Pearl Street. Boulder, Colorado.
Pearl Street is an avenue that runs through the heart of Boulder. It is strictly pedestrian; no cars allowed on most of it. Boulder is really a beautiful town and I wish I had the time and frame of mind to really enjoy it. Unfortunately, most of my time spent there consisted of freezing my ass off in a warehouse or begging for change. My most memorable meal there was at a homeless shelter where, disgusted by the maggots in my salad, I decided to be hungry instead.
It was winter in 1994. I was 19 years old and had nothing but the clothes on my back and a crappy boyfriend who was all about the hustle. We stayed in Boulder for a couple of weeks, but when Tom had exhausted all the kind people we encountered, we had to go elsewhere. He had somehow hustled a car--a Datsun 510 (the first of many)--and we decided one day to head up Highway 119 into the mountains to see what we could find. We had heard about a town called Nederland, about 20 miles west of Boulder and thought it might be nice to see what was up there.
To the right of the reservoir you can see Highway 119 winding westward. At the end of the water you can see the tiny town of Nederland (Ned). We quickly found the Youth Hostel and sought refuge from the cold there. We were able to work for a room, courtesy of the guy that owned a bunch of buildings there, named Pete. We spent about a week there, helping Pete remodel a restaurant he was going to call the Restbite Mill. It may have been spelled Respite Mill--I can't remember.
Anyway, after about a week, we were asked to move on. We went over to the grocery store to beg some change for gas when we enountered a lady who asked us if we would be willing to work at her house for room and board. We agreed and she put a little gas in our car to get us up the hill to her house.
The place she took us is somewhat of an enigma. I've tried to Mapquest it and look it up on Google Earth, and it is completely different now than it was 13 years ago. The town is called Wondervu. No, I didn't spell it wrong. Check it out: Wondervu, Colorado
Anyway, when we were there, there was a cafe called the Wondervu Cafe and some kind of lodging. But that's about it. The lady's house was on a dirt road called Jennie Lane. It was a sty. She was a single mom of two kids, and later we found out that she was crazy as well as a drunk.
When we arrived, the lady (I can't remember her name so we'll call her Wonder) showed us to our room...it was a family room in her daylight basement so cluttered with crap that it was difficult to move around much less find an appropriate place to put a bed. There were about six or seven boxes of old Rolling Stone magazines. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have taken all those mags when we left. They were all in a pile of stuff she was going to throw out. Issues dated back into the early 1970s. However, as you'll find out in a later post, those magazines wouldn't have made it home with me anyway.
I think we only ended up staying there for about two weeks. Maybe three. Wonder turned out to be quite a wingnut. She kept yelling at us for the most random reasons. She got mad one night because I let her son take a bath. I never could figure that one out. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and I didn't know Tom then the way I know him now. It's absolutely plausible that he could have been doing something bad...
At least Tom had a job at a restaurant down in Ned. One evening, when Tom was leaving for work, Wonder started screaming at him for something (I don't know what), and he hollered some obscenities back at her so she told him not to come back. He told me that he would come back for me after work and we'd go somewhere.
And I was left there alone with her.
Eventually, I decided that I had to leave before he came back and I loaded everything I could onto my back, carefully taking our most important posessions (which were few) because I knew that I didn't want to come back.
And I started walking into the February night.
Mostly what I remember is being cold. I couldn't remember how far it is from Wondervu to Nederland, but I remember walking for a long time. When I googled it, it came up as 11 miles. It was the beginning of February and there was still feet of snow on the ground, and it was night time. The only human life between Jennie Lane and Ned consisted of a few farms scattered along the road.
And a restaurant called the Blue Danube.
After walking for hours along the darkest stretch of highway in existence, I arrived at the parking lot of The Blue Danube. There were two cars in the lot. To my delight, a man came out the door and saw me there. I asked him which way he was going and he said he was going down to Ned. He asked me if I needed a ride.
Did I need a ride!
His name was Joe and he was a cook getting off work from the restaurant. He was very nice and assured me that he was not going to hurt me. I was happy when I arrived in Ned unharmed.
That night we knocked on the door at the Hostel and were given a room to stay in with the promise that we'd have jobs and pay for our room. The next day we made our way back up the hill to Wonder's house to pick up the last of our things. Luckily for us, she wasn't there and her kids were gracious enough to let us in to get our stuff.
I got a job two days later at the Texaco station at the junction of Highways 72 and 119. A month later, our car dead on the side of 119, we hitchhiked into Boulder with my last Texaco paycheck and put a $100 downpayment on a 1968 Plymouth Satellite Stationwagon.
Although not the right color, this car looks very similar to the one we bought. Yes, the same make and model as the car that took us from Bellingham to San Francisco--just a few years older.
Upon arrival with the car, we packed it up with whatever Earthly belongings we had--a quilt, a few clothes, a few gifts we still had from Christmas, and the odd trinket here and there that we had picked up on our adventure thus far.
And with the sun nestling behind the Rocky Mountains, we would our way down Highway 119 toward Central City--a route we had only taken once before on a gambling adventure. From there we turned even further south on Central City Parkway toward I-70. Not long after dark, we turned east on I-70, heading for more adventure. Danger, hippies, gangsters, gutter punks and hillbillies.