June 28, 2013
After taking a photo at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park where Clancy and Allen were turned back with their bikes, we went in search of Corwin Hot Springs.
The sumptuous hotel they were so glad to find after 16 hours in the saddle that day was a magnificent Gothic creation with a red-tiled roof with the mountains on one side and the Yellowstone River on the other, according to contemporary photographs.
It was destroyed by a fire in 1916, and an adobe construction looking somewhat like the Alamo, except without the dead Texas heroes, was built nearby in 1929 by Walter Hill, who added a tepee petrol station. That building became a game farm before it was bought by the Church Universal Triumphant, who had then failed to live up to their name and abandoned it.
Today, according to my research, all that was left on the site was that building, a restaurant, a post office, and a smattering of mobile homes and log cabins, but all that remained of the original clubhouse was the great stone fireplace.
Outside the deserted restaurant, the only sign of life we found was a truck with its engine running, guarded by a black Labrador, but at the mobile homes, log cabins and the Alamo, not a human was to be seen.
We had given up searching for the fireplace and were riding away when Richard, whose GPS had broken several days back and been replaced by a new one, but who had given up on technology and was using his instinct to much better effect, suddenly swerved off the road, down a rutted path and into a grassy meadow by the river.
And there we found the great fireplace.
As Richard and Gary wandered off to take some photos, I lay down in the warm grass at the spot where I imagined Clancy and Allen lounging in a leather club sofa and toasting their toes by a roaring fire.
All around were the faintest of sounds: the comings and goings of honey bees, the whisper of the river, the distant, haunting cry of a loon, and the luting warbles and clicks of jays in the riverbank cottonwoods and quaking aspen, so called because its delicate leaves shiver in the slightest breeze.
I closed my eyes, all the better to see the image of Clancy gazing into the firelight and looking back on an entire lifetime of hopes and dreams which had been condensed into his past few months, so that I imagined he felt as if Dublin trams, Paris traffic, Spanish brigands, German shipping companies, the burning sands of Africa, the exotic souks of Tunis, the topless damsels of Sigirya, the aromatic clamour of old Shanghai and even the trials of Oregon’s trails, already seemed like something he had experienced as a young man a long time ago.
And in that moment I felt at one with him, and strangely content.