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I could barely contain my excitement and apprehension as I exited the plane and entered the massive Denver airport. I was supposed to arrive a mere twelve minutes before Rachel and meet her at her gate, but of course my plane had been delayed and I arrived substantially after her. By the time I got to her gate, she had already left. I picked up my luggage and proceeded to the information desk to have Rachel paged. I sat down and began to wait.
After a short while, a girl walked up to me. For a moment, the two of us just stared at one anther. Could she be Rachel? She look somewhat like her picture, but her hair was a different color. Before I could speak, she asked me if my name was Michael. I replied that it was indeed and I presumed she was Rachel. We shook hands then set out towards the airport exit to find a taxi.
Our taxi driver loaded our luggage into his trunk and we were off. Upon hearing our intended destination, we began the normal taxi driver-taxi passenger conversation, except he was a little weird. He proceeded to tell us about how his girlfriend had wanted to take a trip to Aspen with a male friend of hers. For some reason, he assumed that she was going to sleep with the guy. Due to AIDS, he considers adultery to be an "attack on his life", just as real as if she had pointed a gun to his head. He broke up with her immediately.
Rachel and I took the bus to Glenwood Springs. I was unloading my bags from the bus when I suddenly looked up and there was Jason. He didn't look quite like his picture, but it was close enough for me to recognize him. Jason, Rachel, and I piled into his car and started driving. It was already getting late, so we stopped at the first campground we came to and pitched our tent there for the night.
Jason: I drive this itty bitty Ford Escort. Between all of my stuff, all of their stuff, as well as our three bodies, it was quite a tight fit.
The next morning, we awoke, showered, and took down the tent. We also made calls to our fathers (it was Father's Day and we're good children) and Rachel climbed up a willow tree. We went across the street to get breakfast at a convenience store. We drove towards where our permanent campsite would be. On the way, we stopped at a dam. We climbed up to the top and then up another hill. At the very top there was a huge pile of smooth rocks (how did they get up there?) and a great view. Across Lake Avery, there were sheep on a mountainside, but they looked more like innumerable cotton balls from our vantage point.
After looking around for prospective campsites, we decided to stay in South Fork campsite in the White River National Forest. We set up the tent and moved our equipment inside. We drove to Buford to make some phone calls and buy supplies. Outside of the trading post-like store, there were seemingly hundreds of hummingbirds whizzing around, participating in what appeared to be mating rituals. Jason called Myra, gave her directions to our site, tried to convince her to come visit us. He also called Alexis. As we were getting ready to head back, thunder, lighting, and rain began. The rain got heavier and heavier, and eventually turned into rather large pieces of hail.
By the time we got back to the site, the hail had turned back into rain and everything was soaked, including the inside of the tent. We hung out in Jason's car and ate bologna and cheese sandwiches and chips while waiting for it to stop raining. We all got in the tent and were alarmed to find a fly buzzing around inside. Everyone tried to swat it with varying degrees of failure. A wrestling match ensued (Rachel is a failure) and then we all napped for a couple hours.
I went outside to attempt to light a campfire, but all the wood was completely wet. Eventually, Jason came outside and managed to get a fire lit while Rachel and I scrounged for more wood and borrowed an axe from the next campsite over. I also found a pile of dry, unused, split wood in an empty campsite nearby (somebody loves us). The fire got going really well, but we discovered we didn't have hot dogs, so we heated up beef stew instead. The thunder and lighting returned, so we began moving our stuff back into the tent. It started pouring, so we brough the not completely cooked beef stew inside the tent and ate it right out of the pot. We spent awhile talking (Rachel told us about some unusual things that can be done with a popsicle), did some writing, then went to sleep.
We woke up and ate cereal for breakfast. We started another fire and the guy in the next site over (Ray) lent us his axe again and gave us some wood. Rachel went rock-climbing. For lunch we ate bacon and scrambled eggs. Jason went out to buy some more supplies, then Jason and I took a hike up to a nearby cave while Rachel took a nap (she was supposed to be watching the fire). Jason and Rachel took a nap while I tended the fire and read Paradise Lost (and empathized with Satan).
Jason: Yes, we took lots of naps. This was my vacation, and I needed all the relaxation I could get.
