GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Every day Pat Conway works, she starts out with a 40-mile drive that takes her through some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet, a point that she readily — and happily — acknowledges.
And Conway, manager of the Glenwood Springs branch of the Garfield County Library District, has always been unfazed by the fact that others have viewed the drive between the village of Marble and the city of Glenwood Springs as a way of strengthening one’s hands by gripping the steering wheel for dear life.
Conway, 63, and her husband, Alan, live in Marble, and the two of them together make the long commute along the Crystal River, past Redstone and Carbondale, and then along the Roaring Fork River to Glenwood, with little muss or fuss.
“It is absolutely beautiful,” she said of the commute. “It is driving through paradise every day.”
For example, she said, while making the drive on Friday, “I saw a huge herd of elk at Penny Hot Springs,” hanging out on the eastern bank of the Crystal River in the Filoha Meadows open space.
Conway said she moved to the Western Slope in 1993, after living on the Front Range in the Denver area for the previous couple of decades.
Top of the world
A native of Michigan, she chose to move to Colorado at the age of 24 because she had wanted to live in or near mountains ever since catching a glimpse of the Bavarian Alps as a 16-year-old and being “absolutely captivated” by the idea of living at the top of the world.
While living on the Front Range, she worked at various jobs, including seven years in the mental health counseling business for the Jefferson County Mental Health Center, followed by 14 years as a community service officer with the Westminster Police Department.
“I was the closet liberal,” she joked about her time at the police station, adding in a more serious tone that the job “broadened my understanding of all types of people.” She said she was always a tolerant person by nature, but the job with the police taught her to “appreciate the points of view of others, even if I disagreed with them.”
She also met Alan, her future husband, while the two were working at Jefferson County Mental Health, she as a paid staffer and he as a volunteer while he worked toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
And when it came time to move on to the next step in their life together, she said, they picked Glenwood Springs because “we always wanted to live in the high country.”
Plus, she added, “I’m a pretty adventurous person. I think sometimes you have to throw it all up in the air and just do something. That was my midlife adventure.”
The two had no plans when they moved to the area, but soon got jobs doing maintenance and management at Avalanche Ranch, a guest ranch on the Crystal River halfway between Carbondale and Redstone.
“That was something completely different than either of us had ever done,” she said with a note of pride. “It was a tremendous amount of fun ... a wonderfully enriching experience.”
After a year of that, she got a job as an assistant librarian at the Glenwood Springs branch library at the corner of 9th and Blake, and ultimately the couple moved to a house in Marble that they rented for a while and then bought.
She has been manager of the Glenwood Springs branch since 1998, and recently oversaw the move from the building where she started out, to the library’s new quarters at the corner of 8th and Cooper.
They also started a small business in Carbondale, Tools For Living, to take advantage of Alan’s skill at fixing all things electrical and pneumatic, which Alan still manages. They moved the business to Glenwood Springs recently, to 1301 Grand Ave., Conway said, so they could carpool together from Marble.
“I think you have to be part hermit” to enjoy living in a remote hamlet such as Marble, Conway said. “I’m half introvert and half extrovert, so I fit in.”
She is not, however, active in Marble politics, but “I enjoy all different kinds of people. I appreciate all the differences, the different qualities in people that are attracted there.”
She said both she and Alan are cautious drivers, and that the only encounter they have had with large mammals on the highway was when a deer “jumped onto our car” when they were only about two miles from Glenwood Springs.
“We never had a scratch on either of us,” she remarked, because the airbags deployed.
On Highway 133 between Marble and Carbondale, she admitted, “I’ve come close, but I’ve never hit one.”
And she has never gotten stuck, which she attributes to the fact that she drives a Subaru all-wheel drive vehicle, equipped with studded tires in the winter.
But, she continued, she has helped out other motorists in trouble, such as a car that drove off Gunnison County Road 3 (the Marble Road) and into a ditch.
She was able to pull the car out, she said, because “Subarus think they’re trucks, and I’ve never wanted to tell my car anything different.”
She said she never misses city life.
“I am not sure I could live in town, any town, ever again,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “We like to bike, we like to cross country ski, and we like to snowshoe. You can go out your front door and be hiking. We are blessed to live close to wonderful scenic features that many people drive many days to see.”
And the commute, she said, gives the two of them a good opportunity to talk, whether about the coming day as they head down from Marble, or about what kind of a day it was as they head for home.
”I just love spending time with him,” she declared unabashedly and proudly. “How many people can say, after all that time, that they’re still absolutely in love? And he still makes me laugh.”
“I am not sure I could live in town, any town, ever again. We like to bike, we like to cross country ski, and we like to snowshoe. You can go out your front door and be hiking. We are blessed to live close to wonderful scenic features that many people drive many days to see.”
Manager of the Glenwood Springs branch of the Garfield County Library District