by Jennifer Hobson-Hinsley
I honestly believe people are either born with a sense of direction or without one. You either drive past your own house at night, or you don’t. At birth, I was at the front of the receiving line for a sense of direction, my husband was at the back. My husband drives past our house at night, and it makes me absolutely crazy. Crazy hit a new level when we recently drove from our house in Santa Fe to Telluride, about six hours away.
My husband calls me Clark Griswold because I cheerily plan our trips down to every last detail. I will spend hours scanning VRBO and Trip Advisor, write up our itinerary, make reservations at the best restaurant I crowd sourced my friends to find, get the perfect local babysitter after carefully reviewing her references and neatly write our destination on the tab of a manila folder, printing everything to put inside.
Despite my best laid plans and my self proclaimed strong sense of direction, about five hours into the trip my Google Maps had us driving over one of the world’s most beautiful, and most dangerous, mountain passes. At over 11,000 feet, Red Mountain Pass is known as one of the world’s 12 most dangerous roads (ranked by USA Today) and has the highest avalanche hazard in North America.
Snow was on the ground; we had our 19-month-old son and labradoodle in the car, and no cell service. There was no guardrail, because plows need to be able to push the snow off the precipitous edge, down to the iron rich ravine below. The road, while paved, was narrow and blasted out of near vertical cliffs. There were very few cars on the road with us. Before I had my son, I would have been mesmerized by the views and probably thrilled by the danger of it all. Instead, I think I breathed maybe twice over the 23 mile stretch (mostly 15 mph speed limit) as we followed the endless switchbacks past Ouray and finally down into the flatter portion of the final miles to Telluride. I was truly scared.
Because of my mistake, I was determined to take one of the longer but more dependably safe routes home, and had studied the map carefully the day before. But my husband was driving, and disagreed with my directions. I was absolutely certain, because we’d taken the route I’d mapped out before, on a trip to Telluride before we had our son. I felt helpless in the passenger seat, because I tend to remember terrain and the sense of the place more than I feel confident in looking over and over again at the painfully slow moving blue dot on my phone. If I could just get control of the situation, get behind the wheel, I could get us there, I just knew it.
“Why do you always have to be right?” my husband asked.
Then he asked me to get him to Chama, NM and so I did. I looked at my phone and saw a random turn off that would connect near Chama. I wanted to show him I could bend to his will and not always be right. The road, it turns out, was remote, narrow and through the desert of northern NM. I couldn’t believe it. I sat, fuming in my seat, near tears. Here we were in a childish battle of the wills, while our toddler slept in the back seat, unaware that we were fighting or that time had been added to our return voyage. And it ruined our vacation. I had to be right; he wanted to show me how wrong that was. Whatever relaxation we’d experience skiing and hanging out with our friends was erased by the rage I felt about which way was the best way to go home, and how we had not once but twice put ourselves and our family at risk by taking dangerous roads.
It turns out navigation is not the only thing I have to be right about. I have strong feelings about a lot of things and I know it’s hard for my husband to deal with. My drive to find the best and do the best of everything is part of my personality, just like his tendency to be spacey means he drives past our driveway. Each of us is longing to be heard, but too proud to allow the other to be right. Over time, it eats away at a relationship. At this point I know it’s a choice between being right, or being married.
Jennifer Hobson-Hinsley is a business owner, mother and wife based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.