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 can feel the tension of my shoulders and my jaw as I roll away from the dirt lot my camper is parked in.
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.
It takes me 45 minutes. I pass dozens of cars. I pass on the double yellow line sometimes, but I know my BMW is fast. Fast enough to go by in only a couple hundred feet.
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 feel the expanse of freedom. The relaxing of my body into the seat of my motorcycle, I can feel the surface of the road, the wind beating my shoulders and head, I can smell the moist dirt, the cows bodies, and mint…. I keep smelling mint.
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.
I am speeding through a postcard. I pass through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison… tiny towns with three digit populations. No gas station. Tilted barns. I ride for hours with little traffic and a half smile under my black helmet. I am whole again.
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 check in and ride to a steak house about a quarter mile down the street.
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.
They peg me within a few minutes and waste no time in letting me know they are looking for a third party for the evening… He says she’s never been with a woman, she says I’m cute, I say “I don’t do taste tests”, put on a smile and my jacket. He’s trying to buy shots for the bar but I have to get my moto back to the hotel and this trip is not about that. This time.
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.
About halfway there in Ridgeway… As I lean into a left turn, there is a hot air balloon rising against the green mountain directly in front of me. The sun catches the white, orange and yellow spiral pattern of this brilliant morning surprise. I stop the bike on the shoulder and only have time for a phone camera photo. I am disappointed with the picture but am thrilled with the memory of this unexpected joy.
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.
The compact, bustling valley is sheltered in the gaze of immense gray, misty stone mountains. There are waterfalls winding down their hulking faces.. Like tears of joy for something still beautiful and unspoiled. Freckles of juniper and scrub brush.
There is real magic here.
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.
The women here are spectacular. They all have gym memberships and throw up after every other meal… That last part I made up. I know it’s really not very nice to say.. It is however, difficult to understand how so many women from a certain demographic can attain such a perfect level of physical aestheticism.
They are very bright. This is not made up or forced. I love meeting them.. even casually. It is enormously refreshing to be surrounded with minds that are turned on and acutely active.
The men are equally alive. I haven’t encountered a one that is not driven in some way.. Not a man without a goal. Not someone who is in limbo, waiting for life to Judy-chop their lights out while they buy Lotto tickets, watch re-runs and eat chicken- fried steaks…. (I’ve had a chicken fried steak.. I even liked it until I discovered it might stop my heart and make my ass enormous after a few more)
I meet my old friend… He should be the mayor. He knows every third person that walks by him. He is always gracious and stops to talk. He takes me on a tour of the city… Its more of a whose who person tour.. We go to the park, shows me camping areas, and the LZ for most of the launches. He tells me how Telluride was when he was growing up. I am fascinated by his personal history here and am feeling lucky to be hearing it when my little friend calls me from Moab.
“Where you at?”
“how far is that from Moab?”
“get on your bike and get here now!”
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.
Coming down the mountain, I’m thrilled as the temperature climbs slowly and as I reach the desert floor, I dry quickly in the 95+ degree desert heat.
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.
Light raindrops wake me and I take a couple minutes to let the sleep drain out of my head. I decide this isn’t the day to fly and hop back on the bike.
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 wiggle out of my too-cold sleeping bag and untie my paraglider from my bike, unfold it and spread it out over my sleeping bag, crawl back in and snuggle under my wings layered warmth.. It’s like someone turned the heater on. I smile big and doze off comfortably until morning.
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 feel like this is the end of the trip, I still have several hundred miles to go but the whimsy of choosing my next destination is no longer a realistic option. I have to head home. I wind my way East on two lane roads, there are unconcerned cattle plodding along the shoulders and packs of wild turkeys making beady eyes at me as I pass close by.
The Flaming gorge is spectacular in this early morning light.
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.