I was gambling in Havana. I took a little risk. Send lawyers, guns, and money, Dad, get me out of this. –Warren Zevon
By Rob Quinn,
Dateline: Sometime in July Poncha Springs. Monday AM. I slept in my truck last night—we’ll get to that. I checked my phone, dangerously low at 10%. It’s Bob from High Valley Center Bike shuttle. He asks, “since I was the only 8 AM can I sit tight till 10 AM and join a few other Monday Monarch Crest shuttlers?”
“All good” my economical response. I peer out the back of my Tacoma. Yep. The parking lot at High Valley Bike Shuttle, just like I left it last night around 10PM when I faded into a spectacular slumber after a spectacular day.
I didn’t notice the 6 pack Tesla charging station next to the gravel lot I called home. The two lawn chair cushions were perfect. A cool breeze blew through the open back gate, with the only company a Racoon I’m guessing (not a big enough production for a bear) who helped himself to the garbage can’s offerings after a busy weekend.
Why am I sleeping in parking lots on Sunday nights in Poncha Springs? That’s a good question. I’ll tell you why.
The drummer of our band, The Recyclers and his New Orleans buddies all decided on a chairlift ride in A-Basin a few years ago they would buy a raft and become river runners. All recent LSU grads, I said “Great idea! After you almost kill yourself a few times and you guys figure it out, give me call”. Sure enough, two years later and with more than a few equipment upgrades, these guys were now signed, sealed and delivered weekend River Rats. So river rafting it was—yesterday, biking today.
The pre put-in safety talk was right out of the commercial trip playlist and no-fuck-around impressive. That’s where any similarity to one of those human water buses and our floating party ended. The seemingly endless Yeti—bag-O-Crank Yankers, sprang eternal all day. The lunch buffet would have made Jerry Garcia proud (happy birthday by-the-way). The river ran slow and the water was warm so I forsook a wet suit all day and soaked up the rays. My tanning equation is pretty simple. When all the freckles connect I’m tan. For me at least. And this has been a sunny summer.
I’d consider it a Cardinal-sin to be in the vicinity of the Monarch Crest trail and not do that bad-boy. It’s a bucket list shuttle ride that begins at High Valley Bike Shuttle in Poncha Springs. Bob’s been doing this for 27 years, the owner. So if you want to get dropped off at Monarch Pass he’s your guy.
I ran the ill-fated Vuelta Salida and back in the day my buddy Greg was the marketing guy at the Monarch Ski area so I had spent quite a bit of time in Chaffee County.
I crawled back into my sleeping bag and drifted off in the shade of the Cotton Woods that line the lot. I’m awakened by Bob! He rumbled in, in his big pick up.
I fall out of the truck barefoot clad in just a pair of Quicksilvers. I beach chair, 2 empty Eddyline IPA’s and ½ a joint betray my evening actions before beddyline time.
Bob’s in his 70’s. Seen it all twice. To him I was just another River casualty that decided to sleep it off in the lot before “The Crest”. I have a game I play. I start naming names and I can tell what kind of a person you are. I start with people of high social status then digress to my associates. Not to bore you, but our conversation ended agreeing that Pete was indeed the best get-out-of-trouble-lawyer-guy in Salida. Yep, those are real eggs they serve in jail and he was friends with my friend that owned a neighboring business and was one of the most famous wild men in the “Heart of the Rockies”. That’s why there is a heart sometimes on Salida Mountain. Salida is dead center of the state. Heart of the Rockies. Bob’s clearly “My-kind-of-guy”. He waves my $30 fee after I tell him I’ll mention him in this article. Bob’s a businessman and so am I.
After I “cleaned my campsite” of all unsightly leftovers, the rest of the shuttlers arrived. Arrived in style I might add. One 2020 Escalade with a 2020 Santa Cruz Tall Boy. Top-Build. Illinois tags. Next in a 2019 F-250, Kings Ranch edition. Top-of-the-line, New Pivot perched on his Kuat. Last in was a 2020 Expedition, Colorado fleet tags. Usually the sign of a long-term renter. Best-of-show Yeti was pulled out the back. Only Santa Cruz has clip-ins. To these folks I could tell I was a curious sight. Shirtless, sunburnt and no haircut since March with dental work that looks like the history of dentistry. Not intentionally, but since I had left Corporate America three years ago, as the English would say when one of their fellow Eaton grads refused to come back to dreary London in favor of a Bohemian existence in Africa,”He’s gone bush”. Although the other guys had cool shit…they had the doughy look of a successful executive, dad, etc etc. Tough to cut that last 10 when you are eating in good restaurants. Where I looked like, I guess Charles Manson comes to mind, only with a tan, veiny legs… and interesting dental work.
