Day 88: Guffey, CO - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

July 9, 2011

Day 88: Guffey, CO

I wake up to find another amazing summer morning in the Rockies. As I sit on the picnic table next to the cabin in the crisp air and bright sunshine, I fall into a conversation with Willard, the older guy staying next door in the shiny, quarter-million-dollar motorhome that looks painfully out of place among the rustic, muted, unpolished wood and rusted metal that makes up most of Guffey.

Willard's in his 60s, wears a dark sweatshirt tucked into a pair of blue jeans, and has a thick head of silver hair that shimmers in the light of the morning. He's known Bill for the last 25 years and he's a remarkable guy. Originally from New Jersey, he and his wife live seven months out of the year in the motorhome and travel all over the United States and Canada. They spend the other five on a 50-foot houseboat, motoring all around Florida and the Intracoastal Waterway. He has interests in real estate, gold mining, rare coins, and a taxi cab company in Colorado Springs, which he bought because he wanted to spend a year driving a cab so that he could write a book about the experience. He's raced cars, speedboats, and airplanes, knows a number of NASCAR drivers personally and hangs out with racing team owners on their giant yachts, has a relationship with country music stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and was involved in the production of the 1980s TV show Dynasty. He went to law school and medical school but dropped out of both. He ended up completely broke twice, but each time built himself back up to a position of wealth, such that he recently owned homes in four different states, along with a bed and breakfast, an antique car museum, and a small fleet of airplanes and boats and automobiles.

Everyone in Guffey has a story, it seems.

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In the late afternoon I head back to Rita's Place for what seems like the eighth time since I rolled into town. Even though I met her only once, two days ago, Rita remembers my name and where I started my trip from. She makes the most delicious pepperoni and pesto pizza and we talk about bike riding, running marathons, her kids, the awfulness of television, and what's in store for the rest of my journey. Like everybody else I've met in town, she treats me as if I've lived here for the last ten years.

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Before I walk out the door she loads me up with some gooey baklava, a piece of Amaretto cake, and a bright green apple, purely out of kindness. I also get a huge hug and at least half a dozen wishes of good luck and safe travels. It's so genuine, so honest, and it's the last kick I need to get me over the hump. I feel fully re-energized and ready to cross the West and reach the Pacific. As I walk out the door and down the steps, Rita asks me to find Carl and tell him to come over and help her clean up the cafe. I tell her I will—and then laugh to myself as I walk up the road, because I've been in town only two days and I already know who Carl is and exactly where to look.

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I head over to the Garage, where I find almost a dozen people, four dogs, and the Mayor. For hours I drink beer, eat barbecued chicken and potato chips, and watch NASCAR on a tiny television that's almost as old as me. Everyone's happy and laughing and in various stages of drunkenness, the world outside is not too hot and not too cold, and the sky reflects a deep, pure blue as the sunlight slowly fades away. It's a perfect evening.

Before I leave I give Bill a handshake, which turns into a half hug and a quick heart-to-heart bump.

"Be safe out there," he says. "I'll say a prayer for ya."

I have no doubt that he will.

The Chicken Fly launching platform.
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Longing for a Chicken Fly.
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I climb into my tiny cabin for the last time, just before dark, with a full moon shining hazy behind the thinnest layer of high clouds. I pack up my gear and get ready for the morning feeling ready to start riding again, but also nostalgic about saying goodbye to the people and places I've come to love over the past few days. With all due respect to Asheville, North Carolina and Berea, Kentucky, the tiny town of Guffey, Colorado now holds the most special place in my heart. I know I'll be back some day soon.

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