My first month of FunEmployment was spent based in Arizona, as well as traveling to Michigan and the Appalachian Trail in New England. I had not slept in the van a single night since leaving Santa Barbara, had been taking way too many hot showers, and was getting too used to spending most of my days inside. It was a great month, but it was time to hit the road!
On July 16th I left Arizona and drove north through the Arizona high desert, past Four Corners, and into Colorado. I rolled into Durango after dark, found the Walmart, and set up my bed for the night. I laid out my sleeping bag and fell asleep, happy to be back in the van in the cool mountain air.
The next morning I took Highway 550 north. It wouldn’t be the quickest, or easiest, route for my 4 cylinder van, but I had always wanted to drive through the San Juan mountains, visit Silverton and Ouray, and heck, I had decided to live on the road to take the scenic routes!
I was lumbering up the first climb when a big truck passed and I recognized the stickers. Tim Hackett, who I had recently paced at the San Diego 100, was in Colorado with his kids on vacation and just happened to be heading to Silverton at the same time. We rendezvoused in town, grabbed a cup of coffee, and they left to set up camp and I continued on to Breckenridge.
I was in a bit of a hurry, my friends Kyle and Jen (I had just attended their wedding in Michigan a few weeks prior) lived in Denver and were driving to Breckenridge the next morning to climb a 14er and go boating with friends. Count this homeless guy in! I arrived in Breckenridge after dinner and settled into my Aunt Karen and Uncle Jim’s cabin.
The next morning I was up early, standing on the sidewalk in the brisk air waiting for Kyle and Jen to pick me up. We left town and drove through Alma to the base of Mount Sherman. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and the hike to the summit was gorgeous. We scurried down and hurried back to the Dillon Reservoir to pick up beer and hop into the pontoon boats with their friends from Denver. Unfortunately, the clouds had rolled in and the boat was pretty cold. Fortunately, so were the beers, and we had a great time!
The next few days I stayed in Breckenridge and got some real work done. I sat at the cabin’s kitchen table and focused on my freelance projects. I still took a little time each day to go for a run around town and go to dinner with family, but otherwise, I was focused.
On Thursday Uncle Jim and I woke up extra early and drove through Leadville to the base of Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado, and the second tallest in the lower 48 states. We reached the parking lot just after sunrise and it was already full. A few hours later, after passing nearly everyone else on the trail, we reached the summit and shared it with a handful of people. It was a perfect Colorado day and the views were spectacular.
The next morning I was planning to drive to Denver and spend the weekend with Kyle and Jen. The van sputtered and stalled in idle, so I called AAA and they sent a tow truck to take me to the closest shop that would work on old VW’s, which happened to be in Denver. Perfect! I got a free ride to Denver, didn’t have to pay for gas or put miles on my van, and learned everything I’ve ever wanted to know about being a tow truck driver.
The mechanic’s shop was only a few miles from Kyle’s house so I grabbed some clothes and left the van to be fixed that coming Monday. Kyle and Jen were hosting a BBQ that evening and I happily joined in. On Saturday we drove to Boulder, hiked around the Flatirons and to the top of Green Mountain, and tasted some Boulder beers downtown. On Sunday we had brunch at Linger and met up with my buddy Jeff Heath at the Denver Brewing Company.
Monday I picked up the van. The service wasn’t cheap, but they didn’t find anything horribly wrong with Tantor. The mechanic fixed a few seals on the engine, advised that I use premium octane fuel, and try to avoid high elevations…yeah, right. I went downtown to have a beer with my former co-worker Santiago Armstrong and his girlfriend Marine before they flew back to Santa Barbara, and later that evening Kyle and I visited a few more breweries in his neighborhood.
Tuesday I made the drive back up to Breckenridge to spend a few more days with the family before they headed back to Arizona. I got back to work at the kitchen table. One afternoon Uncle Jim talked me into checking out a trail with him. He was on his bike and I was on foot. He and Karen were attending a concert that evening so he turned back, but I kept going, and going, and going. Ninety minutes later I was on top of Bald Mountain at 13,684 feet, with no food or water. It was unplanned, but totally worth it. That night Grandpa and I went out on the town for a ‘Guys night out’ of burgers and beer.
During a college spring break trip to Florida I made friends with a group from Georgia. I hadn’t seen Patrick Drennan since that trip, but we stayed in touch. He had moved to Vail to be a fly fishing guide and the day before I left Breckenridge I trekked over for an afternoon fly fishing float down the Colorado River and an evening in Vail.
The next day I did laundry, packed the van, and prepared to drive to Oregon. Colorado is one of my favorite states, and I would have loved to stay longer, but my mom would be visiting my brother in Ashland the following week and I planned to rendezvous with them…but first…the mountains were calling me north, and I listened!
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