The Writers’ Circle: Where is the Overland car today?

Photo courtesy Betty Slade
The Overland car, which was the first car to come over Wolf Creek Pass.

By Betty Slade
Special to The PREVIEW

This is my story. I am a famous Overland car, yet I didn’t end up in the Motor Club Hall of Fame. I never even belonged to the Overland Motor Club. Does anyone wonder where I am today? Does anyone care? I did come to the end of the road, but not to the end of my journey.

In my younger days, I ran with the high society of Pagosa and enjoyed the company of guests, who rode in the elite comfort of my cab.

There have been many stories written about me and printed on occasion in The Pagosa Springs SUN. Stories about previous owners and the first time any motor vehicle dared to cross the deadly Wolf Creek Pass.

The year 1916, someone snapped a quick photo of me, which has been admired by many over the years. I was losing traction on the muddy rough terrain and came very close going over the side of the 10,000-foot mountain pass.

While women cried out and fainted, strong men worked tirelessly under my wheels to bring me to safety. Whew! It was a close call. I still shake when I think of my life cut short before I enjoyed it.

When I was young and foolish, and life was easy and less complicated, no pass was too high for me to cross, too dangerous I couldn’t handle. Not one loose screw or bolt nor one rattle could be heard in my chassis. My black shiny coat shimmered in the Colorado sun.

A group of motorcars planned to cross over Wolf Creek Pass. We would be the first motorcars to caravan across the dreaded pass. Food packed with great care and even a tent for an overnight rendezvous were stuffed deep in my trunk.

I hit the country dirt road early. With grinding tires and brakes to the floor, we arrived at the summit known as the Great Divide.

Oh, it was a day. A picnic lunch of fried chicken, homemade bread and soda pop was packed in a basket and placed carefully in my trunk. We broke up the 41-mile trip and found the idyllic place with the perfect view so I could park and rest my tired wheels. It was a hot day and the needed stop next to a fresh spring where my radiator could be topped off with clean mountain spring water was a nice reprieve.

Everyone exhibited exuberance and excitement. In the clean thin air so high up, only a whiff or two of mothballs lingered from my guests’ Sunday go-meetin’ clothes. Big brim hats with bows, feathers and ribbons shaded the ladies’ faces from the bright sun.

The sounds of laughing, chatting and shouting were heard as we drove to the top of the 10,857-foot summit of the San Juan Mountains. Even close calls next to the edge added to the thrill of the adventure. I didn’t mind the scary edges as my new tires clung to the road. After all, what could go wrong on this beautiful day?

The top of Wolf Creek was breathtaking with all the aspens and pines and the red rocks stretching into the heavens. We crossed the Continental Divide where the water ran two different directions. We descended down the steep incline on the west side of the pass and headed towards the little town of Pagosa Springs. Plans were made to spend the night there, where guests would enjoy one of the bathhouses and a good hot meal at a local restaurant.

Merrily bouncing along the road, without warning, the cribbing that supported the road gave way. I found myself, along with my passengers, dangling precariously over the edge. From laughter to anxiousness, there were slang words blasting out against the grand mountain. In that moment, everything changed from fun to frantic.

Before we were rescued, the infamous photograph was taken as a reminder of this day. We continued on with a different expectancy than when we left that morning. We were more concerned about getting to the bottom of the pass than enjoying the adventure.

A lot of detours have come along the bumpy roads of life. I never thought one day I would be abandoned on a hilltop overlooking Snowball Road, but that’s just what happened to me. I knew it was the end of my journey as little by little I started to rust through the harsh winters when heavy snow covered me for months. The only way I survived was remembering those days gone by.

Then my fate changed; I found myself in an auction with a variety of other old stuff. A bid of $25 was made and accepted. I felt humiliated that my life meant so little to everyone and my true value didn’t count. After all, I carried some important people to various places and always delivered them to their destinations.

Now I found myself lifted up into the air by a forklift onto a trailer, which would cart me to a home on the Lower Blanco. I strained my ears as I listened to plans the new owner shared as she excitedly rambled on and on about me. The man on the tractor, known as Sweet Al, wrapped a chain around my bumper and pulled me off with a big yank. Oh, the pain I felt as my bones creaked and my steel frame bent and stretched.

Now, 104 years later, I realize my journey has just begun. As visitors come down the driveway of the Blanco Dove Retreat Center, I am the first thing they see. Oh, there is always talk about me. I’ve kept some of my parts that readily identified me as the brave car that made the first trip over Wolf Creek.

Very few have seen an Overland car and they curiously look at me with awe. Now painted in a beautiful shade of aqua, I pose with pride as parents take pictures and inquisitive children ask endless questions. My owner tells my story from my point of view as if she sat in the front seat that day in 1916. Visitors even talk of an Overland Club that would pay big money for some of my parts or all of me, but my owner says she loves me and there is “no parting of ways.”

As my days are once again quiet and carefree in a place where love and peace covers the grounds, I sit in the yard with flowers and vines growing up and around me as guests laughingly and lovingly call me a flower box. I don’t mind, because I know I am loved. So this is my story for those who remember me and those who wonder where I ended up.