Thursday, July 21, 2011

Denver Road Trip

"Rugged Individualism" is more than a myth.  It's something buried deep within our DNA, and if we're lucky we get to experience it once in a while.  It's related to challenge, stamina, adventure, self-awareness, self-reliance, survival and perseverance-- and all those things that comprise living.  It's not so much a goal or posture, but a glimpse at our inner potential.  Sure, there are ingredients of fantasy, day-dreaming, denial and rebellion-- but it's more a reaffirmation that we're not necessarily dead yet.   Without self-imposed tests, how can we truly measure our own ability?  Surely not by somebody else's standard. At least that's what I believe. 

So, a buddy (JJ) and I decided to go on a motorcycle ride from Seattle to Denver and back-- not the world's greatest or most daring and dangerous feat, but an adventure nevertheless.  If not at least that, then what?  If you ride, you know what I mean. 

We decided to  load up and take almost two weeks and head out for Denver.  We made the round trip, not staying in a motel or hotel once (although we did spend a couple of nights with friends).  It was mostly ride, fill up the tank, ride, eat, fill up the tank, find a campsite, etc.  Perfect!  That's JJ with the red bike. 

A week earlier, another buddy (Jim) had ridden from Reno to Minneapolis for a vitamin and nutrition convention, and he arranged to meet JJ and I just west of Denver. So, that made three of us. That's Jim with the black bike and all the gear on it.

JJ and I road to Pendleton, Oregon, the first night and then on to Twin Falls, Idaho, by the next evening. We stopped in Salt Lake (worst highway traffic on the whole trip). The third night was in Grand Junction, Colorado, and we met Jim the next morning in Rifle, west of Denver. That's the capitol building in Denver. After resting in Denver, it was on to Boulder and Estes Park in the Rockies.

There were broken kickstands, cops and traffic stops, lost chaps and shirts, bugs and animals.  The best story comes from riding down Granby Pass in the Rockies-- lots of herds of elk.  Anyway, Jim got stopped inside the National Park for speeding (and four other potential traffic infractions and one possible crime)-- but somehow he talked his way into a "warning" and we took off.  We then saw that Jim's headlamp was out.  It was getting dark and we needed a place to stay, but the best chance was 100 miles down the road.  So, JJ went ahead through the dark, followed by Jim without a headlamp, and then me.  Part of the way there was a pickup truck in front of us which tapped its brakes whenever elk and deer ran across the road-- and there were hundreds.  That was living!

We finally got into town and found we could stay in the city park if we first reported in with the sheriff.  The deputy assured us the sprinklers were done for the night, but they weren't.  We had to cover one with the picnic table and another with a garbage can.   

By then, Jim had been on the road about three weeks. No matter how much sun screen you apply, the road and wind will wear out your skin. That's Jim's ear. There's nothing quite like the elements to make you feel alive. We went on up to Rawlings, Wyoming. (Remind me to tell you about a murder charge I defended for Turtle Smith, who fled to Rawlings with a new notch carved in the grips of his revolver. The Wyoming State Penitentiary is in Rawlings, so maybe he was familiar with the town).

Next destination was Grand Tetons National Park and then on to Yellowstone National Park, to stay in Livingston, Montana, where Jim lived for seven years in the 1980's.  (Remind his cousin to tell us how the bullet hole got in the front door of that house).  That's the arch at the north exit of Yellowstone, south of Livingston.

We stayed with a friend in Wisdom, Montana, in the "Big Hole" and saw the 1877 Big Hole Battlefield, which was actually the site of a massacre of encamped Nez Perce Indians, fleeing the Army and hoping to reach Canada.  Chief Joseph led the survivors of his tribe away, but he soon surrendered and said  "I fight no more forever."  The site is a memorial to the slain men, women and many children.  See my earlier post about Levi McCormack. 

Wisdom is really small-- around 100 people-- but of those people, there was a famous guy living there named Carl Miles, who invented some Harley Davidson add-on parts, including the "Heel Guard."   That's me with him after I bought one of his parts and installed it (so I could eliminate my heel shifter).  I'm the one with the light beard.

It could be asked "Is that all?"  No, there was much, much more, but you had to be there.  These little self-imposed adventures aren't for everybody.  But, now and again it's just what the doctor ordered.  There you are, riding along in the sun and wind and rain and dust, in the moment.  And then you drift off into deep thought.  And then you get stung by a bee flying up your pant leg, back into the moment.  And then you start over again.  It was perfect!  Does that make sense?