Time: About 9:00 in the morning, Colorado Springs to Denver
Wait: About 10 minutes
Hitch: Man in thirties, truck
Where: Uintah Exit
Monday night Ilad (who had traveled with me on the way to New Mexico three days ago) called me and told me that he’d like to ride with me on the way back from Albuquerque to Colorado, and our agreement was that I was going to drive him all the way to Boulder and double back north to Denver. Before departing on our return back, my friend Steve and I had changed the oil on the van, and it became apparent that the van’s engine was leaking a steady stream of coolant, and a developing grinding sound seemed to be linked to a failing water pump. I went to the store and bought some fluids for the reservoir for when it depleted on the way back, and it seemed that it would make it back to Colorado alright, where I could replace the parts at my leisure.
Anyways, the good part is that the van made it all the way to Colorado Springs, but the bad news was that it made it no further than that. After getting off of Uintah exit in Colorado Springs for a pit stop at my brother’s place, we heard a loud grinding sound and then a snap. Immediately afterwards, the van lost power steering and was handling like some primitive Army tank. Managed to get it parked at my brother’s place without any problem.
Thankfully, the thing didn’t decide to bust somewhere along the Raton Pass in the middle of nowhere, and broke somewhere that I was able to park it for awhile. Upon opening the hood, it became obvious that the serpentine belt had been shredded due to the water pump seizing or something along those lines.
The trip to Albuquerque was well worth it despite these difficulties; spent a lot of time catching up with old friends, a climb in the foothills, enjoyed a few New Mexican micro brews, and spent a lot of time with my good friend Natalie and her familia.
So, this week, come Tuesday morning, Ilad and I both hitchhiked to Denver not by choice, but because there were no other options. We walked along the trail to the highway merge and we stuck out our thumbs and held up the sign with pride.
“This is like true hobo hitching”, Ilad says. “Because there are no other options.” His plan was to take a bus from Denver to Boulder once there, which apparently runs a one-way ticket for five dollars.
The tendency and fast pace of weekday morning traffic can make getting picked up hard to come by. A box truck passes us by and blows off a puff of black smoke that would have made the breathing air in industrial China seem clean. “How the hell did that pass emissions?”, Ilad says.
We inevitably luck out. Ilad takes the sign and starts spinning the sign and doing a dance along the side of the road, and suddenly a black truck pulls over to the shoulder. We grab our bags and run up to the truck. The driver smiles and we exchange a non-verbal thumbs up, as he is on a hands-free cell phone talking to someone animatedly about a camping trip of some sort.
We travel for about five or ten minutes, and he ends the call and introduces himself as Joey. He’s a positive guy with gelled black hair and a clean-cut white smile. We thank him for the ride, and he says no problem, and Ilad tries to market the idea for his website to him that involves allowing anybody to design a legislative bill through the Internet. “The idea is to make it so that the best idea wins, not the idea with the most money backing it”, Ilad explains.
Joey tells us that he has been involved with an outdoors job for over eight years, and he first met his wife at a kids’ camp eight years ago. They now own their own backpacking trip adventure company called RMR Adventure Backpacking, which also is doing well mainly due to the Internet. “It’s great to be able to get paid to do something you love to do”, he tells me. “This week, my wife and I took a group kayaking along Lake Powell.”
Lake Powell is a reservoir on the Colorado River, which moves along the border between Utah and Arizona. Joey gives me some insight into getting a tandem kayak, technique, and the simplicity of the sport, the ability and freedom to essentially dip your kayak into any body of water in Colorado without having the hassle of obtaining a license or permit.
We exchange some travel stories, and he tells me of his travels through western Europe. “My friends and I took a taxi through all of Paris in less than two hours and saw all the sites”, he says. “We had this idea to blast through all of the tourist destinations, because we wanted to see some of the rest of the country, outside of the tourist spots. The taxi looked at us in this weird way like it was the first time he’d ever had that request.” He laughs, reminiscing.
“We also went some time in the small land masses of southern Italy”, he says. “It’s an area where lots of largely wealthy Americans have land too. This rich guy was building a home, and we talked to him for awhile. We offered to help him build his home for a bit, in exchange for a place to stay and company, and it was a great experience.”
Joey talks about the goat milk in Germany and his experience receiving steaming hot, stinky goat milk in the morning for breakfast, and having not been interested in drinking after smelling it, he still drank it as he was unsure what to do with it because he did not want to be rude to his host.
Joey drops us off at the Belleview light rail station, and we take it the rest of the way, going our separate ways; Ilad to Market Street station to head to Boulder, myself to campus for my first class, making it just in the nick of time. The sky is dreary and overcast, rainy; one of those irregular days without sun for Colorado.