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Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Other than the fact that I could possibly run it faster than my poor, old truck can drive it, I absolutely love the drive from Ridgway over the passes to Durango.  It's a dangerous drive.  Narrow roads, sharp turns, blind corners, multi-thousand foot cliffs, no guardrails, no shoulders, and some of the best mountain views Colorado has to offer - making it all the more difficult to keep your eyes on the road.  The first time I ever made the drive was on a road trip with a girlfriend.  I was so mesmerized I pulled over so that she could drive and I could gawk my head out the window and take pictures (actually, it was probably her choice, fearing for her life since I wasn't really watching the road).

Mines, mines, and mines.  And then, just when you think you have passed the last one, more mines!  Driving over the passes (Red Mountain, Molas, and Coal Bank) and historic mining towns, Ouray and Silverton (home of Montanya Distillers, great rum!), gave me the desire to pack up a week's worth of food and supplies and go explore every little dirt road and every old mining structure I can find.  Maybe next road trip.  :)

OH YEAH!  If you read my last entry, you witnessed my sadness that the Colorado Boy Brewery was closed.  Well, it wasn't closed, it just didn't open until 4!  So, I was able to head down, have a pint and some popcorn, chat up some friendly locals, and fill up a growler before hitting the road.  Also, I was able to use some needle-nose pliers to retrieve the trapped CD and my player seems to be in [mostly] working order again.  :-D  Now, I just wish my truck started with 100% accuracy...

Durango didn't see my face until almost 8pm.  As I sit at Macy's Coffeehouse in Flagstaff just a day and a half later, I honestly cannot remember what I did that night.  I assume it had to do with food and a drink or two.  AH!  Now I remember.  A trip to Albertsons, dinner in my truck, a pint from my growler, a couple phone calls, a little bit of wandering, and eventually finding a place to sleep that night (in my truck on the dark street outside of a church...surprise, surprise).

Most of Monday was spent in Durango Joe's coffee shop doing my contract work.  Deadlines are coming up quickly and I don't want to to get swamped at the last minute.  I didn't leave the place until around 4 in the afternoon, a little bummed that I did not get outside to play in the mountains or play in the river at all.  I soon found a park near the Animas River, found a shady picnic table, and spent a decent amount of my time reading and playing guitar (finally writing a happy song, by the way).

After a while I got up to stretch and feel the cool, soft grass on my bare feet.  A somewhat rough looking man, seeming to be around 50, approached me.

"Hey there.  Mind if I play your guitar a bit?"

"No, not at all."

"Great!  I just got released [from jail] and it's been a long time since I've been able to play!"

Playing guitar in parks and near rivers (think Truckee Riverwalk) have led to some interesting times!  His name was (still is, I presume) Scott.  Was incarcerated for 5 and a half months for some "bullshit" theft charges, just got released about a week and a half ago, and has been staying in the shelter in Durango.  Pretty good guitar player, too, mostly playing blues and rock type riffs, not surprising based on his age.  49, turning 50 in September.  We sat and talked and played guitar for probably nearly an hour.  He was having a hard time playing at first due to long fingernails.  "You want some clippers?"  "Yeah!  You've got some?!"  It was like I'd just offered him a hundred dollars.  Much better.

We talked of our travels and of sleeping in trucks.  Talked about beer and women.  (starting to sound like a country song...).  He had lived in Reno for a time; moved away in 98 - the year I graduated high school!  It was fun talking to someone who really knew the town, at least what it was a decade ago.  SOO much has changed since then - more casinos, the train trench downtown, all of the swampland development in Damonte, the Aces stadium...  We shared our experiences with 99c steak and eggs, and I enthusiastically told him about Awful Awful (seriously - how can anyone who has lived in Reno NOT know about the Awful Awful?!).

