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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 40.3761, -105.524
When I was first "planning" this trip back in March and April, I figured that I would spend some time on the front range of Colorado (Denver, Boulder, etc - where the plains meet the mountains), and then take about three months to go southwest, up thru the northwest and into Canada, down into Montana and Idaho, across the upper midwest to New England, down the eastern seaboard, tromp through the south, and possibly even make it all the way back to Reno in time for Burning Man. And here I was, Burning Man already just a memory, and I had not made it further east than Denver - my starting location.
After a couple days in Reno to recoup, clean, sleep, and blog, I lit a fire under my ass to get moving eastward in record time.
I left Reno at 2 in the morning - both of my parents getting up to give some more hugs to their Wandering Jew (my mother has called me her Wandering Jew since I was a child. There is Jewish ancestry in our blood, so it's ok for us to use the phrase, but there is also a vine called the Wandering Jew
that she has often likened me to because it just wanders and wanders wherever it wants. I was the only child that my mother ever lost. It was in the grocery store. She had all three kids, but when she turned around at one point, I was missing. Panic!! "Brett! Brett!" A shameless mother yelling and running through the store in wild search of her missing cub. When she finally saw me, I was at the complete opposite end of the long store aisle, mostly hidden - with just my head peeking out beyond the end-cap looking down at her. When she saw me, I giggled with delight and disappeared back beyond the aisle out of view. I was playing! In an instant, I'm sure she went from worried sick to ravenously mad. So, perhaps she didn't quite lose me; maybe it was just my own wandering, playful, exploratory side already shining through, oblivious to the possible stress or pain that it may cause those who love me. And, it would seem, not much has changed. I just go further.)
I drove through the desolate Nevada desert at night. Most people, especially anyone from the eastern US, cannot comprehend the darkness
out there. Hours without a single light, a single resident. Growing up with it - I love it. I cannot stand to drive places like Los Angeles - hours and hours and hours of solid buildings and cars and lightposts and billboards and offramps and onramps. A city needs to have an end. A pool of light in an ocean of black. Lovelock, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain. Tiny towns that seem like miracles, like an oasis under the night sky, though boasting so few, simple, modest lights. Perhaps contrary to my prior statement about hating to drive for hours and hours in pure city light, when driving for hours in their absence, the sight of a far-off yellow beacon in an otherwise barren land somehow brings elation and relief.
A gas station nap in Elko just before sunrise. Woke up two hours later, rested and glad for the sun to be above the horizon (this was somewhat planned so that I would not need to drive east into the rising sun). Across the Great Salt Flats through Mormon country of past and present and in to Salt Lake City. When I first moved to Colorado, I had answered a craiglist ad looking
for a roommate. Chris, from Minnesota, was renting a house and needed to fill the other two bedrooms. Jon, from New Hampshire, moved in on a Friday, I arrived the next day, and the there of us have been friends and in regular contact ever since. Quite the amazing and fortunate random roommate story. I have heard some horror stories!
Chris was attending school in SLC, and I wanted to pay him a visit on my way east. My lunchtime arrival was perfect to grab a bite to eat at the dining commons. We quickly caught up, though it was unfortunate that he was under a good deal of stress (when it rains it pours). Our visit was short since he was just between classes, but then he mentioned that he would be picking up his cousin from the airport later and that they were heading down to Moab for a few days. "You should come!" It was on my path anyway, just a half hour out of the way, would allow me to stake out a camping spot along the river on a sure-to-be-busy weekend, and would give us a chance to hang out some more and de-stress over a campfire with a couple beers.
Having been to the canyons of southern Utah half a dozen times in the past on solo treks and sojourns, meeting up with I70, the Book Cliffs to the north, and the great red walls on the approach to Moab was like a smile and embrace from an old friend. I got a spot without too much trouble. Chris and his cousin arrived a few hours later in the middle of an impressive lightning storm. Beer, whiskey, roasted brats and good conversation over an open fire.
Flash of light and crack of thunder in the Utah desert. Rain blesses the parched ground. Breathe deeply.
Having driven 750 miles the prior day, I decided to just let my body tell me when it was ready to wake up the following day. The light of day did not successfully woo me from slumber until 10am. Even then, I took my time getting ready, giving myself some time to brew up a cup of french press and read for a while. An hour after getting on the road I was back in Colorado for the first time in 3 months. I was not sure what to expect, but as I drove east an east, past Grand Junction and Palisade, Parachute and Rifle, Silt and Glenwood Springs, the dirty green hills and familiar mountain peaks in the distance beckoned me welcome. Welcome back? Of course! Welcome home? That remains to be seen.
