself. I even had room to recline since there was no one in the seat behind me. I didn't get a chance to strike up any conversations with any of my fellow passengers since I was up in the front myself. But that was ok since none of us were that talkative. No one had broken the ice yet.

So we were driving along I-70, when our driver pulled off the highway without saying a word to anyone on the van.. I kind of raised my eyebrow, but figured our driver needed to take a bathroom break or get gas. Plus since my flight was so late at night, I didn't really care about any delays.

The driver pulled on to an exit and we get off the exit to Bumblefuck, Colorado. Seriously, there was NOTHING around. Just trees and an occasional street lamp. There weren't even any buildings or other cars for that matter. We drove for a few more minutes and I thought maybe our driver had made a mistake and was going to turn around and get back on the highway to find another place. Instead, he turned off the dirt road we were on and pulled into a driveway of what looked like a high school. Ok, I thought to myself, he's gonna make a u-turn in the high school roundabout driveway. Instead he parked in front of the school, and jumped out of the van with parting words of "This will just take a sec", leaving us in the middle of nowhere. He ran behind what looked like a wall and disappeared.

No one really said anything after our driver left. Then a few minutes later, a girl in the back piped up and said "You guys, isn't this a little weird?" And we all said in unison "Uh....yeaaaahhhh." We all started to say "Where the hell are we? And where is our driver???" Then another girl in the back chimed in and said "I think someone should go out there." I turned around from my seat and said "Are you CRAZY? I'm not going out there." Then the girl said, "Yeah, it should be one of the guys who goes out there." Then another guy said in response "Oh come on, it's 2004, girls are every bit as strong as guys." Then we reached a compromise, if anyone was going out there, we were all going out there. Safety in numbers. We decided that if in ten minutes our driver wasn't back, we were gonna out and check on him. In the meantime, we started to wonder what the hell our driver was doing. Someone joked that a hidden camera was in our van to tape our reactions to this. "Yeah, we're being punked," someone said. Then I was like, "No, we're on Boiling Point!"

Just when we couldn't stand it any longer and were about to get out of the van, we see our driver running back to us. He opened the door, got in his seat, turned on the ignition and started driving, not saying a single word to us. We all looked at each other with raised eyebrows. When we were on our way, one of the girls asked "Um....are you ok?" Our driver just replied very matter-of-factly "Yeah, sorry. It was an emergency."

I can only speculate as to what went on. Probably the most reasonable explanation is that he had to do #2 or maybe he was sick and had to vomit. Or maybe he was meeting his "supplier" to transport something to Denver. Who knows. Anyway, I wasn't reported missing or anything and made it safe and sound to Denver International Airport. The world was lucky I made it through.

1 comment:

Byf said...

Weird!

His use of the word "emergency" leads me to believe it was of the brown variety.

At least you got there OK.