Boulder Bound Day 7 (Prices We Pay)

Today will take me from 9300 feet above sea level down to 7700 feet, in the little, historic town of Salida, CO. But it begins in Silverton, which I discover has come up with a great way to make intersections safe economically:

Put a post with 4 stop signs on it in the .iddle of the intersection.

Put a post with 4 stop signs on it in the middle of the intersection.

That’s one street away from Main St, but Silverton is a small town and tourists don’t use this street.

The “million dollar” road to Ouray winds through the high mountains, often without guard rails or passing lanes, but that is not unusual for backroad travel. It’s the precipitous drops of many thousand feet just inches from the roadway that are.

Roads still seem to disappear into impossible barriers.

Roads still seem to disappear into impossible barriers.

Ingenuity knows no limits. If you can't stop the slide, you can tell it where to go.

Ingenuity knows no limits. If you can’t stop the slide, you can tell it where to go.

Mining despoiled the landscape but gave a growing nation the raw materials it needed. Now it seems to be the chain stores, strip malls, and big box guys that do the despoiling, giving us the products we want, but always at a price. I rediscover this part of our culture--absent since Yosemite--in Montrose, a mountain town that both mining and tourism have abandoned.

Mining despoiled the landscape but gave a growing nation the raw materials it needed. The price was paid in lives as well as landscape. Now it seems to be the chain stores, strip malls, and big box guys that do the despoiling, giving us the products we want, but always at a price. I rediscover this part of our culture–absent since Yosemite–in Montrose, a mountain town that both mining and tourism have abandoned.

But outside town the desert and the mountain hillsides have given way to pastures in this high valley.

But outside town the desert and the mountain hillsides have given way to pastures in this high valley.

Meals, always meals, and the ubiquitous burgers and fries, steaks and chops. But every town has its secret alternatives. And in Gunnison I find a Tibetan restaurant that fuels me up for the remaining drive.

Saag chicken and naan bread in the Rockies.

Saag chicken and naan bread in the Rockies.

Salida seems a great place, with a more diverse economy and a lively downtown. I find a modest motel that is across the street from the aquatic center, fed, as it surely ought to be, by hot spring water.

The swimming lanes were open and the water warm. A couple and I debated why Union Jacks proliferated in downtown, until someone told us a British rock band was coming soon.

The swimming lanes were open and the water warm. A couple and I debated why Union Jacks proliferated in downtown, until someone told us a British rock band was coming soon.

Downtown fronts a river at the foot of the surrounding hills. I ate outside in the cooling mountain air.

Downtown fronts a river at the foot of the surrounding hills. I ate outside in the cooling mountain air.

After eating I went into the bar to watch the San Francisco Giants play a game. The patrons gave the game little heed but the bar had a lively, friendly tone that made me think this wouldn’t be a bad place to live.

The Giants would have won if Buster Posey's hit, with two out in the last inning, had gone just two feet further for a home run. But it didn't.

The Giants would have won if Buster Posey’s hit, with two out in the last inning, had gone just two feet further for a home run. But it didn’t.

Tomorrow it’s on to Boulder and a faculty reception that will start the new academic year.

Boulder Bound Day 5: Mesa Verde and Beyond

Goulding's at Monument Valley. I had the last room on the right.

Goulding’s at Monument Valley. I had the last room on the right.

Amost time to go, but first a quick little workout with the Duke:

There's even a JohnWayne cabin to see but I let this copy of a kitschy painting speak for itself; it's by the treadmill in the workout room

There’s even a JohnWayne cabin to see but I let this copy of a kitschy painting speak for itself; it’s by the treadmill in the workout room

A final farewell to monuments: the Mexican hat stone.

How this ever happened I'll never know.

How this ever happened I’ll never know.

The road calls and it ain’t the freeway.  Headed to Durango and mountain country.

First 25 mph curve showed up 2 miles in advance; this one was just half a mile from the turn.

First 25 mph curve showed up 2 miles in advance; this one was just half a mile from the turn.

Two land blacktop blues. I get to see the loss and ruin that go along with the small town, rustic way of life.

Two land blacktop blues. I get to see the loss and ruin that go along with the small town, rustic way of life.

It’s hotter today so I have to suspend the Drive the Temperature rule: was 93-98 most of the time.

And it's not all that uncommon. This is the world that box stores and freeways, with all their pluses, took away.

