Freedom over time.

Isolated within a natural fortress of rock and trees, a river in the front yard and cliff to the rear. Rain drizzled on as I awaited my paycheck to come through stuck in Gunnison Canyon. Mavis leaned to one side, idol as I passed the days  watching fat chipmunks scuttle about within the ground litter.

Zipping...

Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

A spider makes a home.

Originally I’d anticipated to still be waiting for my paycheck for a day or two, and as such, each morning I turned my phone on and rang in to phone banking. Each day was the same, as my balance of $10-20 odd dollars was read to me in a robotic voice. I’d hang up the phone and turn it off to conserve battery power. Still no definitive day was given as to when I’d be back on the road, as I sat about and read the remainder of the books I had brought along and tapped away on the keys of the typewriter.

Typing. Typing away.

The town of Gunnison was a 20mile return trip from my campsite, and in Mavis’ fuel tank was enough juice to get her and I about 70miles. As I scraped my folk against the bottom of the last can of smoked oysters (sounds fancy, looks like turd, tastes O.K.) I decided it was time to ride into town and re-provision. I gathered my quarters and dimes and managed to make a nice fist full of coins to the value of $4.00USD (my last monies).

Arriving in town, I headed for the supermarket. Grabbing a basket I browsed the isles looking for anything that seemed would give me enough energy for a day and came in under a single dollar. Within 10mins I had in my basket two cans of chilli=79cents each, a can of mixed veggies=also 79cents, an 89cent half a bakers dozen of seeded hamburger rolls and two ears of fresh corn=17each. Grand total $3.60 plus a little tax. Despite all the items being fairly normal, I still had a humbling sensation as I paid for my groceries with nothing but stacks of small coins. On the way back to camp I spotted a public library and stopped in to use the internet. I sent off a few anticipatory Couch Surfing requests for people in Denver and some emails including one to my ex employer.

Back at camp I wandered around, listening to tunes on my iPod and trying to figure out how the fuck I was going to get to Denver and out of the woods. That evening I received a call from my ex boss as yet another thunder storm threw sheets of wind and rain at me as I lay in my tent. He informed me the owner of the car I used to complete my driving duties had taken it to get a service and came out with a repair bill for $6,500 USD (the transmission had to be replaced). He asked what on earth I’d done to the car and asked for my side of the story. He heard me out and informed me that I would not be receiving my paycheck until he had sorted out how much I was to be deducted from my final pay. As there really wasn’t anything within my power to change the situation, I tried to explain my predicament and the fact that I had pre-paid close to $400 in fuel costs, which I was still waiting to be reimbursed for. I attempted to convey that the matter of the pay and car issues were separate to monies spent by me to fulfill my driving duties, of which was my small travel budget. “Please be patient” I received as a response.

Camp site

Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

The weekend was quickly approaching as the week slowly passed by. On day four stuck in the canyon, I assessed what was before me. I had in my possession one can of chili, four small bread rolls and enough petrol to get into town once more, perhaps twice as a strain. Water was a plentiful, but sustenance was another story.

I continued to be patient with the pay, as I knew I wasn’t in the wrong. As it was now Thursday, I knew if I didn’t react to this predicament, I’d be without food by Sunday for sure. I paced about before sending a “mayday” tweet to my family. Within a few hours I received a call from my brother and another from my folks. “Yo, bro, what the fuck are you doing in a canyon?” my brother asked via the phone from his boat in Hawaii. I explained what was up and he said he could loan me some money to get back on the road. Also coming to the rescue, my parents agreed to wire me enough money to get me to Denver as a belated birthday gift.

With a sense of relief drifting my way, I poked about in Mavis’ side bags for some food to tie me over until the morning, when I could roll into Gunnison and collect the wire transfer and ride on to Denver. As I did this, I noticed another camper had arrived in the campground. Texas plates decorated their vehicle. I got chatting with the owner, Virgil. ‘Virg’ had just retired and was going on a little reconnaissance camping trip from Houston up to Colorado to check out some potential areas to move to. He invited me around to his campsite for a beer or two. Quickly life was on the ascent as I had gone from near ‘starvation’ and isolation, to sipping Corona’s and smoking Dominican cigars with good company. Virg cooked up a storm that night, serving delicious ‘Sloppy’ joes (of which, I had strangely been craving since Vegas). We sat around the campfire, fueled by wild sage talking about motorcycles and what Virg was now to do in his recently acquired spare time. I got the sense that Virg was somewhat lost, as he constantly pottered about, be it cleaning something, or looking for some elaborate camp light hidden amongst his new camping gear in the back of the car. All of which seemed to be a distraction from the realities of retirement. Eventually the fire died down and we retreated to our respective campsites.

Mavis, stationary.

The following morning, I was invited around for breakfast. We chatted some more, and Virg asked if I’d like to come for a drive to the nearby ski village of Crested Butte. As I was now in the comfort of knowing I could leave the canyon when I so desired, I took him up on the offer and said I planned to leave by mid afternoon, if it was possible to return by then. Off we drove up to the village. We wandered around, and stopped off for lunch, which Virg kindly shouted me. As we walked back to the car, we noticed the chairlifts were spinning and you could ride right up to the summit. I told Virg I once worked at a ski resort back in Australia. He replied that he’d never ridden on a chairlift. Here was a guy who served in Vietnam, in his 50’s, had recently been separated from his wife and had never experienced something I took somewhat for granted, riding a chairlift. I suggested we at least inquire as to the cost. Soon we had a pass and were riding up the mountain peak, some distance away. Up above the Aspen trees the chair quietly passed, stunning views of the surrounding valleys, mountain ranges and ski slopes covered in blooming wild flowers and grass’. We chatted about Virg’s old company which owned a number of on and offshore oil drilling operations. He explained the process of extracting the black gold from the bottom of the sea floor from floating off-shore drilling rigs. Amazing!

Getting back to the canyon after a quick stop off in Gunnison to collect the wire transfer, I packed up my campsite, paid the fee and said goodbye to Virg. I couldn’t help but hope Virg found his way, lost amongst an eternity of endless days, retired from the workforce, but with so much life still to live.

The feeling of freedom was once again returned to me as I refueled Mavis and hit the road. A small unexpected hick-up in the trip, but not a worthless stop all the same. Across the high Colorado prairies we raced trying to reach Denver by nightfall. A few successful Couch Surfing requests had secured a place to stay, as I anticipated to spend a few days in Denver before continuing North to Alaska.

Colorado, USA

Colorado, USA