On Sunday, Father’s Day, my daughter, Becky, and I went on an adventure we had long hoped to. She and I set out to climb Pikes Peak, in a 1948 Willys jeep. From the Springs
the vertical climb is around 8,000 ft. to an altitude of 14,110 ft. We would drive the 19 mile Pikes Peak Highway. We took my dog Sade along for the ride. It was not without incident.
After buying a pass, priced to retire the national debt, we found ourselves three
miles into the drive when the jeep sputtered to a halt. It behaved like it had run out of gas; doubtful, with fuel seeping from the gas cap, that could be the case. The road was narrow and steep; cool and collected, I was not. It was only with the help of four young
men passing by that we managed to get turned around and restarted, down hill. What could be the problem?
Reaching the parking lot near the main entrance I added the remaining fuel from
the reserve can, however, I think the problem was "vapor lock”, a condition common to older vehicles. Having averted disaster, we started out again. The weather was perfect. Becky navigated the WWll military clone up the winding road reliably, with only minor
gear shifting problems.
Within four miles of the top, the jeep would go no further. Shifting gears resulted in no movement. Now What!? Clutch? Transmission? Drive shaft? This time, I was frantic. Luckily, we had our cell phones. After calming down and assessing the situation, I called my son, Ben, to arrange to be towed back down the mountain. What a disappointment… What an embarrassment!!
Ben is pretty bright about things mechanical. He asked if the transfer case lever had merely slipped out 4 wheel drive. I checked it, and surprise!!! The lever controlling the 4 wheel drive had slipped out of position! Everything was in order once more. Second disaster averted, we thanked and congratulated Ben on his remote repair and continued our trek to the summit.
Upon reaching the top we saw vehicles of every description, including the one carrying
the four guys who had helped us out. “So you made it after all,” one said.
Yes we had, but more was in store.
Rounding the corner of the gift shop I saw an elderly woman who had just collapsed,
being treated by two young emergency medical technicians. Having taken the Red Cross First Aid course, I noticed that she was not being treated for shock, the EMTs , were working feverishly to get her breathing. She looked ashen and lifeless; I took off my
poncho and covered her against the cold and did what I could to assist.
To the relief of her family, all visiting from Texas, and the EMTs, she recovered and was
driven down the mountain by the Peak staff. I recovered my poncho and Becky and I had a light lunch.
On the way down the mountain, which can be as eventful as going up, we encountered only high winds until we descended below tree line about 11,000 ft. We stopped at a mountain lake to let Sade go swimming. The water was very cold, but she was not deterred. Oblivious to the days events, she spent nearly 20 minutes just enjoying
The rest of the ride down was without incident as Becky had gotten used to driving the jeep, taking the turns, and was feeling pretty good about her accomplishment. Five hours of riding in an old jeep is the equivalent of a day on horseback. Fully exposed to the
sun and wind, we felt as weathered as parched prairie grass. But we had conquered the peak.
With all due respect to the multitudes chugging colas and flipping burgers this Father’s Day, ours was a Fathers Day to remember.