Friday, February 8, 2013

Date: Friday, February 8, 2013 from Denver to Colorado Springs
Time: 7:45 a.m.
Wait time: About 1 hour
Hitcher: man in mid thirties
Profession: nurse
Vehicle: white car

I get off work at seven a.m., take the light rail the farthest south to Lincoln exit as always. I walk the 1/2 mile from the light rail stop to the highway merge. Friday morning traffic is steady and it takes some time to walk across Lincoln.

At first, as the sun rises above the horizon, it is warm because I have been walking so I shed off the coat layer. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, I get cold again and the wind picks up as a cold front approaches. The forecast is calling for some snow this weekend and you can feel it in the air.

Many people pass on by, and I think it takes a certain kind of person to pick someone up hitchhiking. They have to be in a certain frame of mind that most of the world is probably to busy to even channel. One snotty girl driving with a spoon in her mouth gives me a sweeping hand motion as if to say “whatever” or “I’m too good for you.” I imagine if there is such a thing as karma, there aren’t many good things in store for her with an attitude like that. The wind picks up and blows my sign from left to right as it sweeps across the Highlands Ranch.

After about an hour, a guy pulls over. “Colorado Springs is quite a long ways to hitchhike”, he comments. He introduces himself as Ian. He tells me that he is a nurse and on his way to work in Colorado Springs. This is just a training period, and eventually he won’t have to do the long commute from Denver to Colorado Springs after awhile.

We shake hands, and feeling that my hands are cold, he suggests flipping the center console switch and turning on the “butt warmers.” We start chatting about outdoors stuff, about wildland firefighting (which he did for 7 years in the Leadville area), and about running, and I am amazed to find out that he has run the Leadville 100 for 2 years in a row. The Leadville 100 is a brutal 100 mile run through the mountains of the mining town of Leadville, and is a true test of character, willpower, and athletic stamina. One must be incredibly strong to make it through, and this is an extremely difficult race that puts a spotlight on any weaknesses an athlete might have.

Many contestants, even people that are healthy and in great shape, do not make it through to the end of this race.

Ian has finished the race twice! I ask him what it takes to finish a race like that.

“Willpower and stamina”, he says. “The last fifteen miles I hardly remember, just that I was in intense pain.”

Ian says he used to work for a company that specialized in month long kayack, mountain climbing, and hiking expeditions. The company is called Outward Bound. We talk for awhile about the different marathons I have run, and the two ultra marathons that Ian has finished.

Ian said that during his time with Outward Bound, it was a requirement that he received smoke jumper training as an employee. He tells me that his friend is a reporter for Channel 7 News. He tells me that he used to live in Los Angeles, going to college during the time of the Rodney King riots. “They closed down the whole campus and no students were aloud to enter because there was chaos everywhere and they had apparently somehow torn down the brick wall of the science lab”, he said. “It was a crazy time to be in LA.”

He said that he had ended up flying home to his parents’ place for a week to get away from it all.

Soon enough, the time flies and we are in Colorado Springs. He drops me off at the Fillmore exit, and heads off to work, telling me that he’ll pick me up again if he sees me.


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