By 8am Michael and I are on our backs beneath Lewis attempting to lower the vegetable oil tank and check a new, mysterious leak. I imagine wrestling a greased, aluminum rectangular pig would be a similar sensation. Then – why not – the coolant hose spews its steaming red syrup onto us. We scramble into Lewis and look into his belly (engine compartment accessed from inside cab as well as via hood). We clamp ‘er down and that, at least, stops.
Back below, the grease leak drizzles on. We fill our reserve tanks with RJ’s stash anyway and run 60 miles on the grease remaining in the leaky tank.
Heading out of Santa Fe, now with a crack-o’-noon start and 400+ miles to cover to Denver, we pick up some good karma in the form of a young couple and their puppy. They look nice and turn out to be extremely clean hippies-in-training from Pennsylvania on a summer hitchhiking tour. At the moment, in fact, they are cleaner than me. For eight hours the college-age kids lounge in the back of Lewis Lewis reading our magazines while Michael and I rotate between driving and working at the laptop station up front. (Charlie is away for three days with family.)
I can’t help but wonder what they think. Hitching laws follow an inverse relationship between luxury and availability – the nicer the vehicle, the less likely to carry hitchhikers. Here this lucky pair has been scooped up by the most luxurious old school bus. Their wildest dreams come true, right? Yet we are not smoking pot and tapping drums in the back. Rather, we edit photos and text on Mac laptops, make phone calls to arrange meetings, and crank out push-ups.
Meanwhile, northern New Mexico, the southern end of the Great Plains, rolls by. Late May means expanses of green grassland sweeping into buttes and mesas and north to the distant snow-capped Rockies that poke through the horizon near the Cornudo Hills after I-25 passes through Las Vegas, NM.
Hard to imagine this far northeastern corner of New Mexico during the 1930s Dust Bowl when overgrazing and mono-cultures of wheat, cotton, and corn stripped the soil to nothing. Also hard to imagine that despite that historical lesson, the Great Plains continue to be dominated by large-scale mono-crops.
We enter Colorado via Raton Pass. Covered in piñon pine trees and broken by horizontal layers of yellow bluffs, the pass overlooks the Rockies to the north and west and the distant, extinct volcanic cones to the south.
The hitchhikers depart us at the exit ramp in Colorado Springs. They’ve located a Couch Surfer member and will stay with her. I hear the next day that a group of volunteers has planted a vegetable garden on the Colorado Springs’ City Hall property – budget cuts pulled the plug on the traditional flower beds, but local citizens are digging in.
Pick up Charlie on the corner of a downtown Denver street and park Lewis Lewis in the 24 Hour Fitness-Grocery Store-Starbucks parking lot: i.e. shower, milk, bathroom, respectively. Quite the amenities.
Denver Urban Gardens and Delaney Community Farm coming down the pipe…