July 17, 2013: Meeker to Cokeville

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I left the Rifle area and soon found myself in the delightful town of Meeker, which seems like a mix of counterculture and cowboy culture.  Here I was able to catch up with the news of the road, at a small coffee shop.

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The area between Meeker and Hamilton is prime ranch country.  There are a few reservoirs, here and there.

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Around noon, I came into Craig, northwest Colorado’s social and economic hub.  Craig is more workaday than its more famous neighbour, Steamboat Springs, but has its share of culture.  The regional museum is here.

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In Carelli’s, a local pizza parlour, student art is proudly put on display.

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The last major geological feature in northwest Colorado is collectively called  Fortification Rocks.  This is a memorial to both sides in the Moffat County Indian Wars.

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A short ways up the road, I was pleased to be greeted by two hawks.

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Colorado ran out of road, about 40 miles north of Craig, and I was fully in the Great Basin of Wyoming.  It was while driving through here that a funk took over, I lost my grip on my emotions, I misstated my feelings towards one of the most beautiful women I have ever known, and I was into the first spiritual lesson of my trip, which has already been discussed ad nauseam, elsewhere.  This is not Wyoming’s fault, or hers.

Baggs, the first town I entered in Wyoming, has a small museum, dedicated to the range land of the upper Great Basin.

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After blazing through the cloudy, bleakness of  the Red Desert, I reached Rock Springs, walked around the historic section of the old rail town and learned the consequences of my emotional outburst earlier in the day.

The scenes of Rock Springs are typical of rail hubs in the Mountain West.  It is also a major player in both the coal  and shale oil industries.

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I could have easily stayed the night in Rock Springs, but the agenda for the following day included both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and I needed to move on.

Passing Fossil Butte National Monument, I stopped to get a couple of views.

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The night’s stop was in Cokeville, with supper at Blondie’s Diner, just before closing time.  My tired countenance made me sport for a rather raucous individual, who seemed to be the town bully.  I ignored his leers and jibes, and he left, with the teen boy who was his only audience, after about fifteen minutes.  The meal itself was good enough.

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Hideout Motel was needed that night, and was more than up to the task.

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It occurred to me that my friend is far more of a woman, than I am a man.  Yet there was a tomorrow and I would press on.  This is a spiritual journey, and as in Star Wars, the only way is through.

Next:  The Bridger-Teton, Cokeville to Afton.

Aloneness and Isolation

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It’s been a lot of sojourning, both physical and spiritual, these past two weeks.  I have been to only good places, in terms of physical travel.  Nowhere have I been let down, much, by the people around me, or the people I have seen.

Spiritually, I have been blessed with feeling connected to the ancients and the departed souls, in places like the Grand Tetons, Medicine Wheel, Devils Tower, Harney Peak, the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL,  Cahokia Mounds, and today, atop El Dorado Canyon.

Emotions have always been my Achilles heal.  As I said in a previous post, I am an acquired taste.  Too intense by half, I have seen plenty of struggle, these many years.  I’ve fallen in lust several times, from teenage crushes and indiscriminate kissing, in my teens and twenties, to fanciful attachments to women, over the past 18 months, which have not gone anywhere.  In fairness, neither have the fanciful attachments that random women have had on me.  It has to be a two-way street, and we all get hurt by one person or another, every so often.

I’ve had two  women in my life whom I love (present tense intentional) strongly and deeply.  One became my wife, my soul mate,and remained by my side until her passing, two years ago.  As I write this, she is nearby, I feel.

The other is one I regard as my best friend, but is one who has a strong, independent life of her own, living far from me.  She impacts my life by her day to day acceptance of challenges, which have been considerable for her, of late.  She has awesome goals for the immediate future, and I support her 100 %.   She is my best friend because she inspires me.

I live alone, for the time being, by choice, because I have needed the past two years to regroup and recuperate from the severe blow of March, 2011.  I have refused to stay isolated, however, and therein lies my survival and recovery.  Full involvement with life in my adopted community of Prescott has helped me accelerate that process.

I have traveled extensively in the United States, over the past 18 months, not as a flight mechanism, but as a means of discovery, both of who I am and what makes our nation tick.  The saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are”, so running away is a chimera.

The human spirit is, like Abraham Lincoln described his office of the Presidency, of enormous power.  We are made with all the virtues of the higher power.  I have seen people, who have let themselves be consumed by depression, guilt and stress- none of which are intended for us by the Creator, become inspired, recover from their funk at an astonishing pace, and soar in achievement and discovery.  We limit ourselves only by our attachments.

