Leon, a recently retired Post Office worker, wandered up from Austin on an extended junket with a goal of shaking up his life with a little "change-is-good." In the spring of 2012, while camped in the cramped quarters of a CJ 7 Jeep, he fell in love with Lovely Ouray's mountainous setting and soothing hot springs. I crossed paths with Leon at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool when he inquired if I knew of a cheap place to rent in town... said he wanted to spend the summer doing some high altitude training to see if it might improve his marathon times. We had a downstairs studio apartment available at the time, but I was a little taken aback by his beady, narrow-set eyes, long tangle of grey hair, and scruffy, square-jawed beard... pretty much a "mug-shot" without the number placard. I told him we lived just a five minute walk away and sent him over to meet Bobbie and have a look at the studio apartment, quickly dialing as he sauntered off.
Hey there, how's it going?
Not bad. Hows work?
Ok, it's a slow day at the pool.
I just wanted to give you a heads-up, or maybe a warning (nervous hee hee) that there will be scary looking dude showing up at the front door in a couple of minutes.
I told him we had a vacancy in our studio... so maybe, if he doesn't kill you, you could show him around.
What's his name?
Uh, I don't know...
Where's he from?
Uh, we didn't get around to that yet. Anyway, he's living out of his Jeep and wants to stay the summer to train for marathons. He's a runner, so I think he'd be ok. I've never met a runner who's an axe murderer.
And thus, a friendship is born.
Leon stayed through the winter, but found it hard to train in Ouray's snow, ice, and cold. So he moved up the road to Montrose where the climate was more to his liking.
Last summer Leon came up for one of our favorite backroad bike rides, to Ridgway, then a grunt up Log Hill to the Pleasant Valley overlook. At the bottom of Log Hill, I kind of challenged him by mentioning that he probably couldn't beat my best time to the top. He agreed, like the sand-bagging, lying SOB that he is, then promptly kicked my ass and best time by two minutes. It was all I could do to keep his skinny butt in sight... not that pretty, if ya know what I mean.
Having been humiliated, I've been itching for a rematch ever since. But it never worked out till yesterday. Problem is, I let slip a couple of weeks ago that I had been riding up Camp Bird Road and made it all the way to Yankee Boy Basin. Well that was a big mistake. You never tip your hand to an adversary. The element of surprise was gone. Leon promptly upped his miles, started training harder, you know, cheating!
We rolled in to the bottom of Log Hill. It was hot, so I took off my helmet and chugged a half bottle of Gatorade. Setting my stopwatch, I counted down... Five, four, three, two, one, GO!
We rode together for all of a quarter mile. Ha, I'm ready this time. But then Leon began to scream and holler, and slowly pull away. In spite of all my hill training, he broke me right out of the gate.
Halfway up, Leon was out of sight... on his way to a new personal best. A full two and a half minutes quicker than your's truly, he waited for me to slog across the finish line.
Leon. You sandbagging Son of a bitch!
|A victory pose|
|A victory nap|
|The sting of defeat is softened by incredible views|
|Too tired to lift my bike overhead, I settle for a second place pose...|
|It's all good... Maybe next year.|
Adidos an vaya con dios, my tough, long-haired hippie friend!