In movies they would call this a transition. In Dirt Journal we call this flashback to The Hot tub time machine. Imagine you are spinning. Not enough to make you puke, but enough to take you to another place and time.
It’s the weekend of the USA Pro Cycling Classic 2009. The now defunct Men’s race that ran from 2005 to 2011. I pull into a campground on Independence Pass with my fingers crossed and snag the last spot with my pop-up in tow. The Queen stage is tomorrow with the lads grinding up the backside of Independence Pass and then a thrilling descent into Aspen for the finish. Tomorrow the top of Independence Pass will be one of the best parties in America. I brought two copper Timbales or Cuban Tom-toms that have all the subtly of a canon, to play on the pass. Days later in Golden the JellyBelly racers would tell me they heard the drums 10 miles down the pass.
Luck would have it that my neighbor was an Aspen local named Adam and we are friends today! Sitting around the fire, Adam told me about his work. He is the property manager to a lot of rich folks and he takes care of their homes and gets them ready for the 3 to 4 time a year visits these out-of-town owners usually swing in. That position morphs into butler, kids ski instructor, fishing and hunting guide, drinking buddy and back in the day, weed scorer (I’m being nice Aspen). You in a weird way become one of the family. Adam takes a long pull of the Jack Daniels bottle that appeared in the back of his 1992 Bronco and says with the kind of grimace Jack gives you, “The funny thing RQ (we were fast-friends so he was allowed to call me RQ) is that “They” (super rich dudes) just want to be “Us””. (under-employed ski bums with nominal stress and responsibility). I was flattered to be included in the “Us”.
Bob says we roll in 5 minutes. I’m a mess. My bedroom is also my closet so the fellow shuttlers get to see me dig through my stuff like a homeless guy looking for that “son-of-a-bitching left glove”. Today’s weapon is a my XC-bike. An awesome Chaffee County Jail smock Orange Scott Spark that I’ve upgraded with Envy handlebars and a dropper post I pirated from my wife’s birthday present. The dropper post was not a good item for her! She’d hit it thinking she was shifting gears and it would drop to clown-bike size. Of all the bikes on the rack mine is the least expensive with the least travel.
Now I’m hiding in Honduras, I’m a desperate man, Send Lawyers Guns and Money, The shit has hit the fan.
In the waning minutes before we leave, I remember I have not had breakfast, had no real dinner last night and had no food with me now. Yesterday’s lunch Potato chips.
I need a calorie infusion. Bad.
I go into the store connected to Bob’s operation (he sold it last year but kept the shuttle operation) I grab two pre-packaged burritos, a big chocolate milk, a package of teriyaki beef jerky, a 50 oz bucket-o-Dew and on impulse a family size package of 3 Musketeers. If you want to be annoying, tell people there were actually 4: Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagan.
Bob pulls out of the driveway and the fellow shuttlers have turned all their attention to me and what has to be the most unhealthy meal any of these dudes have witnessed in a while. While I was mowing chow intros and short bios were exchanged.
John is an oil Attorney in Houston who has a house in Crested Butte. I love the way Texan’s say “oil”. I can’t twist my jaw like that.
Tre was a “Personal Security” expert that was now a “Personal Security Retailer” in Johannesburg, South Africa. In intensely racially divided South Africa the majority of the citizens are armed and crime is an issue. If you recall the bizarre Oscar Pistorius murder case, his defense was he was shooting through the door at a suspected intruder. South Africa nodded in agreement. He’s staying at a house he’s rented in Breckenridge. When Tre talks he sounds like he’s giving a Military mission briefing.
Bill is a fund manager from New York. He’s staying “At the house” in Aspen.
