August 28, 2016
I sent a text to my aunt yesterday morning to wish her a Happy Birthday. Later in the afternoon I called her cell phone. Someone else has the number now. It wasn’t the new owner’s birthday.
This morning I rode my bike to the airport to pick up my rental car. Enterprise gave me a Dodge Charger. I had to put my bike in the back seat because it wouldn't fit in the trunk. I took the bike back to BOB and drove to Crested Butte which is at 9,000 feet. It didn't break 60 degrees until after one o'clock. I went to the Last Steep Bar & Grill for a burger and a Virgin Mary. Apparently, if you want either, that's the place to get them. On the weekends, they have a DIY Bloody Mary bar. The bartender pours you 14 ounces of vodka which leaves you two ounces for the mix, cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato. My Virgin Mary was excellent. When I finished the first half of my burger I felt full. I choked down the other half as a matter of principle. Maybe it was the Virgin Mary or maybe it was the altitude that made me prematurely full, but it wasn't the burger: I have eaten two cheeseburgers in a sitting and felt less full.
There was a farmer's market on Elk Street in Crested Butte which made parking challenging. I parked at the Nordic Center. After lunch, I walked through the farmer's market. Earlier I saw that local peaches and nectarines were available, but after lunch I couldn't bear the thought of buying food. Instead, I opted for a 20 minute, $20 chair massage. It was a small indulgence, and my expectations were low: they were met.
Crested Butte is almost two hours from Montrose. I had to go over two passes and endure frost heaves and road repairs to get there. I kept the Charger reined in outbound, but I did 80 mph twice while passing other cars on my return. It was fun. It's a dangerous car, however: it has a lot of power and a twitchy steering wheel, so you could easily make a fatal mistake at high speed.
I went to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the way back from Crested Butte. I had planned to go there first since it is less than 20 miles from Montrose, but the weather forecast was better for Montrose in the afternoon, and Crested Butte expected thunderstorms by one o'clock. Montrose is at 5,700 feet, and the Gunnison National Park south rim road is at about 8,000 feet. The temperature difference between the two was over 10 degrees. The south rim twists and turns therefore availing the driver of a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, it was cloudy when I arrived, and from various vistas I could simultaneously see sunshine, socked in rain, localized thunderstorms, and a tsunami. The canyon is dramatic for its narrowness, depth, and pegmatite rocks. It is also fucking scary if you're an acrophobia. The drive is only seven miles, but there are 12 overlooks some of which require several hundred yard walks. I realized by the third or fourth overlook that I was running out of gas. I didn't sleep well last night and dramatic changes in altitude give me headaches. I skipped a couple of overlooks, especially after the Chasms made me want to hold someone's hand to walk back. If the weather is agreeable, I may go back tomorrow morning or afternoon. Also, I would to drive the east portage road down to the Gunnison River to dip my toes into it.
I have a friend who used to climb when he was younger. A climber he knows climbed The Painted Wall in the canyon with his girlfriend. It is 2,000 feet, and the highest canyon in Colorado. Apparently the couple was 15 feet from the top when they unclipped from each other. They were standing on a ledge and the remaining climb was simple. Somehow, she fell from the ledge to her death. My friend thinks I would have made a good climber since I have a high strength to weight ratio. I told him that I'm afraid of heights. He said that all good climbers are afraid of falling (which is what height represents). When I lived in Philadelphia, a few of my friends and I did a repelling adventure in Bucks County. I had a hard time walking up to the ledge. I had a harder time stepping backward off of it. But, hardest part came after I stepped off the ledge and my belayer said to me, "Hey, your carabiner is upside down. Can you flip it for me?" I did it and repelled 150 feet. My tall, Italian, gym-body friend got goofed up on his first repel and ended up with his back to the wall hanging like a worm on a hook. He made it to the bottom, walked up, and handed in his gear. My short, non-athletic, gay, Jewish friend Tom repelled ten times! I didn't equal Tom, but I went several times. I loved his lack of fear and faced mine each time.
I turned 30 when I lived in Philadelphia, and Tom, Meredith and I celebrated it at a tapas restaurant. Two summers later, in 1996, Meredith and Tom turned 30 and 40, respectively. That summer, Tom while was remodeling his townhouse he realized that neither his cat nor his contractors would survive the experience if they were both in the same house. Tigger was a Bengal, and he stalked Tom and would bite him in the calf when Tom went upstairs, so Tom was afraid he’d do that to one the workers. Tom and I convened, and I called my parents: they agreed to adopt Tigger permanently. Tom and Tigger, Meredith and her boyfriend, and my Westies and I drove 250 miles to my parents’ house in Upstate New York. Tom rented a minivan with a TV for the trip. Tigger howled the whole way.
Because Meredith was turning 30 that summer, and because my parents lived near Big Flats, NY, the soaring capital of the US (or New York State), I bought Meredith a sailplane ride for her 30th. Tom thought it was great idea and signed on as well. Meredith's boyfriend went fishing. I forget whether I went up first or Tom did, but Meredith went last. Tom and I watched her take off then land almost immediately thereafter. She ran out of the plane and burst into tears: she was terrified. We are such good friends that the fact I bought her a birthday present which made her cry became a matter of pride for both of us. Tom and I both loved our 40+ minutes of serenity floating on the thermals. We'd do it again in a heartbeat.
We gave Tom got a bike for his 40th. He was happy. It didn't scare him, so he didn't cry when he rode it. Sadly, I never get to ask him, “Hey, remember when I bought you the birthday present that made you cry?”
I suppose if I had met a guy who climbed when I was younger I might have been able to overcome my fear of heights enough to like it. (I believe in the transfer of confidence – to a certain degree.) I jumped out of a plane in New Zealand when I was 37 in an attempt to conquer my fear of heights, but being at 12,000 feet doesn't create the feeling of “exposure” that standing on a 150 foot ledge does. If I met a guy today who was a climber, I probably wouldn't start climbing. I'd probably expect the worst every time he climbed, but I wouldn't stop him – because I shouldn't.
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Siobhan M. Knox
In May 2016, I bought a five ton, 25’ long Class C motorhome because I like to drive, I like to travel, and it’s more fun and less expensive than living in a hotel. No prior RV experience was required, and I had none: perfect. I’m writing a book about my adventures which will come to an end when I get a job. The dogs will be sad.