I am not a man of great achievement.  I have helped several hundred, maybe a few thousand, people in my life, both professionally and personally, to get over their hang-ups and sense of limitations, their scarcity mentality.  I was a good caretaker to my wife, in her last years.  With her, I raised a fine, industrious young man.  I cannot walk with a high level of pride, though, because occasionally, people have been hurt by me.  I have, whenever possible, “manned-up” and made it right for them again, but the recovery rate is not 100%.

I   have, over the past two weeks, visited with a variety of people.  I am struck by those who insist they must be isolated because “no one wants me”.  The only answer to curbing isolation is to get out there and live.  God did not put us on this earth to be estranged from our fellows.  He put us here to do great things, as a group, and individually.

I can continue to be of service, whether in Prescott for the time being or elsewhere, possibly as early as next year.  My son is an asset to the United States Navy, now and for at least the next two years.  My brothers are important to the companies for whom they work.  My best friend is in the process of changing careers and resuming activity in a field of endeavor in which she has been passionate in the past.  Each of you, my reader-friends, has a passion, and a skill set, that are needed by somebody. The late Joseph Campbell said “Follow your bliss”.  This was not a pitch to idleness and sloth.  Lao-tse wrote, thousands of years ago, “Do what you love, and you will never work another day in your life”.

Aloneness, with a modicum of privacy, lets us make key personal decisions in a place of  serenity, away from the  welter of public opinion, whether electronic or physical.  Isolation, on the other hand, stunts our growth as human beings.  No one, save the most heinous of felons, is so wretched that he or she must hide from all humanity in perpetuity.  We belong largely together, balancing the dignity of privacy with the need to sound people out, on matters large and small.

These are things that have come into my mind and heart, while figuring out what my place is in the scheme of things and in the life spaces of those closest to my heart.  I only look forward to what lies ahead.  Like my friend, I will embrace life with the passion it deserves.  See you all out there, following your bliss.

( I am not putting this on Facebook.  I would rather have people come here, from now on, for my more personal posts.)

 

July 17, 2013: Rifle Falls and Caves

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The northwest of Colorado is somewhat drier than the Rocky Mountain core.  Even so, the rivers run at a credible clip, and the occasional waterfalls are well worth an hour or two.  Rifle Falls has three such waterfalls and a series of limestone caves occupies the area underneath the falls.  I spent ninety minutes on the morning of July 17, casually walking the trail to the top of Rifle Falls and exploring the caves along the bottom of the trail.

I begin with scenes of the plateau leading into the Rifle Gap.

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The falls and caves lie just east of Rifle Gap State Park.

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Here are more scenes of the caves, which are quite delicate, an dwould not make safe hiding places- though that would be tempting, in a pinch.

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I climbed up to the top of the falls, along Coyote Trail, and learned that a private entrepreneur had built a hydropower plant, of sorts, and a tourist attraction, in the 1890’s.

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Above is a remnant of the hydropower facility.

Rifle Falls set the tone for a rather happy day, that Wednesday.

Next:  The Road to Cokeville

July 16, 2013: Fairburn to Rifle

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The road from Nederland to Central City/Blackhawk leads up and over peaks that have some snow pack all year long.

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They are the gateway to what is billed as “the richest square mile on Earth:  Central City/Blackhawk.  These towns are gambling meccas, so being an unventuresome sort, in that regard, I spent only about twenty minutes looking over the area’s historical treasures.  Mountain City is a collection of preserved late 19th Century mining town structures.

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Here is a view of Black Hawk’s main north-south street.

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Although this area is billed as a tourist site, I did not get good vibes from the few locals I encountered, and so moved on to Glenwood Springs.  My friend works for a school system in the Glenwood area.  He introduced me to Yampah Vapor Caves, which gave me twenty minutes of deep breathing and cleansing.  We then went over to  his home in Rifle, some twenty miles west north west of Glenwood Springs.

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Next:  July 17, 2013, Rifle Falls

July 16, 2013- Boulder Canyon

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Now it’s time to focus on all I have seen, since I left the blessed Front Range two weeks ago.  I headed for Glenwood Springs, where my friend Mitchell Silas works during the week.  After driving through Boulder Canyon, from Longmont, where I had spent the night after visiting my uncle and a friend, I stopped for lunch at Nederland, enjoying the fine buffet at Kathmandu Restaurant.  here are some scenes of Boulder Canyon, below the Falls.

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Atop the canyon lies Nederland, a delightful town with several shops and restaurants, and Barker Meadow Reservoir.

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Once well-fed at Kathmandu, with plentiful North Indian and Nepalese cuisine, I headed towards Central City, Black Hawk and Glenwood Springs.

