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Heading out west, where hippies, cowboys good for the heart

Seems like it is just about time for me to head west and play what I call "Cowboys and Hippies." I would have said "get out of Dodge," but it appears that soon there aren't going to be any more Dodges to get out of so we might as well retire the phrase. Besides, midyear is upon us and I have almost used up my cliché quota for the year already, so I am rationing myself.

I love spending my summers in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo mountains, where I can immerse myself in Eastern religions, hot springs, neo-philosophical blather and gallons of the local trading post's buffalo chili.

Did I say buffalo chili? Sorry, there is a slight chance my cardiologist is reading this, so what I really meant to say was arugula soup, high-fiber muffins and Eggbeater omelets made with bean sprouts and tasty tofu crumbles.

You would have to know rural Colorado to appreciate the concept of cowboys and hippies living happy symbiosis. After all, psilocybic mushrooms do grow in cow pies, and there's nothing that gives a cowboy a bigger kick than a "Beef is Murder" bumper sticker on a VW microbus.

Actually those stereotypes are out of date. Microbuses are practically museum pieces. Not all hippies are into psychedelic substances (at least not the ones that I have known) and even the cowboys out there have a pretty much live-and-let live philosophy as long as you don't mess with their horses, their pickup trucks or their women.

It is also absolutely true that most Colorado residents fall into neither category … but I'm old so I get to pick who interests me. There is nothing wrong with a bond broker from Breckenridge or a banker from Boulder, but for fun and games give me a stoner from Sedona (yeah, yeah, I know that's in Arizona, but I've got an alliteration/rhyming thing going here, so leave me alone). Or I'll take a buckaroo from Manitou (Springs that is. Yeah, you're right the alliteration and rhyming story's now closed).

I use hippies as a catch-all term for those of us liberal folks apt to have Obama stickers on our bumpers and Grateful Dead or (God help us!) Enya CDs in our players.

And by cowboys, I mean the rugged, hardworking country folks who wouldn't be caught dead in tie-die and who think we old guys look silly in our L.L. Bean fishing hats and Columbia shirts, but are too polite to say so.

I try to dress appropriately to my surroundings, and those who know me know I blend in pretty well with the hippies, even though I never really was one. I was just out of the Marine Corps during the Summer of Love, and, because of my previous political leanings, didn't get started on the '60s until the early '70s. I've been trying (not very hard) to catch up ever since.

Sociological explorations aside, I especially look forward to this summer because, having recently had heart surgery, I'm dying to see how I will do climbing hills and (very small) mountains where the climb starts at 8,600 feet. (Did I say dying? I meant anxious … er … eager — yeah, that's it, eager)

Heck, even when I was in what I thought was good shape, I would spend the first couple of days getting winded just by walking across the Wal-Mart lot in Salida.

I still have a little catching up to do, but I think I'm in better shape this year than I was for the last couple of visits.

I decided to prepare this year by reading some Westerns to get in the mood. Generally, that is a type of literature I have avoided, but once you get to where you recognize the names of places and know a llano from a plateau, they are kind of fun. I am actually developing a taste for the novels of Larry McMurtry.

Two weeks ago I began the process of packing my van for the trip, which means I spent a week taking stuff out so I could put other stuff in. A van for me is like an oversized purse. It's just a great place to hang onto things you might need, like a selection of empty water bottles and Starbucks cups, torn-out theater pages from the Times (us retired folks have a lot of time on our hands) and road maps from last year's trip that will never — ever — be properly folded again. I know how to fold them. It's just that life is too short.

I've already taken the van to my garage and asked them to fix it so I can add another 4,000 miles to the odometer. They actually managed not to laugh until I was out the door. They're getting better at that.

I'm trying to get my prescriptions filled, but once you are in the clutches of Medicare and Medicare replacement policies you sort of have to be standing in front of the pharmacist with a glass of water and your last dose in your hand before you can get a refill. Ask for a two-month supply in advance and you will probably get a reception remarkably like that of the garage folks, although pharmacists are slightly wary of a crazed geezer facing the agonies of diuretic withdrawal and are much better at managing straight faces.

My wife is adjusting well to the upcoming departure, mostly because the last time I began a sentence with "Where did you put …" I looked deeply into her eyes and I think I saw a tiny vision of my living room with crime-scene tape around it.

I'll be filing a couple of columns from the road because my accountant tells me I can deduct some of my expenses that way.

And I will have adequate access to life's necessities because my favorite trading post in the San Luis Valley provides what I consider all three major food groups: jerky, cappuccino and free wireless. I will try to adjust to the fact that the jerky is turkey, the cappuccino is non-fat and decaf and the free wireless computer access will only allow me to write more slowly — not any better.

So I will still be writing columns, but for personal acquaintances, I will see you in August.

Unless I owe you money. Then it could be longer.

Heading out west, where hippies, cowboys good for the heart 06/06/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 6, 2009 10:45am]

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