A crazy day. Although only riding 33 miles to Castle Rock, I fitted in two bouts of Scrabble. To begin with, Tom escorted me on his bike to the Platte Bar & Grille, 12 miles away still within not so Littleton. He took me along scenic paths, well-used by other cyclists, all wearing fancy gear, right down to specialized sunglasses. None of them even looked up as they passed, as in urban areas cyclists ignore each other, whereas in the country we smile and wave. Just like the roads here, cycle paths are awash with signs and regulations. It was just like a highway in fact, with a centre line and 15 mph speed limit signs. I could well imagine a division of bike cops enforcing this with speed guns. There was also a separate pedestrian path, along which people were jogging, or at least 'seriously' walking. Cars are the only method of transport to get from A to B, so no one uses paths to actually get anywhere – it is purely for exercise. Tom told me Denver is the healthiest city in the country and he certainly fit into that demographic. At the age of 68, he still rode fast, frequently and often went touring - he had circled much of Scotland. The views were nice along the Platte River, bursting with autumnal foliage and endless estates of beige, wooden houses. The sprawling Denver metropolis is 3 million strong and is the largest city in the top left quarter of the US.
Met Deborah at the aforementioned bar, frequented by bikers and enthusiasts – all dressed up like they had bit parts in Easy Rider (they don't do things half-heartedly here) and of course all the motorbikes are ferocious, growling things. We sat outside accompanied by the dulcet tones of revved up engines and heavy rock. Too much overt testosterone for my liking. Deborah took my mind of things however, with her pale blue eyes, big hair and personality to match. She had been the first Denver resident to contact me, but as I hadn't heard back from her in a while, I had arranged a game with Judy instead. Then she got back in touch a couple of days ago and I never say no to Scrabble. Working in marketing, a Catholic and unusually in my experience – born and raised in her current location – and not married with several children. I had a BLT with a couple of pints of de rigeur untasteably cold beer and we were joined by Deborah's friends, Jennifer, Jason, and their daughter, Jordan. I had all the luck in our Scrabble game, picking up both blanks and effortlessly fitting them into two bingos (TEASING & STEALER – bingotastic letters). I also commandeered three of the Ss, although my opponent did manage to play FOX with the X going two ways on a double word for nearly 50 points. After her friends left, Deborah told me about her ex-marriage and recent dating activity. She'd met this great guy recently, and on their third date he confessed he'd done a 15 year stretch for domestic violence (the length of the sentence would suggest extreme violence). She then turned detective and found out he'd carried out another violent act towards a woman since he'd been out of prison. Deborah came across as a tough cookie, able to look after herself, but also not stupid enough to think she could change a man like that.
We parted mid-afternoon and then it was goodbye to the Rockie Mountains as I pedalled a further 20 miles along Highway 85, in a southerly direction to the town of Castle Rock, named after a butte that does indeed look like a castle. Is it is my imagination, or does every young woman driving alone have a mobile phone permanently glued to their ears? Why don't they visit their female friends once in a while? Here I hooked up with Kris, who lived in Colorado Springs, another 40 miles south, but as she was unsure about offering me a bed while she had young relatives staying, she had kindly agreed to come up to Castle Rock. We met at Qdoba, a Mexican chain restaurant – but it seemed pretty good. I had nachos with black beans, beef, guacamole, etc, and compared to Mexican food I've had in Britain, which I've found bland and samey, this had a unique, piquant flavour. Kris was another example of the 'married young with numerous children' brigade and when I complimented her on the size of the rock on her ring-finger, she said it had been an upgrade. Her eldest, a 20 year old, has just got engaged too. Very well-travelled, she had lived in Amsterdam for a year and both her, and her husband worked in the accountancy field. On the Scrabble front, my luck didn't hold out from earlier and although securing a win, it was a frustrating encounter, with letters that didn't gel. Kris played ITTY (we didn't have a Scrabble dictionary so I didn't challenge) and I added a T to it, much to the amusement of a staff member.
Mac, the truck driver encountered in Laramie, met me here and drove me back to his place. Upon stepping into the passenger seat I thought “Uh oh”, as I tried to avoid stepping on empty tin cans and plastic bottles strewn about the floor of the vehicle, and as expected, his house continued the theme, with pathways dividing cardboard boxes and piles of stuff. This doesn't diminish the fact that he was a very nice guy, a big teddy bear of a man, renting a basement since splitting from his wife. He then took me to a place called Village Inn, another chain restaurant, where we met up with the local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous. Mac used to have a serious drug problem (as well as with alcohol) and meth amphetamines was his tipple. Meth is again on the rise and a serious problem with young people, including one of Mac's daughter's, who also turned up. I think Hanna had just been experimenting and Mac said all the other people there were clean. They were a nice bunch anyway and we talked about regular stuff as I tucked into a brownie pie. There were about a dozen choices of pie and they all sounded divine, so it was a difficult choice. They only cost $3.99 for a huge slice and a mere $7.99 for a whole pie to take away! Mac hasn't touched a drop of alcohol, smoked, injected or anything since February 19th 1988, yet he still goes to NA, I think more for the camaraderie than anything else, and is vice-chairman of the 'Mile High' group (somewhat ironic name) and they meet once a week (this was the social part after the meeting). All the waitresses knew about NA and joked about it – there's also an AA group that hangs out there!
Back at Mac's place, I met his ginger cat, Chance, who his children had stolen from a neighbour's house. Mac justified their actions by explaining the neighbours hadn't put up lost posters or anything. Chance pees down the drain and kicks a towel about that is laying there to mop up any drips. Slept on his couch, which was just fine, although it was pitched within a sea of chaos.