Despite two days on the road and the car packed so full that only a tunnel of vision remains, everything in the car has its proper place. The lip balm is always in the car door along with my phone, notepad and a growing collection of national park maps, the large road map lives behind me on top of the cooler next to the bike bag with my bike clothes and the extra gallon of water.
Every morning has a special routine. We crawl out of the sleeping bags and stuff them in their cases, roll up the sleeping pads and pack it all, including the tarp and pillows, into their proper places. In the palm of my hand, I add a little water to the cleansing clay with dried flowers that my cousin Elise made and wash my face, then brush my teeth and hair. Within 15 minutes of waking, we’re off. Windows down, Jeep turns on public radio and I check the map for today’s route.
I’ve often thought of my first visit to Mesa Verde some 30 years ago. Pueblos feel so spiritual to me, so profoundly mesmerizing. It’s like meeting a wizened sage who simply renders you still and quiet by their presence.
Unfortunately the plethora of tourists at the Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park was neither silent nor contemplative. Jeep and I opt for the three mile trail to the pictographs. Up and over the hills, we gradually get away from the noise. It’s hot and sticky and we watch our water carefully. The pictographs seem to tell a story of the topography of this very trail. As we ascend to the rim, the thunder starts to rumble and soon it’s raining fat drops. I love Colorado weather.
In anticipation of the Fourth of July celebrations, red, white and blue bunting trim decorate the silver mining towns we pass through traveling up and over the Rockies. Abandoned and rusting mine carts and wooden machinery lay ghost like in their disuse. Dinner is at True Grit in Ridgway, a restaurant dedicated to John Wayne, where I eat not a slab of meat but a delicious salad.
We grab bagels and coffee (for me) and chai (for him) in Grand Junction. Meandering up the road we get to Glenwood Springs around noon. Now the bikes come down for a ride along the Colorado River at Grizzly Creek. The river splashes over its banks and we dart around driftwood. Swallowtail butterflies fly all around us. I laugh aloud like a child. Tears of pure joy come to my eyes. I swear I feel like a five-year-old on Christmas morn.
We encounter our only spot of bad luck an hour or two after getting back on I-70. A semi has crashed and we’re stuck in four-plus hours of holiday traffic. We finally arrive in Littleton to visit the relatives in time for fireworks and a nice bottle of wine, or two.
Ah, I love the road.