We tried a radical solution to the Red Sled’s breathing problem on our ascent of 11,300’ Monarch Pass between Gunnison and Salida, CO: drive faster uphill than usual. Try to carry some momentum into the steeper climbs. I used to pull that way, then I got old and too careful. The only scare I had was on the way down, nearly through the pass, when we stopped at a pull-out to let a dozen smaller cars speed on. You gotta hate the smell of brake linings in the morning.
We found a good spot in Bighorn Canyon, the Arkansas Headwaters Rec Authority camp off Hwy 50 just east of Salida. Tired from the Sled’s exertions and pleased with its success, we settled in for Chardonnay and people watching. Kat had just poured the wine when a big shirtless guy stumbled out of his old trailer and collapsed into a lawn chair. An unwashed-looking fellow pedaled past on an old bicycle, and no-shirt yelled at him “Hey, pig-face! You owe me money! I’m talking to you!” Pig-face paid him no mind. Kat thought she saw an old skinny guy tying off a vein, then with his other hand: did he give himself an injection? We couldn’t be sure from the distance. The camp host wandered over to see no-shirt, and both went back inside. 20 minutes later the host came out, and introduced himself. He too was drunk, at 2:00 p.m. He managed to tell us about no-shirt, a redneck that everybody thinks has some degree of military disability from one of our sand-box wars. We decided that he would be known as Cpl Redneck. Host didn’t know Pig-face, but hinted he didn’t exactly want to. The implication was that Pig is a moocher with quick fingers should the chance appear to steal something. Host didn’t know much about Needle Tracks either (I thought he was diabetic?). Arky Fats and Texas Slim are a gal and guy in an old red Camaro who are in some kind of business – they are always negotiating – but Host didn’t know what. We thought of that certifiable loon a/k/a Area 51 from our stay here in 2014. Our conclusion: Free campgrounds with vault toilets, mountains, a river, and a non-enforced 14-day limit are irresistible to the nearly homeless.
There are few signs of outdoor cooking, but everybody has to eat. Fast food is the sustenance of choice, unless cigarettes count. Two years ago an odd collection of dope-trading Arka-gypsies subsisted off whatever they could scrounge from neighbors, McDonalds for several meals after “payday”, but most often store-brand sliced white bread and bologna. I’m not judging – I grew up on many a Wonder Bread and bologna lunch. Hey, I might have been in high school before I realized there were other breads and lunchmeats.
On a tour of a Shaker museum our first season on the road, our guide noted that Shakers baked only dark whole-grain breads, for “The whiter your bread the sooner you’re dead!” We soon dropped sliced white bread for wheat, and then dropped wheat for sliced French bread made without preservatives. It doesn’t last more than four days, but it makes a fine sandwich and Wal-Mart moves it as a loss leader. We had to make an exception the day we left Bryan, TX to re-start this year’s travels, as HEB did not vend sliced French or Italian bread. I bought HEB’s white bread on April 8 (I just checked the Visa statement) and somehow it was still fresh as ever without a speck of mold when we called our son on Memorial Day. “Dude, HEB makes some good bread!” He laughed and laughed.
They must put enough preservatives in each loaf to mummify a live possum.