Red flags were going up when I saw the spotless white sedan.  I knew I was in trouble the minute I saw the red and white license plates.    It was going to be a slow drive up the hill to Nederland.

Years ago, we went to a party hosted by some friends in Nederland.  Their daughter arrived late to the party, explaining:

“I got stuck behind a turtle in Boulder Canyon.”

My face belied my confusion.  Turtles?  Turtles crossing the road?  Huh??

She laughed as she looked at my expression.

“Not real turtles.  The turtles are the cars driving incredibly slow, like the tortoise moves.  I call those painfully slow drivers, turtles.”

The name stuck and routinely my husband and I will use the expression.

“Sorry I got home late, I got stuck behind a turtle.”

Now understand I know that I myself have been a turtle.  I’m sure as I’ve navigated strange cities or foreign lands, I have exhibited turtle tendencies.  A year ago, we visited Iceland.  The signs indicated a speed limit of 90 kilometers per hour (which is roughly 55 miles per hour).  We’d heard that you needed to drive slow because of ranch animals like sheep meandering on the roads.  Our first day as we tooled around driving the careful speed of 90 km/hour, we got passed more times than I could count.  I can only imagine how many Icelanders we annoyed.

Wondering if you are a Rocky Mountain turtle?  Here’s some thoughts on how you can know.

  • You know you’re a turtle when:
  • You’re driving spotlessly clean sedan. (No mountain resident ever has a clean car).
  • You’ve got red and white license plates (a dead give away for a rental car).
  • You refuse to use the turnout lane.
  • You drive in the left hand land while in the passing zones.
  • You speed up in the straight sections and stomp on the brakes, at any part of the road that doesn’t go straight.
  • You’re driving 15-20 miles per hour below the speed limit.
  • You’re using the brakes while driving up the hill.
  • There is a line of 10-20 cars behind you.
  • You are oblivious to the line of cars piling up behind you.
  • You have a death grip on the steering wheel, and are staring straight ahead, lest you careen off the road.
  • You think the rest of the drivers are lunatics driving at ridiculous breakneck speeds.

With the turtle I drove behind today, I finally ended up having to go in the right hand lane to pass him.  As I glanced over, his eyes were locked on the road in front of him.  I can only imagine the thoughts in his head “these roads are super scary here in Colorado!”

Lest someone thinks I’m being harsh to our out of town visitors, I really bear no ill will towards them.  As a transplant, I get how scary mountain roads can seem, and that it takes a long time to get comfortable driving them.

But please don’t be mad at me either.  I’m just trying to get home before my ice cream melts.

As a long-time resident of Nederland, I’ve driven this road thousands of times.  All I ask is that you occasionally glance in your rear view mirror and use the turnout lane.

Happy driving!