And it’s not all that uncommon. This is the world that box stores and freeways, with all their pluses, took away.

Still chasing mountains too and everytime a range looms up ahead the road finds a way to snake around them. But it’s changing. The landscape has more pynon and juniper now and isn’t quite the desert it has been for so long.

Praise the Lord for Thailand. Second time I’ve found Thai food and it won out over burgers and fried chicken both times: fresh, tasty, healthy. Plus the Thai ice coffee is great for the road.

Not too impressive looking. In Cortez, CO but the food was excellent.

Not too impressive looking. In Cortez, CO but the food was excellent.

I’m getting near Durango but detour to Mesa Verde National Park where there are some of the most elaborate pueblo ruins in the country. 20 miles into the park I find one of the many villages that are  preserved.

Tucked below the top of the mesa and still in good condition.

Tucked below the top of the mesa and still in good condition.

Some dwelliings were 3 stories with kivas too.

Some dwelliings were 3 stories with kivas too.

Soon Durango looms before me. A right turn and I’m at my destination:

One of two grand ole hotels in Durango.

One of two grand ole hotels in Durango.The

The call of the cow won out yesterday and I’ve done penance with oatmeal for breakfast and today I find Jean Pierre’s bakery and restaurant and have the delicious coq au vin:

Very tasy. Chatted with couple next to me. He was trying to get back with his ex-wife, worried about his daughter who graduated and was living at home, lost, and changes to Durango. He was with a woman. His ex-wife. She started to read a book as he continued talking with me.

Very tasty coq au vin. Chatted with couple next to me. He was trying to get back with his ex-wife, worried about his daughter who graduated and was living at home, lost, and changes to Durango. He was with a woman. His ex-wife. She started to read a book as he continued talking with me.

Saturday night in Durango and Main St got blocked off and folks got their dancing shoes out.

Boots are the thing to wear.  I had shoes and they were getting worn.

Boots are the thing to wear. I had shoes and they were getting worn.

i didn't even wear these for my hikes but it's off the grid and the freeway and there's a lot of dust out there.

i didn’t even wear these for my hikes but it’s off the grid and the freeway and there’s a lot of dust out there.

The country music boys did a great cover of Johnny Cash  among other things.

They set up right by the ole time train station and kicked up some lively tunes.

They set up right by the ole time train station and kicked up some lively tunes.

Music  went on into the evening and the sky was saying the sun wanted to turn in for the night, sending its soft pink kiss good night.

Tomorrow it's on to Silverton.

Tomorrow it’s on to Silverton.

Boulder Bound Day 4 (Searching for John Ford)

No end to rugged country.  Monument Valley next: from SW Utah to SE Utah.

Leaving Zion. Checkerboard slope.

Leaving Zion. Checkerboard slope.

It’s out through a tunnel and onto the 2 lane blacktop world again.

What is this absurd picture doing here? (to borrow from Land without Bread). Suddenly it appeared in the middle of the desert.

What is this absurd picture doing here? (to borrow from Land without Bread). Suddenly it appeared in the middle of the desert.

There’s an answer, man-made: Lake Powell, although it’s pretty darn low.

Look below to see why this lake exists.

Look below to see why this lake exists.

Glen Canyon dam. Bus loads of folks stream across the bridge to get a closer look.

Glen Canyon dam. Bus loads of folks stream across the bridge to get a closer look.

Page is the town the workers on the dam lived in. It has at least dozen churches like this one, plus MacDonalds, plus the Blue Buddha, recommended but also closed.

The churches of Page line the main front one after another like fast food chains, competing for customers.

The churches of Page line the main front one after another like fast food chains, competing for customers.

Time marches on. I wound up eating at a cantina that had its own power supply.

You can hear the burgers sizzling.

You can hear the burgers sizzling.

Even deserts have their gas.

Even deserts have their gas.

There it is! Not the trailer but the first sight of Monument Valley.

There it is! Not the trailer but the first sight of Monument Valley.

These monuments take the breath away, even if you’re but one of hundreds pouring in. I headed over to Goulding’s Lodge where I had a room and jumped on the 3.5 hours “deluxe” tour, departing at 4pm, close to the magic hour.

I'll be your guide today.

I’ll be your guide today.

