How a hotdog, split-pea soup and a woman named Marie saved my life

The idea was to take an easy, relaxed ride along the San Juan Skyway and Million-Dollar Highway, be home before too late so I could have plenty of time for lounging and more lounging.

(I like lounging.)

But I started off late. And it got cloudy. Then gloomy.

Then it got cold and started to drizzle, then rain, then it got really cold, and I was at the point where I just wanted it to be over and done with so I could be back in my warm, safe little cabin, drinking hot tea and reading Sherlock Holmes stories.

That's when I got gas at Mountain Top in Rico. A little store along the Skyway. A store that sold wine, souvenirs and hot dogs.

Hot dogs?

It sounded so good and I was so hungry.

But no, I couldn't, I had to get going.

I pumped my gas, waited for the receipt -- but the gas pump didn't give me a receipt. I HAD to go in.

Karma? I don't know. You decide.

Marylynn Tunner is the owner of Mountain Top. When I asked for the receipt -- and a hotdog -- she suggested I also have a hot bowl of homemade ham and split-pea soup.

Soup?

Oh baby!

Except for the hot tea, a breakfast bar and some raisins I had early in the morning, I hadn't eaten all day. So the soup and hot dog hit me in the spot that needed to be hit, and I felt so much better for it.

And I swear this next part is true:

When I went back out to my bike to finish this "easy ride," the clouds parted and it was sunny and wonderful and birds were singing and little lizard things were skittering across the highway and it was everything I hoped this day would be. She and the soup and the hotdog saved my spirits, my soul and my life -- figuratively speaking of course.

But when I got back to Durango, everything changed.

More rain, and this time HAIL.

Not only that, but it was getting darker and I had only my shaded visor. You know, the one you're supposed to use during DAYLIGHT, not DARKLIGHT.

So there I was, heading over Wolf Creek Pass in the dark, in the rain, my visor up so I could see, rain and bugs splattering my face, when out on the lawn their 'rose such a clatter....

Oops, sorry.

... when up ahead I saw the taillights of a car, and I was catching up to it.

A car that I could follow, lower my visor, see with their headlights, get home without making my wife upset that I went out ONCE AGAIN and did a darn-fool thing because "that man is a darn fool, and now look at him -- dead because he had on the wrong visor."

(I don't think she'd actually say that, but you never know.)

I followed that car up and over and back down the other side of that mountain, and when it finally pulled over at a gas station, I followed it, honked my horn, parked beside it, and Marie, the driver, was trying to apologize, but I told her she'd just saved my life.

Literally.

And that's how a hotdog, split-pea soup and a woman named Marie saved my life.

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