Judging by the constant snow, the gritted roads, the ice forming on the windscreen – it should be really cold here, but it just doesn’t feel cold. We reckon it’s because there’s no moisture in the air – no humidity. Irish humidity levels are very high, so when it’s cold, it goes straight to your bones. (Also, it should be noted that Irish people don’t dress for weather at all. Jeans and a shirt come hail, rain or shine!)
The venue for tonight, Steve’s Guitars, looks incredible. Steve has hundreds of guitars, banjos, ukes, charango (made from an armandillo), suspended from the ceiling and hung from the walls. When you sing a-capella in the room, you can hear your voice resonate in the bodies of all these instruments. It’s magical. After gorgeous burritos courtesy of Dos Gringos Burritos (delish!), the show kicks off, and it’s a real treat. Kev recorded some of my set, so I may have some recordings out of it. Both Mick and myself get a hit of oxygen after the show. The performances felt great… but I was out of breath at the end, and a little woozy in between. It’s a weird sensation.
We’re at about 6100 feet here in Carbondale, and you feel it. I woke up this morning, out of breath, dehydrated and exhausted. It took me a while to realise that it was the altitude and not some imaginary drinking session that I failed to remember. Mary Margaret, Steve’s wife, is a nurse, and we have a lengthy chat about the effects of altitude on visitors to this part of the world.
In a nutshell : there’s not as much oxygen up here, so the body needs to work harder to get oxygen – hence the out of breath feeling and fatigue. It takes three weeks to acclimatise to the altitude here, which is enough time to allow your blood count to increase. The more blood cells you have, the more oxygen you can carry in your bloodstream – which counters the effects of altitude. So that’s it… we veered off onto the subject of athletes training up here, blood doping (where you inject yourself with your own blood, to increase your blood count and hence the oxygen, gain a huge advantage… and how can it be detected? It’s YOUR blood. The perfect crime!), and the subject of world athletics records, like Bob Beamon, the American long jumper, who set a record in Mexico City at altitude in 1960 which stood for 23 years until Mike Powell broke it at the world championships in 1991. They generally don’t allow records set at altitude to stand nowadays. Too much of an advantage I suppose. (Beamon’s jump is still an Olympic Record, and it’s the second longest jump of all time.)
Before hitting the road for Denver the following day, we grab breakfast in the pretty Glenwood Springs. Doc Holliday died here, having come here hoping to cure his TB by the hot springs. As was often the case with the old TB treatments, the sulphur rich hot springs were a terrible idea, and Holliday died here having exacerbated the disease.