A octet in Colorado: a night in Aspen, a night in Avon, two nights in Denver, two in Boulder, and two in Estes Park. A whirlwind of old (but still current) friends and old haunts. My life has been blessed with so many wonderful and amazing people. I'm not the best at keeping in touch and keeping in contact, and I know that, like all humans, I can and have disappointed those who care about me, but I know that there are people from one coast of this country to the other that love me and would do anything for me.
In the spring of 2006 I was working at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. In our communications log there was a note that a hostel in Estes Park was looking for summer help. I got in contact with the owner and we set a time to meet and talk. Expecting a fully-functioning hostel, in which I would just be collecting money and doing laundry and such, I was a little surprised to find a defunct building and a completely unestablished business. The owner bought the building in the 70s and since then it has just sat and collected dust. She wanted to make a hostel out of it, but her independent contract work did not give her sufficient time to do it on her own. I took the challenge and invested my entire self into it. I did yardwork, painting, minor electrical work, knocked out walls, built floors, designed a logo and manufactured signs, designed and created a website and fliers, networked with local businesses and online booking companies, found, retrieved, and installed bunk beds... though it was not my financial investment, I think it's pretty fair to say that I single-handedly opened the Estes Park Hostel by Memorial Day Weekend of 2006.
For most of the summer I was there by myself. Terri, the owner, was occasionally in town, which I would take advantage of and head to the front range. That summer I met so many incredible people and had so many great times and laughs, shared stories and recommendations, and made what is now one of my closest friends. It had been a couple years since I had been to Estes Park, so driving down the final descent into the valley brought uncontrolled smiles and laughs. I even clapped a few times at the rush of memories that flooded my mind.
The hostel was almost fully booked both nights I was there. Late the first afternoon I was there, I was sitting on the balcony couch playing guitar. Three people, including a cute-looking redhead, walked down the street below and into the hostel. I was feeling a little apathetic, a little lazy, and didn't want to be "that guy" at the hostel that tries to hit on every girl at the hostel, so I just sat contently and continued to play. A few minutes later, she appeared came out to the balcony. I simply said hello and continued playing. She listened for a few moments and then asked, "So is this your first time as the Hostel De Terri?" I chuckled a bit and told her how I had helped start the hostel and lived there for an entire summer. We started chatting about the typical hostel things - where are you from, what brought you here, travel, people, etc. Her name was (still is... and likely always will be) Claire. Claire from Albany, in town for a conference. I was telling her about my travels and how I planned to zip across the midwest en route to New Hampshire, where I had some good friends. "Well, if you're in Albany by next Saturday, I have a wedding to go to and I don't have a date yet." It was Friday evening. I was planning on staying there two nights, possibly a night in Denver, and then a few nights visiting miscellaneous friends across the midwest. It would be a rush, but I figured why the hell not?!
We sang karaoke later that night with a number of other conference attendees, including a French pair that sang a hilarious rendition of Don't Stop Believin. "Living in ze lonely vorld..." Still much better than my attempt at Tiny Dancer. Fuck, that song gets high. All but closed the bar and wound up on the roof of the hostel in the cold air looking at stars, sipping on whiskey, and watching Van Morrison videos on my iPhone. That guy's got some soul!
I attempted to go into Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday, but was quickly overwhelmed with annoying tourists that don't know how to drive and think that an elk 200 yards off in a field is reason enough to stop dead in the middle of the road, sport their RMNP sweatshirts like there's no tomorrow and seem to think that taking pictures out the car window is "experiencing the outdoors"... ugh... I took a quick picture at Sprague Lake (only for this blog, so you readers had better like it) and was out of there. The Texans can have it. Cleaned up back at the hostel and did a quick load of laundry - sheets and towels - grabbed a latte and I was on the road back to Denver.
Some good friends in Denver were taking care of my cat, Martin guitar, snowboard, bike, and suits. I also have mail sent there from time to time. They're pretty much my Colorado parents, even though they are both younger than I. I swung by to get my suit in case I needed it for the wedding, met up with another good friend (the one that I met at the hostel that first summer, actually) for a glass of wine and pizza, took a power nap in my truck, and at 10:04 under a cool Colorado sky finally began my journey east.
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