On the road again in the first blush of springtime
Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson
There’s nothing like a road trip to get the juices flowing fast and loose.
I know, because I have just finished one quarter of a road trip from my home in Carbondale, Colorado to the East Coast and back again, with a stop on the way out, in Madison, Wisc., to hook up with my sister and brother for our version of the Magical Mystery Tour.
We’re headed for the Maryland/Virginia part of the eastern seaboard, a place where my sis and bro spent what probably were the best years of their lives, starting in the mid-1960s when we all were teenagers or nearly so and ending in the late ’70s, when we all began to realize that the world was not such a sublime place after all.
For me, those years were a mixed bag of terror, splendor in the grass (and I mean that in every sense of the phrase) and an awakening understanding of how upside-down and money-mad our culture is.
The terror, I should note, came from living in mortal dread of the majority of the teenage population of suburban Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., who went by the collective name of “greasers.” Hoodlums, in other words, who traveled in packs and were known to beat the living hell out of anyone who dressed differently from them, listened to different music than they did, or simply were a little strange in general.
Which, needless to say, I was. All of that. I was a collegiate-cum-hippie with unacceptably long hair, a psychedelic taste in music and culture, and I smoked pot rather than drink beer. I was not their kind of people, and they let me know that with rather boring regularity — like, any time they saw me, anywhere, they would start yelling and charging at me with murderous intent.
On the other hand, I had some great friends who felt, thought and looked the same as I did, and we banded together to fend off the marauding hordes and have our own kind of fun.
Anyway, the trip is to check in with whatever remnants of that long-ago counterculture that are still around, at least those we can find, and touch base with our past.
The trip was a fine one, once I got out of the slushy mountain passes — the car still looks as though it’s been run through a mud bog. Hope I can get it to a car wash before we head east.
Cruising through northeastern Colorado is always entertaining.
First of all, the classic rock stations start to peter out quickly, and by the time I got even with Brush the only thing on the FM dial was country music, religious broadcasts and high school basketball. So I listened to the team from Brush demolish the Aspen Skiers in league play, for lack of anything better to do.
I got to wondering, as I motored along in the Prius, whether my steering was failing, because the car didn’t want to stay on a straight line, kept veering off to the right.
Then I saw a small, sparrow-type bird floating stationary above the right-hand shoulder of the road, beating its wings madly in a futile attempt to fly north, but not moving an inch.
OK, the north-south wind was hefty, my steering was OK, and that birdie was in for a long day.
As I moved along, the Aspen-Brush game having ended in dismal defeat for the Skiers, I started roaming the radio dial again rather than listen to the game post-mortem blather, and learned that God was still dominating the airwaves in that region. As if to punctuate that realization, a roadside sign declared, “I Trust You, Jesus,” as if that long-dead Jewish carpenter was still worried that he’d blown it and humanity had forgotten him after all.
The rest of the trip was, in the main, uneventful. Pushing through Nebraska with that hard north wind trying to shove me off the road, staying at a hotel in Kearny (pronounced “car-knee”), I rose with the geese and headed east, under a veritable blanket of geese in flying chevrons, heading west as I drove the other way.
Crossing the mighty Mississippi at Dubuque and driving northeast on U.S. Highway 51, I thought again to myself, “Yep, there’s nothing like a road trip to get those juices flowing.”
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