He spoke of all the great rock concerts he went to at the Hilton (Bally's, MGM, Sierra Grande, whatever you know it by), how his good bartender friend would get him and his wife (not the bartender's wife) shitfaced after taking their keys from them and then calling them a cab home.  He spoke of the years he and his wife spent camping in their truck down by the river, splurging for a cheap hotel a couple nights a week to get some good sleep and hot shower.  He sounded like, and voiced, that he was getting his life together.  A few good job potentials just waiting on an ID, which was in the mail, just days away.  His wife, about to finish a rehabilitation program, was also making steps forward.

Wearing a straw hat, sleeveless shirt, [rather short] shorts, and checked Converse shoes, he said goodbye and headed up to get some grub.  I feel so grateful and humbled being able to meet people like Scott.  Just raw.  Real.  At a low, but so full of hope and positivity.

Shortly after I packed up, also in need of some food for the night.  I was just stepping out of my changing room (the driver's seat) when three dirty campers came up.  I guess between my muddy truck full of camping supplies and the fact that I was still buttoning my shorts and putting my belt on, they thought I might know of a good place to bathe in the river.  I told them what I knew and was telling them about some camping I knew about when I noticed the Live Free or Die plates.

"Who's the Masshole?" I asked.  "Well, I guess not really Masshole, but..."  Two of them were, one from Manchester.  Manshestah.  Having a good friend from the coastal area, I started dropping names.  Turns out one girl was an old friend of a girl who's older sister is now married to one of my best friends, who was a roommate for a couple years here in Colorado (and is kind of an ass...just in case you're reading this, buddy).  We laughed, I called her friend (the younger sister, whom I also know), and then handed the phone over.  Crazy small world!

After chatting and laughing and discussing our collective smell, the lone guy in the trio said, "Hey, so we're gonna go take a quick swim in the river, if you wanna join."  Why the hell not?!  The three of them were on a multi-week road trip, mountain biking as they went, and were, well, quite in need of a bathe.  After formal introductions, we found a good, calm spot on the side of the Animas.  We received some strange looks from passersby and folks across the river as we stood on the bank, changing into our suits.

You know that feeling when something is so cold your heart stops?  Well, that was the river, flowing at high capacity from the snowmelt.  Gasping for breath with every muscle tense, fearing the moment when I would have to dunk my head to wash my hair.  Despite the frigid heart-stopping quality of the shower, it was perhaps the most refreshing of my life!  Oh, and don't worry - we used biodegradable soap.

After reclaiming our breath, orientation, and normal clothing, it was only obvious what we needed to do next...

Enter Steamworks Brewery.  One of Durango's four microbreweries.  That's right.  Four.  We were promptly seated, bodies still trying to recover the lost heat.  While the girls were off doing girl stuff, the young man and I were discussing beer.  He said, "Let's just get a pitcher - they'll both drink IPA."

Hold on!!  Two good-looking girls that mountain bike, road trip, camp, bathe in rivers, AND drink IPA??!

I'm in love.

Over the course of a couple hours, the four of us shared a couple pitchers, some delicious food, stories, and laughs.  They told the story of the creepy man in the hot springs near Rico that offered desperately to get them all to stay at his place.  "I have lots of room.  We can build a fire.  Don't you like sitting by a campfire?"  He might have been successful if the movie "The Human Caterpillar" hadn't come out last year.  I told them about that Aspen man who offered numerous times his spare room.  Sharing stories about creepy men is such a bonding experience!  We were even later joined by one of their old friends from college who happened to live in Durango.

When I had left the coffeeshop earlier I was worried that it was going t be somewhat of a wasted day.  Quite the contrary.  Days like that are what I love most about traveling.  People.  Sometimes, I hate them.  But I love people.  I love connecting.  Hearing stories.  Sharing stories.  It's so easy for me to just hide out and be secluded.  It's safe.  It's protected.  But what good is a life lived alone?  Safe?  In a sense.  Satisfying?  Hardly.

My mom seems to always know someone who is sick or dying.  Practically every year she knows someone who finds out they have cancer, or perhaps someone who has lost the battle.  "But I have a lot of friends", she says.  The only way to keep from seeing loved ones suffer and die is to not have loved ones at all.  And what kind of life is that?
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