May 31, 2018
One way to look at this day is to say that I covered 41.7 miles from the time I woke up in Steamboat Springs at 4:30 AM until the time I gave up on the side of the road on Rt. 40 West, in Craig, CO, a coal and ranching community of about 8900 souls, and called it a night. I’m still 120 miles from Vernal, Utah, which is 172 miles east of Salt Lake City. Once I reach Salt Lake I’d kinda like to truck on to San Francisco, a mere 735 miles further along.
And I’ve got a sunburn. And I ate potato chips and Coke for dinner. Did I mention the spider? I won’t bother.
This is life on the road. You spend a lot of time watching people drive past you. You constantly question your sanity and your tactics. You start to wonder if maybe there is someone standing behind you with a sign saying “axe murderer”.
In truth the time on the road was just half my day. The morning was spent exploring Steamboat on the FREE bus that I found as I started to walk the three miles from where I was staying to downtown. The FREE bus took me in and out of the hills around the Yampa River Valley, dropping off mostly young people at their jobs in the hotels and resorts. From what people tell me, this place took a big hit in the recession ten years ago, but by all accounts it is growing fast and drawing young people in again.
Young people like Hannah, and like Chris. They both work at Johnny B Goods, a diner downtown. I met Chris the night before, and something about him was so alive and engaging that I just wanted to know what was going on in his life. He told me that he’d just been working here for three weeks, and he was really loving the bacon broccoli slaw, so I ordered that as my side with my burger (you’re welcome, Dr. Polachek). It was delicious.
Chris told me he had come to Steamboat to keep a promise made to his three-year-old niece. Unique Rose (that’s the little girl’s name) came to visit Chris in a hospital in Iowa City three years ago when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Chris thought he well might die – doctors put his survival chances at 30%. Unique Rose extracted a promise – she wanted Chris to come live in Steamboat with her when he got better. So, defying the odds, Chris got better, and he’s in Steamboat, loving life, and serving me excellent bacon broccoli slaw.
Hannah was working the breakfast shift (they have sort of a Reuben omelette which was so good it put me in mind of the Kitty Hoynes Reuben Fritters back in Syracuse). Hannah moved here with her boyfriend a couple of years back and loves the year round outdoor action that Steamboat offers. She’s running a half marathon this weekend!
From the diner I got a ride to Strawberry Park, a natural hot springs that Rob had been telling me all about. I was tempted to just get on the road, but once I spent some time soaking in the springs, I was glad I made the choice to stay and see some of what the area had to offer. Strawberry Park is about the best 15 bucks anyone can spend in the Rockies. I can only imagine what it is like under the stars. Steaming hot water comes out of the mountain and runs down into a series of pools.
A mountain stream runs by on one side, and you can jump from the steamy hot water to the cold river. I didn’t spend much time in the cold water, but the baths were supremely relaxing.
God, was it good to get that pack off and soak my bones for a couple of hours.
(No, I did not get a massage)
Robert, the guy who drove me to the hot springs from Steamboat, also gave me a lift back. When I noticed he was playing E Street Radio, he laughed.
He said he had read my blog post about the trooper who had no Springsteen in the patrol car and wanted to make sure I heard some. The first tune that came on was from the live Madison Square Garden concert in 1997 that I had attended with my Dad and brother, Tom. The band opened with Prove It All Night. Turns out my driver (who is too shy to have his picture on social media) grew up near Danny Federici in Flemington, New Jersey. So we swapped Bruce stories all the way back to town.
You have to balance getting to know the place you are visiting with getting to some place that you have set somewhere in your head as a goal. Now that my time on this leg of the journey is getting shorter, it will be more of a challenge to remember to take it all in as I go. Gotta live it every day, let the broken hearts stand as the price you gotta pay. (tell me which song that is from)
But I did meet some great people in the past few days and I’d like to tell you about them, but before I do that I should mention that, here in Colorado, it is not exactly accurate to say that “Nobody Hitch Hikes Anymore”. When I got dropped off in Craig, there was a couple with full backpacking gear right near the Loaf N Jug convenience store, and by the time I got out of Richard’s car, they were piling into a minivan. So somebody else hitchhikes in these parts.