Last time I wrote I wasn’t sure where the heck life was going to take me this fall. I felt happier mentally, physically, and spiritually than I had in a decade, but wasn’t quite sure what was gonna happen next. I headed to Denver for a Phish fest Labor Day weekend and really only had one goal in life: to wake up alive Monday. I succeeded in my endeavors, had an awesome weekend, made it to my truck in the parking lot, and then got stuck again. I fired up the Ford, tried to figure out where to take it, and ended up sitting there idling. I knew that I wanted to get back to Vegas and work, I knew that I needed to be in Black Hawk for the HPT’s Mile High Poker Open, and I knew that I wanted to climb some mountains. It took that full 30 minutes for me to realize that I needed to be in Black Hawk just 9 days later, so if I wanted to work and climb, then I had my next several weeks covered.
I started the three hour drive back to the ranch. Booked a flight to Vegas for the weekend. I had lent several skillets from the ranch to the prettiest girl in Custer County the week before, I wanted to get those back and convince her to hang out with me. Pretty girls are elusive like elk though, and even though I was getting a higher response rate to my text messages than before, I still didn’t like my chances. Packed up all my gear, woke up in the morning, and headed for the mountains.
I wanted to climb several of the fourteeners (14,000+ foot mountains) in the Southern end of the Sangres, Blanca, Ellingwood, Little Bear, and Lindsey. After looking at some maps and doing some reading I knew my route, and I would have an opportunity to summit all of them except for Lindsey. A 90 minute drive from the ranch took me through La Veda Pass and over to the West side. I drove 45 minutes up a gnarly dirt road to 9,000 feet when it got to be too much for my truck, and I finally started hoofing it at 2pm. I hiked 5 miles and 3.5 hours to base camp at 11,700′ on the shores of Lake Como, finding myself at one of the coolest camps I’ve ever been to.
That evening I went to sleep with a sore throat and a runny nose. Even though it’s important to climb mountains early due to afternoon thunderstorms, it’s more important to take care of yourself and stay healthy in the wilderness. I slept until my body was done, crawling out of my tent at 9am. I looked up at Little Bear Peak only to see a shroud of clouds. Aww, c’mon. It’s never cloudy early, and that’s an awful omen for my endeavors to climb mountains today. I lazily started boiling hot water for my coffee and dehydrated eggs and bacon. By the time I finished my breakfast the clouds had parted, and by the time I was ready to begin my ascent I was standing under a bluebird sky. Had a wonderful day, took 4 hours to summit Blanca at 14,345, my highest point yet, and then another 100 minutes to make Ellingwood’s summit. A few hours back down to camp, and at supper time I was sitting next to the lake, still enjoying a perfect sky, loving the colors brought out by the fading sun to the West.
The following day I had a flight out of Colorado Springs at 9:30pm or so. The Springs is another 90 minute drive tacked on to the 6 hours it took me to get there, so my plan to climb Little Bear was pretty much shot. That and Little Bear has the most difficult standard route of any of the 54 14ers in Colorado and frankly scared the shit outta me. I slept in again, savored my coffee and dehydrated granola with blueberries, and eventually started hiking out. Everything was perfect. Toward the bottom of the trail I started seeing a bunch of people heading in, the name “Camp Gladiator” popping up lots. I came across a gaggle of girls, I already was flying down the hill and probably kicked it up a notch to show off, and ate shit right in the middle of the trail. I’m sure I looked awesome laying in the dirt, rolling on a backpack, trekking poles flailing in the air as I tried to regain my balance. When I finally did I was pleased to see that my truck was parked a mere 30 feet away, cause now I’m that guy who just hiked a dozen miles, climbed five thousand feet higher into the sky to stand on the summit of two of the tallest mountians in America, and nailed every aspect of it except for walking past pretty girls in the parking lot.
I needed to get the skillets back to the ranch, and I wanted to hang with Kendra, but she had to work and dropped them off at The Dome so I could pick them up. I did, drove back to the ranch, packed for Vegas, and drove to the airport. Zip to Vegas, land, head straight to the Aria, and just missed my seat in the mixed game. I wait an hour, but by midnight I’m pretty whipped from the day and catch a cab home.
Wake up the following morning very excited to work. I show up around 1pm and get the game started with Jean-Robert and Jeremy Ausmus. I’ve been so disconnected that I didn’t know he made the WSOP Main Event final table, and to this date I still don’t know who else has. We played $300-600 for most of the day, kicked it up to $400-800 when the game got awesome, I ran pretty awfully for the most part but was pleased to only lose $6k in the 12 hour session, especially after the $20k train wreck that was Cantu 1 outing me razzdeucy, making #1/#1 to 3/4 my #1/#2. The best part of the day was easily dialoguing with Kendra, we texted back and forth all day long.
