Livin’ the Dream … The Diaries of a Madman

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KOWBOY

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But it’s gotta nice place to back into the Aspen grove.

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With a nice view across the meadow to the mountains beyond.

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Spot’s very level, shady, and there’s a nice breeze comin’ ‘cross the mesa top. And it’s free. No babblin’ brook but it’s uncanny how similar the sound is of the wind thru the Aspen leaves.

Been sittin’ here all evenin’ with all the windows open while drinkin’ beer and typin’ all this crap out. Very pleasant location really. Sure enuf peaceful. Ain’t seen nary a soul since I turned off the highway.

Believe these roads are here just for huntin’ access. This here set-up is just a bit behind my camper. It’s either for hangin’ big critters from for guttin’ ‘em or maybe for hangin’ your girlfriend from for some of them sexual shenanigans a fella can see on the world wide web.

20140722_Y_Camp.jpg


And I believe I’m only a coupla hours from the Grand Junction airport.
 

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Wednesday, 23 July


Woke up a coupla times with the wind rockin’ the camper but slept well otherwise. Woke up for good ‘fore the mornin’ sun had even hit my mesa. Packed up the home for short-term storage and eased on down that mesa.

This ol’ abandoned homestead was at the bottom of the road. There was just somethin’ bout it in sittin’ there in all the glory of the first light of day that caught my fancy. Not real sure why, but I really like this pic.

20140723_A_Sunrise on cabin.jpg


Then back on the blacktop and down to see sunrise on Crawford Lake. Had a pretty nice State Park campground there but woulda been a bit of a warm night at only bout 5500’ elevation.

20140723_B_Sunrise on Crawford Lake.jpg


And soon into the town of Crawford. Real small town with lots of cool shops that all seemed to be empty and for sale. Shame. Was one phenomenal lookin’ bar and grill that might still be in bid’ness that I’ve done filed away in the memory bank for a future visit.

And then back into Hotchkiss to complete a loop for the week. A damned-fine loop at that.

And thru Delta back up to Grand Junction for diesel, propane, water and … unfortunately … a passage back thru the stargate to my other world.
 

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CHAPTER 9


Thursday, 07 August 2014

“The Mountains are calling and I must go.” … John Muir

20140808_1_Dallas Creek Camp.jpg


But damned if’n it weren’t a mighty struggle to get to ‘em.

So when I got back to Philly after Chapter 8, I was told to go to Norfolk for the rest of my two-week hitch. After only a coupla days there I was told to move outta my apartment in Philly and haul ass to upstate New York. Accordin’ to the confidentiality agreement I had to sign when I got there, I ain’t allowed to say what the hell I’m doin’ there. All I’m legally allowed to say is to refer y’all to www.hudsondredging.com.

Anyhow … my plane ticket to Colorado was done booked outta Philly and was a whoppin’ 850 bucks. To change the ticket to fly outta Albany, NY woulda been an additional 1250 bucks. Wow. So yesterday I woke up at 0430 and went to my top secret job. Worked till 1400 and then made the 5 hour drive down to Philly and gotta hotel by the airport. This mornin’ I was at the airport at 0600 and got on a plane at 0700. Pulled outta the gate at 0730 right on time. 5 minutes later we were back at the gate while mechanics looked at somethin’ or other. ‘Bout ev’ry half hour or so the pilot would say we’d be fixed in a half hour or so. At 10, the pilot said the flight was cancelled and we was told to get the hell off the plane and have a nice day ... and thank you for choosin’ U.S. Airways.

So our comp’ny’s travel agent was able to put me on a bird to Phoenix at 1540. So I set in the airport for 5 hours and then got on that plane. Due to unusually strong headwinds we lost time goin’ across and cut into my connection time bad. I had to hoof it to two terminals down when we got to Phoenix. By Gawd I ain’t gonna run thru no damned airport. Y’all remember them ol’ OJ Simpson commercials on the tee-vee where he was hurdlin’ chairs and stuff in the airport? And look where that got him. But I sure was hopin’ to get to Colorado so I was doin’ a very brisk walk and got to the lil’ plane to Grand Junction as they was makin’ last call. Most excellent.

Which put me to my junk ‘bout midnight East Coast time. Down the road to Delta I go with a tremendous tailwind pushin’ me thata way. I was afraid my City Market would be closed. And it was. But I was damned surprised to see Hoolies Bar and Grill was closed as well. My basic plan was to just get drunk there and sleep in the parkin’ lot. So down the road I go again … with no plan whatsoever. I was tired.

