The Road Mostly Traveled, In Both Directions

or, I drove to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch in December. Sort of.

or, Shut up, Yoda. There is too such a thing as trying.

Bumper sticker that reads "Taos. A four letter word for steep."
Found this out the hard way. Not because I was skiing.

About two seconds after I turned onto the snow-covered mountain road, it crossed my mind that this wasn’t a good idea.

I don’t do snow. Snow is for kids with snow days off. Snow is for making snow angels and whatever else when you’re, say, ten. Snow is not for adults who have to drive in it to get to work or to the grocery store. Snow is definitely not for people like me who, when forced to drive in it, white-knuckle the wheel while reciting Psalm 23 over and over.

Yet here I was. The car kept going and all because I was determined to visit the historic D.H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos.

I flashed back to the summer, when a friend and I had been driving to another ranch for a 4th of July pool party, up a steep narrow road through the mountain very much like the road I was going up now. Back then, in bright, dry summer, I had said, “What the heck do they do when it snows?” My friend had said, “Forget it. Stay in the ranch house till the road is cleared.”

The memory of that conversation was making me a little bit nervous now.

My Sonata started sliding sideways. My heart jumped at the sound of that sickening thud-click of the wheels trying to get traction.

“Come on baby. Stay with me.” I corrected the steering wheel and puffed a sigh of relief when the car straightened out and continued on up the mountain.

Up, up, up. A sign. “D.H. Lawrence Ranch, 1 1/2 miles.” Thank God. I was so ready to be at this fucking ranch already.

I cruised past a house that sat at the bottom of a slope, guarded by a No Trespassing sign. Past evergreens towering on my left and an embankment dropping into darkness on my right.

Another sign that indicated I was now entering the D.H. Lawrence. Yes! I was almost there. I could check this off my list of writerly things to do.

The road got even steeper.

The car slowed down. What was happening here? I was pressing on the gas pedal but I just kept going slower and slower.

I came to a stop. Pumped ever so gently on the gas.

Oh, yeah. My wheels were spinning.

Put the car in reverse, backed up a little, gave it another go.

Spun out again. I wasn’t going anywhere.

It hit me. Not only had I braved a snow-covered mountain road for nothing, and had gotten stopped within a half mile of my destination, but I was now going to have to back my ass down the way I had just come.

I put the car in reverse, craned my neck, and started driving very slowly backwards down the steep, winding, snowy, mountain road.

I had to stop several times to rest. My neck and back hurt. I was really going to need a massage at the resort after this.

After several minutes, a work truck appeared behind me and stopped. It waited, then edged past me on the road like it was nothing. Stopped in front of me and the driver got out.

“It’s only going to get steeper,” he said.

No fucking shit.

“I know,” I said. “I was trying to get to the ranch, but couldn’t get over that last hill.”

“Guess the only thing you can do is back all the way down.”

Uh, yeah. Exactly what I had just been doing. I have a neck spasm to prove it. By the way, aren’t you going to give me a lift to the ranch in that handy four-wheel-drive there?

No. No, he wasn’t. He got back into his truck and drove off.

Sign that reads The University of New Mexico D.H. Lawrence Ranch 11/2 miles
That last half mile is a killer.

I continued on my way. Two more curves later, the road widened a little. The embankment to my right dropped sharply into a valley of treetops, but it was worth the risk. I did that thing when you find myself in a tiny, shitty parking lot behind the bar on a Friday night—a little bit backward, a little bit forward, a little bit backward, a little bit forward. Finally, my car was turned all the way around so I could go back down the mountain the right way—driving forward.

It really was beautiful up here, I thought. I bet it would’ve been even more beautiful at the ranch at the top of the hill. I will just have to come back in the summertime. And from now on, driving in the snow in Albuquerque should be cake.

Someone appeared on the road several feet ahead. I slowed. Some seriously long, skinny legs on that someone.

Not someone. Something.

It was a deer, a male deer standing in the middle of the road, just looking at me.

Holy shit.

I scrambled for my phone and got three shots of him crossing the road before he disappeared into the trees.

Deer crossing the road that leads to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos County, San Cristobal

Deer crossing the road that leads to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos County, San Cristobal

Deer crossing the road that leads to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos County, San Cristobal

It was my very own Gordie Lachance Stand By Me moment.

And that made the whole trip worth it.

 


3 thoughts on “The Road Mostly Traveled, In Both Directions

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