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As I write this month’s column, I’m completing the planning for my annual trip with three friends to various mountain towns and scenic sites throughout Colorado. Two of the guys are college fraternity brothers whom I originally met in high school, and we’ve all known the third fella through a mutual friend since college. We grew up in that other beautiful mountain state, West Virginia. Two of the guys still live there, and the third lives in North Carolina.
I handle all the arrangements here in Colorado, and the guys trust my judgement each year on where we go and what we see. When my wife and I moved here in 1998 and had just one dog, we began visiting as many destination sites as we could each summer with Sherman the Portuguese Water Dog in tow. But as our four-legged roommates increased to three, traveling became problematic, whether they came with us, or we boarded them. That’s when I suggested to my friends that they accompany me on annual trips to complete the scenic circuit. And unlike our college-age beach trips, where we saw little but sand and saloons, we cram in as much as we can see and experience during each four-day adventure.
After more than 50 years since we four met, all of us have slowed down. These trips are not so much about making new memories as they are about rehashing old ones. And if our former dashing social exploits were indeed what we recall, it seems a miracle we lived to tell about them. We now head to bed about the time our night got started back then, and the imbibing has taken a similar decline. Colorado does offer a recreational option still illegal in my friends’ respective locales, although they seem more interested in window shopping than partaking—my how times have changed now that it’s lawful.
I’m the only one of the four who married just once and never divorced—eight marriages in total among us. Since we’ve all met the various wives through the years, the circumstances of these many marital transitions provide considerable fodder for indelicate conversation. The mantra for the two fellas with six marriages and five divorces between them is, “I know what I was feeling; what was I thinking?”
Prior to the first trip, we established some ground rules on what other topics are fair game for discussion. Talking politics is alright… mostly. Other important rules for four older guys include bathroom breaks only every 20 minutes while driving and no white shoes with Bermuda shorts. And because I have to live and work here after my friends leave, they may not use my real name when telling strangers stories about our wilder days.
A common theme of my columns is community service. I developed my interest in giving back later in life, but these friends have had long, successful careers that also involve community service. Tom has furthered the goal of U.S. energy independence while providing extension services in the coal mining profession under federal land-grant status at our alma mater, West Virginia University; Marty, the other WVU graduate, has long been involved in one of the most difficult but worthwhile community service endeavors, managing public housing; and Nick has parlayed a business degree at Shepherd College into impressive farming and trucking endeavors, and there’s no more important community service than feeding people. And all three, like me, continue working, not because we have to, but because we value the identity it provides.
The inspiration for this column is my long-time friendship with these three guys and my admiration for their willingness to combine community service and career. It’s also validation, since they’ve been asking for 48 years if I’d ever do anything worthwhile with my journalism degree. And when it comes to re-engaging about past exploits with old friends on a road trip, as Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones famously said, “It’s not the years, it’s the miles.”
Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is an 11-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 48 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.