I am angry. Everything makes me anxious. I am mad at the lady at the campground. She doesn’t know how much I am paying in tax for my accommodation and she can’t write me a proper receipt. She has written my reservation down wrong three different ways. I wanted to load my bike and leave by ten but I am getting Shanghaied by dozens of little things.
Everything is a source of irritation. It is three o’clock in the afternoon. Way too late to leave. The afternoon wind and thunderstorms are already threatening. Finally, Scout is picked up, my motorcycle is loaded and I am dressed much too warmly for this hot Colorado summer afternoon, but I am about to ride my bike into the mountains for several hours. I should be dressed for success…. Or at least, to minimize a high speed crash.
I am fighting with Friday afternoon traffic out of town and I’ve taken a wrong turn onto I-70. I have to jog back into Morrison to get back on the state road I want to ride.
The city is fading quickly from my memory. The road becomes less crowded and finally I come to the top of the pass. It is a spectacular transition. I love this stretch of road. It opens up onto a high, wide misty plain… bright green, bucolic, perfectly flat grazing land.. Little black dots of Angus and Hereford cattle grazing peacefully. It is a transition in my heart. It is the moment from when I leave the city that I feel like I can breathe freely. Like the air finally reaches the bottom of my lungs.. For the first time in weeks.
I am headed in no particular direction…. Well, I’m pointing the moto towards Telluride, Colorado. I have heard how pretty it is for years now and think that this might be a great opportunity to check it out. The other thing I want to do there is fly. I’m hoping to meet up with an old friend I think might be there. I’ll call him when I get into town.
Each mile brings me closer to myself. I watch for wildlife on the sides of the road. I am aware of everything around me. My senses are focused and alive. My chest and lungs are filled with the Collegiate peaks in the soaring Sawatch range.. Mt. Antero, Mt. Princeton, Mt Harvard, silent giants sliding by.
It is dark now and there are bright fingers of lightning reaching out of a nearby cloud to my right. I can’t hear the thunder, but it still seems like a good time to stop. I am in Montrose, Colorado. I can’t tell you anything about it except that the hotel is very friendly and there are some bars and restaurants in town. It is bigger than I thought it would be.
I feel awkward here. It is very white-Republican. I am sure most of the trucks outside have guns in them and a few of the young cow-fellows inside too. Everyone is wearing either a cowboy hat or ball cap. Except for one blonde gal at the bar. She’s cute, except she is busy being bored to death by a hat-wearing older cowboy who is failing miserably at holding her interest. He is talking about Elk hunting and what time he goes to bed.. She is yawning but valiantly trying not to be rude to her unamusing suitor.
I am almost finished with my fish and chips when a Harley couple walk in, order loudly and sit down next to me and the boring cowboy. Ruth is her name. She’s a lively, young-looking 50 something. she has a brilliant white, toothy smile… She’s got all her teeth, so this is must be a well-off Harley-image couple out enjoying the countryside, looking for a good time. He’s handsome, shabby-sheik in his Harley leather and well groomed, short cropped, graying beard and mustache, mussed salt and pepper hair, straight white teeth.
I wake at 5:50. Whether I like it or not. It is still dark but I get up and start loading the bike. Clip on the bags, strap down the wing, zip my jacket on and with the turn of a key and press of a button, my magic ride roars to life. I love to feel this energy under my feet, butt, hands. I like the clicks the shifter makes and the growl of the motor as I make a left turn out of the parking lot. I roll on the throttle and tell the sleeping Harleys that this ride has started.
The sun is starting to rise brilliantly behind the mountains… I don’t want to miss a moment of this spectacular dawn, I decide to wait for coffee and breakfast in Telluride. It is only 45 minutes from here.
As I roll into Telluride, I have to stop five or six times to take pictures. I know this is futile… This place is a feeling. Not a picture. There is something.. Aside from its unearthly beauty.
I soon discover that the valley is not normally bustling like this, I have arrived in time for the Telluride Film Festival. This explains the lines of people winding around the block… With otherwise no street or sidewalk traffic. The coffe shops however, are jammed. Twenty or more people waiting in line for a cup of specialty java.