Went on thru Montrose. There was a few RV’s camped out in the parkin’ lot of the WalMart there but I’ll drive all friggin’ night ‘fore I stay in the parkin’ lot of a WalMart. Maybe I’ll head towards Telluride. Ain’t been there in a very long time. So make the turn at Ridgway instead of goin’ straight to Ouray. Sure am tired.

After a bit, I spy a sign for National Forest access which mize well be a sign sayin’ “Kowboy you can camp here”. So off I go up the dirt road with my ONE big-ass KC light lightin’ the way. Two miles up there was a fork in the road so I went left. 2 miles after that was a locked gate for private property. Bummer. So back to the fork and turn right. 4 or 5 miles later I crossed into the National Forest and started desperately lookin’ for a place to get off the road and go to sleep. In the first spot, I can see the reflection of taillights so occupied. Second spot couldn’t see nuthin’ so I hiked a short distance with my flashlight and confirmed the spot was empty. And right on Dallas Creek to boot. Parked the truck and was asleep within 10 minutes. 3 in the mornin’ East Coast time.
 

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Friday, 08 August

Woke up to find I was actu’ly in a pretty nice spot. 40 degrees. Dallas Creek was rollin’ nicely.

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But I got no grub. Yet I hate to not see where a road goes. So on up a short distance I go to find there’s a trailhead parkin’ lot and then the road’s blocked.

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So back down the road I go in search of breakfast. Here’s lookin’ back up the valley I was headin’ out. Without a doubt, very nice.

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And about an hour later I was parked on the main drag of Telluride. Which is called Colorado Avenue.

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Fantastic breakfast at a local bakery and some shoppin’ in the nice lil’ stores. The lady at the t-shirt shop was hot so I struck up a conversation of the campin’ opportunities close to town. She said the Town Park has its own campground but it’s really hard to get a spot. No reservations accepted … just first come, first serve. Also got the scoop on the local bars and off I went to the campground. Very nice lady at the campground office said ya just find an open spot and claim it then come pay for it. So in I go. And got crazy lucky that some folks was pullin’ out of a spot. I damned near clipped their bumper as they was leavin’ cuz I was pullin’ in so fast behind ‘em. And the spot was one of only a few that are right on the lovely San Miguel River.

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23 bucks for the night. Real nice place. After a nice nap it was an easy walk to town for some more shoppin’ and drinkin’. As far as shoppin’ goes, by far the coolest thang in town was at a bicycle shop just off the main drag. They had a mountain bike there with friggin’ 5” wide tires! As y’all may recall, my demise on my bike back in Nevada was sand and gravel. I ended up walkin’ them sections. This bike shop had a pea gravel parkin’ lot in back and so for comparison I hopped on a 29’er real similar to what I had and I weren’t able to pedal across that gravel. Then I hopped on that monster bike and pedaled across there like it was paved. Unbelievable. Carbon-fiber frame and even with them tires from hell, the bike only weighed 27 lbs. I can shore ‘nuf picture my fat ass ridin’ on them fat-ass tires this winter when I’m back in the desert. Gonna have to look into that.

Not near as many bars here as there are in Crested Butte but was a good time anyways. The view of the surroundin’ mountains from anywheres in town is phenomenal.

The New Sheridan Historic Bar was prob’ly the nicest bar of the lot.

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The Floradora Saloon was a good one as well tho.

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The Last Dollar Saloon weren’t really much but had a really hot barmaid.

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Sure was nice to just stumble back to my house and crawl in bed. A LOT can be said for that. Crested Butte needs a campground in town real bad.
 

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Saturday, 09 August

Right chilly this mornin’ when I awoke. Low 40’s I reckon. And I still ain’t got no grub. So I put on a jacket and walk on into town to the bakery. Sausage, egg, and cheese on a fresh-baked bagel and one of the finest apple fritters I’ve ever ate. They sure got good vittles at the shop named Baked in Telluride.

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Then back to the house and break ‘er down for travel. The thought of followin’ the fleet of rental jeeps up and over the pass just didn’t int’rest me none today. Not sure why but reckon don’t really matter why. And I think that’s pretty cool. So I backtracked down the road outta Telluride.

