Birthday showers bring no flowers.

An evaporated bank balance, with the ledger zero, Mavis and I blazed onwards to Denver. Her fuel levels dropping at the same rate as my expectations of ever being paid from the driving job (rapidly!) Each time I pulled into a service station to fill up, I’d calculate my estimated checking account balance and let the debit card figure the rest out.Mavis! Colorado!

Being my 24th birthday, I had ample time to contemplate my somewhat youthful life experiences as I climbed up into the Rockies. The route plan for the day was to head from the campground near Mesa Verda up route 145 to Telluride, onwards to Montrose then gradually snake my way up to the high passes and glide down to Denver via Carbondale and Aspen.
Mesa Verda.

Not far into the ride the road started getting steeper as we got higher into the Rockies. Large storm heads were brewing around the 14,000 foot Mt. Wilson. The higher we traveled, the more Mavis struggled with her carburetors tuned for a lower altitude. The thin air noticeably cooler, which was some relief from the desert heats of days earlier . Roaring over the apex of Lizard Head Pass at 10,222 feet of vertical elevation, I brushed through the storms curtain edge and entered the “wash cycle”. Having never ridden in the wet before, I slowed down off the road and threw my waterproof jacket over my leather. My mesh gloves quickly soaked through leaving my hands wet and cold. Remnants of the winters snow, still remained in the shadows of the peaks as I anticipated a snow storm to release onto Mavis and I.

Gaining on Lizard Head Pass. Lizard Head pass in the wet. Fun...

The storm didn’t let up, as I in return wouldn’t stop. Determined to at least reach Aspen by nightfall, I endured the constant downpour. With Mavis naked of a front wheel fender, a constant stream of road wash was flung up into my visor. I carefully navigated the winding roads, peering through my “frosted” visor, obscured by the water. Avoiding the slippery road lines, a brief clear patch opened above the town of Telluride. I turned off to have a quick break and see if I could dry my gloves a little. Peeling them back I found my hands to be stained purple from the dyes in black leather of the gloves palms which had leached through.Clifftop house, Telluride, Colorado. Telluride, Colorado Old mine, Telluride, Colorado

The day was quickly passing me by, as was any chance of a having a beer by a campfire to celebrate my birthday. The town of Montrose was another 60miles away, and still only halfway to Aspen on my original route. The storm got worse and my boots filled with water, allowing my toes to have a leisurely swim!  The waterproof jacket did it’s best to repel what was dumped on it, but slowly my cotton T became damp. My ability to maintain resilience to the enduring weather was gradually being washed away. Options of how to get out of the storm were still limited financially, but I came to the decision I would attempt to use my well and truly maxed-out-credit-card to get a motel room for the night. I paced up and down the streets of Montrose scouting for any cheap accommodations. Finding what looked to be something on the cheaper side, I rolled in and dismounted the bike. Entering the reception, I looked as though I’d just robbed a bank a few towns back, with my purple stained hands and water logged leather jacket holding what body warmth still remained. My cards were all declined (which I presumed would be the case to begin with).

Rationalizing of the situation quickly dictated I would be spending a cold night by the roads edge if a camping area was not found. I consulted the map, peered into the fuel tank, and figured I had no chance of getting close to Aspen. I looked for alternatives and decided, due to its elevation, and Mavis’ inability to mix thin air into her fuel mixture, I’d re-route and ride through Gunnison at a lover altitude, cutting out Aspen and Carbondale.

Closer to Gunnison, still wet and damp, I spotted a National park sign for “Blue Mesa” campground. Under the sign, three primitive yet inviting diagrams of a tent, a fireplace and a fish below a hook. No mention of how far off the main road, I figured it was a good option. Shortly after turning, the option quickly switch polarity and became a very bad one. The road was gravel and due to the heavy rain, had become awash with mud and loose road surface. I decided that an attempt to turn around on the road was just as bad as continuing, as the bike slipped about and wobbled. Large potholes a plentiful, Mavis’ suspension got a hefty work out, as did my knees as I stood upright on the foot pegs and pressed into the tank like a dirt bike rider. Mud splattered up into my face and the front of my jacket. The road made its way across a large open prairie with cattle grazing. After 10miles and no sign of a campground, I stopped to consult the map once again at a fork in the road. An inquisitive cow coyly approached to investigate what on earth I was doing riding through it’s field. I fingered the map as the cow sniffed my bike and eyeballed me. From the map I devised that the campground was at the other end of a loop road, of which I was now in the middle. Begrudgingly, I remounted the bike and returned to being slung with a constant barrage of artillery fire from the roads surface. Snaking my way down off the prairie, I spotted the likes of a campground under some evergreens by the rivers edge. A small bridge got me to the other side. Getting closer, I saw smoke and tents and heard the hum of a chainsaw cutting through wood. At last I had found a place to camp. As I got close enough to see, I learned that the grounds were full, full of hunting hicks drinking beer and chopping down trees. Sadly I passed by and continued another mile along the dirt road before hitting another paved route.

With the rain still falling, I washed through Gunnison’s town center and headed North off the main road to Gunnison National Forest. A mile out of town, I swung my left hand over to my right hand glove to adjust the Velcro strap. Simultaneously, Mavis coughed and spluttered as I tried to rev the engine. Compression of the cylinders stopped and I rolled off to the edge of the road. Turning the ignition key, I tore off my helmet and tried a number of things to get the bike started again.  In the process, I knocked out one of the battery contacts and lost all power, as Mavis’ “eyes” flickered off. I got the tools out, removed the spark plug covers and blew and brushed the gravel and mud away from the engine area. Flicking the ignition back on, reconnecting the battery contact, I tried to kick over the engine. The starter motor cranked, but the engine wouldn’t start. I tinkered about in the rain and started to realise I knew very little of what could possibly be wrong with the engine (“It must be something internal” I thought to myself). Figuring fate had now stranded me in the town of Gunnison, high in the Rockies, I contemplated what exactly I would do now. No money to get the bike towed or repaired, no money for accommodation and a tent with no floor. Things looked bleak as I sat on the bike, hair soaked with rain dripping down off my nose. I wasn’t particularly distraught or overly concerned with the situation, as I figured if Mavis and fate had recently colluded to make this happen, perhaps it just was meant to be. My mind started to anticipate the next course of events. I would walk back into town, scout out a kind looking person, explain my situation and ask to camp in their backyard. The following day I would print off some resumes and try to find a job in my new “home town”. As the mental images became increasingly vivid, the possibilities of what this town might hold started to manifest. I then spotted something not quit right on my right handle bar. The weathered red “kill switch” was sitting in the “off” position. I quickly snapped it back to the “on” position and flicked the ignition key. Pressed the start button and the bike cranked over and started up! I figured I must have knocked the switch when I tried to adjust my glove. We pulled back onto the road and headed for the hills.

By the time I found a campsite, the rain had let up a little but it was now almost dark. I quickly erected the tent and offloaded my shit from the bike. I sat at the picnic table under a big pine tree and looked out over the Taylor river. Cranked open my second last can of smoked oysters and humbly gnawed away on the repetitively sea-like  tasting crustaceans. “Happy birthday to me” I thought to myself as I gazed towards the completely water logged fire pit and wet pile of wood sitting next to it.
Downpour, Gunnison Canyon, Colorado.