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Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Closer to Home"

"I've been lost now, days uncounted, and it's months since
I've seen home. Can you hear me, can you hear me, or am I all alone?"  Closer to Home, Grand Funk Railroad

Only the strongest FM stations are intelligible through Goldie's coat-hanger antenna and fried speakers, and then only the "left" bank. Just as I was about to settle for a draconian AM, right wing-nut monologue, I found a scratchy Oldies station on FM, something to take my mind off the Sid Vicious crosswinds erupting between Camp Tempest Klondike and Grand Funk Junction. Nevertheless, Goldie lumbered I-70 East against the cross-gale, gulping gas like Kool-Aid, enduring the agonizing thump-thump rattle of asphalt crack sealant in well-worn truck-lanes

As if being caught in crosswinds and scratchy FM reception isn't wretched enough, I'm wedged in a veritable funeral procession of homeward bound, turtle mouthed seniors in high-dollar, high-profile motorhomes. Their rigs lean in chorus, flirting with tipping points in a mad-assed rush to get back to the grandkids in flyover country. Such wealth. Made me wonder how and why a just God continues to bless America, while turning a blind eye to the "third world?" 

Then it happens. I'm whiplashed back to the summer of 1970—racing to get back to my Southwest Missouri home in the face of menacing tornados, rolling sheets of lightning against the stormy midnight black of central Kansas.  

Of all the Oldies at the beck and call of a disc jockey's whim, my guy plays Closer to home, by Grand Funk Railroad, the same song I wore out with overplay on my '69 Camero's 8-track...the one that quieted the rising tide of loneliness in a couple teen guys who flew the "nest" to test their wings in a tumultuous world of protest and riots. Paul and I were pulling an all-nighter across Kansas, trying to get home to our girls after a three-week summer pilgrimage to the California coast. We roamed barefoot and shirtless amid tanned surfer-boys and bikini-clad gals on some of SoCal's hippest beaches. In the midst of all this bare skin, we managed to remained "faithful" to our girls, in spite of best efforts to the contrary. Nope. Not a single one of our fantasies came within a mile of fruition. It was if we were invisible!  We had the tricked out car, but it wasn't enough to overcome our short hair and pasty white skin. 

This music-inspired reminiscence got me to Grand Funk Junction, where I was supposed to meet Leon, a scrawny, tough piece-o-leather biker/runner pal who, after retirement, came to his senses and transplanted from the plains of middle-a-nowhere, Texas, to western Colorado. 

Leon's late, as usual, due to the fierce headwind on the return leg of a bike ride to Fruita. He finally rolls up to Goldie,  wedged into no less than 3 City Market parking spaces, a full-on sweat pouring, and gives me a soggy man hug. LEON! I just showered, dude. We strolled a couple of blocks to Lois's Cafe...ordered a couple malts for appetizers, sugar and chocolate endorphins washing over our empty stomachs and minds like a crack cocaine high.  

As we slowly regained consciousness, I mentioned that our studio rental was going to be vacant come May, suggested he should come play in the mountains this summer. It'd be like the old days, man! Remember that first year?  Leon accepts the offer. Too hot to train in Grand Funk Junction. What's it been, 5 years? Anyway, he's coming back to Lovely Ouray...where Bobbie and I oversaw his conversion from raw Texan to Mountain Man. 

It's going to be a great summer, I thought as we parted ways. Time to get a little closer to my home. I replayed some of our "adventures." I had to smile at Leon's penchant for stripping naked and diving into ice-rimmed lakes, screaming like a little girl. I recalled with favor all the bike rides, the time we rode from Ridgway to Telluride over Last Dollar Road, and all the times he crushed me in races to the top of Log Hill. 

Finally  home, in a low blood sugar haze, I ease Goldie into our drive. Another damn "malt hangover." My gal strolls out to greet me. We embrace like it's been a month instead of a week since we last saw each other. 
Moab's wind finally broke me, I said half ashamed. 

I guess it's been a stormy spring everywhere. We got another 8 inches of snow in Lovely Ouray then next day. Guess I'll break out the snowshoes, then mud boots. Oh well. 

