Low whitewater flows through the Colorado River and the Yampa is but a trickle of what it was last year (100 cfs from 9000). Well to do excitable vacationers bring their children up mountains, down river runs, and even to the Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The next day request, or reservations of rafting trips, included specifications for twenty people, including four with XXXXL life-vests and two more with XXXL vests. The seasonal river guides were not sure if they had vests that big for the 300+ pound vacationers. The boats were nearly 20 years old and had made it through the most rugged of river levels. Spirits remain high regardless of the time of day, however several ‘greatest generation’ers stiffed our host after a five hour river guide experience. He is part of that gang of twenty and thirty-somethings who make up the seasonal workforce.
Some stay permanently in whatever occupation is available, even attaining the status rewarding them with ski passes for the winter, which run around $1,000 a season. Then there’s the river. An average run costs over $100 and most of the guides are simply people who made an impression during a week long $400 training run. In any given ski town or other Rocky Mountain town, hundreds of river guides wait for employment and make do with whatever pays enough to keep them going in paradise. Fishing guides, and dozens of other service workers keep the town going, at least until 10:00pm.
The common challenge is to continue the experience of the mountains. Wilderness surrounds Steamboat and wealthy doctors, lawyers, and business executives construct houses into the heights of town. The billionaires have not pushed out the millionaires yet. Locals carry pride in their community and have not accepted the newly built Walmart and CVS Pharmacy. Off the beaten path bookstore is a quaint little shop and now sells Wild Harmony.
Filled with an overjoyed sense of humor, seasonals share drinks among tourists who sip down their hurricane mixed drinks and talk loudly of their fishing expedition. The town is busier than ever and the male population is exuberant over the fresh supply of adventurous women, while locals feel some relief. Rent is not cheap and some take the further step of living up in the mountains in the wilderness to save some money. Steamboat is also home, at least in the training sense, to many Olympians who are now in London competing for the gold. Those with means have been buying up property for years, including the old ski lift which runs up the original mountain to a chateau which is now owned by some Italian. Up in the mountains away from all residential areas is one of the most amazing hot springs in the world, Strawberry, and in those heated waters, people of all ages swim around in the moonlit night.
Wild Harmony in Steamboat Springs Birthday from James Coyne on Vimeo.
Returned to Ohio after 8,700 road miles and 5,000 air miles.
The rental car’s tires melted outside of Houston. Bats swarmed under a bridge and over treelines in Austin. A Texan prison guard warned of imminent danger in New Orleans. Hundreds of new border patrol vehicles sit collecting dust in parking lots along the highway while 1991 Chevys rush across interstate ten with hunched over Mexicans in the back thinking of good days to come. The nearly 1,000 mile drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Austin, Texas was a pleasant struggle against ophthalmological exhaustion. Tiny deer and the occasional coyote scamper along the 80 mph highway.
Every place is the same, as are the people and things that fill the void between landmarks. You bring you wherever you go. The mystic quality of travel is that you will be able to learn more or understand yourself better. The “what do you want” will be answered. Anyone who’s been there and back knows that concept is rubbish. It does not take a thousand miles of wandering to find yourself. Those who disagree know themselves enough to believe that whatever they are doing is right and true. And there is nothing wrong with that. But to believe you must go somewhere or experience something or simply travel aimlessly to find that ultimate answer is recipe for disappointment and confusion. Still, there is the rare instance in which you may return from your wandering and realize how fortunate you are in the grand scheme of 7 billion people on Earth. Create one of those gratitude lists and smile.
People have made their way to just about every place in this world and beyond only to discover that salvation lies elsewhere. It is amazing how open travelers are with strangers, yet these same talkers find it nearly impossible to share the same sentiment with their neighbors back home. The world is a big place and we all have a right to experience it as we wish. Then there’s that next place…”We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” The other things are often forgotten, but it all goes hand in hand. How do we learn? What’s next?
After nearly 9,000 miles of road travel around the mighty USA, the one constant is that there is something here worth fighting for. There is something everywhere worth fighting for and depending on who you are, there is significant differences in opinion as to which place is worth most. Just like people, at least in theory, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” places hold the same truth. Home can be on a volcanic island, an abandoned town cut off by mountains and distance, an urban condo, a shotgun house in New Orleans, or the road itself. America must remember itself. American people can choose to go places and do other things for the mere challenge. Home is America. America is home. The greatness always comes from the people and is the responsibility of every caring citizen.
Dry heat in the wet season of New Mexico shakes up dust and sends it our way. Day 17 of the Wild Harmony on the road book tour. Meddle plays Echoes from the radio while we drive by $3.12 a gallon. Hospitality and friendship have been the saving concepts behind this entire adventure. A shout out to those who helped make this trip happen: the kickstarter backers, the families who welcomed us before and along the way, as well as all other supporters.
Manhattan, Kansas provided warmth and stories of today’s mechanized fighting force at Fort Riley. Steamboat Springs, Colorado was a festival of welcoming bookstores and transient workers who guided river during the day and ventured the hot springs at night. San Francisco, California saved us from exhaustion after sleeping in the car outside of Yosemite and the good people there directed us to all the important sites in the city along the Beat Museum where visitors from all over the world may stumble upon Wild Harmony. Japanese visitors on a fishing boat around Alcatraz bought the book and are taking the first copies to the land of the rising sun. After a quick walkabout (circumambulate) of the Golden Gate, the book tour divided in two. One drove south on the One to Los Angeles beyond Big Sur and into Joshua tree. The other flew to Hawaii and found some bookstores along with connections for further adventure.
The professional Pokemon player on the airplane made little sense, although his parents from East Africa must have found the tournament of champions in Kona to be amusing. They were from western Canada and the young player wants to be a firefighter later in life. On the big island, there was no sign of the card players. Tourists milled about on beaches with sand imported from China. Milk is $8 a gallon and gas around $4.20, although California was $4.35 per gallon. The people of Hawai’i have a culture beyond all seen in Hollywood. The Buddhist temple in the red zone sits unscathed surrounded by burnt out land cover by hardened black lava. After the volcano, the book tour reunited in Las Vegas for a sneak-in swim at Caesar’s palace before retiring to Yaki Point in the Grand Canyon.
On through Flagstaff, Sedona, Phoenix, and Tucson, Arizona is experiencing their wet season. The river washes are sun baked and few people know where their water comes from when asked in the 100 degree heat. The neighborhoods are walled up to prevent dust from penetrating the doors and clouding up family rooms. Air conditioning is coal powered. And then there’s the cacti…to be continued