Once in a while I actually take some advice from story subjects interviewed for this weekly sheet. Such was the case last week, when I found myself driving in a wind-whipped snow squall on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
My wife was petrified – gasping for air. I blamed this harrowing experience on John Terry of Kirkwood who wrote, “Letters From The West,” an ode to our national parks. He advised a trip to the Colorado Rockies for breath-taking sights to rival the Alps.
Terry was correct. A special visual treat near the summit was a visitor’s center with a giant “NPS100” snow sculpture. The artwork highlights the 100th anniversary of our national parks. My intrepid daughter, a recent transplant to Denver, braved all the snow to take a photo of her anxious dad tucked within the icy numerals.
In truth, I was never scared up on those narrow roads popping with corn snow. In Denver, before venturing into the Rockies, I had rubbed the good luck piece of famous Irish lass, Margaret Tobin Brown, better known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
That emerald good luck piece was in her museum home, just up the street from my daughter’s residence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Denver. A highlight of the house tour is a first-hand encounter with the lucky charm – a piece that Molly held tightly when the good ship Titanic hit the iceberg.
Molly survived the sinking of the Titanic, which took the lives of more than 1,500 aboard the ill-fated vessel. Molly not only survived, she became famous for her heroism. She helped people onto lifeboats, and took the oars on her own lifeboat after others broke down from the cold and trauma.
Molly used her new-found fame from the Titanic tale to promote issues she felt strongly about: rights of workers and women, education for children and historic preservation. But that’s another story; this story is about how her good luck charm saved the Corrigans from sliding off a snowy Rocky Mountain road.
Once we were safely back in Estes Park, we stopped to visit the historic Stanley Hotel. Most folks know the hotel as the inspiration for the movie, “The Shining,” based on Steven King’s novel which reportedly was written, in part, at the Stanley.
That evening, I happened upon another encounter with the “ghost-est with the most-est,” Molly Brown. It was at the hotel show by paranormal illusionist Aiden Sinclair. A Houdini-like character, Sinclair invited me to his stage to experience, once again, a Molly Brown artifact very similar to her good luck charm I held in Denver.
Then, Sinclair asked me to select faces from a pack of photos of Titanic passengers. From that pack, I magically selected only survivors, none of the faces of those who perished in the terrible loss of the Titanic.
So, here I am, back at my berth at the Times – the survivor of a Rocky Mountain High. Thanks for the magic, Mr. Sinclair! Thanks, Molly Brown! Thanks, National Park Service!
What a great adventure! I love the snow sculpture. Glad you got to explore this beautiful national park during the Centennial year.
Thanks for posting, Julie.
The trip was fun. I have so many more parks I need to see, but am happy to say I have seen the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and more.
Author John Terry sent this note along:
“You can tell Mrs. Corrigan that Mrs. Terry is on her side. The last time we were on High Ridge Road she made me turn around before we got to the top. That view up there is unbelievalbe, isn’t it? Makes my heart beat a little faster just thinkin’ about it. Sounds like y’all had fun. Also, if I don’t sell any more copies of “LFTW” it sure won’t be your fault.”
In 2009, my late wife and I signed up for a 5-day Rocky Mountain tour organized by one of the Colorado Model T Ford clubs. You haven’t really driven Trail Ridge Road (the highest paved road in North America, if I remember correctly) until you have driven it in a 1924 Model T. There were over 80 cars on the tour and no major problems that I can recall.Of course, an open car can get a tad chilly at the higher elevations….
We’re hoping to get back out there this summer. It’s a spectacular place — there are no more awesome sights anywhere than the summit of High Ridge Road and the view from Moraine Basin — and it has the added virtue of being relatively easily accessible to us flatlanders in the Midwest.