Everyone woke up and we ate hamburger and rice for dinner. Rachel also made some really good iced tea (from real tea bags!). We also toasted marshmellows and played "Spite and Malice". Jason won (why am I not surprised?). Rachel came in last but continued to play until she beat herself (yes, she's weird). She then went off looking for some more wood....
Rachel: I was walking along a tree and all of a sudden, a little woodland creature pokes his head up and looks at me. So, I looked at him and I said "Take me to the money", and he scampers away. So, I followed him and he takes me to the bank.
Jason: Translating for those that don't understand Rachelese- apparently she followed a chipmunk which led her to a bunch trunk-sized pieces of wood.
Jason and Rachel drove to Buford to call Alexis, Myra, and Jacob. I was left with instructions to burn as much wet wood as I wanted to (uh oh, bad idea guys!). Jason and Rachel returned to find a lot less wood present in the campsite. Much talking and philosophizing ensued and then we went to sleep.
Jason: We roasted lots of marshmallows during these conversations. Yummy!
I woke up early the next morning and started a new fire from the coals of the previous night. We made more eggs and bacon (Rachel is the money) and had cereal, too. We had hot dogs for lunch and more chips (of course). While Jason took another nap, Rachel and I hiked up to the cave and got out our flashlights to explore it. According to the map outside, we made it almost up to the underground stream and a large chamber, but we decided to turn back because we didn't have all the proper equipment (knee pads, helmets, etc.)
Jason: They just didn't want to get dirty. Wussies.
When we got back to the site, Rachel and Jason decided to attempt to bathe in the White River, a very very cold river. Rachel got in up to her waist (Jason was smarter and just dipped his hands in, splashing his hair). Then they napped, but were continuously awakened as I broke up wood for the fire by karate-kicking it. Alexis didn't arrive by 6:00 like she was supposed to (she's a failure). As per Plan B, Jason and I went to Buford to meet Alexis there. While there, I bought an axe (really bad idea, guys). After waiting several hours for Alexis (she'd better feel really guilty), she drove up with Rachel in tow (obviously having ignored Plan B) and they had left the campfire unattended (against the rules) with a pot of water boiling - (take that Smokey Bear). Jason and I felt quite the fools for waiting at Buford (we're failure's, too).
Jason: I'd say that you had to have been there to understand the whole "failure" gag, but I never understood it, and I *was* there.
Rachel rode back with Jason and I rode back with Alexis. As we drove, she told me the story about why she was late:
"So, after driving about three hours out of the way and speeding south down state road 789, I entered the small town of Biggs, population 278. When you speed through a small town of population 278, chances are you'll get pulled over, especially when the speed limit is 30 and you're going 69. Keep in mind, the speed limit outside Biggs is 65 and when you're so entranced with the population 278 sign, you tend to miss the speed limit sign, but not the cop, no indeedy. He knows what the speed limit is and he knew I was exceeding it even before I came into his view, at least 3 miles away. So, he pulled me over and I told him that the car was new, I had just learned how to drive it, and I didn't notice the speed limit had changed even though I should have assumed so. I apologized profusely but he told me those were lousy excuses. So anyway, after writing me a ticket for 150 smackers, he told me there were sheep along the highway and when he took his job, he swore to protect the sheep. I wondered what else it was he did with the sheep in the small town of Biggs, population 278. The moral of this story is stay away from speeding around sheep in small towns of population 278."We all rode back to Meeker to get gas, milk, o.j., and bread and then returned to the campsite. Alexis and I got into a Tae Kwon Do / Hapkido fight with Alexis (golly gee, I've been awfully aggressive on this trip - we can't take me anywhere). Rachel attempted (emphasis on the word attempted) to make spaghetti. Something went drastically awry. What we ended up with was a soggy mass of starchy paste, approaching the consistancy of bubble gum. While some of us ingested a bit of this concoction, Jason decided to try dipping bread in the spaghetti sauce to create a reasonable facsimile of pizza bread. Alexis and I went to sleep, leaving our beleagured heroes, Jason and Rachel, to clean up the mess.
Jason: Which they would end up paying for later.
The next day, we didn't have a fire or anything to cook so we ate more cereal. We were going to try to go whitewater rafting, but alas, fate threw us for a loop. One has to arrive by 1 p.m. to go rafting, we were about 40 minutes too late. Instead we ran around the local Glenwood Springs mall.
Jason: No matter where you go, there's a mall.
