FC: ROAD TRIP by Joel Chappelle
1: FOR NIKKI, MY FIRST, MY ONE, MY ONLY TRUE LOVE.
3: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” –St. Augustine
4: IDAHO SPRINGS elev 7,524 ft | Sitting beside his campfire, Jackson used an old tin drinking cup to pan for gold in an icy pool of water. After rinsing out the gravel, sand and other detritus, gold nuggets remained. Word of Jackson's find drew thousands of prospectors, miners and businessmen overnight. Idaho Springs is a town that is haunted by its past. We saw, in the bleak austerity of the 19th century buildings on main street and in the faces of wild-eyed men with enormous black beards, and wide-brimmed prospector hats, a reluctance to let the past become history. We could nearly discern the clang of the shovels, pans and pick-axes which once packed horse-drawn wagons, smell the acrid smoke of oil burning street-lamps, and almost feel the ghostly presence of long dead prospector's, settlers and miner's wandering through the streets, saloons and alleyways of Idaho Springs, Colorado. The town's name is derived from the Arapahoe word "Eduahoe," which means, the "Gem of the Mountains." | Seeing your smile as we crested the Continental Divide and descended into that first Rocky Mountain valley filled me with joy. It was a beautiful summer day and I hoped, above all else, that you would find the same peace and happiness in the mountains that I do. Exiting I70, we drove through a strange amalgamation of fast food restaurants, gas stations, trailer parks and million dollar homes before arriving in downtown Idaho Springs. We walked toward Miner St. and you pointed out a waterfall spilling from an amaranthine mountainside. The Main Street Restaurant, built in the late 1800's, was dark and cool with a worn pine plank floor. We sat beside a cacti-lined windowsill and talked about the strange character of the town. Idaho Springs traces its roots to 1859. A hunter named George Andrew Jackson made camp on a sandbar at the confluence of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek.
5: BERTHOUD PASS elev 11,306 ft | I took your hand and together we set off into the cold cerulean sky. We began our ascent in a sun-speckled forest of viridian pines and moss-draped boulders. Forest gave way to sage grass above the timberline where the air is too thin for even trees to survive. You were then - as always - beautiful beyond reason, and even at the pinnacle of the earth I couldn't stop looking at you. The silence was profound, broken only by the crunch of gravel beneath our feet and the cold bolts of wind that raked across the vast and ancient summit. I kissed your lips and loved you so hard right then, that I thought my heart would break. All too soon we had to climb back down to earth.
6: Hwy 40 hugs the cliffs and pines as it crashes down into the Fraser Valley. The evening breeze turned warm as we descended below 9000 ft. The hazy smoke of distant forest fires turned the mountains blue and indistinct. The sunset set the sky ablaze in a riot of red, orange and pink. We ate steaks, drank wine and laughed at flying monkeys. The hummingbirds danced among us and when the sun gave way to night, Gary got his guitar and sang Last Dance with Mary Jane. I saw old friends and you made new ones. We waited for a black bear named two-tag and I watched a man throwing eggs into the street for no apparent reason. We shot BBs at garbage cans and laughed until we couldn't breathe. I fell asleep with you in my arms that night and in those hours found a peace I'd never known. | WINTER PARK elev 9,120 ft
7: We woke up early on the first day of August. Outside, the day was clear and hot. Gary sat on the porch smoking a cigarette and staring out at his yard. "Sonofoabitch waited up the hill for us to fall asleep," he said. "Once we did, he come on down and threw himself one helluva party." Gary's trashcans were destroyed, the contents strewn across the yard and street. I hazily recalled what he'd said about the futility of bear-proof trash cans. I hoped Two-Tag had enjoyed himself. The bear could not be blamed. We'd baited him with steak and eggs. We packed our things and said goodbye before heading to breakfast at Carver's (above), a café tucked a little way off Winter Park's main street. I loved that you were delighted by the place. The food was fresh and good. You liked the coffee best of all. | The Next Day...
