On the road: Bumper meets bovine | AspenTimes.com

On the road: Bumper meets bovine

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Offseason is for epic trips. That is, if you work a seasonal job in this town.

Two of my friends and a French ski instructor took one of those trips this past month, driving from Colorado to Washington, down through Southern California and back east through Utah. It was in Hanksville, Utah, three weeks into the trip, that their 4Runner collided with a calf on a highway.

The French ski instructor claims that the cow rolled onto the roof of the 4Runner and fell off when the vehicle came to a halt. The driver — we’ll call him Mark — denies this. My other friend — we’ll call him Earl — also denies this, as he said he woke up to the sight of the young bovine rolling across the pavement, maybe as far as 50 feet into the distance.

Regardless of where the soon-to-be cow carcass traveled that night, they had to phone the police. A cow, after all, is personal property, and had they failed to alert authorities, it would have been a hit-and-run. So the police wrote their report, and Mark arranged for the 4Runner to be towed from Hanksville to Grand Junction.

“I think I have to pay for the cow,” he told me.

The night before they left for their trip, Earl called to let me know he was leaving his minivan at my apartment complex. I had just sold my dying car, so perfect timing, I thought. What I didn’t think is that Earl would be calling me three weeks later, asking me to drive the minivan four hours roundtrip to pick them up in Junction and return them to Aspen.

Four hours of driving. After eight hours of work. On a night when the Washington Capitals are playing the New York Rangers in Game 7, a game that decided who advanced to the conference finals. It wasn’t ideal, but I thought back to situations I had been in with a broken-down car, stranded in a place I didn’t want to be. So after filing my stories that day, I went home, watched the first two periods and hopped in the minivan. On Main Street I passed a hitchiker with his thumb out near Carl’s Pharmacy. I thought about picking him up for about five minutes before I reached the roundabout and decided that was a good enough excuse not to turn around.

Two hours later, after a Capitals overtime loss, as well as a Washington Wizards playoff loss, I found them in a body-shop parking lot in Grand Junction. The 4Runner was most likely totaled, Mark told me, and we packed up the minivan.

They told me about their adventures on the way home: the French girl’s first interaction with Mormons on the campus of Brigham Young, hipsters drinking cider in Seattle and Ferndale, a California timewarp populated by baby boomers and Americana. Somewhere around Snowmass, Earl was telling a story about San Diego, when a furry black thing jumped in front of the van. Earl tried to swerve, and the cat tried to get out of the way, but it was too late. The last thing I saw was its green eyes rolling underneath the headlights. It looked almost like a cartoon, then two or three thuds.

It was a few minutes before Earl remembered what he had been talking about.