the legend of the yellow bronco

The West has its way of creating legends: John Wesley Powell, Calamity Jane, and Lauren from the Hills. I've never met any of these people and probably won't for good reasons. Most of these people are dead. 

Lucky for us, heroes don't have to be on television, or change the course of history. You can meet a (wo)man of the mythic proportions just around the river bend.

I must tell you about one such person.

Richard is by far my favorite acquaintance, who I slightly worship, and who was invited to but did not attend my birthday party.

He has little to no recollection as to who I am, even though we have met twice.

This man has become a tall tale, a Pecos Bill or a Paul Bunyan, but he's not a giant lumberjack, or a cowboy capable of shooting the stars out of the sky.

Richard's super power is his 4 wheeling, and he cannot be found without his faithful steed, a lifted 1971 Ford Bronco, with a yellow paint job embellished with flames.


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He isn't like anyone else on this blue planet. Under that leather hat, that must have been run over a dozen times, is a small retired man, who will talk to whomever will listen about adventures. After exchanging a few words, he will tell you about his brother Brian, who has a matching Bronco, but blue. They like to take the metal detector out to see if they can find only mining headlamps, or take out rock hammers to find pretty minerals.

They meet people all the time out on these old roads and help them get from place to place.

To set the scene, you should know about the rowdy four wheel drive road outside of Crested Butte, Colorado called Schofield Pass.

The rocky road (no chocolate, nuts, or marshmallows) winds down a steep narrow canyon. Below the shelf road is a big beautiful waterfall aptly named the Devil's Punchbowl. I am not sure why humans are always trying to find hell on earth, naming things after that chief evil spirit. It happens to be a very picturesque place.

Gunnison County does not maintain this road, because it is just too darn dangerous. A family in a suburban went over the edge, and that was not a pleasant ending to an afternoon drive.

Only the brave, proud, free, and skilled attempt to drive this road anymore. 

Schofield Pass is also very important, because it is the fewest miles to travel to my favorite restaurant of all time, Slow Groovin BBQ. Each summer, I spend quite a bit of time commuting to Marble, Colorado to dine at this eatery. I am usually forced to drive the long circuitous way a 58.3 mile trek over a dirt pass and then up McClure Pass.

But there is a better and shorter way to get there: hiking. Physical exertion makes Hillbilly Nachos and Coconut Cream Pie taste that much better. It’s a little too far to walk out to Marble and back in a day, so this poses its own set of problems.

But, hold up! There is the best way and the best way is getting a ride. What beats hiking is getting a ride down Schofield Pass, from the inimitable Richard. He is as competent as drivers come, and I had zero qualms about getting in this stranger's car. It is bumpy ride and there will be a Slurpee cup rolling around in the back. As the truck climbs over certain rocks, you might bump your head.

If you ever run into this man of the mountains on the western slope, you are damn lucky. Ask for a ride.

Your turn. Tell me, has a kind stranger ever given you a lift somewhere?