10: We followed I70 westward past Mt. Parnassus and Silverthorne. At Copper Mountain we turned south on to a lonely ribbon of highway and drove through forests, passing reservoirs, rivers, copper mines, and bands of wild horses. We talked about nature, geology and life. Early that afternoon we came upon the highest incorporated town in the United States. In the 1800s, Leadville epitomized the madness and greed of the Wild West. Outlaws roamed the streets amongst prostitutes, bankers, cowboys and thieves. In the summer of 1873 the Honorable Elias Dyer was shot dead in his own courtroom after siding with the wrong faction in a local feud. No one was ever brought to justice. In 1884, Doc Holliday shot a man over a $5 gambling debt in a Leadville saloon. He was arrested, but acquitted of all charges. Today, the outlaws are long dead but Leadville remains. It's a sleepy town now, languishing in the shadows of 14,000 foot peaks and surrounded by ghostly relics and remnants of its tumultuous past. | LEADVILLE, elev 10,152 ft
15: I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets. It has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day. It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful. Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and benumbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me - I am happy. ~Hamlin Garland, McClure's, February 1899
17: As we drove south and west across Colorado, landscape and sky changed quickly and often. Narrow valleys and sharp, jagged rock formations gave way to wide, lowland valleys. Forests gave way to scrub brush. Hot, hazy, skies gave way to rain as enormous purple thunderstorms erupted over the pine-draped mountainsides. We ate gas station sandwiches and snacks. I drank Red Bull and cheap coffee. We stopped on a mountain pass and climbed out on narrow fingers of rock. We saw old, dilapidated ranches and quietly dying towns, but mostly the land was wild and empty. We spoke little and I liked that we never needed to fill the silence with emptiness. In the afternoon, the valleys gave way to plains, the mountains to mesas. The landscape was scorched and red, the ground was barren but beautiful. All things were eroding. The austere beauty of the desert was never more apparent than in Mesa Verde National Park. We explored the crown of the mesa as the sun collided with earth. The horizon burst into fiery reds, and orange jeweled brilliance. | MESA VERDE elev 7,110 ft
21: Running my fingers across the stony handprint of someone who had lived, loved, hoped, and died a thousand years ago filled me with a deep, melancholic wonder. I reflected on the cruel inevitability of time and how hauntingly and awfully brief our lives are. The intensity of my love for you transcends words, emotion and reason. It is immense and consuming, and it hurts me to You are are my best friend, Nikki. You are the kindest, smartest and most amazing woman I have ever known. Finding you is the best thing I have ever done and I wish I could tell you how you have helped to open and heal my heart. I wish I could put my arms around you, hold you close, and let you feel what I feel whenever I look at your perfect face. But, I can't. | Cliff Palace elev 6,790 ft
23: Mesa Verde's profound natural beauty and archaeological splendor will forever and joyfully reside within my heart. I will treasure the time we shared hiking on top of the mesa and through the ancient cliff dwellings. But it was the people we encountered there who will shine brightest in the halls of my memory. I so dearly enjoyed our time shared with the drug-addled waiter who just couldn't quite get it right, no matter how hard he didn't try and who could forget the fatuous and all-knowing bus talker from whose mouth spilled an endless bounty of gems. There was the malodorous French woman who felt some . the cretins in the breakfast hall who ate from their plates as though feeding from troughs. Truly, it is only you, my love, that kept me from losing my tenuous grasp on sanity and pitching myself into the dry, red depths of the nearest gorge.