Deluge in A Paper Cup

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(This is the third of nine reflections on a spiritual journey I have been taking, and some of the  human struggles that have been concurrent to the journey.)

Neil Finn wrote this phrase, relative to a long-forgotten personal struggle of his own.  I tend to do this all the time, working hard to solve my friends’ problems, while using inadequate resources. Today, I tried to get up to Colorado Springs, from western Oklahoma, in time for a mid-afternoon discourse with another Word Press friend. Leaving Enid at 8 AM, and having a sit-down breakfast in Laverne, OK, at 10, probably didn’t hurt my efforts too much, but somehow I ended up unequal to the task, and have to try and reschedule, before leaving the Front Range on Wednesday morning.

The key here seems to be getting over the adage, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”  I have had several different viewpoints expressed to me, regarding my own foibles that have surfaced on this trip and other events associated with my posts.  Some of the viewpoints address people’s personal issues, and I have had to tell more than one individual to respect the privacy of others.  Nonetheless, for the most part, every living soul has a role to play in the unfoldment of human civilization.  Some destroy aspects of the community, which were probably untenable anyway.  Others build up new and stronger communal features.

I have good friends who set me straight on my own shortcomings, and I reserve the right to point things out to others, albeit in as nice a way as possible.  So, I do think the above-mentioned adage is often a false assumption.

There are, however, times when a person who has not been allowed to do things on his/her own, needs to be given the chance to try- perhaps to fail- at handling a personal issue, without the gang being all here.  The key is dignity, always self-worth.  I failed today, but I learned valuable lessons.  Other friends have tried, mightily, to resolve personal issues, and sometimes have not been successful.  To me, the fact that they each gave their struggles 100% of what is in them is what is most important.

The Higher Power will protect and rejuvenate the person who is in an honest struggle.  I am so proud of each and every one of my friends and family, who struggle on their own.  My son, my youngest living brother, my best friend among the living, and several of my better friends in Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, California and elsewhere have fought personal battles both on their own and in concert with others, and are doing their level best.  That’s all that matters, really.  God either gives us another chance to right our mistakes or brings people into our lives who can better help rectify things.

So, making the effort, even with inadequate resources, releases energy that will both bring the nettlesome problem into wider perspective and attach the issue to other, related matters, thus “killing several flies with one swat”, so to speak.  We owe it to one another to discern the difference between a matter which is best left to an individual to resolve and a highly intractable matter, requiring several points of view for resolution.

Circles of Pain

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I am an acquired taste.  I have been so, for many years, partly because of mild autism and partly because I am an odd mix of the cerebral, the sensual and the spiritual.  My words often need a second, or third hearing or reading,because of this complexity.  Still, as I have been reminded by both well-meaning friends and by my own meditation, I am in no want of quality companionship and daily doses of love.

My angst of the past week has been mistaken by some observers as being a cry for physical intimacy.  The fact, though, is that I have been celibate,by faith and by choice, for the past four years.  I will not sully my dignity, or anyone else’s, by adding further details on that aspect of my life.

I have felt a high level of pain, largely because I am empathetic to the current sufferings of a very dear friend, in fact my best friend in the physical frame.  I have spoken of this often enough that I can leave that aspect alone as well.

Each of us, no matter how prosperous, how well-off we appear on the surface, has to undergo a certain level of angst and pain.  Without these, we settle for our lot, in an imperfect world, failing to realize the true reason for our physical existence, which is to know and love God.  If it seems this is difficult in the flesh, imagine doing it in the non-physical, spiritual realm which awaits us.  Just as none of us can ever completely understand even a fleeting glimpse of Who God is, to take the figurative, allegorical descriptions of the Spiritual Realm to heart,and conjure images of an infernal fire or a blissful paradise, is equally frivolous.  The time to focus on one’s virtues is now, not in the hereafter, where far more intense tasks probably await us.

Going back to the topic of emotional pain, I have found it circular in its course.  What starts out as a nettlesome problem for one person, quickly affects his/her significant other, family members, closest friends, advisers/mentors, and ripples out to the point where hangers-on, however well-meaning, get in over their heads.    The circle thus may become pain-inducing,well beyond its original scope.

