Oh My God...

I seem to get a lot of Google hits for this brief recounting of a drive down "Oh My God Road." The following is a description of what I remember and what I felt as my wife and I slowly made our way down the mountainside. My impressions are that given the switchbacks and relative size of the road it would be better suited for mountain bikes than cars. However, given the blind corners and lack of guard rails, I would caution one to be careful becuase the road is not much wider than a car and half with a slight shoulder on one and a sheer drop on the other...

Twenty-five miles west of Denver we entered the I-70 parking lot eight miles from three rockslides. There were warnings but we had no idea how long the clean-up would take, and besides we were on our way to a resort for an anniversary weekend. Well, three hours and six miles later we found ourselves getting off of the interstate to visit Central City for a much needed bathroom break.

For those who wish to know, I will know Central City for its decrepit casinos and, well, that is about it. The ride into town, eight miles off of the interstate was pleasant because we were practically the only car on a four-lane highway to nowhere. Our only worry was that the people in traffic knew something we did not.

A quick sandwich, a visit to the bathroom, and a new set of directions later and we hit the road again in an attempt to bypass the traffic jam we left behind. It just so happened that our directions took us down Virginia Canyon Road, otherwise known as "Oh My God Road," literally. No really, the signs actually say "Oh My God Road."

You see, "Oh My God Road" is a nine-mile road that connects Central City to Idaho Springs, where supposedly, the traffic ended. Our journey started off like many journeys in Colorado, uphill. It was a nice trek up a two-lane road to the top of the mountain. When we reached the pinnacle, we saw the fallen remains of an old mining set-up left for dead. The water chutes had decayed and fallen in places; towers stood silent against the blue skies awaiting a changing of the guard that would never come. Our solid pavement turned suddenly to hard-packed gravel; a sign told us the road would close due to construction on August 16 (2005). We knew this would be our only chance to drive "Oh My God Road" in its current state of being.

Four hundred yards later, the pavement re-appeared beneath the tires, and collectively we laughed shrugging off the moniker we had come to fear. "Oh My God Road" became "Geez That’s All Road?" Our comfort and laughter was ripped from beneath us all too quickly.

In what seemed like two or three short breathes the road began to narrow and the pavement stopped. The crack and pop of gravel beneath our tires filled our ears as my foot softly rested on the brake pedal. Our car slowed to what seemed like a crawl as we alternated singing a "Slow Down" chorus. Our road was about a car and three quarters wide, graveled, with no guard rails and washed out shoulders. At fifteen miles an hour you can see a lot of the road you travel, especially when you are at the top of a mountain and there is nothing between you and the valley floor.

Even now, I can feel the panic set in as I describe the road to you. My heart begins to pound, much too large for the chest that holds it. My breath shortens into quick staccato bursts offering little relief to my oxygen starved brain. My hands are tense much like the white-knuckled driving that occurred that day. I didn’t need "Oh My God Road" to tell me about my fears, but she whispered them in my ear all the same. The pictures my mind creates about danger and pain and fear were all too real during our descent. Panic was the obvious choice, but panic wasn’t an option. There was no where to turn around, no going back to the safety of pavement and guardrails. There was only down and that meant driving headlong into my fears.

We took it slow, trying to laugh those fears away. My wife, ever the great comfort in my life, praised my feeble attempts at bravery; her words were a welcome salve on the panic that had set in. Switchback after switchback we hugged the mountain side of the road. One time, and one time only, did I dare look down at the side of the road and it was a mistake.

We did look out and ahead. We saw the stand still traffic of I-70 and laughed at the poor souls stuck on the bridge with nowhere to go. At least we were moving! We marveled at people who had built cabins along this road, vowing never to be so silly ourselves. Six or seven miles later the valley floor rose to meet us. Looking up we could no longer see the road we had taken. Like an unmarked grave it left little trace on the mountainside.

About an hour and a half later, when we cleared the traffic, "Oh My God Road" became a source of pride. We had conquered what was bound to be the scariest road we had ever taken without a single scratch or scar.

A thousand things sift through my mind as I think of that brief nine-mile journey. Panic, fear, pride, hope, and joy are all a part of that carnival ride down the mountain. What I will remember most is that I, we, did it. When push came to shove, we started and we finished and that means something.

For me, fear is a powerful motivator and a powerful foe. It has the power to stop me dead in my tracks; it has the power to make me run for my life; it also has the power to draw from within my greatest potential. I think fear is a catalyst that feeds a great amount of potential energy within each of us. Fear forces a choice, a battle that must be fought within each of us. We can give in and give up, we can live to fight another day, or we embrace what is before us, befriending the very thing that threatens us. There are consequences for each action, benefits and drawbacks, risks and rewards, and no choice is inherently good or bad. The choice we make is but one in a million choices we will make in our lives.

I know many of the fears that lurk in the shadows of my soul, fears of failure, fears of inadequacy, fears of losing or not living up to my "potential." They remain real despite my small success on August 14. I suspect that there are very real fears in each of our lives. Ones that we dare not share. The problem is, the more we silence our fears the more irrational and large they loom in our lives. There is little we can do save having the courage to be who we have been called to be. In that thought lies one of the few things that can silence the fears that hold our souls.

I would like to thank the person who built "Oh My God Road." I won’t thank them for their engineering prowess nor for their eye on safety, but I will thank them for striking at the heart of my fears. I would thank them for making me panic and sweat and curse them to no end. I would thank them for making me confront my lack of control, for making me stare long and hard into the face of the things I fear and still go on. I would thank them for helping me make one fear a companion instead of a nuisance, a compadre instead of an enemy...


    I have no idea if you even keep this blog running, but I linked to it after searching for descriptions of Oh My God Road that could explain the road better than I. That is definitely a fear inducing road. I used to think Loveland Pass from the ski area to the top was scary. After chickening out after two switchbacks going up Oh My God Road, I no longer think that.


    I, too, have travelled the 'Oh My God' road from Central City to Idaho Springs. Although it has been 25 years ago, that experience will always carry with it extended bragging rights for those of us brave enough to make the trip!

    On 1/17/2011 7:44 AM Steve L said...

    I lived in Central City before the casinos abounded. It was a great experience.The Oh my God Road was one of the best parts of it! Imagine watching the 4th of July fireworks from Idaho Springs explode at eye level! Awesome


Visit InfoServe for blogger templates