The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Having spent the last 9 months with almost exclusively each other's company, Hol and I are pretty good at passing the time on our own. For example, we recently purchased a challenging cross-word book and yesterday, whilst awaiting the kick off of our 43 hour Greyhound extravaganza from Denver to Vancouver, we spent an enjoyable hour or so perusing novelty underwear in TKMaxx. I like to think we can find a thriftily good time in any city we come to. However, last week it all changed with the arrival of 7 friends from University. They were accompanied by bicycles, outsized bottles of Bourbon and were surprisingly dis-interested in helping us solve 57 across: 'some game endings' (5 letters)*. Looking back at the last 7 days it is a hazy blur, but it was truly epic.

Traveling on a budget for a long period of time makes you stretch out the excitement in everything you do. If you are going out for a meal you plan it well in advance and savour every last mouthful. If it is a movie you wait for exactly the right gloomy, rainy afternoon and the right film before parting with your dosh. 7 people straight from successful London jobs with only a week to spend their hard earned cash reminded us how much you can pack into a week, and also how good it is having your mates around.

When Angus, Henry, Reevo, Smithy, Scotty, Hutch and Steph arrived off the plane they had already been up for around 24 hours. However, a quick shower, a sharpener in the bar and burger later and any thoughts of an early night were rapidly dispelled. Before we knew it English accents had attracted Hen parties from across the Midwest and sambuca was being sipped from certain people's belly buttons. Classy. There was never any real let up from there. Up at 6.30 the next morning to watch the British Lions, off to Boulder to put bikes together and ride up the first of several mountains. Back for a shower, dinner, everclear laced Margaritas, a nightclub, a late night invitation into a deserted art gallery by some 'friendly' young men, all finished off with splashing in public fountains before bed.

The reason we were all out there together was because one of the group, Justin, grew up in Longmont and also had a cabin out in the wilderness of South Park. Cue 3 hours of drive-by moonies, water fights between cars and a final leg down a dirt road until we hit the cabin. This was truly one of the most beautiful places we have been on the trip so far. In rolling green plains with snow capped peaks all around us we unloaded 3 days worth of booze, BBQ meat and supplies. It was the perfect setting to catch up with friends over long evenings interspersed with lung busting high altitude exercise.

Over the week we climbed passes on the bike over 12,000', we summited Mt. Oxford at 14,000' and managed to get significantly better and then worse at horseshoes. It was non-stop adventure and chat for 7 days all topped off by going to a Colorado Rockies ball game. But all too quickly we were in the cars driving back to the airports to wave goodbye to everyone. It seems strange that leaving England last September I felt strangely un-emotional. The excitement and adventure lay out ahead of us and had been building up for so long that there wasn't really a hint of sadness as we pedaled off. Then when my dad came out, saying goodbye seemed really hard because you realise in that sudden contrast what you miss from home. It was even harder saying goodbye to everyone flying off last Saturday.

We were stood there in the airport just 9 hours from England. Having just listened to planning for all the weddings, stag parties and good times we would miss back home we felt miserable. All too soon Hol and I were sat on a windy bench waiting for the bus nibbling on carrot sticks and longing for the week not to have ended so quickly. I always told myself it would be hard being away for so long, but I have very rarely felt it so acutely as the other day. There are usually challenges to be met, the next place to think about and the knowledge that the novelty of getting home will wear off very quickly. However, there was something about saying goodbye the other day that had me choked up pretty badly and I found it hard to shake off the feeling.

However, I am glad to say that having now left Denver it feels a lot better. Since then we have got our first proper experience of Greyhound buses which Hol will do justice to in a full blog soon, and also accidentally got involved in auditions for American Idol. We went in to the theatre just needing a pee and were almost thrown on stage in front of the judges. I figured something from Manowar's back catalogue would shake things up but mercifully we were too late to sign up.

Now the sun is out, we are headed West again and Hol's family is due out in a few days. I even have a new pair of flourescent yellow pants from our wanderings in Denver. Roll on the next ten months!

* the crossword answer is 'mates'

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