Crossing the Continental Divide

Added on Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

Photo: crossing. The Greyhound gears down as it climbs into the Rocky Mountains, up past slopes of scree dotted with pine and fir and aspen. The Interstate is a scar cut into the mountains and the bus the ant traversing the straight razor. And so it hunkers down and pulls up the pass, past Lookout Mountain and one most strange dwelling place, shaped like a flying saucer and standing tall on the highest bluff.

Vast deep passes cut through the mountain walls, rock of iron dusted the lightest shade of sand. Pine trees clustering on ridges sharp as the blade of a Bowie knife and holding onto clefts in the sloping stone.

The bus goes past Silverthorne at 8,790 feet, a town of standardised shopping malls, it seems, coming just after a shallow inland sea. Long lean Mack trucks with smooth curved engine cowlings carrying logging or pipes, sometimes lacking the traditional old twin smokestacks, cruise alongside and then we are come upon the Vail. Vail Pass, at 10,662 feet the summit and apogee. A high elevated flatland bowl at the top of the Rockies, the continental division crossed and now descending in the wake of the Vail, the foliage thickening and the stone reddening a touch.

Photo: crossing the continent. A sign says Exit 19, No Name, 12 mile. Old style telegraph poles shadow the route of the downhill railroad like tall thin crosses and I’ve no doubt these parched mountains broke many a prospector and sent them right up further higher passes and straight on to Boot Hill.

Travelling down this rollercoaster country equivalent of Chicago’s El, truly dwarfed amidst great plummeting rock walls, the debt of trillions seems an abstraction in the greater scheme of things.

The mountains pare down and fall away to dusty plains and cloned truck stops. We roll into Las Vegas and I phlegmatically end up in the same old hostel I’d been in before, but at least they have a private room. I can clean up, catch up on sleep and go see my favourite old Starbucks franchise on Fremont Street.

There is a sameness to it all. The snake has swallowed its own tail, I’m getting towards the end of my trail and I do not expect much more to happen.