The tough part is pretty much over. I’ve done all the confusing, frightening, stupid, dead-ended things that can be done, and now, I’m ready for the part that, while maybe not EASY, is at least straightforward. Climb a ladder. Out. No more questioning the options. This was it. Just one long climb and I would be out.

So I climbed.

The Royal Gorge Incline Train’s incline is, I see at, 1,550 feet long. I had to have been a little better than halfway up after all this nonsense, so let’s say I had maybe 700 feet to go. 230 yards or so. Rounding up, maybe a quarter of a football field.  It seems like longer in my memory, but you know how I exaggerate.

I would now like to point out that the tallest ladder you’re likely to run across in your life, or more specifically in MY life, is one of those 24 foot jobs that reach to the top of your two-story house to let you reach, say, the wasp nest that has been built in some inaccessible and frankly vertiginous corner where you wouldn’t normally go on a bet, especially since it’s full of wasps. But I digress again and the commas are getting plain silly. You ever climbed on one of those 24 foot things at full extension? No, because at full extension, they bounce like trampolines. But that’s not the point. The point is 24 foot ladders.  What about 29 of them, end to end? Right. You haven’t climbed 29 fully extended 24 foot ladders because you’re not an idiot. Hardly anyone is, or could even imagine getting oneself into the position to climb that far. But let me tell you that such a climb uses muscles that boot camp workouts don’t reach. You use neglected, dehydrated, twanging muscles that are wobbly from bathing in old adrenaline that went sour in your bloodstream four or five chapters back.

But there is very little incentive to stop, because numbers of feet and dehydration aside, you’re nearly OUT.

My wish for you and your life is that one day, you can have a task that has such single-minded purpose and such dawn’s-awakening results. I won’t say it’s like seeing a child born because saying so can get you killed by some woman who remembers her own purpose and results and knows damn well if you try to equate climbing a ladder to it, she’ll kill ya. And because it’s not really the same anyhow. Frankly, though, it’s affirming to just climb along as best you can,counting missing bolts on the ladder (98 in case you’re wondering) and knowing that you’re on a straight road out of Dodge.

By the time I got to 98 missing bolts that should have been holding my ladder in place, it was no longer my ladder.

It now belonged to the guy whose face suddenly popped over the end of the ladder as I approached the top.  I was now the interloper and I was on HIS ladder. He had a genial face, a work-smudged face, a suspicious and a baffled face. He said, “What was you doing down THERE?”

“Kayaking.” I said, “I lost my boat.” After a brief thought I added, “Please don’t tell me that I’m the first dumb son-of-a-bitch to have to climb outta here.”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Well, son, I got bad news.” And he grinned.  Ass.


That wasn’t adding insult to injury.  That came a few minutes later, and we’ll get to it in the Conclusion Of Boy Gorge, next time.