Wednesday, November 9, 2016

11/9/16: Colorado Springs to Ft. Morgan - Building Antibodies

November 9th began drowning in reactionary cynicism. It ended honoring a dead friend and the effect he never knew he had; a humble 1st person tribute to the resonating ghost of my first ‘real” ride from a tortured man who'd become infamous and dismissed in death simply as a cop-killing monster. The man I met was much more.

HAPPY TANGENT: Good news! For this trip, the last post is mostly it for naked political commentary. Congratulations! You survived! Have a Tootsie Roll. Or a big bag of Freedom Cheetos. No, that wasn't a political statement. It was me having some fun with your triggers.

The route was ordinary but this day’s trajectory was anything but.

With little sleep, even Love’s funky flavored coffee was fundamental. Having ingested (then dispelled) what should be dubbed Digestive Anarchy & Turmoil instead of Sumatran Delight (or whatever), I immediately went out to the Love’s exit shortly after dawn supremely motivated to get to Denver. Suffering what could accurately be compared to male PMS, not only was Standing Rock dead to me, so was the rest of the trip. In my mind that morning, I’d made a mistake by not going to Baja from Primm or Phoenix. About the last thing I wanted to do was wade thru Trump Country the week of the election. Cynicism raged as visions of replacing my camera and returning to San Cristobal (with a big star spangled middle finger flying high) danced like pissy little gremlins in my head.

New target coordinates set: Chicago.

Tuesday’s suspicions about Love’s customer base were accurate. Military personnel from Fort Carson as well as people on their way to work with a sparse few driving to Denver. It didn’t take long to embrace the futility of hitchhiking, especially in that mental state. After barely an hour, a trip inside to Subway was in order. I could fill my crabby belly while charging the battery pack I’d depleted following the election and at least be productive.

Some rubber tramps driving a conversion van towing an RV were parked directly across the drive. They slept in the RV which served a secondary purpose as a billboard advertising the inhabitant’s love and admiration for God. Ahh, yes. Public pronouncements of ones Holy Righteousness to be seen by men. Just like the Bible instructs. I’m sure Sky Daddy has moved them right to the top of His list.

They began stirring about just before I went inside so, choosing selfish pragmatism over a self-righteous disdain for religious hypocrisy, I stopped to say hi. I was half curious and wanting an infusion of fresh energy. The other half wondered if they were driving north.

**These percentages are likely skewed. It may have been closer to 80/20 in favor of engineering (manipulating?) a ride to Denver. My story, my percentages. Stop judging.

God’s middle age hippies were wary of my sudden, curious appearance assuming I’d hit them up for money, but with a little effort they proved to be a friendly, chatty couple. They were making breakfast together and I immediately learned (with no effort because, while wary of my possible panhandling intentions, they were panhandling themselves) that they were functionally homeless and headed south (dammit!) in search of a place to plant. I suggested Slab City then, after failing in their oblique-yet-loaded attempts to extract a donation for “gas”, they emphatically suggested I visit a Colorado Springs shelter for food and a free bus ticket. Free ticket? Sounds too good to be true! Why would they do that? Because the “family values’ folks in conservative Colorado Springs are happy to pay to have their homeless dumped on someone else. How noble. How “Christian”.

Speaking of which…

Next came the hopeless-yet-obligatory attempts to bring Toddzilla to Jesus. I didn’t desire to have their Zombie Messiah enter me that morning. If anything, I wanted whiskey inside me. Jesus had yet to answer my Trump-aneurism prayers; Jesus could lick my unwashed crack. Rather than being “saved” by homeless evangelists at the Church of Love’s that morning, I solemnly vowed to name my Coldcut Combo "Yahweh" before it entered me. Hey, maybe the Holy Trinity considers Subway’s “freshly baked” Italian bread to be the body of Christ. That’s at least as plausible as any burning bush and babbling devious serpent! And while I won’t presume to speak for the the Holy Middle Eastern Gringo, I’m pretty sure it would be stoning-grade blasphemy to even suggest that the suspiciously-flavored laxative Love’s sold as “coffee” is the blood of anyone but Mephistopheles or even Satan himself.