Jason and I played air hockey at an arcade. Alexis and Rachel got in a sword fight with giant noodles. We all saw the movie, "Mulan", and we all really enjoyed it. It was a fun family film (and we're all a big, happy family, all the fighting we did proves it). We went grocery shopping and had way too much fun.
Jason: Look, a blue candle! (pause) No, it's a white candle in a blue glass.Among other things, I purchased a bottle of "Apocalypse Hot Sauce" just because it came in a really cool bottle with a chili pepper with a halo over it (Alexis said I was weird...she's right).
We went to Denny's (where we had arranged to meet Myra) and started playing a card game called Euchre. Alexis and Jason were partners against Rachel and me, and we won. Our food and Myra (complete with "other half") arrived at the same time. We talked a little bit (complete with awkward silences as none of us had ever met before) and Myra showed us her really nifty sketch book. We had our hugs and headed back to the campsite. On the way back, Alexis rested her head in Rachel's lap while Rachel petted her head like a cat (heavy petting). We got back to the site and went to sleep.
Jason: I wanted Myra to come see our campsite, but it wasn't going to happen.
We woke up early, had a quick breakfast of cereal (now we had a choice between Frosted Flakes and Raisin Bran). Alexis drove to Glenwood Springs (while Jason constantly attempted to assist her with her driving) to go whitewater rafting. We all got in a raft (our guide's name was Helen. According to Alexis, she looked like Geena Davis. According to Jason, she didn't. According to me she sort of did. According to Rachel, "Who gives a fuck?"). We all got extremely wet and had a lot of fun. Jason sat in front. Rachel sat on the bow (she was our hood ornament / masthead). Alexis got to steer the boat (she was a little timid, but she did her best, and eventually triumphed over the forces of evil). We went out for ice cream afterwards to celebrate our survival. I was suckered into paying for the women.
When we returned to the site, Jason lit a rather large fire and Rachel cooked chili. The chili was great (I ate it with some of the Apocalypse Hot Sauce...even better). Alexis and I did the dishes (with much bantering and insulting of each other).
Jason: They may have considered what they did to the dishes washing, but the fact was we had to clean almost all the dishes all over again the next morning. Though their tirade was fun to listen to!
The following day, we woke up, took down the tent, packed up, and cleaned up the site. We said goodbye to Jason and all hugged and took some group pictures (aww, it's a Kodak moment). We drove out towards Denver. Around Meeker, Jason passed us in his car, and left our sight. We drove through Glenwood Springs and stopped in No Name (yes, that's the real name of the place) to leave a message on Myra's machine, telling her we would be coming to Boulder.
We stopped at Denny's for lunch (we always eat at Denny's because Rachel used to work in one and can "talk shop" with all the waiters there) where we were to meet Myra. She took us to the "Rainbow Festival", an outdoor gathering in which Hippies sold small items, performed, and begged for money. We were followed by a Hare Krishna who wanted us to join their group. We politely declined. We stopped at a coffee shop where Rachel and Alexis played on a piano for awhile. Eventually, we were kicked out for talking too loudly, so we sat on the street outside. We wandered around to a few more stores and then bid Myra farewell. Alexis, Rachel, and I drove to Denver, checked into a motel (it looked like a barn, complete with bugs climbing on the walls) and slept in real beds for the first time in almost a week.
We drove to the Denver airport and checked in Rachel's and my luggage. We brought Rachel to her gate. More hugging and goodbyes took place as she boarded her plane. I bought some soveneirs and Alexis bought some road maps so she'd have an easier time driving back to Montana. I walked Alexis back out to her car in the parking lot and said one final goodbye. I wandered around the airport for a few hours until it was time for me to board my plane.
Now, I find myself sitting in an airplane, heading home. The engines roar to life and the plane leaps into the air. I'm leaving Colorado, the wonderful place on this blue and white sphere where all of our paths had crossed, but if only for a short while. To say the trip was a success would be an understatement. The mundane events we experienced may seem commonplace, but the thoughts and feelings were truly rare. Right now, I'm full of new, beautiful memories. The memories will fade in time, as the sun sets beneath the mountains at twilight, but this is not the end, only the beginning. The is not the last goodbye, only the first. The VOiCE will continue onwards as will our individual lives, and some day, perhaps not too far in the future, all of our paths will cross once again, as they did this incredible week. Until then, I bid you all farewell.