We started early, slightly after six in the morning, and reached the summit of Pike’s Peak some time around two in the afternoon. I think we were all exhausted after climbing essentially non-stop to the 14,000 plus foot peak of the mountain. After enjoying some coffee and French fries, we decided to hitch hike down to where the car was at the trail head in Manitou Springs.
There are five of us– myself, my two brothers, my cousin, and my brother’s girlfriend. After waiting for a few minutes, we decide to split up a bit since our group is probably too big for anyone to be able to pick us up. A few cars pull over entertaining the idea and then roll down the mountain. The air is colder at the top of the mountain, the air and oxygen levels thinner.
Suddenly, two cars pull over almost at the same time– it couldn’t have worked out better. We divide into two separate groups; my brother and his girlfriend and myself, my brother and cousin in another vehicle. These people are not together and only happened to pull over at the same time.
The old man introduces himself as George, and he has an apparent southern drawl. Where are you from?, I ask him.
“Well, where do ya think I’m from?,” he says with dry humor. “I’m from Mariana, Georgia. Born and raised. Worked in construction for 42 years.”
We pass by some sheep that are walking along the rocky mountain slope, grazing on the small patches of grass that are left from the continued grazing. We ponder them for a moment. “I think they’re sheep cause they got white asses,” he says. On the other side of the road is a female park ranger who is taking pictures of the sheep. George looks out the window at her and says to her,” I like this view better.” It takes us a minute to realize that he is talking about the park ranger, and she smiles once she gets his joke.
As we drive away George says,” it’s good to make her feel good, ya know.”
The rental car bogs down in first gear and George makes a shift as we descend the winding mountain road. ” I’ve never driven one of these critters before,” he says. George talks about his wife, who he says has passed on. ” You know, we had our share of problems, but in the end I realized that the Lord really blessed us.” George rambles on about relationships. ” There is this minister I know in Canada and her name is Barbara she had trouble in her own marriage and later became a counselor. She teaches that there are five emotional levels, one being when you just meet someone and five being the strongest, when you are most intimate with another human being. The problem with us guys, is that once we get what we want, we often back out emotionally.”
“You know, let me tell you, I’ve always been a poor man, and I’ve got to say from my experience that I’ve seen that some of the poorest couples are the happiest and some of the wealthiest couples I’ve known seemed the most miserable… let me tell ya.”
He tells us a story about a logger that he met who was carrying a tree that was eight feet in diameter once. George is a man that rambles on lots of stories as we drive along. ” Yeah, that thing was eight feet in diameter, and he said it was going to China to be used to build some temple or somethin’. You know, the thing about my job as an equipment manager was that people was always callin’ you because they had a problem. Always a problem, and the problems never ended.”
I get the impression that George was glad to retire and come visit places like Colorado and do things like drive to the top of Pike’s Peak and pick up a couple hitchhikers so he can share his experiences.
“You know, one thing I like about Colorado is that people seem to be healthier out here. They say that thirty percent of Americans are obese these days… it’s getting out of hand.”
He drops us off in Manitou Springs. We sure appreciated it– sure worked out a lot better than walking down the mountain side a second time after climbing to the summit or paying to ride on the train with all the other tourists.