The Land Rover Adventure Part II: Colorado

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The First Morning. This is in Telluride, Colorado. Stepping out to see this is as fabulous as you imagine. I'd show you pics of the 3 bedroom condo I stayed in at this resort, but you'd never believe me. Place was bigger than my house, and I just rattled around in it. Well, mostly I sunk in a tub big enough for four, and an even bigger bed. Guy on the far left? Bob Burns, Land Rover Genius Head Engineer. Bobby is brilliant. And the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. We left downtown Telluride early. A convoy of Land Rovers and Range Rovers trundle through tiny residential streets, then head up a road marked Keep Out Unmaintained Use At Own Risk, or something like that. From that road, you make a left turn into a bunch of trees. Broken mine shafts. Really quiet eerie. We are ascending quickly, and reach about 13,000 ft the first day. I begin my altitude attitude, and flop over in the back seat. If there is a picture of that, the pact better hold and it better not surface. Anywhere. Yes, there is a pact on these trips. This big ol' Bronco was typical of the traffic we encountered on the trail. Most trucks are tricked out with everything from chainsaws to winches, spare gas and tires. Some of the most serious off roading rigs I've ever seen. And not all pretty and shiny like the pretenders you sometimes see in town. Saw an old banged up Hummer that actually looked like it had never been to a soccer game.
13,500 feet. This is the top. This is the group shot LR always takes. Everyone is still smiling because most of us have no idea what is about to happen. This is also how many people it takes to do this. I'm in the middle in white. There is an instructor in every vehicle. Here is an example of some instructors. You literally put your life in their hands, but then again, they are crazy enough to put theirs in yours. One wrong move, and these guys are toast. In Argentina three years ago, a journo hit the gas instead of the brake and nearly snapped an instructor in half. It was horrific, but he jumped out of the way. Straight up a rock wall, just like a flea. He was on this trip. She wasn't. Go figure. You know when you get behind some clown on the street, and he s-l-o-w-s right down to delicately go up the incline to a parking lot? And he's driving a 4X4? Yeah, no. This is what these babies are built to do. All you see is hood in your windshield. The instructors you see are making sure your wheels are planted in the right spots so you don't slip. Much of the rock in this part of the country is shale, and if you erode it with choosing bad lines you can not only slip off the edge of a cliff, you can destroy the road. You have to 'step' on rocks and go slowly enough not to do something stupid, but maintain enough momentum to progress. And the descent begins. This is Black Bear Pass. See that civilization in the distance? That is Telluride. Took four hours to reach that. Four hours of insane switchbacks on the side of this mountain, 3 and 4 point turns on a 'road' only a few feet across. Black Bear Pass is a one way street; you can only legally descend. Land Rovers/ Range Rovers feature excellent terrain response systems. They have names like Rock Crawl, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand and Mud & Ruts. Which I instantly renamed Rub & Tug.
The Candy Wagon. And an assortment of other less flattering names. This was my driving posse. Petrina Gentile from the Globe and Mail, me, and Barb Barrett from Land Rover. I love these ladies. I've been to Spain with Petrina (which was really handy because she speaks a bunch of Spanish and airports were nuts), and Argentina with Barb. A few days in crazy circumstances, and you bond like you wouldn't believe. Because you are high up, you have to drink tons of water. Water has to go somewhere. You have to pull over so everyone can pee - which usually means the women. There is often nowhere to go, so you have to climb up steep hills with no oxygen in your lungs. We look out for each other, and tell ourselves the instructors aren't really peeking. At lunch, all the Land Rover people talked and talked, and every second word was Black Bear Pass. I calmly ate my sweet potato fries, and wondered what all the hype was about. I mean, we'd already done some pretty serious driving, and this was to be the last half of the last day. They kept looking at the sun, gauging sunlight left. I glanced at the map. Didn't seem that far. Took us 6 hours in total. Because this is what it looked like. Bridal Veil Falls, the highest waterfall in Colorado. That's a power station, and a family lives there in the summer. The San Juan Mountains are an absolutely beautiful part of the world. For an overview map of the Black Bear Pass, <a href="">check here</a>. Thanks to Land Rover for an extraordinary adventure.