Off-Roading In The Mountains

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Words can’t describe how happy I am. We’re in the tiny house right now in Colorado. Colorado! It’s besides a creek, with a deck, outdoor seating, and adorable tiny house amenities–including some pots and pans: I just made some hibiscus tea. As I stepped out of the truck, weary and curious, a deer stood across the water, staring straight at me.

It’s day three, and we’ve already experienced a myriad of experiences we could’ve only dreamt of one week ago. Today, we accomplished one of le beau’s dreams: off-roading in the mountains. Where we live, off-roading is nearly impossible. All the land, as hideous as it is, is privately owned, shut from the public, and horrendously flat. Here in Colorado, however, it’s nature’s bounty, man’s free-for-all. Today, we traversed over 8 hours and 65 miles of mountain terrain in the alpine tundra, dotted with forests, lakes, canyons, and abandoned mines.

Right before we grabbed coffee in the lobby of the tavern-hotel, ready to check out, le beau chatted with one of the guests. As I waited for him, I wrote my stream-of-consciousness blog. Le beau enjoys talking to people–I don’t–so he’s always asking others for their opinions and stories. I prefer to keep to myself, so I usually hide behind him. But it comes in handy, his gift of gab (Unfortunately, it’s one of the things I get onto him most about, since my biggest pet peeve is that people talk too much. “My social prowess, as I might call it,” he said. As crazy as his gift drives me, I can’t say I don’t agree.)

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Last night, the hotel owner told le beau how he had bought the decrepit building only two years ago and renovated it. He turned it into a tavern x bar x cafe x lounge area, cabin-style, with a balcony overlooking the mountains. I kept saying that I felt like I was in a video game. And it was true! I kept thinking back to the cabin in the Walking Dead video game, and the cabin in Until Dawn. Both excellent horror video games, by the way. Either I watch too many video games, or video games are very true to life, I said. Por que no los dos? he responded. At the tavern-hotel, antiquities and wood furniture adorned the space. There were film cameras on display, typewriters, bookshelves, original staircases, and an old record-player in our room, so we played vinyl records.

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We had entered the hotel last night to a rambunctious, loose group of hipster-esque tattooed bar-goers. They greeted us casually, welcomed us openly, asked us questions with such fluidity that I peered suspiciously through my shades and wondered if the place was safe or not. It was. Le beau was brilliant enough to leave the keys in the door–on the outside, mind you– the entire night, and we remained unharmed.

This morning, after we finished packing, we stood on the balcony, munching on stale bagels from home and drinking our coffee. We took in the view in the crisp and cold Colorado air. Then we got gas and headed off to the off-roads.

As he fiddled with his tires, I stood by a creek, marveled the mountains, and, quite frankly, cried. It was a little early in the morning to be moved by nature, but by god, I’m glad I don’t live near mountains, because I’d be crying a whole lot more than I normally do. Respect for nature has morphed into a type of reverence. This entire trip, I realize that I have never wanted to own land as much as I do now. As I waited for le beau and looked at the mountains, I basked in the dream. One day, I’ll buy a plot of land by a river, forest, and mountain. I’ll build my own little cabin, miles away from other people. I’ll spend my days alternating which part of nature I stare at.

Seeing all these people with cabins in the mountains makes me realize that I, too, can have a cabin in the mountains, I declared in the car.

Le beau finished adjusting his tire pressures, which jolted me out of my log cabin dream. And we were off. We took his truck up two mountains. We painstakingly crawled unpaved, rock-riddled roads, without a guard rail in sight, up steep twists and turns, through lumps and bumps, across narrow roads hugging steep canyon dipping hundreds of feet below.

Everywhere, there were Jeeps. People roiled around in Jeeps here, Jeeps there, Jeeps everywhere.

Near the end of our adventure, we both sat quietly in the truck, and I blurted, why does Barbie have a Jeep? She’s the last person who would need a Jeep.

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Until we drove on a mountain shelf, I had never truly considered the nature of a shelf. A shelf. It holds things. Like books. No big deal. Then I was on a life-sized one, on a mountain, where one wrong turn or stray boulder could topple us to our end. We were like oversized books trying to dance our way from one size to another. There were no lanes. No markers. No rules. At any point, a Jeep or truck or biker would come hurtling down the opposite direction. One person would have to make the decision to duck into a shelf, or reverse towards a cliff, which we did.

I won’t lie. I was horrified. By lunch, my palms of sweat had excreted all of the moisture from my body. Which explained why, at every terrifying truck crawl, where his truck petered up a steep cliff, I took an enormous gulp of water.

When we reached the top of the mountain, I said, you see those bricks? Those rocks? I shit those. I shit all of them.

The mountains themselves, however, were beautiful. There were mountains on mountains. Some were filled with green forestry, others rocky orange, some soft grey. Nestled among the pine trees, I took a big sniff of the air. It smelled different. Earthy, piney. We jostled onto more bump roads, towards the central city, where we ate convenience store sandwiches by a stream.

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As we crawled our second mountain of the day, I realized I’d exhausted my entire reserve of fear and adrenaline. I had expected it to be ‘easy,’ as people online said. Well, it wasn’t easy. Because I was, once again, being jostled violently on a thin mountain shelf, hundreds of miles up.

This has got to be some type of western, rugged, individualistic, manifest dynamite-type shit, I thought to myself as we dipped and rolled and rucketeered over rocks. There is somethin’ in the water.

The only glimmer of light from the scary second mountain climb was the sight of fat mountain squirrels. They were thick, orange, and looked just like my guinea pigs. Except they were thick and fluffy and had big grey tails. We spotted three or four of them and I hopped out of the car to examine the nest. I’m googling it right now, and they’re called the ‘yellow-bellied marmot.’

“Sometimes called a “whistle-pig” for its distinct call, the yellow-bellied marmot lives in the higher elevations of Colorado. Marmots are members of the family Sciuridae, which includes squirrels, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. Marmots store up fat in the fall and then hibernate during the winter. In the summer, they can often be viewed on large rocks and boulders, sunning themselves.”

As we neared the end of our drive, I spotted an orange ball of fluff on the road. Who ran over my mountain squirrel? I exclaimed in outrage. He’s alive, le beau said, he’s…eating. Orange fluff looked up and scampered away to sit on a boulder and look at us. What was he doing? Was he eating rocks? le beau asked.

Finally, after nearly 8 hours of mountain-driving, we zipped out of the park. I generously peppered our conversation with Shrek and Napoleon Dynamite references. He fixed his tires.

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Then we embarked on what is apparently the most dangerous highway in the States. I learned during my first day in Colorado that I have a mortal fear of heights. Compared to off-roading conditions – the narrow roads of gravel, surrounded by snow, filled with rocks – this highway was comparably butter.

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We were, fortunately, on the mountain side – not the cliff side. For the next two hours, we glided past more forestry before grazing past countryside. We arrived here at the little house, ate on the patio by the creek, and settled in.

(6/20)


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