Seen the cinematic classic A Million Ways to Die in the West? Yeah. That.

Have I mentioned how shitty (pun intended and enjoyed) Love’s coffee was? Good. Consider it community service.

These two were predictably recycled replicas of fringe hippies I’ve met 100-times while hitchhiking. But they provided an inadvertent service by yanking me out of my head and back into into the “real” world for a moment. The Lord’s Hippies helped crack open a door to the realization that the election did not have to ruin everything. Unless I let it.

Subway wasn’t packed but, because their TV was tuned to CNN, it buzzed. Two things stuck out. First: the look of bewilderment, shock, and even shame on the faces of CNN’s anchors and their hired “experts”! Perhaps I’ve mentioned spending 11-years in radio? I’m pretty sure I understand what they felt: a naked humiliation coming from the realization that they’d utterly misjudged…everything. And that everyone knew how useless they’d been shown to be. I wasn’t listening to whatever pre-spun bullshit CNN offered as “analysis” that morning. I just marveled at how these meat puppets had enough shameless gall to even show up for work! I felt like a cheap radio whore hocking used cars for money; how polluted must one’s soul be after selling rotten political lemons for 2-years? I guess fatass paychecks make everything better.

Whores. Filthy infected whores.

This time you’re right. That was some holy judgment. Accurate, too.

CONNECTIVE TISSUE TANGENT: Veterans of my old blogs might recognize that last thought as being a familiar echo from an old theme. I didn’t notice it that morning due to the residual political and ideological “noise”. The Voice; the proverbial signal wasn’t getting thru. But in retrospect and with some wide angle hindsight, this was the first tangible symptom that a post-election excommunication and course correction was coming. I’d finally begun doggie paddling parallel to shore rather than allowing the pervasive ideological riptide yank me any further out to sea.

The second thing that struck me: random people. All of them. No one was left untouched. No one seemed to be acting “normally” and I could reasonably guess their Ideological Church of choice based on their reactions to the invasive TV dangling in the corner with its volume blaring. There were three general expressions: anger/disgust, numb terrified shock, and gloating euphoric ecstasy. Colorado Springs is a conservative military town so the latter example was the most common. Clinton voters grudgingly lowered their heads and ordered food while doing their best not to acknowledge the collection of Trump supporters gathered beneath the TV mercilessly mocking CNN and taking infinite joy as "The Most Trusted Name in News" repeatedly asked, “What happened?” These Colorado Springs folks seemed to have the answer. And listening to their amusing commentary reminded me of Mystery Science Theater!

I needed a journal update in addition to battery juice, so sat in my booth for a couple of hours filling literal and metaphorical bellies and beginning to silently gauge this new reality. I almost choked to death on my own tongue upon hearing a talking head utter “President Elect Trump” for the first time while Facebook’s inherent egocentric exhibitionism created a predictable virtual shit show to which I certainly contributed. By the time I left, it felt as though the country was tearing itself in two. That may have been my most accurate, albeit old, observation that morning.


Sid dropping me off at Love’s actually worked out well. Colorado has replaced their defunct FREX (Front Range Express), a Colorado Springs-Fort Collins transit bus, with Bustang. By 9 or 9:30 I’d taken my second Uber of the trip (unsurprised Hillary hating Clinton voter—not a typo) to the Tejon/I-25 Park & Ride and was soon napping my way to Castle Rock then reminiscing along the rest of the route north to Denver’s Union Station.

