Catching Up: I am sitting in Wray Colorado in the evening in the middle of my third huge thunderstorm in as many nights. Fortunately the campsite has a shower/laundry/rest room that has a table and a chair and AC. So I just sit in here and listen to the torrential rain come down. This is my second rest day in a row. Rest is a relative term when it is a five kilometre bike ride straight down and straight back up a large hill to get anything you need from town. I have limited my trips to one a day and my body is actually feeling rested. I am heading into one of the harder days of the entire trip tomorrow though with 145 kilometres on tap to the next town of any size at all. Supposed to be mid – 90’s again and there is literally only one small town with a grocery store in that path. So I need to carry all of my food and nine litres of water for the journey. Over prepare has been my motto on this whole journey and it has stood me well. Except for the broken saddle I have been able to keep hydrated and on the road. That was my biggest fear. I am entering the final push to Leadville. I have 500 kilometres in the next week to get there (320 miles for my American friends) and some of those are the high mountains. The high mountains towing the amount of weight I am is daunting. Should be good training, no?
Wray Colorado: I did not plan it this way but I showed up in Wray for their biggest weekend of the year ‘Wray Daze.’ I stumbled into an awesome party. Friday night was fun night with live music in a closed off Main Street followed by fireworks. It is designed for the kids with games where they can win schlok (that is a parental technical term for useless crap), but I found out with the family who adopted me it can keep the children entertained for the weekend. Fun stuff like hitting a car with a sledge-hammer. Four hits for $1. Saturday was even more fun. It all started with a parade down the main streets. I set up in the sun near the drug store and was amazed. Every float/car/tractor/police car/anything that can move threw candy out to the children. This is expected as I soon realized all of the kids had brought shopping bags and they went home with them half full. I have attached a pic of my own swag I collected. This was followed by a totally free community lunch literally for everyone in the community. It was a beef sandwich dinner with chips, ice cream, drinks and devilled egg potato salad. Wow, I was amazed and it got even better. I finished up some necessary shopping and headed over to the ‘Beer Keg Battle’ sponsored by the local fire department. Now tell me, what does that title bring to mind for you? Not necessarily good things I can imagine. This was the most fun of the day. It is the Colorado version of the tug of war. They suspend a ‘keg’ on a cable above a parking lot. The object is two teams of four are given fire hoses at opposing ends of the cable and have to try and ‘push’ the keg over to the other side. I mean every one gets soaked. The firetruck sprays down the crowd between heats and I think my wife the ‘water fight’ queen would be in love.
This brings me to the title of my blog today. One thing I have been trying to do more on this trip is to talk with people. I believe life is about the nouns and wonder and beauty are discovered in the nouns; people, places and things. Adjectives describe our interaction with those but where I delight in discovery is the nouns. When I took my Masters of Journalism the one thing that they pointed out again and again was you needed to talk to people to get the feeling and vibe for what their life was. In my own introspective, introverted ways this was one of the hardest things for me to do. So, I have extended my curiousity this trip to people and I’d like to introduce you to three very special ones from the last couple days. When I hired people in the job I am now retired from the one thing I desired more than anything from the IT people was curiousity. If you are curious you will continue to seek out the solution; if you aren’t you won’t and you won’t succeed. Give me curiousity and wonder at the nouns Lord!
Josh: I met Josh at the free lunch in town. We were both sitting on the wall by the picnic shelter and I started with curiousity. ‘Is there much of a skateboard scene around here?’ Obviously he had a skateboard. He answered and somehow he mentioned the word ‘mentor.’ My ears and curiousity go off the scale when people (Josh is about 20) that age use a word like mentor. Me to Josh; ‘mentor, please explain.’ Josh went on to tell me he had bought a house in Wray at 17 years old and his mentor took the place of his father. His dad passed away when he was 15 from oxicontin and his mother passed away when he was 17 from alcohol. This boy should be a trainwreck if we follow all of the standard protocol of what sucks to happen to you in your life. His mentor stepped in and helps him with his finances (the mentor is an accountant) and pays for all of Josh’s counselling. Josh is headed a for a scholarship for a welding apprenticeship and his sponsor has helped him here also. I mean talk about a resilient individual. Josh and I talked about desire, passion, spirituality, forgiveness, love and life. I had 30 minutes with Josh and I walked away a better person. Better because so many of the things I believe about life are echoed in his story. Resiliency is not a given. You don’t get a golden ticket. Some people given a terrible situation are overwhelmed and buried emotionally, and some people like Josh, rise and succeed. 30 minutes, my heart was warmed. He openly said he has learning disabilities but graduated with all B’s and A’s. Kudos to you Josh, I didn’t have learning disabilities and I graduated high school with a diploma in drinking and smoking pot. It took Jesus, and a melt down of my heart to put me back together.
Dan the ‘Pay It Forward’ Man: When I got back to the campsite that afternoon, I had a new neighbour also in a tent. His bike though was a Harley Davidson. I started the conversation again with curiousity. ‘What brings you here?’; I know this is original and witty repartee but it comes and it goes I swear. Dan and I started to talk and he told me about his trip to see friends and family and see some of the seven states he hasn’t been to. We chatted about camping, and life. Nothing deep but we got along well. We have both received from people in our travels and the shared reality of being blessed is a strong language. This morning we both needed to do laundry. Dan got in first and I had mine ready to go behind his. I was one quarter short on my money. I asked Dan if I could trade a couple dimes and a nickel for a quarter and that would give me enough. He answered, ‘no here just take it and set down a quarter for me. I went away to do some stuff and when I came back Dan had put my laundry in, started it and had put all of the money in for me. I said, ‘you didn’t need to;’ he looked at me and replied; ‘but I did.’ Again, i had other stuff to get ahead on and when I went to throw my stuff in the dryer Dan had beat me to it and again had paid for me. I went out and said thanks. Dan’s answer, ‘pay it forward man, pay it forward!’ Thirty minutes to change and touch my heart.
My Adopted Family: I was adopted this weekend by a family. They were a couple sites down in a trailer. They would become my companions and a true rich blessing for the weekend. J & M and their three children J, W and A just invited me into their lives. Last night they invited me over for chat and drinks (awesome Sake!!!) and we ended up planning to go to church together in the morning. The church is a historic one in the area called Beecher Island Sunday School and is on the site if a famous native battle. Their children took me to see the farm animals next door and called me Mr. Mark (really my Dad is the Mr. but I didn’t object). We went to church, did the potluck there and I learned about a family with generous hearts and an enjoyment of life. As you can see below A got ahold of my camera. Um, enough said. I felt a loss when they left. I learned about working for the USPS, importing wine and why they moved across the continent to Colorado. Most of all I learned that when we give of ourselves, we will be filled both ways. A turned to me in church and said; ‘when we get back you won’t see us again.’ There was genuine sadness in her eyes. Why do kids like me? I often wondered that in church when I would do the children’s stories. Things that do make you go hmmmm…
Closing Thoughts: Would you give 30 minutes to a stranger? If maybe that one person you didn’t talk to was the one who had something that would change your heart today? I have met some of the best people on this trip and in the last few years by opening myself up to curiousity; and also vulnerability. This has not been an easy journey for me. If you want to join me and get to know some new people. Start with curiousity. People generally love to see other people interested in them. I guarantee that if you do there will be a 30 minute window somewhere in there that will change your life also.