Chomping at the bit to get back into action Saturday, I found no games. My text messages yielded no results, so I wandered down to the Bellagio to try and stir up some action. I found a seat in a $40-80 mixed game, and wasn’t terribly pleased with this because I’ve gotta win a lot of bets at $80 a whack to get un-stuck $6k. There was nothing else going anywhere though, action is action, and I was in town to work.
About 20 minutes later this 60 ish year old dude that I’ve never seen before strolls up, asks what we’re playing, and says, “I don’t play any of that split pot bullshit, I play razz. How bout you and I play some razz heads-up?” Well this is a strange request. I’m far from being a heads-up specialist, but I’m pretty good at razz, and I’ve never seen this guy in my life, so… how big do you want to play, sir? “I have thirty-five thousand in my pocket and I want to use it.” You got action! I’m going to my box to get money, I’ll be right back. Frank! We’re starting a game.
I get a bunch of flags, come back expecting to play something in the neighborhood of $400-800, decide that I’m gonna try and talk him into adding stud to the mix too, and zip back to the poker room. I catch him walking out, he says Frank is being an ass and saying that we can’t play heads-up, I tell him that the rules of the Nevada Gaming Commission make it illegal to just play heads up, but we can start heads up, and if somebody wants to join, we’ll request that they don’t, and if they do, then we’ll just quit and try again. He accepts, we discuss limits, he says, “I don’t play any of that limit shit, we’re playing no-limit.” No limit razz? My head explodes a little. Ok sir, how about we play $100 ante, $100 bring-in, no-limit razz. “Sure, but you can bring it in for whatever you want.” Okay sir, you got me there.
Frank writes up a plaque, we make the minimum buy-in $15k, and the guy never ever buys a chip, just used $100 bills like the man Lancey Howard. The third hand went like this. He brings it in with a king to $400, I make it $1200 with a seven, he calls. He beats me out of $5k that hand, I ask if he wants to double the stakes, he gladly accepts saying something about how he was getting bored with the $100 ante, and proceeds to whip me for another $10k. I get into the game for $35k before finally winning some pots, and it takes me about an hour to win back all my chips and get him to pull another 10 out of his pocket. On the last hand I put him all in on 6th street betting slightly more than the pot showing 325J vs his Q74J. I had 95 in the hole, and wasn’t pleased with him calling at all. On the 7th card he says, “A six is good.” Well, that sucks, because it’s impossible for me to make a six, but I caught a six, and say I have a ninety-six. “That’s good too.” The dealer pushes me this $50k pot with $100 bills sticking out of black and yellow chips like a koosh ball. He stands up, says nice hand, I’m still getting a massage, and can’t believe this just happened. After I finish counting everything I got him for just around $27k, and once again found myself out of action but much happier about how my weekend was going. Kendra asked how I was going to celebrate, my first instinct was to go buy a boat and take it out on the lake, instead I went out with my friend Steph and some of her friends to Red Rock for a CD release party followed by more live music at Toby’s
The following day Jared talked me into going to the lake, which wasn’t too hard considering that there still wasn’t action in town and I was basking in the glow of yesterday’s razz match. Stayed out there until Monday, got back on a plane, and returned to Colorado Springs. I drove straight to The Dome where Kendra was working, stayed until closing, and she asked me if I wanted to hang out longer. Heck yes. Suddenly the best catch in town wasn’t so elusive. We sat on a picnic bench in the beer garden out back until 4:30 in the morning. She introduced me to Katt Williams, I introduced her to Mitch Hedburg, we laughed lots, and finally went our separate ways. Call me when you get back to the ranch so I know you’re safe please? That led to another half an hour on the phone, and I went to sleep smiling extra.
I picked Kendra and her black lab Lindy up shortly after noon. We went to our friend Nate’s restaurant for breakfast and decided to spend the rest of the day in the mountains with a loose goal of ending up in Salida for dinner. Pick up stuff for a picnic in town, drive North, and start discussing where to go. There are two roads into the Sangres North of town that neither of us have been on. Her idea for how to choose which one to go up? Flip a coin. Atta girl. Heads for Hayden Creek, we pull off highway 50 and into the dirt up the mountain. More and more I saw things I have in common with this girl, from what we like to do to our goals and everything in between. The day was beautiful, rain falling on and off for our drive up the East slope through fall colors on the changing Aspens and Oaks. We hit the pass and didn’t find a good place to picnic, plus it was raining, so we continue down the West side, and it didn’t take us long to find what we were looking for.
