"Love is what you've been through with somebody."

— James Thurber

We're on the road this weekend … retracing a familiar path.

That's pretty much what you end up doing most of the time after 50 years as fellow travelers. Fifty-five actually if you count the five years spent together before making things official at the old St. Joseph's Church on a hot afternoon on Aug. 9, 1969.

We're retracing our honeymoon steps. Well, most of 'em anyway. We're leaving out the part where, after three or four nights of post-ceremonial solitude, we dashed back to Grand Junction and gathered up some family members to join us up in Aspen for the remainder of our initial journey as a state- and church-certified couple.

The old St. Joe's is history. The Bar X on North Avenue has morphed into something other than a suitable site for a wedding reception. Instead of a nearly new Impala to leave town in, we're driving a Land Cruiser nearly as old as our vows. As was the case 50 years ago, our first night out was spent at the same Montrose motel where we toasted each other with some cheap champagne purchased in a hurried stop at a Delta liquor store.

Unless we changed course, something not unknown over decades together, we're camped out up in Deadman's Gulch above Almont at the site of long-gone mining cabin that wouldn't be the choice of most brides as the perfect location to begin married life. Two rooms, sided with tin, wood burning cook stove, water hauled uphill from the creek, "facilities" another uphill walk. What more could a girl want from her new husband?

Probably a good thing I didn't ask.

The ensuing five decades of marital (and sometimes martial) bliss have been an interesting ride … sometimes smooth sailing, sometimes more than a little bumpy. Here's a reflection published a dozen years ago after our daughter looked through family wedding pictures with Bonnie and me in preparation for Jessica's ceremony.

"Any pair of fools, young or old, can survive the kinds of times reflected in those pictures … We don't tend to photograph any of the rough stretches that inevitably punctuate life together. Perhaps we ought to. Because those tough times are the true tests of the kind of love and commitment that cause people to unite in marriage, to keep the faith in a time when most weddings are statistically guaranteed to end in divorce."

At this stage of our married life, it's probably also worth including the quote that ended that particular column, something Bonnie's mother once said when asked if she'd ever considered ending her own marriage.

"Murder, yes. Divorce, never."

Our first few years of married life we're a walk on the beach compared to some later on. Some 30 years after our own marriage, I wrote about another bride and groom in our extended family, reflecting on their expectations versus our experiences.

"I'm pretty certain when they're looking back after three decades their life will have turned out a little different than they'll remember planning. Hopefully the peaks will be at least as high as the valleys are low. Maybe what they'll remember is not so much those ups and downs, but the efforts they put in together dealing with them."

Five years ago in an anniversary column on these pages, I compared our marriage to a 4WD trip we'd just completed, on that also included a stop at our honeymoon site.

"The route to the top of Taylor Pass was enjoyable and relatively smooth. The peak was exhilarating, a smooth stopping point offering breathtaking views of future opportunities for enjoyment.

The minute we left that high point and headed downhill, things got pretty rocky. Without working as a team through the most troublesome stretches, without a little assistance from others, we'd have needed rescue ourselves. Back on smoother ground, trials were remembered as just another adventure en route to the next one."

Who knows what our next adventure might be. Undoubtedly the journey will include some peaks and valleys. Certainly, as we've unfortunately come to know, we're among the lucky couples our age that can look forward together to whatever life presents.

Unless, of course, Bonnie decides to take her mother's advice.

Jim Spehar's anniversary gift to his ever-patient wife was not including an oft-repeated statement about their married life. Comments and congratulations welcomed at speharjim@gmail.com.

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