"Into the Bush"? Not so much.
When I got up to I-76 at 11:30, it was as if there were some imaginary boundary I wasn't meant to cross. I discovered there were MORE tornado watches issued for Morgan County, and the rest of NE Colorado so I re-found my familiar spot under the Conoco sign advertising gas for $3.92, and waited for a ride toward Sterling, Julesburg, or ANYTHING near I-80.
The thought that the weather, and my seeming inability to get out of Ft. Morgan for my third day, was making me think that perhaps I should forget Nebraska, Iowa, S. Dakota etc. and head toward Oregon now. One way or another. I figured I'd see if a ride developed while I saw how the weather would play out. I could always walk up Hwy. 52 toward W road if things cleared up later in the day, and if severe weather came through, I could get inside.
In reality the weather began to go to hell. Storms moved in, a public address system that they use to announce severe weather went off, and it got COLD! Plus, the wind was incredibly strong. I found out that a tornado had in fact tried to touch down nearby, but never quite got to the ground after 3 tries. Close enough for me.
It's also Memorial Day weekend, so most of the cars I saw consisted of families who had no interest in picking up timid hitchhikers.
At about 6:30, with a new storm warning issued, and it getting dark, I left the gas station to seek shelter, and before I had even gotten out of the parking lot...guess what...a pickup truck hauling a large John Deere stopped across the road and offered me a ride.
I asked how far he was going, and he said "almost to Utah". That was enough for me after 3 days in Ft. Morgan, so I hopped in.
The drivers name was Dennis, and he had been seriously burned I later found out in a oil well accident back in 1980. He seemed nice enough, a guy who seemed like a big talker, but I didn't get a threatening vibe at all, so didn't feel too concerned. I was certain I could whoop him if need be! But about 2 blocks up the road be let's me know that he's had a 'couple of drinks', but "not to worry". I figured, since he was headed toward the business district I'd be able to see how worried I should be rather quickly, and he was driving well, so I just went with it.
The tractor was to be dropped off in Ft. Morgan, along with two HUGE tires (pics) and, of course, he asked me to help with that-which I did. Plus, if he fell off the trailer, I'd know he was in no shape to drive! No one was left at the business, so he just dumped these two massive tires wherever they fell, left the tractor by the chain link fence and left. He was none to happy that they had left for the weekend, because he wasn't getting paid! He attributed it to the tornadoes. I figured it was 6:30 or 7:00 on Memorial Day weekend; I wouldn't have waited either. I kept that insight to myself.
We got on I-76, and headed west- back down the same road I had ridden w/ Chris a few days earlier, and I caught myself thinking, 'what a waste!', but then realized that this was going to be a part of the complete mosaic; journey not the destination thing.
On the way toward Denver, I learned that the 'couple' of what I assumed were beers were in fact huge hits from the Vodka bottle in the console! I then learned that he had JUST gotten a DUI in Oregon, and been in a minor accident after falling asleep near Eagle, and would soon be losing his CDL. GREAT!!!
I began to plot ways of getting out of that truck in Denver where the surroundings were familiar, but just couldn't stand the thought so I decided to ride it out, and see where it took me. Part of the journey...part of the story...blah...blah...I think I'm going to look back on that as a significant moment. We'll see.
I found out that he conveniently had a laptop and nationwide broadband Internet via satellite in the truck, so I convinced him he needed an inverter (not hard to do!) and then began sending off Couchsurfing requests to places along I-70 west of Denver! Breckenridge...Glenwood Springs... Grand Junction. It was late, but for some reason felt pretty confident I'd find something and sure enough I got a call almost immediately from Leah in Glenwood Springs. The initial call was odd because Dennis was driving and I had to act like we had known each other and not let on that I was plotting an escape, lest I be dumped in the middle of nowhere at 9,000 feet with spring snow falling!
He was buzzed & eager to socialize with ANYTHING female, so to motivate him to get me there that night (he was talking about stopping in Eagle) I answered 'yes' when he asked "Does yer gerl have a friend?". It was like meth to his imagination-he was inspired!
From there it was a matter of keeping him on the road and talking so he wouldn't doze off. It was then that the serendipity kicked in. I figured out why he picked me up, and then had a pretty good idea why I was now heading west.
Dennis is a raging alcoholic who want to but has NO idea how to get it under control. He needed someone to talk to that had the courage to be honest with him, share ideas, and offer a clear perspective. Right up my alley! He said I was the first hitcher (even if I wasn't technically hitching-- technically) that he'd picked up in "20,000 miles".
Over the 5 hours or so he became almost dependent. DEFINITELY attached. I hit something he needed. Again, the conversation-as with the night before with Richard-centered on finding answers within yourself rather than Pink Floyd's "someone or something to show you the way"; or Leonard Cohen's "Waiting for the Miracle": "...I waited half my life away." The idea's getting clearer...
He did everything he could to keep me in the truck; even in the room he rented in Glenwood. I however had had enough.
We got to Glenwood Springs about 12:30, he found a room at the Glenwood Suites, I called Leah to arrange a pickup, and leveled with him that I was a bit fed up with the Vodka and needed to move on-without him. I also burst the bubble that he was going to "hook up" with Leah's non-existent "friend". We parted ways with me giving him my cell number, and him promising to take me to Grand Junction the next morning-which I knew would never happen and didn't.
I got to Leah's, and she has a house full! Five other adults, and 4 kids between 3 mos. and seven. I LOVE it here! It's real...the dose of domestic reality I love. And taking me in at the last minute?? Gotta love that.
Today I began to consider hanging out in Glenwood long enough to work to get my kayak or canoe...and since the Colorado River is across the road...Bryce Canyon anyone?? Chris...Chris...Buehler...?
I need to process that and get over my ever present self-doubt and ego watch, but there's a common theme developing even back to the pre-trip days and the conversations with Friar Chris. Now I'm trying to be receptive to see if there's a "why I'm here". I suspect I've found it, but need to think on this one. I need to be sure I'm right.
There's something weird that happens when you're out on the road like this, and it's NOT just me that gets it. Things happen at the right times, and for the right reasons. You have to be open to the possibilities and willing to act on them, fighting your fearful tendencies, culturally indoctrinated wariness of the unknown, and taking your 'plans' & dogma and throwing them out the window. It's a challenge that's difficult to grasp at first, but the freedom is INTOXICATING!
I was discussing this with my friend Amber today, who's headed to Italy to WWOOF next week, much to the chagrin of her family. Use common sense, listen to your instincts, and live.
Me the arrogant philosopher after five days; get used to it I guess!