Cripple Creek is a mountain town in Colorado made famous in the Gold Rush era. Nowadays, tourism is the town’s only industry. For several months beginning in July 2009, I was a frequent visitor to the blackjack tables at the casinos of Cripple Creek. The Gold Creek, Wildwood’s, Brass Ass and the others are pleasant alternatives to the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Smoking in not allowed in any buildings, few patrons crowd the tables, and there are no mile-long walks from the parking garage to the main casino gaming area. Plus, some of the newer blackjack dealers in Cripple Creek make mistakes in counting and payouts. Good stuff. The 63-mile drive from Cripple Creek to my home is very enjoyable when I’ve won a few bucks gambling. The 20-mile downgrade circling Pikes Peak is an especially beautiful highlight of the drive. There are magnificent cliffs, various rock formations, colorful foliage and even wild deer and longhorn sheep. I love rolling down the window to the smell the fresh Rocky Mountain air combined with the scent of newly won hundred dollar bills. On one occasion last summer when my wallet was emptied due to aberrations in the laws of probability, however, the drive down the mountain from Cripple Creek was an ugly pain in the ass.
I lost $500 on a visit after being up several hundred dollars an hour earlier. Obviously miffed, I pulled out of the casino parking lot onto the two-lane stretch of Highway 24. I was behind a motorcyclist who was behind some crappy POS who was behind a casino charter bus who was behind a long line of cars who were all behind a farmer with a pickup truck full of hay bales. Everyone was going 30-35 MPH. I settled into my seat, pissed, knowing that it would be a long ride home. A few minutes into the journey, I saw another motorcycle approaching in the opposite lane. As it neared, the motorcycle guy in front of me took his left hand off the handlebar and directed it slightly downward and outward, about a foot away from the left side of the bike. The approaching rider did the same. It was a wave. How cute! I didn’t think much of the gesture until it happened again with another biker a few miles down the road. Then it happened again, this time with a pair of riders in tandem. Now I was starting to get pissed off! I didn’t mind the fact that the wave resembled an upside-down, Nazi-like salute…I could see that it was obviously safer, and cooler, than the rider waving a hand straight up the air like a mom would do when she spotted her lost child in a crowded shopping mall. I had a more perplexing thought. This goon in front of me doesn’t know all those other bikers personally. Why is he waving to all of ‘em?! I remembered back to a moment in seventh grade when my freind, Barry Clark, told me that all school bus drivers waved to each other. It was true. For years afterward, I watched the strange phenomena, as all the school bus drivers, man-woman, young-old, normal bus-short bus, it didn’t matter, waved to each other as they passed on the highway. I eventually grew up and quit riding the bus, so I haven’t seen an equally goofy phenomenon since. Until now.
Stewing in my grumpy old man bitterness, I waited for the next motorcycle rider to approach. Here we go. Will he do it again?! The moment of truth. The guy in front of me lowered his hand. The other rider returned suit. Holy $’@%*& shit, he did it again! I was so pissed, I steamed up the windows in my Honda. A few minutes later, another biker, another wave, but at least this time, the other guy did a lowered peace sign instead of the upside-down Seig Heil. What is there, a Rocky Mountain version of Sturgis goin on here? It was ridiculous. A mile or so before the mountain leg of my trip ended, something happened which made this story have a happy ending. No, no, the cyclist didn’t crash. (I may be a grumpy gambler at times, but I’m not a sadistic rat bastard.) Instead, a final biker appeared in the oncoming lane. I was too exhausted to care. I simply wanted the madness to end. The guy in front of me waved downward. The other biker looked his way, then looked back toward the road without a returning gesture. He didn’t motorcycle wave back. Thank God, some motorcyclists hate the routine as much as I do.