Road Trip to Denver

Beautiful I-70 through Vail Pass, Colorado

Map of our route from Logan, UT to Denver, CO

The Trip: 21 hour roundtrip drive to Denver and back

The Vehicle: Subaru, Impreza

Co-pilot: Will, my 13 yo


I had an adventure! I’ve been dying to write about it for almost a month now but, no time. Today I’m making time because this road trip was insane.

It started with a massive order for a corporate event in Denver. I’ll leave out the dull details, but it didn’t go smoothly. Between delayed supplies and a last minute request to double the already large order, I was working every waking minute from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday evening – with the convention scheduled for the following Monday.


An exhaustive search on Saturday night yielded zero couriers who could deliver before the event.

Friends, when I promise the order is going to be there, I will do EVERYTHING in my power to make that happen. So I messaged my client to let them know I’d personally deliver the order. And when I asked Will if he’d like to go to Denver, he shrugged and answered, “I have nothing better to do.”

The weather forecasts looked clear, with the only snow expected here at home. So I booked a hotel in Golden and at 6:30 am Sunday, in a bit of a blizzard, Will and I hit the road for the 10.5 hour drive to Colorado.

Will is the ultimate travel companion. He’s wittier than most adults, good natured, and didn’t complain a single time over the next two and a half days. He’s kind of perfect.

Getting out of Cache County was a trick. It was dark, cold, and snowing hard.

Snowy Cache Valley, UT facing the Wellsville Mountains
Cache Valley, UT

We’ve only lived here for a year so I still make a lot of wrong turns. That morning a wrong turn put us on a rural, unplowed road through farms and marshes. A single pair of tire tracks marked the way through. The snow was piling in deep, powdery drifts more than a foot deep, that buried our windshield in a white tsunami each time we hit one. We had to keep stopping to clear the windshield.

We took our time and laughed about how crazy our Sunday was turning out to be.

Eventually we made to I-15. From there it was smooth sailing all the way to Vail Pass in Colorado.

Here’s something I didn’t know: You need to check the weather forecast for Vail Pass specifically. At a max elevation of 10,666’ it makes its own rules regarding the weather. It was cold and snowy and we ran into a loooong traffic jam. All along, we kept passing raised crossing arms – like at railroad crossings – and for the first time I started to worry that they might close the road for our trip home.

Beautiful I-70 through Vail Pass
Beautiful I-70 through Vail Pass
A livestock truck and other vehicles stopped in a traffic jam in Vail Pass, Colorado
Traffic jam

It was dark when we finally made it to Golden. The temperature had dropped to zero and the humidity in the air was falling in tiny ice crystals that made everything slick. Our hotel, Origin Hotel Red Rocks, was around a curvy little mountain road. It felt desolate and deserted. A fitting scene to play the music from The Shining – the Tuba piece that accompanies the family drive through the Rockies to the Overlook Hotel. Will cued it up. We think we’re hilarious when we’re tired.

Our hipster hotel was decorated with drawings of anthropomorphic animals dressed like Frank Sinatra became a lumberjack. It was cute. The hotel restaurant would be wonderful under normal conditions. We’d been eating Twizzlers washed down with Diet Coke all day so the restaurant was superb.

Will hiding his face behind his glass in the restaurant at Origin Hotel Red Rocks
No pictures please.
Me in front of the hotel and convention center in Colorado
Bad hair, no makeup, don’t judge. It was a busy couple of days.

We delivered the order the next morning and then headed for home. Only, just as I clearly foreshadowed three paragraphs ago, I-70 through Vail Pass was closed. So was I-80.

Not to worry though, Google had a different course for us through Steamboat Springs – which is gorgeous, and I wish we could’ve stayed.

Map of our return trip from Denver, CO to Logan, UT through Wyoming
Map of our return trip from Denver, CO to Logan, UT through Wyoming
Snowy day driving to Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Mountain pass to Steamboat Springs

Photo of Steamboat Springs with ski slopes in the background. Photo credit: Larry Pierce;

This route followed CO-9 to I-40 through rural NW Colorado. It was all ranches, rivers, and reservoirs. Then up, up, up through gorgeous piny mountains on a road banked by 10 feet of snow on either side. And finally down into Steamboat. We were SO glad we had all-wheel drive.

And that turned out to be the easy part.

After Steamboat the drive got increasingly rural. Snow was falling and the road became treacherous as the sun set. We passed at least a dozen stranded and deserted cars. We went slow and trusted in our sturdy little Subaru.

Eventually we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, being directed by Google to turn onto County Road 10-N.

All day long, Google assured us that we were on “the best route.” To be clear, that doesn’t describe the quality of the route, just that it was the best of the options remaining. I think it was the ONLY option remaining. Go ahead and try to Google directions that include this road. It’s nearly impossible. Know why?

County Road 10-N is a 20 mile dirt road through a canyon in the absolute middle of nowhere. In fact, one review of a campground there is titled: “Secluded campground in the middle of nowhere.”

Dirt road trough Irish Canyon, photo credit to Dan Thornton; Ugly Hedgehog Photography Forum

It was dark, snowing, -20 degrees, and we had passed the last bit of civilization hours before. It was too ridiculous to be believed. But we didn’t really have a choice at that point. We turned onto the dirt and pressed on toward Rock Springs, WY. The only other vehicle in sight was a semi truck behind us. He was probably blindly following Google too.

It occurred to me that we were in EXACTLY the kind of situation I’ve always wondered how anyone could be stupid enough to get into. We had our coats and a blanket, but that temperature isn’t survivable for long if we got stuck out there. I’m not the type of person who takes pleasure trips through remote, icy canyons. I like to burrow under minky blankets and watch TV.

Thank heaven for Will. We made it a joke. We laughed about how absurd it was and cheered every time the semi appeared in the rear-view mirror. We felt like as long as we had that guy back there we weren’t too far from help – as long as he wasn’t a serial killer.

When we finally pulled into Rock Springs the wind chill was -39 degrees. We checked into the first hotel we saw, grateful to have made it.

The final leg home was easy and uneventful. All together our 21 hour drive ended up being 24. I loved the opportunity for so much one-on-one time with my baby. And, since we survived, it’s a funny memory we share. It was actually really fun. But don’t ask Will, he’ll tell you it was boring. Such a liar.

I’d just like to request that the next corporate event be held somewhere tropical.

A clear blue sky and wide snowy landscape, with US 89 running through the middle to the horizon
US 89 in Wyoming
US 30 from Wyoming to Bear Lake Utah. Blue sky over a small snowy canyon.
US 30 from Wyoming to Bear Lake, UT
An old truck half buried in the snow next to frozen Bear Lake, UT
Bear Lake, UT


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