The key to breaking a circle of pain is for one and all to turn to the Higher Power, whatever you perceive Him, Her  or It to be.  Whether God, the Unknowable Essence,the Holy Spirit, or the Universe, this Force, and only this Force, can heal the pain.  This is why I have gone to so many sacred places on my current journey.  I would not have done this so intensely, had my best friend not taken me aside and told me of the cause of her emotional pain.  I don’t regret trying to help her.  I would give my life for this woman.  She is not a physical diversion or a replacement for my departed spouse.  She is a thinking, feeling, virtuous human being, who has the ability to rise above her pain.  Likewise, her spouse has the ability to rise above his pain.  We all do, and we all deserve one another’s help, and the Power of Divine Assistance.  This is applicable to all, from the baby getting frustrated by hunger, to the victims of war in places like Syria, dodging daily bullets.

I do not care to hear about how good I have it, compared to others.  I know how well-off I am, and am grateful to God, to His Messenger, Baha’u’llah, to my angel, Penny and to all my sincere friends, for my relative good fortune.  This is not about me.  My current focus is on one person’s pain, and walking it back to all those in the circle, who are suffering, and getting a handle on what lessons may be learned, and how to move on, as a group.  I want my friend’s circle of pain to be broken- ENOUGH!

Love, Dignity, Anguish and Redemption

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(This is the first of nine posts relative to some spiritual insights I have received while on the road and on the trails.)

All relationships have three aspects:  The regard one has for self, the regard one has for the other person and the regard the pair have for those around them.  I have thought a lot about these aspects, for the past five or six days.

Over the course of my life, I have had lots of “crushes” on girls and women, starting with when I was four, and thought a girl in the neighbourhood was cute, and most recently when I attended a Slow-Food USA regional meeting and was distracted by a tall, long-haired brunette with a very engaging personality.  The thing about crushes- most of you know the drill- is that sooner, rather than later, reality sets in, in the form of the receiver’s father, boyfriend or, in the most ambiguous situations, her husband.  I also have lots of friends, of both genders and sexual orientations, whom I love dearly, in a platonic or paternal way.

I have moved on from crushes, with no harm done to anyone.  My regard for myself stayed intact, I usually ended up with two friends, instead of one, and the Universe chuckled at Gary being at it again.

I have been really, seriously, in deep love only twice in my life.  Most of you know a fair amount about the first time.  Penny is still with me in my heart, and on my shoulder- advising me to be “dry in the ocean”- unaffected by the “oceans” of temporary poverty, fatigue, being misunderstood, getting lost on a trail, or being devoid of human company. Our marriage thrived, despite extreme adversity on occasion.  Most marriages undergo such challenges.  Ours were getting bad financial advice, her falling ill, our bankruptcy and our eventually having to put our house on the short-sale market.  I managed to keep her in the home, until the end of her earthly days.  It was a matter of dignity, as was our working together, consulting on almost everything, getting over disagreements almost as soon as we had them, and affirming our love for one another at least twice a day.  Terms of endearment flew back and forth between us, constantly each day, right up until the end.  I will see her again some day, in a far better world.

I did not set out, that windy, wet and cold night of December 6, 1980, in Zuni, NM, to meet the first love of my life.  It just happened.  It ran the course of initial attraction, casual dating, the building of a solid friendship, her working through a crush on a wealthier, more glamourous man, our getting back together, her realizing that she loved me, our wedding, some tempestuousness in the early years of wedlock, parenthood and my being her caretaker, for nearly eight years.

I did not set out, either, a year after Penny’s passing, to meet and be enamoured of yet another person.  Indeed, for the first year I knew the woman I now regard as my best friend in the world, I was not conscious of any strong feelings for her, other than that I was very, very happy when we were briefly together, and it was she whom i wanted to be the first to know when I hiked Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River and back, on the same day.  She was in a good place, emotionally and in terms of her relationship with her significant other.

I was raised by loving parents, who taught me the sanctity of marriage and the need for both partners to do their absolute best, way beyond any concept of comfort zone.  The spouse’s feelings came first, then the welfare of the children, and the status of the family in the larger community.  My Mom and Dad loved us, one equally as much as the others. They loved each other best of all.

That was what brought my buried feelings to the surface, not long ago.  I had a fairly long talk with my friend, and learned she was not being treated with dignity and consideration.  My tendency with Penny, when she was disrespected by anyone, was to come to her defense.  It worked for her, because while she was incredibly intelligent and articulate, she was used to her father’s ferocious defense of her and her sisters.

The situation this time is far different.  For one thing, while I recognize that my feelings for my best friend are deep, indelible and that they are never going away, I have had to be more careful.  She is the second woman I have ever  loved totally and completely, outside of my biological family, and yet romance is a minor factor, if it is a factor at all.  There are, at present, other goals that concern us both, but which she, first and foremost, has to be the one to promulgate.  I can, and will, defend my best friend, if push comes to shove.  For the present, though, it’s her dignity and self-worth that need to be front and center.  I want, above all else, for this beautiful and powerful woman to realize her dreams.