24: It had been a long, beautiful day. Exhaustion set in as we wound up, down and across the mesa on the road out of the national park. West of Mesa Verde we came to the haunted town of Cortez, Colorado. The Main Street Brewery was dark and dank. The walls were bizarrely appointed with stickers, lewd murals and an esoteric mix of western ephemera. The dusty wood paneling on the walls made the dining room feel like it was closing in. Our waitress was young and friendly but her eyes were wild and desperate. The restaurant epitomized the western decay we'd seen as we delved further and further into the West. We found a room at the Cortez, Baymont. I kissed you goodnight and dreamt of a world centuries ago and the strange and ancient people who lived and later disappeared in the cliffs of Mesa Verde. | FOUR CORNERS NATIONAL MONUMENT elev 4,875 ft
26: We drove for hours, passing through dusty Indian reservations and barren landscapes dotted by mobile homes and dilapidated churches. We touched four states at once and lamented the brutality and cruelty faced by Native Americans by those before us. We had long since left the mountains and after so many hours driving across the desert, the time in the car began to wear on us. We were tired. It was hot. The temperatures had soared into the 90's by mid morning so we alternated between open windows and air conditioning. ulonimbus clouds exploded into the afternoon sky and though we could see shafts of rain spilling out from beneath them and hear the thunder rumbling across the desert, the sky above held its piercing blue. The rain to scour this post-apocolyptic landscape and undo what generations of humans before us had done. to wash away the blood and the ghosts and the ugliness and once used for testing nuclear weapon The doll, the jewelry. the dinosaurs, get distracted on the grand canyon road | Empty Desert elev 7,000 ft
28: The mountains were well behind us. After many hours driving across the desert, the endless ribbon of scorched blacktop and barren yellow landscape began to wear on us. The temperatures soared into the 90's by mid morning and the sun reflected glaringly off the gypsum, sand, and granite. The sunlight was brilliant and glaring in a place that was full of darkness. We alternated between opening windows and using the air conditioning. The air was hot and the wind felt like dry, ancient paper against my face. I often wonder about the people living out there in that vast and empty silence. The desert's beauty is in its shocking austerity.. The desert is a post-apocolyptic place and filled with bones. It is hot and barren and there is everywhere a terrible, poisonous edge. The desert is borderland. Like most borderlands, the desert is full of mystery, danger and loss. Deserts exist between the land of dreams and nightmares. They straddle between the land of the living and the land of the dead. We drove past dead horses and cows, barbed wire and ramshackle huts. There were cars without wheels and homes without doors. In the desert, all living things have stingers, fangs or thorns. The landscape is devoid of even water. and undo what generations of humans before us had done. to wash away the blood and the ghosts and the ugliness and Cumulonimbus clouds exploded into the afternoon sky and though we could see shafts of rain and hear thunder rumbling across the desert, the sky above held its piercing blue. The rain stayed away. | Empty Desert elev varied
35: You sat with your legs over the side of a Grand Canyon whose 2 billion year story is written meticulously and violently upon pages of Bright Angel Shale, Redwall Limestone and Vishnu Schist. I thought how strange and beautiful to sit with you and look through the Earth's fathom-less memory. The recognition of how brief our lives are filled me again with bittersweet wonder. The sheer immensity of the past and the incredible chain of events, stretching all the way back to the birth of the universe that has brought us together is as wonderful as it is beautiful and incomprehensible. The canyon's history reaches back to a time when our world was empty, before space, time and chemistry chanced upon life Earth. I had never imagined so much beauty nor felt so much love. | All too often we fail to exist in the moment. It is only upon later reflection that we realize how special unique and beautiful a particular moment was. We stood on the edge of our own respective known worlds. I put my arm around you and told you I loved you.
36: The time we spent together on our trip will always be among the most amazing and beautiful experiences I have ever known. Before you, I knew peace and happiness only in the solitude of my own thoughts and experiences. I cannot imagine my life without you. The sound of your laugh and the sight of your smile fill me with the deepest joy I have ever known. I love you with all my heart. It would be an honor and a privilege to spend the rest of my life with you. You are my best friend.
38: One of my favorite things was our hike down into the grand canyon. You had discussed the matter with the bartender at the __________ the previous evening. He had told us of a trail only known to locals (and irresponsible Germans evidently) and even given us the code to the gate through which we had to drive. We arrived at daybreak with bags packed full of granola bars, water, tylenol and other snacks.
45: The long trip back to Colorado began with a stop at store called The Double Eagle Trading Co. We browsed amongst toys, fossils, geodes, crystals, arrow-heads, cassettes tapes, ornately appointed headdresses, rattle-snake key chains, lollipops with scorpions in them, and countless other bits of Western-American ephemera. We moved about slowly and looked at things of little or no interest to ourselves as though doing so would somehow delay the inevitable end of our trip. I felt a cloying desperation and sadness. I felt like I was leaving my home, rather than returning to it. In the car, we spoke of the beauty surrounding us and imagined ways to stay.
49: Our First Trip. August 15, 2012-August 21, 2012