Bustang isn’t limited to the I-25 corridor. From Union Station, one can ride west to Glenwood Springs or Grand Junction. Cheap! The research helped break my funk some more and by the time the bus was weaving in and out of south Denver’s late-morning traffic I was gazing at the front range and intermittently re-connecting with whatever zapped me down in Santa Fe. Possibilities and unscripted, itinerary-free adventures presented themselves. It felt like mountains were beckoning me:

“Fuck politics; it’s The Matrix, dumbass! Electronic eyes! Reconnect with organic life! Get over here! Just let go! You silly fucker!”
That’s right, Moonbeam. Your amaaaaazing Universe has a hooker’s mouth.

Yep. There it was again: surges and flashes of that old energy. The signal fighting to cut thru the noise. But, in the end “intermittently” was the key adjective. November and visible Rocky Mountain snowcaps collaborated to remind me of Flagstaff and, more importantly, that the weather wouldn’t be improving as days and weeks progressed. No, I would not be calling a westbound audible.

Denver’s grown up since we moved away 10-years ago! I’d spent a several hours drinking in Capital Hill (and passed out on Greyhound’s floor) at the end of my last hitching trip in 2013, but hadn’t seen LoDo since 2012 and I didn’t even recognize Union Station. But, it was nice to be back, as always. Again: memories and ghosts.

We arrived in Denver just after 11am and I spent the next 2-hours eating way too much tasty “fuck you, Trump!” grub bought from a Mexican’s taco truck parked next to Union Station (I’d eaten Subway earlier and wasn’t even hungry; only got it because he was Mexican) and struggling with a mild decision crisis. The final analysis is simple: I was lost in my frazzled (but slowly improving) mental state; it was easy to quit AND easy get home. I could take that evening’s California Zephyr to Chicago and also found a cheap flight. All I had to do was ride the airport shuttle train that was literally boarding a few short steps away. Rather than the ditch, I could be sleeping at home tonight. Remind me to tell you about The 99 Flavors Theory sometime. Paralysis by analysis. Without an underpinning structure, freedom paradoxically becomes its own confusing directionless tyrant. Some other time.

The deciding vote was cast by self-directed disgust. I knew perfectly well what was happening but, as with the Vern Rerun the night before, the “knowing” didn’t help. The Fog of Cynicism and Disgust distorted things sitting right in front of my face. Drowning in politically-charged negativity, it was almost impossible to remember, let alone build upon, the positivity of just 24-hours earlier.

Somehow managing to act in my own best interest despite myself, I decided no, I would not simply fly home. With images of other prematurely aborted trips, the ensuing frustration, and to avoid second guessing, I manually bypassed my short-circuiting mind then metaphorically ran inside to Amtrak’s ticket counter and forced myself to purchase the previously planned train ticket to Fort Morgan. I heard “but, but. but….” rapping at my mind’s door but pretended no one was home until I had my ticket.

“And the seas calmed, skies parted, and sun began to shine down…”

Something like that.

It’s funny how it always happens. It reminds me of quantum theory: infinite alternate possible realities simultaneously exist (and don’t exist) until we observe one. Then those left unobserved, or unchosen, pop out of existence as new potential “realities” instantaneously present themselves. None are right or wrong. Just chosen or unchosen. I get hung up on “right” versus “wrong” choices all the time. But, when tickets are bought and/or courses set (“observed”), the static and noise cease immediately. Politics and ideological religions instantly found themselves transported back to where they belong: at the bottom of the priorities list. Its replacement: pragmatic planning, observations and the general experience. Right where I was prior to lying in that field and checking the election returns.

I had several hours until the Zephyr departed and needed winter gloves. Plus, the sleeping bag was still wet due to the previous night condensation. REI run! Woo! My old REI, the Denver flagship store, is a short walk from Union Station so I had plenty of time to hunt gloves then lay my sleeping bag out in the warm sun while I relaxed and defragmented in their courtyard.

