AMERICAN BIKERS, IRISH DOGS, BRITISH WALKERS



Jay Bagley came to town for the "Top of the Rockies" BMW motorcycle rally, held in Paonia every year. Jay says he's fallen in love with this part of Colorado and might move here from Sacramento, Calif., where he works in Medicaid fraud reduction. Another biker, Vern Holm of McMinnville, Ore., was 10 days into a motorcycle trip around the West. For his next destination, he was considering Idaho's Flaming Gorge or the Nevada desert: "I like bleak," he joked. Vern works for the nonprofit Northwest Weed Management Partnership.

"Two women, one giant dog, one small car, and two months on the road." That's how Sue Dockstader and Steen V. Mitchell of Eugene, Ore., sum up their travels. They came by on their way across the country, wedged into a Toyota Prius with the biggest dog we've ever seen in the office, a shaggy Irish wolfhound named Eorna that stands 30 inches tall and weighs nearly 95 pounds. Apparently she's on the small side for her breed - Sue calls her a "teacup wolfhound."

Susan Ives and Ralph Benson took the long way back to the airport. They'd been roughing it up in nearby Gothic, Colo., at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, where Ralph is a board member. Both are from California; Susan lives just north of San Francisco and Ralph in the Berkeley area.

We found a note in our door from Gary and Claire Dorgan: "We knew you would be closed on Sunday but wanted to say hello anyway." They were returning from the nearby Carbondale Mountain Fair to Mexican Hat, Utah, where they run "Valley of the Gods," a solar-powered bed and breakfast.

Brits Stuart Hamilton and David Toolan came by in the midst of a 4,900-mile-long walk from Delaware to San Francisco, "trying to find out what kind of country America is at the moment." Stuart's a librarian from Canterbury and Dave is from near Birmingham. They walked for six months last year, stopping in Kansas City, and are taking another six months this year to finish their trek, which mostly follows the "American Discovery Trail," a mix of rural roads and trails that avoids major freeways. At the end of each day, the men knock on a door to ask if they can pitch a tent. "The accents go a long way over here," said Stuart.

Stuart got testicular cancer last November and "had to experience the U.S. health care system." Fortunately, he's currently doing fine, and he and David are now raising money for international cancer research. They've found that many Americans are politically engaged but also "startlingly naive" about the effects the United States has on the rest of the world. For more about their trip, see www.walkingthestates.com.