We missed sunrise over the mountains thanks to me being the lazy one again. The sky was clear and blue when we emerged from the van and as we made breakfast, we spoke to everyone that came up to the overlook to admire the view. One lady was so impressed with my setup she said she just had to take a photo and so did. Coffee was Dan’s breakfast and I settled for toast and hot chocolate. Since I was having vegemite, Dan tried some but immediately followed it up with a slice of nutella toast to get the disgusting taste out of his mouth. I’m still working on making an Aussie out of him.
After throwing the Frisbee around a while as an excuse to keep enjoying the view, we broke camp and drove down the mountain. Dan was following me as we drove towards Lake City. On our way down, I stopped where another car was to check out another lookout. It was a pretty one, looking straight over Lake San Cristobal and we were both keen to go down and use it for a swim. We could see it wasn’t quite on our way but were happy to do a turn off. Two deer crossed the road as we got back to our cars, thankfully Cleo didn’t see them otherwise she’d have been gone down the mountain.
Before I could set off, Dan gave my car a love tap, something to encourage the relationship that was clearly growing between our two vans.
A short drive later, we parked at a boat ramp where there was a small island connected to the mainland by a footbridge that looked stunning. We’d wanted to walk across it but it was on private property so we just played in the water at the banks of the lake. Cleo got dumped in then we dumped ourselves in. It was freezing bloody cold, but deep enough to just dive in from the edge. It was probably the coldest water we’d been in so far and typically, the sun disappeared behind the clouds just as we got out to dry off. We stayed a while, but when we saw a young family approach the banks looking for a table to set up at, we relinquished our table to them and moved on.
Cleo noticed a squirrel among some boat trailers in the car park and Dan let her off to chase her heart out. She was miles away from catching but provided us with some brilliant entertainment at least. Back on the road in our wet clothes, we drove through Lake City just as raindrops started falling from the sunny sky. The rest of the drive took us through more beautiful farmland following a flowing river that was just begging to be tubed.
As the highway turned east, I was lucky to notice that the turnoff I was hoping to take and stopped on the side of the road. It was a dirt road that went directly north towards Curecanti National Recreational Area. With no service, we weren’t 100% sure that it was the right road, but it was our best bet! The road was dirt but well grained and a few miles down there was a sign pointing towards highway 50. This was a gorgeous road and one that’s probably not travelled very often. We drove through open range fields with mountain ranges in the distance and green grass all over. I saw a coyote cross the road, the least scraggly one I’d experienced.
At Curecanti, I was tired and hungry, looking for a good spot to enjoy the lake. I pulled over at a spot that had no easy access to the lake so Dan took over and lead the way until we reached a sweet spot right at the edge of the lake. There were only a few cars parked too, so it was perfect. We backed our cars to the water and all I was interested in doing was napping so I crawled into the back of Dan’s car and lay my head down. He joined me while Cleo stood guard outside. I think I slept longer than I thought but felt better once I woke up. It was heating up inside the van thanks to the lack of cloud cover so we got out and dumped ourselves in the lake before making lunch. It took me a while to convince myself to get in, even longer than it took Cleo who paddled away in the shallow water but eventually joined us. The water was probably the warmest we’d come across so far but still plenty cold enough to be refreshing.
I was plenty starving by the time we dug into a pair of salad sandwiches and ready to hit the road again after eating. With all this driving through beautiful mountains, I felt like we should be getting out of our cars and hiking through it but I was just too tired to be bothered. What I really felt like, and I told Dan as much, was playing pool and getting drunk in a dive bar. Dan was up for it so we perused the Atlas for the closes town and found that Gunnison was only twenty minutes away. We drove beyond the lake and as we got into Gunnison, a cute little town, I found I didn’t have any service so I pulled over and walked up to Dan’s window to see if he had any. Sure enough, he did, so he got onto Yelp to find a place that had a pool table. He didn’t have any luck so we resolved to drive up to the information centre, but Dan had overtaken me before we got there, indicating to me that he’d found a place for us. I followed him and we parked near the main street and went in search of the Alamo. From the Yelp pictures, it looked like exactly our kind of place, a proper dive bar.
We walked the street a while, finding nothing that represented the Alamo, but we did find a place that looked like us and as we walked in, we were happy to see the poster advertising free pool on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Glad it was a Saturday! I got us a couple of drinks while Dan racked up.