As I was wandering among the sacred precincts of Medicine Wheel, Bear Lodge/Devils Tower, Harney Peak and Pipestone Quarries, over the past four days,  I kept getting the message that the Universe was not done with me yet, in terms of my relationships with women- that there could be as many as nine people, from Penny onward, who would be part of some sort of inner circle of spirit friends, between now and the day I pass to the next realm.  These women could be very old or very young.  Most would already have spouses or significant others, whose dignity and personal challenges would also require my due consideration.  Our relationships would be deep, and primarily spiritual, with physical attraction only a fleeting impulse.  Maybe that’s the larger lesson from the events of the past week or so.  I may very well never see my best friend again in this life, though I hope that’s not the case.  I know, however, that I will never be the same person I was before I met her, and that in itself is a comfort.

This brings me to redemption.  Christians take it on faith that Christ took care of the redemption of humanity, by His own sacrifice.  Baha’is believe that a Messenger of God offers His followers a path to redemption. I have had to redeem my worth countless times, over the years.  I have had plenty of help in that regard, from family members, real time friends, online friends and from my soul mate in the spirit world.  Ultimately, though, I have to be the one achieving redemption. So does each other person, in his or her own space.  My best friend needs to be away from me for the time being, so I am hoping she doesn’t see this until she is ready to read it.  Still, I needed to share my insights, and will continue to share them, regarding other aspects of my journey.   Until I see you again, if ever, I pray all the forces of the universe to light your way, my blessed and irreplaceable fellow traveler.

A Benign Bastille Day

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Yesterday, the bunch of us piled into several cars, and headed first to The Delectable Egg, in Westminster, CO.  This was our Birthday Brunch for the twin ladies.  Melissa took excellent care of our large group, and we continued the fine conversations from last night.

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Afterwards, five of us headed to Boulder, where we first went up to the Flatiron area, on Flagstaff Mountain.  We got a fine view of UC- Boulder, below.

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The twins and their men are thoroughly impressed with the view.

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Our next stop was Boulder Canyon.  The falls trail was closed, but we got some nice views from the fence, anyway.

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The imp in me was sorely tempted to hop the fence and be photo’d inside the hole in the rock!

We capped a perfect outing with a visit to Pearl Street Mall, for ice cream, hot Puer tea, and an hour’s worth of browsing.  A didgereedoo player added to the festivities, as did a bubble man and a violinist.

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There is something for everyone in Boulder.

July 12-13, 2013

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I found my old friends’ homestead with relative ease, on Friday morning.  I had not been out to the community of Dinnebito (“Peoples’ Water”) in 21 years.  It was therefore a blessing, when I received instructions on using a back way, that did not require going up and down what is little more than a jeep track over rocks.  I stayed for two hours, enjoying talk on a variety of topics, from life in the South (First daughter is married and lives most of the year in Alabama) to the unruliness of some sheep.

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After a simple, well-prepared lunch, courtesy of a visiting family from Oklahoma, I left my friends and headed northeast.  The terrain of the Colorado Plateau, on the Navajo nation varies from sage and juniper-covered mountains to red sandstone formations, such as Round Rock and Castle Rock.

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I made it past Four Corners, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet at a single point.  Just on the New Mexico side of the line, an oil tanker truck had overturned, leading to a serious mess.  Fortunately, it seemed the driver had escaped serious injury.

I stopped at Mancos, having dinner at Grand Cafe, and photographing a double rainbow.                                                               SAM_5194SAM_5192           SAM_5194

After a much-needed night’s sleep, I got up at 5:30 AM, learned a friend’s situation that had been causing me consternation had been eased somewhat, and headed on up the road.  A good breakfast at Junction Restaurant, in Pagosa Springs, CO led me to reflect that our young waitresses do try hard to make their patrons’ meals worthwhile.  Both Brier, at Grand Cafe, Mancos and Kayla at the Junction were attentive and a joy to be around.  I think I will continue “shoutouts” to people who work hard at this job that is not always so rewarding.

I had a pleasant drive through the spine of the Rockies, over Wolf Creek Pass, to Del Norte and then up Rte. 285, the “Gunshot”, which connects southern Colorado most directly with Denver.  As today, I was able to enjoy relatively clear skies, I got some views of La Garita Range and the Collegiate Peaks, near Buena (pronounced “Beoona”) Vista.

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I arrived in Northglenn in plenty of time to rest before my sisters-in-law were guest so honour at their *** birthday party.  About twenty five guests made it a lively and enjoyable evening.  Now, it’s time for bed, just about.

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