Biff America: A little patience goes a long way when driving in the High Country |

Biff America: A little patience goes a long way when driving in the High Country

“Holy smokes, what the heck! Look at this bonehead coming up behind us.”

Ellie looked back and said, “Oh my God! He’s driving crazy. Get out of his way.”

We were driving down Hoosier Pass after a ski day in Park County. The roads were bad but not the worst I’ve seen them.

I kept glancing in my rearview mirror as that SUV was taking corners fast and coming from behind at a high rate of speed. “There is a spot at the switchback where I can pull over,” I said.

I put on my flashers and pulled off the road just in time to look in the mirror and see the vehicle fishtail and bury itself backward in a snowbank. After the cloud of snow cleared I could see that it did not look bad enough for injuries. I will admit I took comfort knowing that lunkhead was going nowhere without a tow.

Some guy once said, “I want to die in my sleep like my grandad, not crying out in pain like the folks on the bus he was driving.”

I’m not averse to risks. I backcountry ski where you must be aware of avalanche risks, I occasionally mountain bike on trails above my ability, and I once brought a chess set to a Lauren Boebert rally. That said, driving is the most dangerous thing that I, or most of us, do. It can be particularly scary here in the mountains as many of our guests are not used to operating a vehicle in alpine conditions, and often both locals and guests, are impatient. Now to be clear, I have no idea if the guy who buried himself in the snowbank was a guest or resident; actually, I would guess the latter.

Even when I was younger and dumber, I was a cautious driver. Even now, I seldom speed. I drive at a rate that I feel is safe for my skills and conditions which is admittedly sometimes slower than the speed limit. Anytime I see that I’m holding other drivers back, I pull over to let them pass. I don’t begrudge those going faster than I feel comfortable as long as they don’t endanger me or others.

But having said that, the close encounter with the SUV put a serious damper on what was — up to then — was an amazing day. For the next few miles, I was cursing that driver. Forgotten were the beautiful scenery, the great snow and the fact I was able to keep my mate in sight. Rather I was complaining about the fact that it only takes one irresponsible person to change your life.

Often when I will pull over to let a faster driver pass, 10 miles later I end up directly behind them at a stop light. But that’s okay. I let them pass as much as to not inconvenience them.

It took some willpower, but I was finally able to displace my anger with the great day we had. That was made easier as we got lower on the pass and the roads cleared. We were driving at around the speed limit when, up ahead, we saw a vehicle parked in the center of our lane. As we got closer I saw it wasn’t parked. It was just going about 25 mph on a dry road with a 50 mph speed limit.

The vehicle was a white suburban, with chains on all four wheels, emergency flashers on and a plate from a southern state. 

The guy was obviously out of his element, so I gave him lots of room in case he did something crazy. It did not take long to have a line of cars behind us that could be seen from outer space.

“This guy should pull over,” I said.

“There is no place to pull over,” Ellie said.

“He doesn’t need to have chains on,” I said.

“He obviously thinks he does,” she answered.

“What the heck? Why doesn’t he shut off his flashers,” I added.

“Do we have anywhere we need to be in a hurry,” she asked.

I’m guessing the lunkhead who buried himself into the snow bank was as impatient with me as I was with the guy in the land shark going half the speed limit. Both of us were misguided. We live in a wonderful place that can also be a scary place to drive. Life’s too short and can be even shorter due to being careless or impatient, such as driving like a nut or bringing your chess set to the wrong political rally.

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