USA2

Snowmass Village, Colorado

For the first time in my trip, and so close to the end, I’ve failed to do my journal on the proper day. If I don’t lose you in the semantics, today is “tomorrow”, and “today” is yesterday. I’m writing yesterday’s journal today. Today is not the day you are reading about. I could easily write my journal, omitting this first paragraph, as though everything went according to plan, pretend that I wrote it late-at-night as usual using the recently-present tense, but I think I can use this opportunity to make a larger point, a generality about the fading of my traveling perspective.

I think this will be a good experience for me; I think there’s benefit to be gathered from my faux homecoming. When I met up with the Works’ here in Snowmass, I was instantly comfortable, readily welcomed, and more so than not, back into an old frame-of-mind, a general Kansas, home, perspective. It has been hard to think of myself as traveling, as still on the road, still amid my “usa-squared” journey, that I still have people reading my adventures and awaiting new pictures, that I’m still required to write about them, to take photographs. And so the same would be true if I were actually home now. It would be all over and I would be again, forever perhaps, estranged from this vagabond’s point-of-view. But if I were at home for real, for good, I would not have the opportunity to revisit my roadtrip again, not like I will this way. And so I’m thankful that it’s basically artificial, an imitation homecoming, and that I will have a couple of days back on the road to truly assess this “perspective” I’ve been talking about, this mindset that is so apparent now that I’m distanced from it. I’m very fortunate for that.

But for now I’m having a blast and feeling at home. Today our big plans were to whitewater raft down the Arkansas River. We got up a little after seven in order to make it down the hill to the Snowmass mall where our bus left at 8 a.m. There were only 13 of us, including the two guides, making the full-day trek: the five Works’, a younger lady from Texas, a young couple from Florida, and a family of three from Ohio. We got to know all of them, especially our guide Mike, very well by the end of our day.

The first couple hours were spent driving to our put-in location across Independence Pass. The mountains were pretty but the road was brutal and both Sarah and I were feeling quite carsick at the worst bits of it. There were no stops and the twisty road at the back of a big van, pulling a trailer with our rafts and gear, made a rather uneasy ride.

After our brief safety lecture and a run-through of rafting basics, we finally put our rafts in the river. We pulled them out over four hours and 17 miles later, after a gamut of level-three rapids, spaced out between long stretches of calm, smooth river. We made two stops along the way; once for a brown-bag lunch of sandwiches, fruit, chips, and a cookie; a second time to leap from a rock that hung high over the river. At our lunch stop, after eating, Adam, Sarah, and I rode some of the small rapids downstream a few times in water so cold you never quite got used to it. The second stop was just to kill some time, I think, but it was a thrilling jump from a rock maybe 12-feet or so above the water. I jumped once, was fun; others jumped twice, and we finally got a girl with a fear of heights to jump. Once she came up smiling, her boyfriend yelled “Who has the greatest girlfriend!?” It was cute.

Overall it was a brilliant experience. I had so much fun and perhaps a little too much sun. It sparked some ideas for later adventures, but I resolved to finish my current one before I start any more. Smile.

The ride back was almost as grueling as the first ride, but was broken up with a stop for gas and some insane silliness among us Works kids. We explored the theory of a silent syllable, Adam suggesting it could be represented by a long, skinny bar on a keyboard. Later we tried to say words as fast as we could, starting with “hope,” but later evolving to any possible phrase including “high occupancy vehicle.”

We relaxed at the condo, took showers and whatnot, for a couple hours before heading back into Aspen to find a good restaurant. We settled on “La Cocina,” a genuine but fancy Mexican bistro that had been recommended multiple times by the locals we asked. Everyone positively raved about their meals, except for a few cases of too much sour cream, which I still don’t quite grasp, but I think the highlight was the complimentary bean dip served as an appetizer. I’ve tried my hand at synthesizing a good bean dip recipe on several occasions, and have done quite well actually, but this was by far the best I’ve ever had. We left one of my personal cards on the table, not my idea, but not a bad one either.

Beyond supper, we just wandered the streets a while, a post-supper stroll. Nothing was open, necessarily, and there were far fewer street musicians than yesterday, but we had a good time, enjoying our mock-Spanish language and random Mexican-flavored outbursts. “Es Dowg!,” my favorite.

And again, feeling keenly homey at the condo, I failed to write my journal on the appropriate day, whiling away the rest of the night in front of the TV, learning about all kinds of things I’ve “missed out” on this summer.

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