I had another topic in mind (something about cows and history), but a funny thing happened on the way to the editor’s desk … humans, and unexpected connections therewith, rearing their not-unattractive heads all the way from the Aloha State. (Is it just me, or is it hard to think of oneself in “the states” while enjoying Hawaii and its unique charms?)

The setting is Maui, and the amazingly scenic — and slow — drive on the highway to Hana (not to be confused with the Highway to Hell, though the distinction may be lessened if you end up behind a tour bus or trying to navigate the 60-mile roundtrip in the dark).

Lest one get the impression from this column that I’m some kind of highfalutin’ world traveler, quite to the contrary: just getting a chance to make up for some missed opportunities and some lost time. I had free-flight privileges for several years in a previous life-phase and failed to take advantage. Since then, I’ve gotten to take two major road trips including last fall’s 6,500-mile western odyssey, and have checked off Branson, Las Vegas and the Pacific Northwest in recent months. The end of the line is in sight, though; after a first-time trip with my dad to catch a couple of Rockies spring training games at the end of March and a quick weekend jaunt to Texas for Red McCombs’ annual Longhorn auction sale near Austin in late April, responsibilities will keep me Colorado-bound for the rest of the year.

But back to the connection thread: Exhibit A in this ongoing manifestation is my new friend Keith Sternberg, who made me a killer tri-tip taco at a roadside foodstand on the aforementioned highway to Hana (I chose to go with beef over the fish and the highly recommended pork, in solidarity with the peeps back at the ranch).

The connection, as it always so frequently and effortlessly comes down to, was born of a simple question: “Where are you from?”

“California,” Keith replied, before rattling off some of the places he’s lived, including Oregon, South Carolina and a few others. Here’s how it went from perfunctory small talk to a memory made, more or less verbatim:

Keith: “Where are you two from?”

Me: “Colorado.”

Keith: “Cool! I lived in Longmont a long time ago.”

Me: “Longmont? Family members of mine owned a restaurant there back in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. You ever heard of Pioneer Pies?”

Keith: “That’s where I had my first job! A father and son owned it, right? The younger one was studying to get into real estate or the stock market or something, right?”

Me: “That would have been my cousin Vern, who was always studying … he’s a lifetime student.”

Keith: “Wow, that’s crazy. Here’s your taco; enjoy!”

One incredibly edible taco and a quick photo-capture later, we were on our way back through the rain (which was warm, soft and came straight down, quite unlike what we’re used to on the Palmer Divide) to Hana, where another mini-connection was forged over cacao trees and locally produced chocolate. For the record, Aldon Frost is the chocolate-monger and Hana Gold is the product (yes, it’s legal).

And there’s my note to self — and to whomever this particular shoe may fit: a reminder to step out of my/our comfort zone and engage, beyond the usual “how you doin’?” My challenge is to keep eyes, mind and heart open and aware, and watch (and marvel) as the connections occur and recur. Mahalo, Keith and Aldon!

Charlie Searle has lived in Monument since 1994 and is active in a variety of pursuits in the Tri-Lakes area, as his tagline “Meat, Motors, Music, Media” attests. Contact Charlie at AlongTheDivide@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

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