| This guy is my oldest friend. I met him in the 7 th grade at O.L. Slaton Jr. High. Like many male friendships, ours developed at first as a " Pissin' Contest " , but it gave way years later to the bond that people develop when they go through time and space together. We went through some space together, several thousand miles of it hitchhiking, and even more in Joe's old band van.|
One trip that has forever stuck in my mind is a journey down from Grand Lake, Colorado to the Mineral Hot Springs in the summer of 1970. Grand Lake is located on the west side of the Rocky Mountain National Park, and the trip from there to south central Colorado where the Hot Springs is situated is one of the most spectacular in all of North America. We made good time until we reached the base of Berthoud Pass . There, at the western entrance to the Moffat Rail Road Tunnel, we stalled out and had been sitting for several hours. Now, Jose' was in possession of the last joint, and was in no mood to light it. But, I explained the we had no chance of getting a ride unless we smoked the doobie, and could tell whoever picked us up that we had , " Just Smoked the Last One ". Sure enough, not 10 min. after Jose' relented, and fired it up ..... a red late 40's Chevy pick-up stopped . We hopped in the bed, and the trip just got more interesting with each mile marker we passed.
Now, Berthoud is what lumber jacks call , " A Widow Maker " .... it's high & steep, with lots of switchbacks, and in 1970 there were no improvements as I'm sure there are today. As we moved up the mountain, the weather closed in so our benefactors in the cab stopped and let us into the front. There we were, 4 guys jammed into a 1940's pick-up cab. But the interesting part was the odd couples nature of our party. The fellows in "Ole' Red" were two 17 year-old sons of ranchers from Oklahoma. They had gottin' a wild hair, thrown their saddles in the back of " Ole' Red " and took off for Montana. Somewhere on their trip, they had crossed paths with another hippy named Nathaniel, and he had supplied them with some LSD. Needless to say their politics had begun to change, which is why we go that ride over Berthoud Pass. Like I had forecast, we told them that we had, " Just Smoked the Last One ".
As night began to fall that day we were trying to get through Leadville , Colorado .... North America's highest incorporated city (10,430 feet elevation). Then it began to drizzle, then it began to do that weird Colorado weather thing where it's ice pellets, no it's rain, no it's snow, no it's tiny snowballs. Anyway it was damn cold, even for the middle of summer as every tourist who's ever gone to the Rockies knows. As we reached the south side of Leadville, we began to look for a place to shelter for the night. As our good luck would have it, off on the west side of the road in the darkness, was an old one room school house. We made our way over the barbed wire fence, and into the building that a rancher had converted into feed shed. Half of the room had been used for hay storage while the rest was a large corn bunker. Having no way to get warm, we proceeded to bury our selves up to our necks in a large pile of shelled feed corn .
There we spent the night with just our disembodied heads sitting on that pile of corn. We didn't get much sleep due to the weather and just the plain funny nature of our condition. As the dawn began to break on the upper Arkansas River Valley due east of Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest "14er", we were getting up and shaking off the kernels. Joe wandered to the door to step out side for some relief, and said, " Robert come here ". Off to our west, across the meadow that sloped down to the river were what must have been a thousand sheep, all with their heads pointed straight at that school house, and walking right for the front door of that corn bin. After the shock of that view wore off, it dawned on us the the rancher who owned our little bed and breakfast must on his way. As we scrambled out onto the shoulder of the highway and began walking south again, there came the beat-up pea green International Harvester pick-up of the sheepman. He slowed, gave us the eye ball, but proceeded on. The next time I passed that one room school the place was boarded-up.
Today Jose' owns a furniture and cabinet shop in Sarasota, Fla. and the Yellow Coco Lodge in Costa Rica.
A bit more on Berthoud Pass
Colorado is dangerous ..... and they have the liability laws to prove it. If for example you visit and want to say take a horse back ride at one of the many stables, the only reason you can afford to rent the horse is their liability law. Or you decide to ride the rapids down the Arkansas below Salida, your ticket is made affordable by that law. I'm not sure what the limit is today, but it's just a few hundred grand. Without it, a lift ticket at Vail would be $10,000 instead of the more reasonable $5,000 it is today.
This liability also includes the state of Colorado. Several years ago the Colorado Highway Dept. was working on the east side of Berthoud Pass. It's the east side that's the real joy ride of the two. It's the prototypical mountain pass from fiction. Long grades cut into the side of the mountain at steep angles, and when they ran out of mountain ..... a 10 m.ph hairpin turn . Then another of the same to the other point where the mountain quits, and another hairpin. I forget how many, but this goes on and on until the top of the pass. The mountain is so steep that one can look off the side of the road, and if the trees permit, you can see the road at what looks like your feet just below you.
In nature ... the rocks are always coming down off the mountain so it's up to the Highway Boys to get out there, and control this chaos as best as they can. Thats what they were doing one day with a huge boulder near the top, trying to move it so it wouldn't do the gravity dance all the way to the bottom.
But, it got away from the front end loader, and started down the mountain. Every few hundred feet coming down, it would cross the road. Half way down the mountain it went through the side of a tour bus carrying Japanese tourists, and killed several of them. The bus didn't slow that boulder at all. It went ALLLL the way to the bottom.