Saratoga Springs, NY is a drinkin’ mans town. And it’s horse racin’ season to boot so the town is jammed up with folks that spend their whole vacation time at the track durin’ the day and the bars at night. Lotsa fun. So I was workin’ 11 or 12 hours a day and then drinkin’ 5 or 6 hours. Which is how I ended up at the Southside Laundromat in Montrose. Cuz I done brought me a suitcase of dirty clothes with me to Colorado since I didn’t have no time to wash ‘em in NY. And also hit a brand-spankin’ new, monstrous City Market for some grub and to top off the diesel. Then East on Highway 50 to the gigundous Blue Mesa Reservoir again but this time hang a right to go south towards Lake City. When I had come over Engineer’s Pass from Ouray awhile back I noticed some bars in town that appeared to have potential but they was closed cuz it was too early in the day. Figure I’ll give ‘em a try. Maybe I’ll just barhop this whole trip.

The ride south on Highway 149 was really nice. Had some hellacious climbs and descents and eventually met up with the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Beautiful.

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Then got into Lake City. I remembered an RV park at the south end of town and pulled in.

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Place was slap full up with big-ass trailers and there weren’t an empty spot to be had. But the owner folks were really nice and I explained I just needed a legal spot to park for the night the size of my truck. Told ‘em I didn’t wanna have my rig towed outta town and I fully intended on gettin’ drunk and can’t afford a DWI. They gotta kick outta that so me and the husband walked the grounds and found a spot by the dumpster that I’d fit in. Also right on Henson Creek. Fella trimmed some tree branches for me and we got ‘er level in no time.

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Paid ‘em 25 bucks and walked on into town. The town has exactly three bars. No more … no less.

The cream of the crop is the Restless Spirits Saloon. Barmaid was just stunningly beautiful. Not what I expected at all in Lake City. Tried to tell her she could make some damned good money tendin’ bar in a real town. Great bar.

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Next door was The Depot Saloon. Barstools were bolted down to keep ya from tippin’ over on ‘em. Good bar.

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And around the corner was the Packer Saloon. More of a restaurant really.

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Reckon I had a handful or so of beers at each one. Some friendly locals and a few tourists. All in all it was a mighty fine evenin’. And a most pleasant walk back to my home next to the dumpster to wolf down some fried chicken. Mighty fine fried chicken at that. Couldn’t hear the dumpster none. Sound of Henson Creek sure put me right to sleep tho.
 

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Sunday, 10 August

Woke up as the sun was comin’ up. Had left the windows open all night and was nice and cool but not real cold. The RV park’s gotta real nice bath house and I took a long, hot shower. Most excellent. And cooked me up a big ol’ breakfast. Gonna be a great day.

Done bought me yet another guide book yesterday in town that tells about some of the forest service roads. Looks to be a road that goes up to a lake down towards Creede. Since that’s the way I’m headin’ anyways, reckon I’ll give it a shot. Most roads that go to lakes are well beaten paths and packed out with tourists tho. We’ll see.

So start pullin a hard, twisty grade right outta Lake City as I proceed South on Highway 149. Nice shot lookin’ down the valley at Lake San Cristobal.

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And then an o’ficial turnout for a viewpoint that had a nice sign that says ev’rythang a fella needs to know.

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Further up the road is another turnout where a fella can see the Slumgullion Earthflow that made the lake. Lil’ hist’ry for ya here folks.

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20140810_E_Slumgullion Earthflow.jpg
 

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Then up and over the Slumgullion Pass at 11,530 feet. I really like the way my junk pulls these passes. Worry free and easy as she goes. Keep goin’ and it’s up and over Spring Creek Pass to cross the Divide at 10,898 feet. And down to Forest Service Road 520. This is the road that goes to the headwaters of the Rio Grande River and up over Stony Pass. But I ain’t doin’ all that. I’m turnin’ off on Forest Service Road 521. Which is where this here sign is.

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I decided to keep goin’ By Gawd. Was a well-traveled road up this beautiful valley. Mountain on the left is burnt up, the mountain on the right ain’t. Hope I’m headin’ to the right.

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The well-traveled road ends at a log cabin community named Wilderness Ranch and the road becomes a narrow jeeper trail that goes to the left and just skirts the burnt area. Here’s a critter that don’t seemed to mind that his woods are burnt slap up.

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Road continues to skirt the burnt woods and goes across a nice lil’ valley. Roads ‘bout the same width as my junk and don’t seem to be traveled much.

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Then goes into some narrow tree sections that were tight for the camper.

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And breaks into another long valley. You can see the road goin’ all the way up.

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Got some light rain and hail as I kept easin’ on and then went into the burnt up woods. At this point I weren’t sure if’n there was still a lake there or not … or if there’d be a livin’ tree next to it.

