Behind the Wheel: A Guze cruise |

Behind the Wheel: A Guze cruise

John Colson

Sunday was the day.I’d been out for small scoots and hellish commutes already this spring, starting in April, and that was good.But so far I had yet to climb onto the ol’ Guze (that’s my 1995 Moto Guzzi, an 1,100 cc Italian cruiser) and find my way over a tall pass and down into another river drainage.It was Sunday, a little after noon, when I hit the highway bound for Paonia, on the other side of McClure Pass on Highway 133.It’s one of the prettiest short rides on earth, only about 120 miles over and back. It’s a trip that takes you directly from spring into summer, without the intervening weeks of uncertain meteorology. Being lower on the Western Slope than the Crystal River Valley and lined up more directly with the prevailing desert winds from the west, it heats up a lot more quickly over there.The road was clear, the weather hot and dry, and the Guze was champing at the bit for some extended road time, humming along in fine tune, taking the curves like the flat-track champ he might have been. Bugs, drunk with new life, swarmed in large numbers, and some managed to sneak past the windscreen and nail me on the cheek or forehead before I had time to duck. The big ones can be hazardous to your health in more ways than one. But you ride on to the first wayside to slake your thirst and gab with the locals.At The Portal, a coal miners’ hangout in Somerset, I ran into “Al,” a septuagenarian whose daughter keeps the books for the bar and who proceeded to regale me with tails of her ex, a “gun-happy bastard” who carried loaded weapons around, apparently didn’t treat her well and who thankfully was pushed out the door not too long ago. Al used to live and work in Aspen, and as I got up to go he’d started in about how it was back in the ’60s and ’70s, before the high-impact glitzification really got going.At a small corner cafe in Paonia, sitting on a sun-baked patio with a cool beer in my hand, I listened in as the locals entertained each other with lies and tall tales. One guy talked about how he used to be a makeup artist in movies, a career that got started when he ran into the son of actor Bob Denver (Maynard G. Krebs, Gilligan) working as a short-order cook in Fort Collins and just getting started in the movie biz. He tied his star to the son of the star and went to Hollywood to make it big, he said.Cruising back to the Redstone Inn in the late afternoon, I got caught up in a fundraiser for the Marble Charter School, where locally renowned blues ax man John Ohnmacht and his Johnny O. Band held forth for an audience loaded with people I’ve known for decades but not seen in a while.It was nearly dark when I climbed back on the Guze and headed for home, more than ready for the next time out.

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