I might have stayed for the night here otherwise, but I am excited to see my friend, I pack my moto and head toward the La Salle Mountains. It is a beautiful day to be on the bike.
It is in the high sixties when I leave. There are dark clouds gathering, but not yet threatening. I spend a couple hours carving turns and zipping through high desert valleys letting the peaceful countryside seep into my bones.
Winding up the La Salles from the East, I note a large overdevelopment near the top of the hill and see another one blowing away in the opposite direction.. It has already soaked some of the mountain roads, I still can smell the ozone and see little pools of water collected in the rumble strips. I have no way of protecting my wing from the rain.
My fears are fully realized as I reach the summit and the damp and drying roads turn into wet, and threatening turns to drizzle, then a hard rain, then a sleety, sloppy freezing mess… I am about to pull over to make shelter when I see two other motos come over the crest toward me. Ugh. I can’t stop. They are racers, not out for a long haul, I assume the other side of the storm is close, so, I drive through the mess. I pop out a few short minutes later, but I’m soaked.
I can’t get ahold of my friends right away, so I find a little hotel..the Kokopelli. Room number five… and discover there is some reportedly excellent music playing down by the river. I check in, buy a ticket online and wind my way down the canyon to hear some of the most fantastic cello, piano and violin I have ever heard… Including recorded music. The cello is my all time favorite.
It’s not just because the river sluicing through the canyon is beautiful and peaceful, or because the setting sun is showing off the brilliant red rock of this steep and tall desert canyon, it is because of all this and they have somehow encouraged amazing talent to travel to this tiny venue and perform for an audience of less than one hundred and fifty people gathered on lawn chairs in the grassy bank of the Colorado river.
The cello and violin to me are like clean, fresh laundry… I don’t know why this is to me. It seems somehow fresh. Like breathing super-purified air.. Clean and cool and good.
I stay for two hours and ride back into town. The wind has really picked up and I have to lean into the gale that has developed during my stay. The dust blowing across the street is sometimes blinding. It is very strong and I have to fight to stay in my own lane.
I find the girls at the bar. They are super fun. Thirteen of them. They are 40-50 something, most of them childless, attractive and successful. All women. All lesbians. A couple I haven’t met. We have a casual, fun, late dinner and I finally hug my friends and excuse myself to get some sleep.
I wake early, at first light. I carefully load my wing and bags. Before the rest of the town is up, I roll out and point the motorcycle toward Salt Lake.
I hit a bird with my right side blinker. A flock of them swarmed me when I was speeding through Price, UT. I saw it smash against the lamp and tumble.
I feel awful for the life I’ve taken, but I don’t slow down a bit.
When I get to launch at the Point of the Mountain, there is no one there.. Just a big, black cloud about five miles away. I’m very tired and find a patch of shade under a bench. I lay on my back on the concrete and immediately fall fast asleep.
I make it as far as Vernal, UT. Right at the bottom of the Flaming Gorge. It is an hour past sunset when I arrive in town and I’m tired. I almost hit a deer on the way in. I really want to sit at a local bar and have a scotch but am too tired to figure out the driving situation. The KOA I pull into is full but manage to convince the attendant to spare me a patch of grass next to her parking lot for the night.
I crawl in my sleeping bag and fall asleep right away, but I wake shivering. I think I’ve been cold for awhile now. I hope it is five or later. I swish my hand around my shoulder where I left my phone last night. I find it in the dark.. it lights up my face with the awful truth… It is only two.
I wake up, fold my wing, pack my moto and find a $5 Lions Club pancake breakfast and a cup of weak coffee a half mile down.
I soak my bones for a couple hours in Steamboat while I wait out another black cloud and some violent wind over Rabbit Ears pass.
My planning couldn’t have been better, the afternoon is filled with puffy white clouds and blue sky. It is a perfect temperature, I am at peace, the roads are slowly drying as I roll through Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby, Winter Park, Empire, Idaho Springs, finally, back into Golden, Colorado.