I had almost forgotten I owned one. Cleaning out the back of my vehicle, I pulled the rusting machete out along with the remnants of summer days long gone - cam straps, headlamps, a bed roll, even my fake Bubba teeth.
Guiding rafts on the Animas River's fickle two-month season and spending many nights working overnight trips, it just never made sense to pay for immobile lodging.
The guides I worked with set up a quasi third-world assemblage of old buses, cars and tents turned into improvised living quarters. Whether it was flipping burgers around the fire, digging horseshoe pits or impromptu maintenance issues, everyone I worked with was buying whatever machetes were available for purchase.
A blunt piece of metal is only the beginning. If you've seen the truck topper customized with a homemade sleeping deck above minimal stored personal belongings, you know what I'm talking about. It's not just raft guides moving from Colorado's rivers out to West Virginia's fall Gauley season. Nomadic boaters, climbers and anglers traverse the country pursuing the "freer" life by hauling around their primary residence.
With the right vehicle, the truly committed enthusiast is quick to forgo the amenities of indoor living for the sole pursuit of their sport. By enthusiast, I mean bum.
Winter in the Rockies makes sport-bumming more difficult. Some take the road show south, producing tales of surfing in Mexico, kayaking in Costa Rica or fly-fishing the Andean steppes (see right). Others, like my friend Eric, commonly referred to as El Zuapo, have tried to stick it out for the winter.
El Zuapo managed to finagle his way into a 1972 Starcraft RV stuck in a parking lot adjacent to the base of the Telluride gondola. Working up to 12 hours a week tuning skis, El Zuapo managed to earn just enough to cover the basics and more importantly, ski all day, every day.
But eventually, even El Zuapo gave it up and moved into a yurt. And alas, I've now downsized to a Subaru.
At first I cringed at the stock "grocery-go-getting" and "soccer mom" jeers, but I'm beginning to recognize many of the comments are thrown from those with 4-wheel-drive envy. I can only reinforce the move with memories of driving a jeep trail to the top of the La Plata Mountains' Kennebec Pass only to see a pair of late '80s Loyale wagons parked at the top or sliding through a 60 mph turn while riding in modified WRX before this September's Colorado Cog Rally.
Wagon acceptance can be a difficult step for Routt County residents with truck-sized dreams and nostalgia. Suddenly, it's more a question of need. Now that I do live in a house without an emergency brake and work indoors, pay rent, eat a diet of more than fire-grilled pork and canned Schlitz, I have about as much need for the machete as I do for all that fuel-guzzling space.