I could barely make out the song playing in the little bar in Ouray.
I knew the melody, but it was damned hard to hear it over the clanking of glasses, conversation, and the air conditioning.
The chorus did it for me, and I smiled big enough that my daughter asked what was funny.
“We’re sitting in a little bar with my younger old enough to order in the middle of the mountains with John Denver singing ‘Rocky Mountain High’ in the background.” I laughed a bit, but it made sense.
First time I heard that song I was in Boulder.
“When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hanging by a song
But the string’s already broken and he doesn’t really care
It keeps changing fast and it don’t last for long”
At when I first heard those words they rang eerily true for me.
And while I never strayed from my first love of jazz and be-bop, Denver’s song was one of a handful of pop songs that held a special connection. It still does.
And now I am a long way from 27, but the mountains still remain the siren’s call of my youth.
The trip over Red Mountain from Silverton was uneventful but for the exclamations of my daughter. She had never seen these kinds of mountains before and insisted the soundtrack for Lord of the Rings be our accompaniment.
The wife had some concerns, however.
“Why can’t they put guardrails up” she kept repeating on various hairpin curves and those spots where the depth of the drop was in the hundreds of feet?
Colorado builds some mighty fine and incredible roads, but they ain’t all that big on guard rails.
My reply was not satisfactory… “because they are ugly and useless”.
I am pretty sure I am right on this.
She and my daughter disagreed vehemently and I was outvoted… but stood my ground.
Ugly. Damned ugly.
We finished our (non-alcoholic for me) drinks and headed outside where we were immediately aware of how fast the weather changes in the mountains.
30 minutes earlier it was sunny with soft clouds, now it was storming and a steady rain was beginning to fall.
I instantly thought of the road back over Red Mountain and it being wet.
I knew my family would be a little trepidatious.
I was not worried.
I knew that I could safely navigate the wet roads in the rain without incident.
And I didn’t need any guard rails to keep me on track.
I knew the way and was confident in my skills behind the wheel of the mighty Hyundai.
Guardrails are there for a reason, of course.
On the absolute rare occasion where something goes wrong and the car heads for the side.
But mostly they are there for the comfort of a faux security.
Safety. Or at least the illusion of safety.
I have found that most of the incredible places I want to be have no guardrails.
Whether it’s a road in Glacier Park, a dirt trail in the Superstitions, or some unknown little two-lane in the middle of Utah.
Spectacular places – absent guardrails.
Guardrails may make us complacent while being aware that they are gone makes us more vigilant.
You have to be careless or deliberate to need a guardrail. Sometimes you are the victim of someone else’s carelessness… and that really is a tragedy.
But the deliberate tracks you make as you twist and turn along the scenic twisties and the choices you make in life should not need guardrails.
When we are sure of our ability, seeking the faux security of a guardrail may cause us to miss some spectacular opportunities. A new business. A new relationship. A great little road in the San Juans.
What we use is attention, deliberate attention.
With practice and confidence, we can make the turns, not fear the hairpins, and really enjoy the ride.
In a car, on a bike, or our creative endeavors all through the years.