Lawyers, Guns and Money in the van. When I grew up Golf was the sport of kings. Today it’s the Mountain Bike. The sport has come a long way from dirtbags sleeping in trucks before races—or has it?
Tre in a South African accent… Graham Parker once described in his song Durban Poison;
“A white man is talking a twisted accent, Somewhere between British and Boar”
Broke the ice:
Rob (Rowb) what’s your story. Where did you stay last night?
Whenever the opportunity exists to be the weirdest guy in the van presents itself, I take it–even if you have already won the belt de facto. When the opportunity presents itself, I try to quote Dylan or Buffett. Buffett got the nod today.
I burp a slight burp of relief and say:
“As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin’ man, I’ve chalked up many a mile. Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks. And learned much about both of their styles”.
…I continue with just enough inflection…
I stayed in “The truck”.
An eerie silence takes hold of the van. I open the family sized Three Musketeers and offer it to the crew. No takers except Bob. Figures.
I expound “Seriously, I own an advertising agency in Denver. Before that I was a corporate media manager for 30 years”.
A collective sphincter loosening can be felt. They are not stuck with Charles Manson for the next 45 minutes. The only person not impressed is Bob. I was one of “THEM??”. Bastard, you fooled me.
Tre: “Ever done Monarch Crest” Me: “Yes” Tre: “How many times” Me: over 20. Tre: Any advice?
Me: Get off the mountain ASAP it’s going to rain early today. Bill interjects that “Doopler says no rain till 2 PM”.
I point to black storm clouds coming in hot from the West. Me: “Okydoky”. Bob smiles.
We get up to the lot and it’s shakedown time. These guys brought a ton of stuff. Food, extra clothing.
Bill brought a Sat phone.
Everybody is interested in my provisions as Bob gets out a picture book of obvious landmarks to look for. I’m traveling light. The plan is to spank this non-stop and get home for band practice at 6 PM in Denver. I’m in a 1995 Triple-by-pass jersey with sleeves cut off. A pair of Evergreen High School Team Baggies, foldable Borah rain jacket, a small camelback (artisian well ½ way through the ride), a bike bottle with Mountain Dew, Beef jerky, iPod and iPhone and two pre rolls.
As Bob goes over the landmark’s I decide It’s time to roll. I interrupt his presentation to give him one of my pre rolls and a $10 tip. Take that rich guys. That’s a cool move. A house in Aspen and no tip money?
It was at that moment that they watched me effortlessly climb out of that lot and disappear. “They” really do want to be “Us”.
I plugged the pod in and settled in to one of the great all time rides. About 2.5k up from the lot you hit tree line and it’s one of the best trails and views in the world. I saw a few hikers and zero bikers on a Monday morning. From there it’s an epic 5k descent back down to the valley floor. All single track.
What once was an all day epic is now a mid-morning rocker. I’m shocked when I hit Marshall Pass intersection, I’m making incredible time. I opt for the Starvation Creek trail for the last part of the one way. An epic and unusual multi mile skree trail that’s like nothing you’ve ever ridden. When I exit back to the dirt road I feel the start of the rain. I put the hammer down and pull into the parking lot of High Valley Center as the downpour begins. Teriyaki beef jerky and pre roll untouched (if you reference inventory list a lighter was not included). I never unclipped and knocked it off in a little less than 3 hours and change.
“Buy that man a Coney dog in Bailey I comment”. Drawing perplexed looks from people charging their Tesla’s. One lady walk’s by and draws her children closer when they pass my truck.
I change quickly and lock and load. The Monday drive is quick and effortless. 4 hours later I’ll be at band practice “Sneaking Sally through the Alley”.
Where else can you experience a bucket-list quality ride in virgin wilderness then breeze into the Mile-high into the coolest city in the country and partake in in making city music with some cats that would rather hike the note scale than a 14er and be just as happy? My unused pre roll is re-purposed.
I’m the innocent bystander. Somehow I got stuck. Between the rock and the hard place. When I’m down on my luck
I hope the boys got down and stayed dry. Tre has followed up and invited me to South Africa after I expressed a desire to race The Cape Epic. What a nice gesture.
Another Epic in the books. Another page in the old Dirt Journal is complete. All is right in the world.