Not Dead Yet II: Still Not Dead!
September 15, 2000
Sometimes a trip can be rewarded with only one day's ride. Today was that day. I leave Colorado Springs headed west on Hwy 24. This route will bring me through the heart of the Colorado Rockies. I plan on taking a left on Hwy 82 and going through Aspen, Colorado. Not too long outside of town I start to climb. I had had my leathers shipped to me in CS, and after about an hour I stop and put them on. The temperature is dropping quickly as I climb. The air is drying out rapidly as well, and I am shocked to see what it is doing to the exposed areas of my hands. They are white and scaly, a problem that will plague me for several days. I climb to 7000 feet and crest the first pass of the day. The view is amazing. Far, far in the distance I can see another line of mountains. Down in the plain I can see houses here and there, but they are miles apart. I miss my turnoff to Hwy 82 and end up running straight up Hwy 24 to I-70. In the meanwhile, I climb those mountains in the distance. They are spectacular, shoved straight out of the ground. People up here are a bit crazy. Anything that resembles a ledge has some sort of living quarters on it. I think that they could use a bit more common sense in some cases. I turn around at I-70 and go back to Leadville and eat lunch. Hwy 82 is another fifteen miles. This time I make the turn off, and within minutes I am deep into forests that are glowing yellow as the leaves change. The climb up winds this way and that, but I am too mesmerized by the trees. The climb crests at Independence Pass, some 12,000 feet up. I walk around some and find myself feeling the same ill effects I did at Pike's Peak, but not as severe. I take some pictures, and on the way back to my bike I stop and talk to a young woman who has just bicycled to the top. "Liz," from England, has been out for two months bicycling from Oregon to Colorado Springs. She's been sleeping at city parks and undeveloped campsites almost the entire time. I don't feel so tough.
But I am too quickly engulfed in trees again on the way down to care. The views are unreal. The trees, which are aspens, populars, and birches, line the road to provide a golden ceiling with walls. Green intertwines in the same trees, and the moss is beginning to turn red, for the slightest hint of rouge. The way down winds next to another moutain, and across the valley I can see the mountainside awash in color. I stop for an hour or so to take in the beauty. The sun plays hide and seek with the clouds, and the alternating shadow and illumination give life to the breathing, pulsating organism that sprawls across the way. A river runs through the valley, with white slivers highlighting the curves as the water speeds up. The air is warm and light, a gentle touch caressing me and rustling through the trees.
If only Shakespeare or Emily Bronte had come here. Imagine the inspiration.
"Might I compare milady to a warm fall day in Colorado,
with flaxen hair blanketing towering heights,
sunlit eyes breathing life to cold rocks,
whose love like a valley river flows"
Or, in the vernacular of today:
"Yo, them highlights in ya hair remind me of sumpin' I saw once on a postcard from the Colorado Rockies. Ya wanna do it?"
I'll never again think John Denver was sappy. He got it right. Mile after mile after mile. Blind me now so that my last vision is never diluted by a lesser view.
I roll into Aspen pumped and full of energy. I've been on a bike for almost six hours but I could ride that last 80 miles forever. Heaven for motorcyclists is in Colorado. Aspen is rather impressive. Expensive too. The architecture of the houses is rather impressive. I wonder what gene pool the people here are dipping into, because it isn't available to the rest of us.
I end my day in Glenwood Springs. As is my life, even the best day I have ever had riding can not go without a sour note. After registering at the campground, I go to get back on my bike and I knock it over instead. It was entirely my fault, as I knew the bike was unbalanced but I attempted to get on it anyways. With dismay I pick up my bike. The tip of my right lever, which is used for braking, has broken off. Thankfully, that is the extent of the damage. It is more than a cosmetic issue, though, as the tip can hold my hand in place under heavy breaking while getting jarred. Should I need to now, I will likely be able to but the sharp edge may extract a penalty. I set up camp, shower, have my usual cereal and chocolate milk dinner, and go to bed. I fall asleep without earplugs, but I am woken up soon by additional campers. One set is two women, and the other is a single male. The guy is fairly quiet, but the two women are talking and laughing, and later giggling. I put the ear plugs in, and go back to sleep.
September 16, 2000
The next morning I get up and go for my morning restitution. There is one tent next to me, a small pup tent, and beyond that is a dome tent. I assume the guy is in the pup tent. When I return, the far tent is gone and nearby the pup tent's roof is off. In the tent I see a young woman topless, unaware I have returned. Like the Southern gentleman I am not, I avert my eyes and slip into my tent to get my leathers to wear to the store (it is in the 50's), and come back out. The two women were out of the pup tent, and I talk to them some. One apologizes if they woke me up, saying they were "...chatting." I think I would have had a hard time fitting into the pup tent, yet the two women spent the night in there together. They were volunteers for a foot race that was 24 hours, with teams of ten runners taking two shifts each. It starts in Idaho Springs (I don't know where this is) and ends in Glenwood Springs.