Even through my all-too-frequent bouts of restlessness and itchy feet, deep down I realize that Ouray is Home, the place I dreamed of living, the place I knew was "right," even as a befuddled twenty-something, wet-behind-the-ears Missouri kid. My life, with all its mood swings, belongs here in the mountains that surround Lovely Ouray. That's the bottom line, really. And tho I bleed restless guts onto these pages from time to time, I would be hard pressed to act upon dire impulses and tantrums of temporary insanity. It may excuse a murder charge in court, but it does nothing for the lifetime sentence of regret that would likely follow me to the grave. 

It's comforting to know my sized 14 boots are planted exactly where they belong. After all, I owe my life to these mountains...the source of both my most profound joys and greatest fears. Opposing forces...something that gets me out of bed every morning. I've found my niche, which is to say, the position, in the place, doing the activities for which one is best suited. Amen...

"When confronted by chaos, search out your niche. It's there if you know how to look for it."  In Search Of Captain Zero, by Allan Weisbecker.

Seek your niche, 
find your bliss.
Peace out,

Leon, after beating me to the top of Log Hill.

I hold no grudges on such beautiful days in beautiful places and doing what I love...

Good thing shoveling snow is good for you :)

Trails of winter out our Imax Window...


  1. There's no place like home especially for those who have truly found it. Joy in the spirit of your place is a mighty blessing.

  2. You are fortunate to have found your hearts home, with the added bonus of having the RV for additional explorations...cake and icing too!

  3. I'm glad you are happy in Lovely Ouray, especially since your Bobbie seems firmly planted there as well. And wow, nothing like good friends to share a summer. Too very cool. I'll look forward to all those biking hiking crazy man stories.

  4. You and Bobbie are lucky to have found each other and what you both think is the almost perfect place to live. That isn't easy.
    I knew you would be happy to have Leonard back for the summer. You should have lots of crazy adventures to write about!

  5. What a great eulogy to Bobbie and Home! You didn't even need to add photos :)

  6. It's good to know that you're home. We're still wondering, we'll see how it all works out.

  7. I did a similar pilgrimage to the coast of California with a buddy. Same results with the girls there☹️. As to having your roots in Ouray...you are a lucky man.

  8. I've felt the same way about where I live as you feel about Ouray. It's wonderful knowing where you belong. Of course, we all still get itchy feet but coming home is wonderful.

    I enjoyed your story of driving home and the memories that you had. You write beautiful prose.

  9. I still have lots of places that feel like home and maintain doubt that my heart will reach a consensus. The searching in itself makes for a good life. Beautiful photos.

    1. Yes...it's the "journey," not the destination. The fun is in the search, but you will know when the right place comes along...not that you can never leave, flirt with a few other places.

  10. finally some good photos and ramblings!!! (you know i am kidding Mark! checked out grand funk at shea stadium (were you there?? enjoy! Walden creek rv steve where is Brook?? lol

  11. "There are only two people in life you should lie too, the Police and your Girl friend" Jack Nicholson
    How about a little levity here ? It was another fabulous 6 months of being Mark Johnson with partner in life Bobbie; you are one LSO B.......take a day off and then lets see more of the Best of LITTLE SWITZERLAND!

    Stay Thirsty My Friends

  12. So not only found 'home' but have a wonderful wife and a friend to get into summer trouble with. Doesn't get much better than that dude.

  13. Wow! From the sandy warmth of Moab to the winter wonderland of Ouray. A shock to the system. Red 3 and Black Bear pass! Strap on the snow shoes! :)

    1. Yep! Wish you and Kellie were here to tag along :) See ya in November, tho!!!

  14. There is a reason that there is a "OURAY" vanity license plate on the front of our motorhome . Though we may never live there, it has called to us almost annually for the past 30 years. And now that we are full-timers, we come to the area even more often and stay longer. You are truly a lucky man to have your best friend as a life partner, and to call Lovely Ouray "home".

  15. And Tucson feels like home to me, I love seeing it in the rearview mirror heading out to adventure and also seeing it coming to meet me on the way home. Judy


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