The luggage, bags and boxes had been carefully packed inside the SUV as we prepared for a weekend trip to Steamboat Springs. Because I'm a man, I insisted on doing the packing all by myself. I am the Lone Arranger.
Behind our Chevy Tahoe on a metal trailer-hitch cargo platform was more stuff. It was wrapped in black plastic tarps. The bundle was about 6 feet long, and I'd tied it down with heavy rope and straps.
The cargo platform was a trick I learned from an old friend back in California. He had the first trailer-hitch luggage carrier I'd ever seen. His name was Larry Cheney, pronounced "CHEE-ney," unlike the former vice president who doesn't seem to be very popular these days. (Apparently the former VP is now saying that he and President NotSoBright lied about Saddam Hussein and terrorism, and maybe the U.S. started the Iraq war for no real reason or something like that.)
Anyway, my wife stared at the cargo hauler with the 6-foot-long thing — roughly the size of, say, a man — wrapped in black plastic tarps strapped onto the platform, and she said, "Do you have any idea what that looks like?"
I said, "Uh, duh? Maybe it looks like I just spent 30 minutes packing our stuff on our new cargo hauler?"
She rolled her eyes and exhaled really loud. She does that a lot. I think she has allergies.
Then, as I often do, I got a brilliant idea. In honor of my old buddy, Larry, I made a sign and taped it to the back window of the SUV. There was an arrow pointing down toward the platform and in big letters it had the name of my old luggage-packing friend: "Cheney."
And off we went through Colorado Springs toward U.S. Highway 24 and the mountains. But almost immediately, out of nowhere, trouble started. A middle-aged woman with a faded "Bush '04" bumper sticker passed and gave me the finger. Probably an environmentalist. You know how those fanatical, tree-hugging, save-the-planet George W. Bush supporters were. I bet she was miffed at my gas-guzzler.
A block later came another one-finger salute, this one from an older guy with a "Proud Republican" bumper sticker on his Buick. Before we made it out of town a third finger came our way. That car had a "W" sticker on the rear window and the driver was actually shouting. I had my window up but I can read lips a little bit. I think he called me an "ash-pole." Must have been a nut.
We left our village, where people sure didn't seem to be in a very good mood, and were soon up in the mountains, the SUV rolling along effortlessly despite the heavy load inside and the Cheney bag on the back. My wife hadn't said a word since we pulled out of the driveway. She can get real quiet like that. Probably "counting her blessings," as they say.
In the mountain town of Woodland Park, I lowered my window and a young guy in a pickup truck passed and shouted: "Bury the bastard!" I had no idea what he was talking about. I don't think people in Woodland Park get enough oxygen to their brains.
Something funny must have happened in the ski town of Breckenridge just before we got there, because at each red light on the highway, people on the sidewalks just behind our SUV were howling with laughter.
I laughed, too, and waved at them and they laughed even harder. I wished that we could've been there a few minutes earlier to hear the joke.
Later, as we roared through Vail on Interstate 70, you'd have thought people had never seen a trailer-hitch cargo hauler before. We had traffic backed up 10-deep behind us. A passenger in one car actually leaned out and took a picture.
People in Steamboat were just as excited by my luggage-toting skills, turning to look at our SUV as we passed and then talking excitedly among themselves and pointing at us. In 1993, the people of Steamboat named a bridge the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. I think they smoke a lot of marijuana.
About halfway through our journey, my wife mumbled that maybe people were giving us the finger and laughing and pointing because, with the sign on the Tahoe's back window, it looked like we had Vice President Cheney's body packed in trash bags and lashed to the bumper. I said, "Yes, honey, I'm sure that's what people are thinking."
Women. Sometimes you just have to smile at them.
And frankly, even if I'd wanted to see ol' Dick Cheney wrapped in plastic tarps with his hands tied behind his back and lashed to my cargo hauler, I would, obviously, have cut a big hole in the bag so we could get some fresh air onto his face.
Along with about 30 buckets of water.