The women are gone by the time I return from the store with my milk for my cereal. I notice a slight headache, but I attribute it to the extra effort the pack is causing me with my leather jacket on. Packing goes well, but my headache is increasing. I am feeling nauseous as well. The drive out is fairly easy, which is good because my head is pounding. Right out side of Glenwood Springs the ground is not as lush as what I passed through the day before. I take I-70 west. I plan on stopping for gas at a town about 30 miles into the day's ride, but I miss the exit, thinking it was for a rest area. No problem, the next town is only 13 miles, but surprise, the next town doesn't even have a gas station. I stop and ask a resident for the nearest gas, and I have a choice, go back or go on, each are the same distance away. I don't think I have quite enough. I decide to continue west. At the interstate entrance ramp, there is a Utah Highway Patrol car, so I stop and ask him for the nearest gas. Same news, but the cop says he'll be heading west soon in case I run out. I have fifteen miles, and very little gas. It's going to be tight. I short shift getting up to speed, which I keep to under 50, and when the hills are downward sloped enough, I move over into the emergency lane and shut the motor off, coasting until I am moving to slow to be stable. At one long stretch, where my speed is just enough to keep going if I kick with my leg, two motorcyclists pull up behind me and ask if I need help. I explain to them that it's going to be close, and they offer to flank me until I do run out. I agree, and one goes ahead and the other rides behind me, and the three of us crawl along in top gear but as low as the motor will go without lugging. Slowly the miles creep along. The bike gurgles at the top of one hill, but I crest and continue to coast. One mile from the exit with gas, the bike stumbles and coughs, and I switch over to reserve. I make the gas station without further incident, but I was down to my last five miles, which out here is walking distance. I continue to Loma, and then take a long, lonely road across Douglas Pass. Break down here and it might be hours before someone comes by. The ground is now only sparsely vegetated. High country Rockies, all desert. I make it to the Utah Welcome Center almost incoherent from fatigue and my pounding head. After much deliberation, I decide to camp at the KOA in Vernal, Utah. It is 13 miles west of the Dinosaur National Monument, but also 10 miles south of Red Fleet, where the dinosaur tracks are, and 10 miles east of McConkie Ranch, where there are extensive Native American petroglyphs. A good central location. I only vaguely recall checking in and setting up my tent. Exhausted from some unknown effort, I collapse on my air mattress and sleep for about an hour. When I wake, my headache is slightly diminished, and I go get something to eat at a buffet. While I am eating, I overhear a couple talking about a mud bog and how they have come from Colorado to see it. I talk to them and hear that it is a very large mud bog and truck come from all over to compete. after eating, I take some Tylenol, get my earplugs, and find the mud bog.
My theory that rednecks are everywhere is given a huge boost by what I find. For $12, I am given a rather entertaining show. Yes, these were bona fide rednecks. Even the women, who were fairly attractive and well dressed, were full blown redneck. If a truck put on a good effort, they cheered as loud as the guys. I have to keep reminding myself that it is cold as hell here six months out of the year. The mud bog is around 100 feet long and pretty soupy. I miss the first two classes, and so watch the "stock" class. The trucks huff and puff and generally make it through, with only one failure, where the front differential blew out with a loud bang. I am still reeling from what I saw during intermission. First off was the fairly normal car roll attempt, where one gathers up speed and then drives one wheel up a ramp and tries to roll the car as many times as possible. There is only one entrant, as this is more display than entertainment, and he only manages one complete roll in each of his two attempts before damaging the car too much to attempt any more rolls. Then a guy blew himself up with dynamite. Yes, I'm serious. The guy sat in a chair behind a blast shield and blew himself up with four sticks of dynamite. There was a count down from ten, but it went off at two, and when the initial blast could cleared I could see the guy rolling away several feet from the blast. Nothing remained of the chair or the blast shield. He laid on the ground for a few moments, then sat up with assistance, shook his head a couple times, then stood up, took his helmet off and waved to the crowd. Oh yeah, a monster truck crushed four cars, even running over them backwards.
The second round of runs was fascinating. I don't know why the "Open" class ran before the "Modified" class, which ran before the "Stock" class. Usually it is the other way around. In any event, the "Open" class entries were awesome. Blown and nitroused alcohol monsters pumping out 1500 horsepower, they would start off fast for the first 30 feet or so and then something would kick in (probably the nitrous) and they would suddenly accelerate like a rocket down the rut. They took farther to stop than they had gone through the mud. One literally looked like it was capable of taking off. These explosions with wheels crossed the three foot deep 100 foot long rut in a little over two seconds.
After all the truck runs were done, the climatic entertainment took place. The car that had been used for the rolls in the first intermission was lifted up onto its rear bumper, with long 2x6's placed from the ground up to near the front wheels at a forty five degree angle. Then the guy who blew himself up got in another car and drove real fast and crashed into the upright car. That car went flying up and the guy drove under it. Then he and his son, who had driven the monster truck from the first intermission, got into their project vehicles. His was a transforming monster truck that changed into a 20 foot tall robot, and his son's project was a tank powered by a 1300 horsepower Chevy engine. They got on either side of an mid-80's car that someone had earlier poured gasoline into the interior of, and shot it up with fireworks and set it on fire. Then the local fire department came out and put the fire out and sprayed the crowd on the far side as well. I'm not making any of this up. I wished I had remembered to bring my camera. What was really, really mind-bending incredible is that no beer was sold here at all and there were no drunk people. For whatever beliefs the Mormons may have, they sure know how to have good, clean, family oriented fun.
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