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20140810_O_CR 521.jpg
 

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But there is a lake! Regan Lake to be precise. And there ain’t nary a soul here. Unbelievable.

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I followed the narrow-ass, off-camber road all the way ‘round the lake to where the road ends. That’s the most off-camber I’ve had my junk … and I don’t like it. But sure is pretty lookin’ back across the lake. That rain shower had just passed over me.

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As I was easin’ down the road next to the lake, I could see a cabin on the far end. I just assumed it was another ancient, abandoned one like’s all over these mountains. When I got to the end of the road, the cabin looked ancient alright … but not abandoned.

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Complete with an excellent lil’ outhouse. That had a modern toilet seat, toilet paper, and even baby wipes for that fresh, clean feelin’. I didn’t open up the lid.

20140810_T_Regan Lake Cabin Outhouse.jpg
 

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Nobody home but the door’s unlocked so mize well see what’s up. Kinda cool. Kinda creepy. Wood stove ready to go. Cooktop that just needs a propane bottle. Lights all wired to an extension cord that runs outside to the back of the cabin to hook into a generator. Pots, pans, dishes. Bunk room in the back. Guest book on the table filled with folks’ names from various parts of TX. Signs around to leave it clean and haul out your trash. For some reason the place just gave me the heebie-geebies.

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But right close by was a real nice … and rare … level spot. And that my friends, is home-sweet-home.

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20140810_X_Regan Lake Camp.jpg
 

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The rain and hail came and went pretty reg’lar for a few hours. Didn’t bother me none in my happy lil’ home. And didn’t seem to bother the chipmunks none neither. They was thick. Reckon all the folks that stay in that creepy lil’ cabin must feed ‘em.

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The clouds parted just as the sun was fixin’ to go down over the mountain. I don’t care who ya are … this here’s a damned good picture.

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After I took that pic, I noticed some movement on the shoreline off to my right and got out my binoculars for a look-see. It was an elk critter with a huge friggin’ rack of horns. Too far for my cam’ra but had a good view with the binocs. What a majestic critter! He was just mindin’ his own bid’ness wadin’ down the shoreline. Sure hope some damned redneck don’t shoot ‘im this fall.

There was two geese livin’ on that lake as well. When they went to honkin’ the echo in that box-end canyon was incredible. And a mama duck with a half-dozen young-uns swimmin’ behind in a perfect line. Such a pretty place with pretty critters.

I ain’t got no problem shootin’ people … but I ain’t gotta licka use for shootin’ no critters. And that’s all I’m gonna say on that.
 

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Monday, 11 August

Woke up with all the covers pulled over me. Snuck my arm out just enuf to turn the furnace on. Sun just comin’ up. Mid 30’s. An absolutely beautiful mist risin’ up from the lake.

20140811_A_Regan Lake Sunrise.jpg


Folks … I was alone on a Colorado Lake. Do not doubt for a minute that I didn’t recognize the significance of this event. It ain’t never happened before. And highly unlikely it’ll ever happen again. Most these Colorado lakes have roads graded to ‘em so the RV folks can enjoy ‘em. And they’re packed out with tourists. This one had a 4wd road to it. But it weren’t no biggie. I did it in 2wd low. But there just weren’t nobody there. I was the only camper at Regan Lake. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Cranked up the stereo and cooked up a big ol’ breakfast. Then started to ease on out. Just tryin’ not to hit no more trees than I had to.

My junk ain’t quiet by no means. It squeaks and rattles bad. The engine is famous for its clankin’ and I got a straight-pipe exhaust. Even goin’ slow it’s a friggin’ mess. Reckon this here family of Marmot critters was wonderin’ what in the Holy Hell was comin’ down the trail. I seen pictures of these critters in the photo galleries in town that weren’t this good.

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I eased on by this here herd of cow critters as slow as I possibly could. I was right proud that none of ‘em felt the need to get up and scurry away. I done good.

20140811_C_Critters.jpg
 

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It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to cover the 4 miles back to where the road weren’t a jeeper trail no more. Wish I woulda gone slower. Sure was pretty.

Hop back on Highway 149 south. Really nice drive with some spectacular log homes on the Rio Grande River. And on into Creede. Where at least they got the decency to call the main drag Main Street.

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Not really too many shops to go shoppin’ in. One did have a beautiful, hand-braided horsehair hat band that I had to have. So I bought it.

And the town’s only got two bars.

Kips Bar and Grill was cool lookin’. Had a laundrymat and a car wash too. Tough to beat that.

