September 14, 2001

9/14/01 Fairplay, CO

25 / 7637 miles

In 1998, while hiking the Appalachian Trail, I had headed into town for supplies after being out in the woods for a week. But when I noticed the confusing headlines on the newspaper, I had to stop someone and ask if I'd missed something. "They bombed the U.S. Embassy in Kenya four days ago," someone said, looking at me like I'd come from another planet. Although I'm not out of touch for days at a time, the events of September 11th feel the same. Maybe it's just that I'm so far from home when these tragedies occur. I don't have that feeling of safety and comfort that comes with being with family and friends. Sometimes it feels as if I've been out on the road a long time, too long perhaps.

As I packed and said my good-byes to Andy and Niki, I got hit with a wave of homesickness. They treated me so well here, as if I was a member of the family. I'll miss them.

Almost immediately after leaving the hostel, I began climbing. Headed through heavy traffic through town, riding up toward Hoosier Pass (11,542 feet). At first, the combination of sunshine and effort, I was pretty warm. But the higher I went, clouds moved in and it got cooler. When I reached the sing that said four miles to the summit, the road steepened and began an endless series of switchbacks. At three miles, it began to rain. With these cooler temperatures, I was a little worried about hypothermia. My best option seemed to be just to keep moving. At two miles, the sleet started coming down, oh joy! But when I finally reached the top, the summit was under a clear sky. Go figure! Had a long downhill towards Alma, but the headwinds kept me from going above 40MPH.

Hossier Pass: elevation 11,542'

On this side of the pass, it was definitely warmer. When I reached Fairplay, I headed towards Monte's house as if I had just stopped there yesterday. Out from was a 'for sale' sign and I was worried that he wasn't home. I almost walked away after waiting for a reply to my knock when Monte came to the door.

"I'll be damned, how are you Jim!" Monte exclaimed. I was the first cyclist he'd ever taken in, way back in June. But he showed me pictures of everyone who had been here since. I recognized a few of the eastbounders like Natasha, the older mother and her son on a tandem, and the couple from New Zealand. Monte was just trying to return the hospitality that he received on his 48-state cross-country bike trip back in 1998.

I'm always telling people about my trip, but with Monte, I wanted to hear all about his summer. He seemed different somehow. Some friends had been pestering him for years to volunteer at a summer camp for kids with cancer (he had beat leukemia himself ten years ago). He finally agreed and had a blast. "Those kids are so positive" he said, "and they don't let their illness stop them in any way." Very inspiring and humbling too he related. One of the other volunteers was Jadie, a beautiful, outgoing 38-year old. Monte said he noticed her, how could he not he smiled, but didn't think anything more about it.

Well, after camp was over, Jadie called him. One thing led to another and he's been in heaven ever since. When I was here last, his future plans had been hiking the Continental Divide Trail and sailing around the world. He'd been married once and a successful businessman but he had greatly simplified his life. His future vision looked like a hermit living with his cat. But all that's changed now.

"I wasn't looking for it, but I've never felt the way I do about Jadie, even when I was married!" he beams. That's what's different about him, that rejuvenating elixir called 'being in love'. No wonder he looks younger, healthier, more alive. It's been a short romance but they're already talking about getting a place together, maybe even opening up a coffee shop slash bookstore in southern Colorado. His joy gives me hope too, that there's still someone out there for me. I am very happy for him.

Other things we talked about were his book "Wide Hips, Narrow Shoulders: A Bike Touring Adventure". It came out shortly after my first visit and sales have been going well. He showed me the full page article in the Pueblo newspaper for his first book signing. When I asked him more about the possibility of publishing my own story, he said it's a tone of work that he's glad is over now, but he still said a lot of it was fun.

Monte is the perfect host. He cooked me dinner and we had a few beers. We turned the TV station away from the news and watched an old Star Trek movie while discussing the positive possibilities in life.