Travel Lessons

Here are some things I learned on my vacation, for what they’re worth.

Drugs and blogging do not mix.

Being in the mountains is lonely.

I am lucky to be alive.

People are easily swayed by a pretty face.

I was invited on a trip with a local community college anthropology club. I’m a geek, so that’s the kind of vacation I like. I jumped at the chance. There were 11 of us. 7 women and 4 men in a van/bus thing creeping around the mountains near the border of Colorado and Arizona. We had quite an age spread, the youngest being around 22 and the oldest being well into his 60s.

One young guy who was a liberal whacko needed the smack-down put on him a couple times (I love the smackdown). He kept talking about people deserving to get killed or put away forever. Remember the Hmong guy in Wisconsin who killed the hunters?  The one who he says harassed him? This guy on our trip said if the hunters had harassed the Hmong hunter, then they deserved to get shot. And remember the story about they guy who forgot his toddler in his car while he went to work? The child died, but our young turk thought the father should be locked up, “People can’t forget about kids. That’s insane. He had to know that kid was in the car. He deserves to be punished.”

My immediate response was to suggest that finding your baby dead in the back seat of your car was probably a pretty harsh punishment for the guy. And to suggest that verbal harassment probably didn’t deserve the death penalty. We had this sort of goofy relationship where I asked if he had never done anything stupid, made a bad judgment, but gotten lucky and not been punished. He had never done anything THAT stupid, he was pretty sure.  I got to know him better over our trip, and ladies and gentlemen, he had too done things that stupid.  But I didn’t kill him.

I sometimes worry about getting killed or having some huge terrible consequence come of a moment of stupidity. My first night in the mountains reminded me just how dumb and lucky I am.

We had just finished a harrowing and stomach churning ride up to Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde is right on the mountainous border between New Mexico and Colorado. As the name suggests, it is a mesa (a table, or a mountain with a flat top instead of a point). Driving in the mountains is stunningly beautiful, death-defying and full of all the wrong kinds of motion. If I kept my eyes directly on the horizon, I could keep my headache and nausea in check. Mostly. But we drove all day. And by the time we arrived, I was exhausted. All I wanted was a place to lay down that didn’t move or look over a steep gorge.

We dropped our stuff off at the rooms and had orders to meet back at the (still stale and full of effluvia) van in five minutes, to go down to the lodge for a meeting. I emptied my bladder, dumped out my stuff (a compulsion of mine), brushed my teeth and headed back to the van. I climbed in and noticed it was only half full. This wasn’t a mandatory meeting. I had an awkward moment while I considered the impression I would be giving if i looked into the van, checked head-count and declined to go. I went with them to the lodge, figuring I could walk back to the hotel/cabin place after a polite few minutes.

I was draggin’. When we got to the lightly peopled and somewhat odd bar (it was more like a portable wedding bar than anything else), I could hardly even be politely social. I was plain old tired. I confessed my error in judgment and said I’d just mosey up the mountain and back to my little hotel room, the key to which was in my pocket. Right.

So, it’s dark now. And misting lightly. Surprisingly cold for late May. The next morning we’d wake up to snow, as it turns out.  I could see the road we came down from our cabin on. I started walking up it, back the way we came. I could see a row of cabins around the curve of the road, but there was a grassy patch with a path right through it. That path goes right towards the first row of cabins without going the long distance along the curve of the road.. I decided I’d cut through the grass and between the cabins, to come out in front of that row.

Halfway up the path I realize a few important things. First, I have no idea if this is the only row of cabins, maybe there are more rows beyond the curve. Second, I have no clear recollection what our room number is. Third, the number isn’t printed on the key (security reasons). Fourth, aren’t there things called mountain lions which live in the mountains? And don’t they sometimes eat people?  And wouldn’t that big dark opening under the cabin to my left be a perfect den for one to pounce out of?  Yes, and yes, and yes.

I keep walking because maybe I’ll recognize the row of cabins and I’ll hear the people who didn’t go to the bar meeting. Plus, it’s a long way to walk back. And as I pop out between the cabins, it’s very well lit and totally generic. Looks like every other row of cabins up and down the mountain. And damn! It’s cold! I decide the least I need is the room number. I’ll have to go back and ask for it.

Couple problems. First, coming out of the bright row of cabins into the mountain path darkness, I cannot see the path. I came up it two minutes ago, but it has disappeared. If I look off to the side of where it should be, it pops out, but when I look for it, it goes away. It’s like I’m in a dream.  Secondly, it’s slippery and cold. I look to a spot just alongside where the path should be.  Walking down it, I start to berate myself. Why, oh why and I so stupid?  Why?

When I slip and fall in the icy drizzle on the side of the mountain and am eaten or not by the mountain predators, won’t people think I was asking for it by venturing out in the dark drizzle alone? Yes they will. But if I live through this, I will not say such callous things about those who die from lack of better judgment.  I decide I will also be grateful for my life and not do stupid things again. The mountain has mercy on me and I make it back to the lodge.

Looking back, I think I must have had altitude-induced hardening of the brain because I actually made this trip twice, returning after I checked the room number with my crew in the bar and realizing that there are many identical rows of cabins and since I have no idea what the system is, the room number doesn’t help me.

The second time I went up two rows of cabins and ran into the proverbial mountain lodge maintenance man, you know, the one who kills people in the movies, whose truck had actually driven by me on my way back to the lodge the first time. He had a box of wrenches and a truck with some reassuring maintenance-ish thing on the side.  I fessed up to him that I couldn’t find my cabin.  He offered to drive me back to the lodge after he fixed the shower in the unit I was in front of.  His truck looked warm and dry.  I declined.

I headed between the cabins back into dark.


2 thoughts on “Travel Lessons

  1. “Being in the mountains is lonely”

    I can thing of nothing better than some mountainous solitude…


    Wow…. All I can say is that it is a good thing you walked back to your hotel room… Otherwise that creepy maintenance guy (Most likely named “Norman”) would be calling you “mother” while you sit in a rocking chair in the attic space of the Bates Motel

    Fix a shower?? Yeah… Right… You do remember the famous “Shower Scene don’t you??

  2. […] around, but somehow I was in a place where my car was not.  Oh my god it was traumatic.  Remember the time I tried to find a cabin in the dark, in the mountains?  It was very similar to that, but without the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s