Today was my first day off the Brick since starting this journey. I had pulled 2 back-to-back 8-hour days and I finally caught up on some well need Z’s. My cough still nagged, but that wasn’t going to stop me from having fun. Pete emailed me a few days ago and asked if I wanted to shoot some sporting clays. He had seen pictures of me from Trout Run holding shot up toasters by the power cord as if the appliances were recently bagged waterfowl, so he knew I liked shooting inanimate objects. I don’t shoot animals, but I do like seeing things blow up. As a boy I would often steal fireworks from my dad’s closet and detonate them. My mother would never let me light them until I was much older therefore all of my mischief was top secret. I bought packs of Black Cats from the 3rd grade underground black market. I picked opportune times to set off my explosions, sometimes blowing up Revell plastic models, or using the firecrackers as rocket fuel to launch coffee cans high into the air. I was not destructive in the sense that I wanted to damage other people’s property; I just liked the intensity and adrenaline rush of combustion.
Pete and I had coffee at a café called Spruce. We talked about the serious things guys our age have to deal with. Saving money, retirement, family plans, and surviving in today’s economy. I shared with Pete that my recent single status has led me to toss caution aside. I’m going deeper into debt by taking this trip, but when else would I be able to go? I could wait until my debt is paid down but by then I’d be trying to figure out how to strap a BMW K75 engine onto a wheel chair. Now is the time.
We hopped into Pete’s VW turbo diesel and went to pick up his friend Bob who was going to shoot with us. Pete said Bob was an ultra gear head and I knew I would like him when I saw a big military vehicle in his driveway. It was not a jeep or even a Humvee, but a monstrous diesel vehicle with 4-foot tires that had seen some action. We decided to take one car and all loaded into Bob’s hot-rodded Audi A4 and tore off easterly, tires in full screech.
We navigated to our destination – Colorado Sporting Clays. I was entertained almost immediately when I saw a makeshift sign attached to the permanent moniker that read “Wedding.” I hoped to see a bride and groom exchanging their vows with Browning over and under shotguns cracked open over their shoulders. Pete and I rented a gun to share and Bob had his own.
We headed out on the range. I recalled when I learned to shoot as a boy in the basement of our ranch style house in East Hanover, NJ. There was a crawl space that we had set up with a sheet and we hung targets off of it. My dad had both a BB gun and a pellet gun and I remember the first time he taught me to line up sights. He held his left hand in front and extended an index finger. His right hand formed a peace sign in the rear. “All you have to do is line up the “one” in the middle of the “vee” and put them right under the bull’s eye. If you hold the gun steady and gently squeeze the trigger you will hit it every time,” he said with confidence. My dad earned his sharp shooter medal in the Army when he served a tour shortly after the end of the Korean Conflict. He never really talks about his Army days much. I am sure it was hard to be away from home for such a long stretch in a strange land.
We approached the first station and I buried the butt of the shotgun deep in into my shoulder. I pulled off a round and I was stunned that I actually shattered one of the pigeons. We continued through the course talking and asking each other questions about life and goings on. It was a nice time. Along the path of the different stations an acquaintance of Pete’s approached us. He was wearing a shirt embossed with the initials D.A.D.D.D. or Dad’s against daughters dating democrats. His name is Dan and he is a staunch republican, yet somehow he found a connection with Pete. He is a crack shot and he shot a few stations with us. I think he missed two clays the whole time he was with us – a real pro. Pete said he had worked with him and that he always had his back. He is Pete’s political opposite yet they found a bond somewhere somehow. I wish this happened more in our society. People all have experiences that influence their political decisions but arrogance leads us to try and steer others to our side. We want company in our beliefs in order to confirm that they are true. There are church’s that hold tens of thousands of people all worshipping together. The gathering helps reinforce the idea that their beliefs are right. How could so many people be wrong?
The day grew long and hot and at the end of 15 stations and 100 rounds of 20 gauge shells we were done with the outdoors. Bob wanted to check out some used Audi parts he had heard about and Pete and I joined along for the ride. I am sure a lot of people would be annoyed spending their vacation time with a friend of a friend inspecting car parts, but I was enjoying myself seeing Bob get so excited. True enthusiasts are hard to come by these days so when I get to spend time with one, I opt to do so. So many people are content to work, sleep, go to dinner, and watch a movie. That’s fine but I want more out of life. I want to participate. That is why I relate to enthusiasts of any kind. I don’t care what you are into, as long as you are into something.
After over an hour at warehouse we all got hungry and went to a taco place and gorged on great Mexican food. We discussed the day of shooting and turbochargers. The discussion sounds like a testosterone injected shout fest, but it was much more subtle. Stereotypes are often attached to people that enjoy guns and cars. This group I was with fit no stereotype, just free thinkers doing what they want to do. I thought about Hunter S., another guy who also liked guns, cars, and motorcycles and fit no stereotype.
We dropped off Bob at his house and then Pete and I headed to a bar out on 93 called Rocky Flats Lounge. This divey place is located on the grounds of a former nuclear weapons plant. I love dive bars because there is no pretention. People go there to drink, relax, and let loose. There is usually witty repartee between the regulars and the bartender. Flying insults would be a more accurate description. I grew up in a very sarcastic family. We would always pick on each other but in a strangely loving way. The interaction I had and still have with my brothers and sisters reminds me of this bartender/regular exchange and I guess that is why I avoid more civilized places.
Pete and I rambled on about all sorts of topics. He said some very inspiring words to me at the Flats including one that wasn’t on my mind. Sacrifice. He told me that few people are willing to do a trip such as mine because they can’t give up their time, money, comfort, or fear. Pete and I were never really that close, but at this divey bar we bonded. He understood what I was doing. He knew what it took. He told me that few men have the fabric to complete such an intense journey. I leaned back and smiled at his words. Having supporters is a good feeling. No matter what it is you attempt to do, knowing somebody is pulling for you makes the task easier.
We drained our Miller Lites and headed back to Pete’s house to collect his wife Edy. We sat and chatted for a while telling her about our day and then piled back into the car. Pete took us up to the top of the mountain to get a look at the fabulous view. We parked and hiked a bit onto a precipice and looked over the valley. I was awestruck. I have never been at such an elevation before and my peripheral vision seemed to be increased. I absorbed the rolling hills and empty expanses and said to Pete, “I’ve never seen anything like this, it’s incredible.” Pete, smiled his wry grin and answered “This is nothing compared to where you’re headed.”
We drove back down the mountain and into town for dinner at a Chinese street food place called Zoe Ma Ma. We all had the Sichuan Braised Beef Noodle and it was excellent. Noodles for me are all about the broth and this bowl was the correct mix of spices and flavors. We called it an early night and headed home because tomorrow I would be on the road for a long time.
I stared at the ceiling in the guest room on the inflatable bed. I felt like I had traveled a lifetime already but I was not even a third of the way through my journey. New York seemed so far away and so did California. Why was I doing this again? Soul searching? Showing off? Proving something to myself? I didn’t know on this night. I did know that I had never felt this untethered. There was no child to virtually tuck into bed, no wife to kiss over the phone, and no fiancé to send text hearts. I was alone – by my own hand perhaps, but definitely alone.