A Pre-Death Eulogy

Why are eulogies only reserved for those already dead? Rather, why do we not praise and celebrate the life of those while still on earth?

That said, I’d like to include my own pre-death eulogy to a dear friend who has been with me for a number of years. An ally who is near-death but one who has been a faithful travel companion and confident: my friend, my ride, my Girlie Jeep.

During my travel writing days, she was always there for me. At the drop of the hat, she was ready for our next big adventure. Whether it was blazing “Going-to-the-Sun Road” in Glacier or plowing through snow-filled La Plata Canyon in the San Juan Mountains. She has braved it all and has suffered her share of scrapes along the way.

Now at more than 200,000 km (that’s around 125,000 miles for those metric-challenged amigos out there), her bearings are burnt and her bladder is weak and leaks. Her days are numbered upon this earth and I plan to enjoy every last minute before sending her to her grave.

As would a parent tribute their growing child, allow me to share the day she grew up. A day that was memorialized in an article I wrote for Sports Guide a few years ago before I went on to summit two 14ers (14,000-foot peaks).

“Unlike most paved scenic byways, backcountry byways focus on out-of-the-way-roads that are typically gravel or dirt. Nearly two-thirds of the Alpine Loop is dirt roads, suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles. I, of course, chose the one-third that was not. My guidebook ubiquitously said, ‘high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended.’ I came to realize that when traversing over 12,620-foot Cinnamon Pass, one of the highest in the San Juans, there should be a more definitive distinction between ‘recommended’ and ‘required.’

Mine sites and ghost towns dot the loop that winds between Lake City, Silverton and Ouray. I had an apparition of my own after I passed by ghost town Animas Forks when I noticed something hovering in mid-air; something that resembled the bar end on my bike. I was disconcerted to discover my bike clinging on for dear life.

I encountered the only car I would see that evening, and the man came to my rescue (I’m sure the fact I was blocking the road had no bearing upon his service). We determined it would be best to throw my bike in back. As I prepared to leave, he looked at me doubtfully. “You’re going up there all by yourself, Hon?” I nodded. “Well, watch out” he chimed before heading back to town.

Now, well wishes generally vary but they are usually along the lines of “Good luck” or even “Be careful.” His warning threw me for a loop…until I reached the turnoff for Cinnamon Pass. A precipitous and technical cluster of rocks had “bottoming out” written all over it. A very steep slope that shot straight up to the sky followed.

My Jeep has low clearance due to the running boards that serve as stepstool for mounting my bike. This has led my friend John to derisively nickname it “Girlie Jeep” (the man has no respect for short people.) As I pondered this, along with Mr. Watch Out’s warning, my fire was fueled and I shifted gears into 4-Low.

As I crawled over the next several miles, I saw my life flash before my eyes in crimson flickers, which I later attributed to my red Jeep jolting with each wallop. When I reached Cinnamon Pass, poor Girlie Jeep had become a woman.
The view was worth every painful scrape. I had witnessed the transformation from a tree-covered valley to alpine tundra, found only in the Arctic and in isolated areas in high-mountain ranges. Mottled grasses and flowers struggled for survival in the very short growing season. Gazing east of the valley, I could see Handies, Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks, three of the “fourteeners” in the Alpine Triangle.”

New heights. New woman. Girlie Jeep.

The End.

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