The Secrets of Liberty Mountain

(Part 1 from 11)

Chapter One

I stuffed my last cardboard box of personal belongings into the cargo hold of my girlfriend's Rav4, jumped into the passenger seat, and waited while she fussed over a map with directions to our new home. I moved in with Darlene to save money when my landlord evicted me from my apartment for nonpayment of rent. We believed that two could live as cheaply as one. We were right, two could live as cheaply as one, but only for half as long.

Darlene and I had met at a local tavern where we developed an unlikely May-December relationship. She played the part of Ms. May at the youthful age of 35 years. I fulfilled the role of Mr. December at the tender age of 65. Darlene was an attractive, short, little brunette, just under five feet five inches tall, with small breasts, shoulder length hair, and a freckled baby face.

We had become romantically involved as much out of laziness as out of lust. Neither of us wanted to spend the necessary time to search for the perfect partner so we settled for the close enough for right now instead of searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. The joke was that I was 'robbing the cradle' when I took her to bed, and she would respond, 'True, but I feel like I'm robbing the grave when we make love'.

We wouldn't have had any luck at all if it weren't for bad luck. The real-estate development company into which Darlene had invested fifteen years of her life went belly-up two weeks after we decided to shack up, and then her last two paychecks bounced. The bounced checks set up an overdraft chain reaction. Darlene's rent check bounced, along with about 25 or 30 personal checks; each bad check racked up a $35 bank charge, $25-30 in returned check merchant fees, and her account soon was in the red by several thousand dollars. The certified letter ordering our eviction was the last straw. The back of our financial camel broke and the pieces shattered beyond repair. We needed a new place to live, and we needed it fast.

Our dwindling fortunes required drastic action, and Darlene had a plan. She suggested that we pack up, drive up into the mountains, and stay with a group of her college friends. They were a group of amateur survivalists living in an off-the-grid cabin. The commune was located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains about 250 miles west of Denver.

The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. Living off the grid far from civilization was an attractive alternative to living in a cardboard box behind a Safeway supermarket. Besides, I liked the high country and I had made several treks into the mountains while I stationed at Lowry Air Force Base prior to shipping out for an all-expense paid tour of Vietnam.

Darlene and I discussed joining her friends in the mountains. I watched and listened as she dictated a text message requesting sanctuary for us, and shared her joy when she received an affirmative response a few minutes later. We talked long into the night, and we sealed the deal by morning with a wild session of lovemaking. We were going to make a new life for ourselves. We were going off the grid.

Darlene finally finished fussing with the map, folded it, parked it in the sun visor, followed US-70 out of Denver, and we were up into the mountains an hour later. We hit the town of Rifle four hours later, broke for lunch, and I asked Darlene to stop at the local Smoke Shop. I had learned that our new home wasn't only remote; it was in the middle of fucking nowhere. The idea of running out of cigarettes a million miles from resupply was frightening.

I assumed our new off-the-grid home had some power, so I purchased an electric rolling machine. I then covered my bet; I bought two hand-powered rolling machines just to be safe. I then cleaned the shop out of their inventory of Zen rolling papers (three cases), along with 60 pounds of tobacco, two hundred cheap disposable lighters, and five tobacco pipes. The total bill put a $1,600 dent in my bank account (did I mention that I'm addicted to cigarettes?).

The Zen cigarette tubes and 60 lbs. of tobacco were too bulky to fit in the Rav's cargo bay, so I ended up securing my newly acquired stash to the vehicle's roof. I wrapped everything up in a tarp and triple tied it down with rope and bungee cords. The car looked like a band of gypsies owned it by the time I finished.

We turned north on Route 13, passed the town of Meeker two hours later, and we turned onto a winding dirt road leading up into the mountains about 45 minutes later. Darlene announced, 'It won't be long now' for the twentieth time.

Darlene was a bright young lady. She had programmed a series of waypoints her friends had e-mailed her into her vehicle's GPS system. We followed the dirt road through a thick pine forest until the road devolved into not much more than a poorly marked trail. The trail shrunk down to a path as we continued onward, our path soon became nothing more than a series of GPS waypoints connected by miles of barren rock as we climbed above the tree line. I finally asked Darlene after an hour of driving ever deeper into the mountain wilderness, "How long is not long?"

"We should be there within the hour," Darlene answered.

"Christ Almighty! Your friends aren't only off the grid; they're off the fucking map. Do you have any idea of where we really are?" I complained.

Darlene just shrugged her shoulders, smiled, and kept driving.

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