The Summer of 1998 Part III

As I passed through Gunnison, I wondered if Gene’s daughter was still living at the “log house” up the road in Almont. I passed up the thought of calling, and drove on to Montrose. Well. son-of-a-gun, if I didn’t call Gene’s office and find out that she’s split up with Mike, and moved back to Almont. “Well, if that don’t tear the clothes off the shrubs,” I intoned. Another quirk of fate. As I was mulling over the irony of the whole situation, I began to realize what a blessing in disguise the events had been. I thought, “What if I had driven all the way to Montrose the night before, only to find out Gene was in Almont?” Now, that would have been a real bummer. At least, I was finally able to enjoy that seemingly irretrievable campsite that I had seen so many times, only to find it occupied. I called Almont, but had to leave a message on her answering machine. I just had to rationalize that the planets were not lined up…it wasn’t meant to be. Time to move on.

And what a pleasure it was driving through those medium-size Colorado towns (they range in population from 12 to 25 thousand). All their amenities were still intact: city centers were full of activity; movie houses playing first-run attractions; lush, green city parks – an ambience of very civilized living. Even the cattle had it good, grazing in bountiful pastures and drinking from cool, clear streams. Again, I pictured those lean Texas cows, and remembered a sorrowful joke about than: “Our cows are so thin, we don’t brand them anymore. We photocopy ’em.” It was an acute illustration of the adversities and diversities inherent in this great country, especially when it comes to rain.

Thanks again, Holiday Inn (Grand Junction ice stop). And it was off to Utah, on my first stretch of Interstate. Fifty miles into the Beehive state, I stopped at Crescent Junction, where U.S. 191 dead ends at a Baghdad Cafe/ Gas Station on I-70. It has been a nostalgic stop for me over the years, remembering 20 years ago when I stopped there and flipped a coin – heads, I was moving to Los Angeles, tails I was moving to Denver. The rest is history. I ended up sharing a precious shade tree with a young couple headed back to Park Cities, Utah. He was heating up some stew on a Coleman burner on the tailgate of his SUV. I couldn’t help telling him, “Hey, you’re my kind of traveler, cooking out on the road.” “Yeah,” he replied, “It saves us some money.”

Only forty miles down the pike, I found myself somewhat stymied in Green River. I was literally caught between a rock and a hard place. It was 4 o’clock with a bleaching sun bearing down. My intended high-elevation rest area was only 40 miles west, out on the unforgiving landscape with nary a tree within a hundred miles (I definitely recalled that scene from two years ago). The next town was Salina, about 140 miles away with a “‘in your face” blistering solstice awaiting me. Regrettably, I had to resign myself to the fact that I was not going to be bedding down for the night in Ol’ Baleau. So, I went motel shopping, up and down Main Street of Green River. I couldn’t remember the last time I had ever done such a frugal thing as search for a cheap motel. Yeah, by the way, when’s the last time you ever saw a sign that said “Cheap Motel, Turn In Here.”? The marquees that really get me are the ones that advertiser “$26.00 for single and $22.00 for Double.” Definitely not a family stop…”Hot Sheet Motels”.

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