20140811_E_Kips Bar and Grill.jpg


And the Tommyknocker Tavern.

20140811_F_Tommyknocker Tavern.jpg
 

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Both were more of a restaurant than a bar tho. A real bar has stale tater chips and pretzels to eat. That’s it. Creede just ain’t a drinkin’s man town. So after a dozen or so beers ‘tween the two, I figured mize well head to the hills. Knew I didn’t have far to go since Josh Baker and I were here a few years back. So a few miles south of town I head up the steady, windin’ grade of Pool Table Road (National Forest Road 600) just like we did back then. ‘Cept not exactly like we did back then. Cuz I was haulin’ ass By Gawd.

Workin’ on the water, we gotta a sayin of ”black smoke and white water”. That means a tugboat’s got ‘er engines wide open with black smoke comin’ outta the exhaust stacks and ‘er props churnin’ up white water at the stern. In other words, givin’ er all she’s got. I went up Pool Table Road with nuthin’ but black smoke and white water. Or more accurately … black smoke and a cloud of dust. A damned fine ride. Gawd I luv this truck.

Once at the top, it’s time to find a place to park and drink some more beer. First few spots were taken and then I came to a likely lookin’ turn–off. So I took it.

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But it soon came to a dead end.

20140811_H_Off NFS 600.jpg


So I backed out and took the next one. Which looked incredibly similar to the last one.

20140811_I_Off NFS 600.jpg


It got skinny.

20140811_J_Off NFS 600.jpg
 

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And then petered out as well. So I made a twenty point turn and headed out. Then realized the truck got level in the road. So I camped. Right slap in the middle of the road.

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Other than the fact I’m in the middle of the road, it’s a right pretty spot to be in. Got Aspen and Blue Spruce on both sides of me. And weeds with pretty flowers. And a fridge full of ice-cold Coors.
 

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Tuesday, 12 August

My days gener’ly coincide with the sun. I’m up when it’s up. And just as we were both callin’ it a day, some strong winds came and then some right heavy rains. Rained on and off most of the night but when me and the sun both got up this mornin’, it was a beautiful day to be alive. And only proper to start out with a big ol’ breakfast.

When I was here a few years back, we rode this road all the way down to South Fork. It’s nothin’ more than access for hunters and gets real bumpy with really no merit to it. So I just eased on back down to blacktop and rode to South Fork in comfort. And real pretty scenery followin’ the Rio Grande.

Topped off the diesel in South Fork. Some folks pulled up on the other side of the pumps and pulled way ahead to gas up 3 quads sittin’ sideways on a tandem-axle trailer. Couldn’t help but notice them trailer tires were starvin’ for air. One was ‘bout on the rim. I pointed this out and they discovered that station didn’t have no air to feed ‘em.

It’s cool to use a new toy for the first time. ‘Specially when it works even better than expected. I told them fellas I could solve their dilemma and to just stand clear as I whip out my hose. And plugged it into the connection below the rear bumper and made real quick work of gettin’ them tires back up to 50 psi. They were amazed and I was pleased with the whole onboard air setup I got.

And on towards Wolf Creek Pass down Highway 160. Goin’ south it’s an easy grade to pull on up to the summit at 10,810 feet. Then it’s a pretty steep, twisty descent on down to the valley floor and on into Pagosa Springs. Where the San Juan River goes right thru town and there’s a big resort for the hot springs there next to the river. Lots of tourists seemed pleased with the setup. Cool to see the young’uns ridin’ tubes down the river. Looked like fun. (Editor’s Note: In literary terms this is called foreshadowing.)

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But I assure y’all I didn’t come to town to sit my ass in a hot spring or play in a river. Nossir. I came here to find me a bar. And By Gawd I found one. The Pagosa Bar is as real as it gets.

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Bar’s been there a real long time. A fella don’t go there to eat. Don’t go there to socialize neither. This bar’s for gettin’ drunk. Cash only and don’t ya dare ask for some frozen foo-foo drink cuz there ain’t no blender. And if’n your mixed drink has more than one alcohol and one soda then just ease on down the sidewalk. And I respect the hell outta that. We call ‘em “beer and a shot” bars at work. It was a phenomenal change from the restaurant bars I been in this week. I enjoyed a half-dozen or so beers with the local drunks and decided I didn’t wanna even spoil my memory of Pagosa Springs by goin’ to a yuppy bar and grill after that. So I leave perfection alone and head to the mountains.
 
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