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Home on the Front Range

After making like Miller Moths and flying across Texas to the Rockies, we reached Santa Fe on Memorial Day Weekend. The Sangre de Cristo mountains form the very southern end of the Rocky Mountains. It seemed a fine place to begin our journey northward along the continental spine. By mid-July we hope to (nearly) reach range's northern terminus in British Columbia.


Santa Fe was lovely as ever; still a surprisingly small city given its rich artistic, culinary, and scenic pleasures. It's also surprising since it was the first European settlement west of the Mississippi, founded in 1609 by Spanish conquistadors. It’s had plenty of time to grow, but for some reason has retained its small town feel for over 400 years. We were graciously hosted there by my step-mum Carol and her partner Mike.

A highlight for me was that just two blocks from their home is the infamous train trestle from Breaking Bad where they pull of the train heist. It's one of the most tense and tragic moments of the final season. And if you don't know what I'm talking about right now, stop reading this blog and get going on Season 1. I mean it.



From Santa Fe we climbed up to Taos, stopping to visit Taos Pueblo. The Pueblo has been continuously inhabited for over ten centuries, though it did look a bit quiet that morning.


We moved on and up into the Enchanted Circle, home to legendary ski resorts and the cute little town of Red River, NM. Lori and I are not really searching for a place to move outside of the homes we already have in Vermont and the moveable one that is Stanley. But if we were... the Enchanted Circle is oft considered. It just still feels like the rest of the world doesn’t know that it’s up there, and there are days when that seems quite desirable.


We rolled out of the high country and back down to the plains and then turned north again into Colorado’s. We stopped a night in Colorado Springs to gaze at the mighty Pike’s Peak and camp the night in the parking lot of the Smiling Toad Brewery. Biff and his wife are closing up the Toad after many years manning the taps. We were honored to buy one of their last pints of ale.


A Mile High


Years ago, just out of college, I lived in Denver during a brief work assignment. In those days, I would fly to Stapleton Airport (don’t look for it now) and take a 20-minute taxi ride downtown on quiet surface streets. Even in the heart of downtown where I lived, by 7PM, the streets were silent. There was only one little entertainment district, about a square block, and it had 2 bars. It was the quietest big city I have ever seen. Back then.


Things change. Now a 20-minute drive won’t get you from Lakewood to Littleton, and every block in Denver has 2 bars and 3 breweries. We spent the time there catching up with friends and family who make Denver home. Whenever we are a mile high, we make it a point to catch a show at Red Rocks, which Geddy Lee of Rush once praised as the best concert venue in the world (and the man would know). It's also the only place the Beatles didn't sell out on their '64 tour. Maybe word of the Fab Four hadn't yet reached Denver by Pony Express?


The Sun Will Shine in My Backdoor Someday


We saw Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (J-RAD to the fans) which is a Dead jam band if you’re not familiar. It was a pretty magical night. It’s possible that I had ingested substances that are entirely legal in the state of Colorado. Hard to say. I just remember that during I Know You Rider, Joe sang “I’d shine my light through the cool Colorado rain” as a gentle rain had begun falling from the night sky. It was just one of those moments. You had to be there.


While in the big city, we tried and failed to get Stanley’s refrigerator fixed again, a saga that had been going on since Florida. We threw more money at the problem, but netted nothing for our trouble. When we have power, the frig works. When we need it to run off of propane, it will not, and we have to resort to using a cooler with ice, living like animals.


The final stop on the Front Range was the Poudre Canyon on the Cache de Poudre River.

I pronounce Poudre as “Pooh-dray” much like I would expect the French to. The local pronunciation is “Pooder” which sounds more like a tiny shit. I prefer my take. It was so named because someone, a French someone we have to assume, stashed (or cached) some gun powder in the canyon. Big whoop, right? But the name stuck. You may call it Powder Canyon if you wish. Kind of like Freedom Fries.

It's a rugged and wild place. The river has been absolutely roaring during our time here and it is a whitewater paddler's wet dream. The hikes were epic, though the canyon has been in the path of devastating wildfires in the past two decades, so much of the high country is just downed, charred trees. But that opened up lots of long range views east down to the plains and west to the Never Summer Mountains and the Continental Divide, where a drop of rain will either flow past New Orleans and into the Gulf of Mexico or west into the Colorado River, depending on which side of the ridge it falls. Every morning it was sunny and beautiful. By noon the thunderclouds would roll in and things would get exciting.


We had only planned to stay 3 nights, but stayed 7. In part, that was due to our campsite which in 30 years of doing this, might be the best one we have ever had.

One day, after hiking Grey Rock, we drove down river to the small town at the mouth of the canyon to visit the local laundromat. The hike had been amazing, but exhausting. Lori seemed a bit wearied by the chore. I had noticed a Chinese massage place next door and thought maybe I should pop over and I can surprise her with a massage when the laundry is done?

I was greeted by a middle-aged woman with the air of ownership. Between our shared English, which was essentially nothing, and some hand gestures, it was established that I wanted a massage. What was trickier was asking about getting two massages at the same time. After a few failed attempts, she gestured for me to wait, grabbed her phone and opened a translation app. She pressed a few keys and handed the phone to me to repeat my request. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really edited it down in my head to its essential components yet. Instead, I just blurted something at the phone like: “umm, my wife is next door, can we get two massages at the same time, instead of consecutively?” The software took all of that in expertly and translated it to Mandarin or whatever dialect she spoke. Then printed it out for her. She studied it. Paused. Considered. Then she spoke into it for a few seconds asking her own question. The phone translated that to English and she eagerly pushed the phone toward me.


It read: “How does it feel to a man when he becomes a woman?


At this point, I was uncertain how to proceed. It seemed like we might be loosing the thread a bit. Just then, a second, and then a third, masseuse appeared in the lobby area. So that, at least, answered that. We left things vague. After a few more parting gestures and pantomimes meant to indicate that I might return, or I might not, I went back to the laundromat. We finished the laundry, came back, and it all had a very happy ending.


No... not that kind of happy ending, perv. Just the regular kind where your muscles are turned into silly putty and you forget you’re on planet earth for a spell.


Tomorrow we push west and then north to Wyoming. Home to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Dick Cheney.

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