After I won the first game, Dan won the second so we decided to make it interesting by betting on each game. In the first, the loser had to find camp. Dan was getting cocky when all six of my balls were on the table when he had one left. He started telling me the type of campsite he wanted. It all came undone for him when I sunk every single one of my balls and the eight ball in a single turn. I was so surprised at my success but over the moon as well and I made sure Dan knew it. Next game, the loser had to collect the firewood, another task for Dan. Next game, the loser had to give the winner a one hour massage. I lost this one so Dan was a happy chappy. Next game was for the loser to cook dinner and that task fell to me, nothing unusual really. Next game, we decided to go big. The loser had to pay for Dan’s plane ticket to Australia. It was a close game, made tense by the size of the bet and I eventually lost. Pretty big smile on Dan’s face at the end of that one. One more game without a bet and we were all tied up at 4-4. As far as I was concerned, I’d won because of my incredible win sinking all my balls in one go, but we left it at that. We were well on our way to being drunk thanks to the cheap drinks and we hadn’t paid for a single game of pool.
Since it was Dan’s responsibility to find camp, I left it to him to get on to freecampsites.net and find a spot to please me. It didn’t take him long, then we were on our way to Crested Butte. Anthony and Kimberly, friends of mine from the bay area, had been in Crested Butte so we were going up there with the hopes of meeting them. After texting them while in Gunnison, we found out that they’d left so that Kimberly could get back to work in California, but her boyfriend Anthony was returning to Crested Butte so we’d be able to catch up with him the next day. Before leaving town, we hit a bottlo and after much deliberation, bought a 30 pack of Genesee beer for only $13. It didn’t even have alcohol content labelled on the can so we thought maybe it would be sugar water, but the guy at the register told us it was definitely grog. When we anxiously cracked a couple outside the bottlo as roadies, we were both pleasantly surprised to find it was a great beer!
We drove about an hour north into the mountains, which still had plenty of snow on them. It was another beautiful drive and having had a few drinks, I was happily listening to music and singing shamelessly along as I followed Dan towards the horizon.
As we approached to Crested Butte, Dan drove us through some rich complex and I thought for sure he was taking us up the garden path, but one u-turn later, we were on a National Forest road heading towards camp. We passed a heap of cars with mountain bikes attached to them so I was excited that we might be able to do some riding while here. Right on the Natioanl Forest boundary, we pulled off the road into a small meadow, right next to the flowing river. It was a beautiful site that we had pretty much to ourselves and Dan’s firewood collecting was already done since there was a pile of old fence posts sitting by the fire ring that we parked at. It was only me that had to follow through on our bets now.
As Dan tended to the fire, I investigated the trails in the area and found that we were right in the middle of a trail network. Since the bike hadn’t been off the roof in nearly two months, I took it down for an inspection. She was right to go after I put a bit of air in the tyres. Using the fence posts that would soon turn into firewood, I built a mini skills park to test out my balance on the bike.
o the surprise of both me and Dan, Cleo immediately got up from where she was laying and started running after me on the bike. Maybe Cleo was a trail dog? To test the theory, I rode out of camp and along the road for about a mile and sure enough, Cleo followed, keen as mustard. I rode back into camp to a smiling Dan, happy to have discovered a thing that Cleo liked. We figured that since she’d grown up on a ranch she was used to chasing quads or maybe motorbikes so it was a past time to her. That got us into all sorts of ideas where I could go for a ride in the morning solo, then give the bike to Dan so that him and Cleo could go out on some single track. Dan got on the bike to test it out and he was far from hopeless, so we were both excited for the next day.
Per the agreement of our pool bets, once Dan got the fire going, I started dinner. I wanted to impress and since I’d heard so much about Dan’s favourite food in Hawaii of a simple chicken rice curry, I tried to recreate it based on his descriptions. He helped me with the sauce and in the end, we had broccoli and steamed rice covered in a thick curry sauce with crumbed chicken sliced on top. Dan was in food heaven. He said I’d come very close to recreating his favourite dish so I was chuffed with myself. We spent the rest of the night by the roaring fire and managed to save one big fence post for the next person instead of burning it into the night. Cleo, per normal was hiding away from the big bad fire and had chosen my van as her retreat.
It was a chilly night so we both huddled into the van after the sun went down and went straight to sleep.