Just as we park in this alpine meadow the rain stops. We spend a couple hours hanging out there, and then continue our drive down the hill. About a mile later the road turns nasty. There are several spots that I have to get out, scout, and move some rocks around. It’s raining again. We get to one gnarly spot that I’m not very happy about, but my only option is to continue downhill at this point because throwing it in reverse isn’t going to happen here. She’s spotting me on the passenger side, I’m creeping downhill, and I feel the entire ass end of the truck come off the ground. We’re in the air. Instead of freaking out, she says, you’re good! Keep rolling! I do and we were, eventually we make it out of the mountains, and were welcomed by a complete double rainbow from the sun peeking out from under the clouds. It was just as magical as our chemistry and connection, and I was thoroughly enjoying the best first date of my life.
We drove to Salida. She was headed to New York the following week to be a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding, I became her plus one, and we booked a flight. The following day I drove up to Black Hawk for the Heartland Poker Tour’s Mile High Poker Open at the Golden Gates’ Casino. There were four day ones. We were scheduled to play 12 levels or down to 30, whichever came first. With 8 minutes left in day 1a I was short but happy to still be in. We busted somebody in 31st, the floorman said we’re just going to play through level 11, and then I got two kings, losing all my chips to two queens to bust with minutes to spare. Rats.
Tried again the following day. Ran a flush into a bigger flush, got nitrolled, and fired shell three. This one went much better and I ended the night with heaps, very excited to have the next two days off. My choices were to hang around Black Hawk and grind that 30-60 game or drive back to Westcliffe to spend an evening with Kendra. Not a tough decision in the slightest; we had spent hours on the phone while I was at the Ameristar, swapped hundreds of texts in those two days, and made our relationship official and committed.
I had time to kill before she was off work that night so went fly fishing on the Blue River with Jen from the HPT. It was gorgeous, I love this time of year in Colorado. The weather was warm enough that I could wade in the river. I didn’t ever see a fish, but fishing is about much more than catching fish, and it was a successful day. I made the drive back down, hung out until she needed to go to work, and then headed back to Black Hawk.
Day 2 began Sunday at noon with a hundred some odd players still in. I was near the top of the chip counts, 74 were being paid, and we had to play down to 6. There were four of us circuit pros still in, David Baker, Chris Tryba, and Chance Kornuth. We all swapped some action, and we all had high hopes. I eventually busted thirty somethingth for $5300, missing a $1k pay jump by one spot, but also losing my chips to Chance. I started drinking, they were all still in. Chris busted 20 somethingth, Chance and David made deep runs, but Chance busted 7th on the final table bubble.
The folloging day I was hanging out around the final table when I get a text from Kendra saying that she just walked into the Golden Gates. What?!? Awesome! She had conspired with Jen and the whole crew managed to keep it a secret. Jen put her to work quickly taking pictures at the final table, and the whole HPT family welcomed her whole heartedly. It was awesome. Jen tells me that I thought Cory was perfect for me, but I was wrong, Kendra is perfecter. I can’t agree more. David ended up busting 6th to a very gross two outer when all the money went in on the turn.
We drove back to Westcliffe the following day, she worked, and we packed for New York City. She managed to get Wednesday night off so we could head up to Denver a day early to catch Andy Grammar, Mat Kearney, and Train at Red Rocks. Neither of us have ever seen a show there somehow between our 25 combined years in Colorado and were both very stoked for it. It was everything we hoped for. Had a nice night in downtown Denver, woke up lazily the next morning, had breakfast, and headed to the airport for NYC.
So now we’re on the flight home. I had a fantastic time in NYC. We didn’t do anything touristy, but no worries, I’ll have plenty more opportunities to do so. My heart hurts thinking about the looming need to get back to Vegas and resume working. I feel stronger for her than I did for Cory or any other woman I’ve ever been involved with. I’m once again upset that I can’t work online still, because I wouldn’t have to be apart from her if I could. I don’t mind it all though, because I still feel better mentally, physically, and spiritually than I did a decade ago, and now I’ve been blessed with beautiful love on top of it.
Mike at the ranch gave me some sound advice. “Well done kid, she’s a good one. Don’t fuck it up.” Yes sir!
Peace and good luck,
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