Road Trip: Going Away to Come Home

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Today was road trip day: I drove to Colorado Springs to do city errands, including buying cartridges for my computer printer necessary to finishing my memoir. I've been putting this trip off for weeks; I didn't want to spend a day and the energy required to make the four-hour, 230-mile round-trip drive.

Heading down the canyon on US 50 this morning, into the bend called "rincon" where the Arkansas River curves around an uptilted ridge of red Sangre de Cristo sandstone. Heading down the canyon on US 50 this morning, into the bend called "rincon" (corner) where the Arkansas River makes a tight u-bend around a ridge of tilting red Sangre de Cristo sandstone.

That drive is one of the trade-offs of living in this spectacularly scenic part of rural Colorado, hours away from cities, malls, interstate highways, and crowds. Still, I'll take being able to see Jupiter rise, bright as a headlight, over a horizon unpolluted by sky glow and living a short walk from the trail head and the local-food grocery store, over being nearer to Office Max, Whole Foods and Home Depot.

Jupiter rising over the black silhouette of the Arkansas Hills to the east. (When I turned around, Venus was almost opposite Jupiter in the western sky, and equally bright. Wow!) Jupiter rising over the black silhouette of the Arkansas Hills to the east. (When I turned around, Venus was almost opposite Jupiter in the western sky, and equally bright.)

The going-to-the-city decision was made for me Friday afternoon when my printer rejected the brand-new, genuine HP cartridge I installed. "Defective cartridge," said the read-out, and the machine refused to print. I had no other cartridge, and I need to print the manuscript pages as I finish them.

I could have ordered new cartridges from that huge internet retailer I won't name, but since the last two cartridges the printer rejected as defective came from that very retailer (two out of six in a package, a one-third failure rate), that option wasn't appealing.

US 50 winding downhill toward the Plains alongside the Arkansas River. Not a bad commute to the city.... Winding downhill toward the Plains on US 50 alongside the Arkansas River this morning. Not a bad commute to the city....

So I looked at my "city list" and picked today for the trip, based on the weather (which has been so balmy and dry that our snow pack, our water savings-bank for summer, is looking poor indeed) and on the lack of rush-hour. I left at quarter past ten this morning and was home at quarter past five tonight.

Pikes Peak rising in the distance over city traffic. Pikes Peak rising in the distance over Colorado Springs traffic. (By comparison, there are six traffic lights in my entire county and a dozen peaks as tall or taller than Pikes Peak. That's the right ratio of 14,000-plus-foot-high peaks to traffic lights, to my way of thinking.)

Not bad, except that the four-hour drive, the city traffic and the shopping sucked me dry. I'm exhausted.

I'm also reminded of how fortunate I am to live in a quiet valley just east of the highest portion of the Rocky Mountains. A place where my "commute" to the nearest city takes me 60 miles down a wild and winding river canyon, and then another 55 miles across the very western edge of the ocean-like expanse of the Great Plains.

Heading home again. Those high peaks in the very far (and blurry--sorry!) distance are just downstream of where I live, about 50 miles by air, 80 by road. Heading home across the high plains. Those high peaks in the very far  distance are where I live.

It's a spectacular drive, even when the weather and roads aren't as favorable as they were today.

US 50 at a wide spot in Bighorn Sheep Canyon in the blue shadows of this February afternoon. Pure joy. US 50 at a wide spot in Bighorn Sheep Canyon in the blue shadows of this afternoon with Lyle Lovett singing "Truck Song" as Red and I wind our way home. Pure joy.

So as exhausted and grumpy as I am, I'm grateful too. The trip to the city reminded me. Without the good fortune of knowing and loving Richard, I would never have come to know this small town where he lived as a child, a place we finally figured out how to return to seventeen years ago.

The valley and town, seen from the trail I run twice a week. The valley and town, seen from the trail I run twice a week.

And even though brain cancer truncated our time together, I can still hear the sound of his laughter and feel his delight in these rocks and trees, hills and peaks, and the community of humans and wild species who weave the living tapestry of this particular landscape.

The place we shared longest in all our years together. And the only one we called home. The place I still do.

Tired, yes, but very happy to be here.... Tired, yes, but very happy to be here....