Note promnent profile on the right.  Do you see him? Not John Ford. Alfred Hitchcock.  Still looking for Ford.

Note prominent profile on the right. Do you see him? Not John Ford. Alfred Hitchcock. Still looking for Ford.

A female hogan where we (all 3 of us on the tour) saw a demonstration of weaving and I chatted with Robert, our Navajo guide, who says the young people flee and no one builds hogans from logs anymore.

A female hogan where we (all 3 of us on the tour) saw a demonstration of weaving and I chatted with Robert, our Navajo guide, who says the young people flee and no one builds hogans from logs anymore.

Saddles and monuments at one of our stops where we could also buy Navajo crafts.

Saddles and monuments at one of our stops where we could also buy Navajo crafts.

See the "W"?  Not the hotel chain, or that President, but it's one of the more impressive monuments.

See the “W”? Not the hotel chain, or that President, but it’s one of the more impressive monuments.

2015-08-14 16.12.53

I’m glad I didn’t take my car on the tour. It’s all dirt, deeply rutted, standing water in places, and lots and lots of bumps, jolts and bangs. But worth it.  The more remote sites had a profound silence and magical aura of nature’s supreme power and the patience of milennia.

At dinner I surrender. Good good overall so far, but the preponderance of menu items features beef.  I order the filet mignon, am not disappointed and compensate with oatmeal for breakfast.

Tomorrow it’s on to Durango. Still looking for John Ford, though Robert says the local people invited him back after he retired for a banquet tribute as someone whose films remain iconic reminders of the sheer beauty of this country.

Boulder Bound Day 2: “Chasing Mountains”

The distant hills

gn=”aligncenter” width=”584″]Just the great long road Just the great long road
Day 2 is across the great deserts of Nevada on backroads. Nary a car in sight. The goal; you can’t tell yet from the photo above but look below:

The distant hills

The distant hills

For hours mountain ranges loom in the distance but as I near them the road finds a way to snake past them on the flank of a canyon or valley wall. And it’s on to the next stretch of flat hard road.

Nevada's small town life

Nevada’s small town life

I’m not sure what folks do here, there is a huge heap of mine tailings but they’re very old. There is however, outside the Post Office, this sculpture:

Heroism in the high desert

Heroism in the high desert

How this fellow got here and what happened to the young woman I don’t know but I was impressed by the size and power of the work.

They used to say the west was lawless, not it seems the law has come and gone.

They used to say the west was lawless, now it looks like the law has come and gone.

Hard times for Mr. Whipple. His sign was near the intersection of two major backroads: a little patch of activity with an auto repair shop and some mobile homes.

I asked if he wanted to play tennis, but he said he was booked up.

I asked if he wanted to play tennis, but he said he was booked up.

A sense of humor and a long memory for atom bombs, nuclear fall out and strange goings on in Area 51 is all around me.

Found on the side of a nut shop, at another junction of back roads: no gas, no cafe, but lots of nuts.

Found on the side of a nut shop, at another junction of back roads: no gas, no cafe, but lots of nuts.

The day is getting on. How fast to drive with no one around? Drive the temperature. It was 85 most of the time and that’s what I did.  Gas? Nearest gas was 111 miles at one point. I was ready to pay anything but it was cheaper than in San Francisco.

From my balcony at entrance to the park. tomorrow: into Zion National Park, on foot.

From my balcony at entrance to the park. tomorrow: into Zion National Park, on foot.

At last, the hills are truly mountains. Zion is before me. The landscape has hints of the verdant once again. And I am worn.  Time for dinner and hiking plans on my day in Zion.

Les Blank

Les was a great filmmaker and friend. He will be missed.

I had the honor of hosting his reception of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mendocino Film Fest, a little fest up the N. CA coast, and doing a q/a with him.

Having done this with Haskell Wexler the year before and worrying more about getting a word in than getting him to open up, there was just a bit of anxiety with Les who is prone to the laconic but after a clip from The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins and a little appreciation of his subtle, non-verbal thematics, he lit up and talked freely of his wilder days of parties and partying and his film aesthetic of respect, appreciation and open-endedness. It was a great event and one I will cherish now that he is gone.

Up!

Today, the blog went live.

Much more content will follow but this is a beginning.  Comments on films, info on books and articles I’ve done, consulting projects, thoughts on the arts and politics of our time, and a touch of fiction too.