Saturday, 4 September 2010

Autobiographical Travel - Part III

I have several reasons for relating these tales of my travels.  One is because I can re-appreciate how fortunate I have been to see the places I have.  Also, where possible, I would like to show them to you.  Finally, as Bill and I formulate our plans to move to Salt Lake in a few years, I know that seeing the US is high on his agenda and there are places I would love to visit again to show him.  So, back to the 1980's.

There was a log cabin that step-father-in-law, a lawyer, had in Pike National Forest, in Colorado.  He'd inherited this from his father, one of the founding members of his law firm.  All the founding members had jointly taken a 99-year lease from the national parks department and built their cabins near one another.  Seems like they didn't really want vacations from work, now I think about it.   

The large two rooms were furnished with feather beds, a wood-burning stove, a metal cage out the kitchen window for a fridge, water pumped from a nearby stream, a hip bath, an outhouse and a chamber pot. I thought that was rough until the year we tried to vacation there along side little brother and wife with new baby.

There was a major argument -- we'll call it a misunderstanding, shall we? -- which found them staying in the cabin while we camped for 10 days at a nearby Charolais ranch (we had permission), sleeping in the back of the camper-pick up and cooking on an open fire, bathing in the freezing river. It was an interesting vacation altogether. 

H-1 and I had been in a serious car collision with a drunk driver a few months previously.  He was still in a cast from waist to ankle and so couldn’t drive. (I’d had 100+ stitches in my eyelid, but that healed sooner than his bones). He’d drafted an old friend, Dan, whom I’d never met, to come along and drive.  He had a teenaged son and they were glad for a holiday in Colorado. Only come the day, Dan was too 'ill' to drive. I’d not driven a standard shift for 8-9 years, had never driven a truck, but ended up driving the pick-up with a camper shell, three other humans and a dog all the way to Colorado. It sounds a small thing now, but I was scared to death at the time.  When it all worked out, it was sort of a laugh given that H-1 always insisted on doing the driving otherwise. 

I had better luck fishing on the ranch than in the Gulf. I saw a beaver diving near my line and tried to jerk the hook away before the beaver got snagged. There was a good sized fish on the hook instead!   The ranch was a breathtakingly beautiful place surrounded by mountains and trees turning glorious colours in the cool, clean air.  My Golden Retriever, Sunny, was in heaven but I remember each morning counting the days til I could get home to a hot shower and a warm bed.  There are surviving photos from this holiday and I will add them to this post when I find them during my scanning project.  They are rather a hoot as I definitely look like hillbilly.  For the return journey, the friend, then sober for a week, drove us home.  I was glad for the rest.

Then there was the year we wandered up that way but stopped to visit some of H-1's old friends from high school, then living near Leadville, Colorado.  They were interesting people, sort of aging hippies.  That's how I saw them then, when they were in their...40's?  How time changes one's perspective!  They owned two Victorian houses side by side; one for living, the other for storage of a vast collection of virtually everything, also for horticulture.  They had cute little marijuana plants sprouting out of several muffin tins -- there's a tip for someone's Trash-to-Treasure programme.   They had named their first five children alphabetically, but weren't inspired by 'F', apparently, as child number 6 had an 'A' name.    They laughed when I was shocked to find a photograph of one of the children being born, alongside the more usual 'birthday' photographs one would expect to find in an album.  Truth be known I was rather shocked for about the whole 2-day visit.  They were quite pleasant people, creative and intelligent, but I began to realise how conservative my thinking was.  I felt sorry for the children and not just because they all sported crew cuts.  In spite of having each other to play with they struck me as somewhat lonesome.  They so enjoyed playing with Sunny.  I don't think the neighbourhood kids were allowed to associate with them.

Another time when we went to Colorado, it was to a family gathering, a re-union of sorts.  The farmer had got tired of working for ‘50 cents an hour’ (wealthy men take advantage of poorer sons-in-law, perhaps) and had moved his family to Montrose, Colorado. Turned out his masters degree in forestry didn’t net much of a job but his wife went to work as an administrator for a utility company or something.  He ended up being a very hard working, thrifty house husband, looking after his two pre-school aged sons. I was impressed with the hard working house husband bit, but didn’t yet at that time in my life understand thrifty. 

Our re-union included a visit to the Black Canyon (This link is from Bill's birthday trip in 2008, not mine in the 1980s), but was also nicely timed with the arrival of the turf for their new back yard and we were all pressed into service. It just seems sensible now, but at the time I remember slightly resenting this and thinking it was ‘them all over’.    Not sure I understood hard work back then, either, not yet. 

That trip will also have been the first time I saw the Grand Canyon, we probably dropped by because it was in the vicinity (1,000 miles seemed to constitute vicinity back then); also Mesa Verde and a meteor crater in either New Mexico or Arizona, I don't remember.   I do remember step-son joking that we would pull over for virtually any hole in the ground on that vacation, an astute observation. He was a funny, bright kid who I think I heard became a marine biologist; odd profession for someone who grew up in Midwest City, Oklahoma, but there you are.

As I mentioned before, vacations with H-1 were taken in the car.  He liked big, comfortable cars and I wouldn’t like to think how much money we spent on as during the years we were married.   Then again, I spent money on everything in a considerably different way than I do now.  Anyhow, after about 10 years we split up.  I did a few weekend trips to places around Oklahoma with girlfriends but no major trips until I found H-2. Biological clock ticking, I re-married pretty soon.

To be continued…

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