The walk combined with focussing on organic and immediate things…such as the reality of revisiting Dennis’s ghost in Fort Morgan…to complete Wednesday’s psychological rehabilitation. I’d later dub the process Synapse Pruning: “letting go of that which just does not fucking matter to make room for that which most certainly does.” Ultimately, usually disguised, yet useless, egocentric and identity-based obsession has the same effect on our minds that background programs have on computers. Let these programs run unmonitored and eventually they can hog enough resources to where even the simplest of tasks become nearly impossible
I wasn’t quite at my trojan horse extraction point, but Wednesday morning and early afternoon equated to another uncomfortable virus scan. Like social media (revised update coming) in September and October, politics showed its ass. It was becoming clear that it no longer has anything to do with “staying informed” or engaging in civic responsibility. It’s tribalism akin to religious fundamentalism. Over the past 10-years, it’s combined with social media to become a divisive and deadly virus. The evidence was right in front of me encapsulated in one condensed 24-span! The next few days would perfectly illustrate what needed to be seen and processed then relearned, refined, and finally uncomfortably embraced over the coming months.

By the time my train pulled away shortly after 8pm, I was relatively reborn and had simultaneously tapped into the new “adventure” and nostalgia of visiting my very first stop on…whatever this is…in May, 2008. Reborn. Rejuvenated. Reset. You choose. Whatever. I triggered it by eliminating the other “97 Flavors”. And one toxic tub of steaming Cheeto-flavored bullshit.

My two hour train ride to Fort Morgan, in northeast Colorado and reasonably close to the Nebraska border (and I-80), was perfect. It was long enough to process the day yet quick enough not to allow me settle into obsessive psychological narratives. Knowing the area from my 3-days spent here in 2008, I knew precisely how this would go and for once my “plan” (ha!) actually went according to plan!


I climbed off the train about 10pm somewhere near Chara House, where I’d ridden out nearby tornadoes in 2008. I turned left on to Main Street and walked north for about a mile thru town to the Conoco station where Dennis found me and immediately changed not only the trajectory of my first novice expedition but everything that’s followed. In fact, the fact you’re reading this is a direct result of these 5-hours swerving across the Rockies with Dennis.

The walk was nice but not as nostalgic as I’d expected. In fact, I kept looking for things that weren’t there! My triumphant return to Fort Morgan began by confusing it with LaGrande, Oregon! I’d never noticed their similarities in both layout and feel! The town felt even smaller and lacked 2008’s sense of wonder because of all that’s happened since first arriving there wide-eyed almost 9-years ago. My Conoco Shrine was closed for the night and also looked dinkier despite being the same building! I chuckled walking past their updated sign; the pole where I’d set up what amounted to a tentative camp in 2008 while wondering why I wasn’t getting rides! I’d like to have a little chat with that dingbat. Let me know if you see him.

2008's Tent
Chara House, 2008 

The stealth camping comparison made me giggle, too. In 2008, I had no idea what the hell I was doing! I carried only a heavy two man Coleman tent and its screaming loud yellow rain fly that made me difficult to hide. The old tent’s “here I am!” effect combined with inexperienced paranoia to trigger a long unnecessary exploration of the South Platte’s river banks hunting for a place to sleep. If I didn’t find anything closer, I thought I’d just go back for old time’s sake but I found a suitable spot right next to I-76 in about 3-minutes; a spot I would have never considered back then due to anxiety and paranoia! There’s a distortion philosophy in there too but I’m already approaching 3,000 words. Am I not merciful?

Oh, quit whining! Your A.D.D. will be fine! There are a plethora of formulaic 500-word clickbait blog posts offering the generic, identically worded “reviews” of the same overpriced hotels, restaurants, and tourist traps. Go find ‘em if 3,000 words send your brain into convulsions. How brave of me to say that at the end! In truth, I’m flattered that anyone stuck around this long! Told you: I’m not striving for mass-appeal.

It took some effort; even self-sabotage. But unlike Tuesday, Wednesday ended much better than it began. I knew I was apparently heading home and that the future was uncertain after that. But, as I drifted off to sleep thinking about Dennis at around 11, I was satisfied that I’d not succumbed to a self-created psychological hurricane and quit.

I’d begin reaping my reward Thursday….

Next Time: The Monastery of the Road