A Tale of Two Cities (No Pictures, Sorry)

23 years ago Kat and I fell in love with Durango, Colorado.  It’s a beautiful, clean little town on the Animas River at 6,500’ near the San Juan Mountains.  In ‘91 we had more money but less time, and couldn’t linger long enough to catch the local flavor.  Now we have less money but more time.  We came back to spend a week.  Durango’s grown by at least half, but is still wonderful.  There’s a college, lots of artsy types, smiles everywhere, and although motorcyclists rarely wear helmets, the bicyclists always do.


It’s a mean trailer commute from Moab to Durango.  If we drove straight through, we’d arrive on a Saturday.  That’s the toughest day of the week to find a campsite without reservations, and if you find nothing, then what?  Better to stop 50 miles before Durango and camp at the Cortez Wal*Mart.  We were out of all our best grub, and the rum keg was running low.  Campers are welcomed at the Cortez ‘Mart.  We found it easily.


Cortez, for us, turned out to be Surly City.  Car horns blew early, late, and everywhere.  This includes the Wal*Mart parking lot (at a grandpa pushing a baby’s stroller to his car).  For a state that sells recreational marijuana, Colorado has difficult alcohol laws; groceries cannot sell wine, and any beer offered there must be Near Beer, that 3.2% stuff which tastes of polluted water.  Kat pulled the Airstream off Main Street alongside a Cortez liquor store’s parking lot and I hustled out to pick up a box of wine and some real beer.  A kid with a buddy riding shotgun drove his car across my path to cut me off from the store.   He said “You think you blocked enough *!@#%^!  driveway with that *!@#%^!  trailer”?   I am a chicken at heart, but his words blew up my adrenaline:  “I don’t think I heard you right.”  He repeated his sentence word for word, which might mean he wasn’t drunk, but his words steamed me even more.  He was the driver, so he couldn’t use his legs to power a punch, and he’d have to pivot 90 degrees from the waist to deliver any kind of swing.  I, on the other hand, could easily step back or forward.  I could drive the heel of my hand into his nose, elbow him in the mouth, then grab his hair, and beat his head into the steering wheel.  (One learns useful stuff from the Army’s Advanced Infantry Training.)  Watching him closely, I leaned over close to his hostile face, and matching his tone, cadence, and anger, I thundered “There is a *!@#%^!  entrance to this lot behind you, a *!@#%^!  exit in front of you, and two more on Main Street!”  Then I turned my back on him like a matador executing a clean veronica before a good bull, and walked behind his car into the store.  He and his buddy would be waiting for me when I came out, because that buddy was surely giving him holy hell for getting dissed by an old fat man.


Five minutes later I emerged and they were gone.


It was a hot afternoon.  In the shade of the trees along a side street the beer was cold, and true.  We were happy to leave that sorry town Sunday for lovely Durango.


That was Saturday.  Durango is still kickin’.  Stay tuned.

5 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Cities (No Pictures, Sorry)

  1. Cortez does indeed sound dreadful.

    Perhaps people would be in better spirits if they had easier access to decent beer and wine?

    While I’m not condoning violence, I still would have loved to be a fly on the wall when you gave that kid his comeuppance. 😉 🙂

    I fully get why it got to you, and, as the saying goes, remind me to never make you mad. 🙂

    Too bad no camera around to capture what had to be a look of utter surprise on both of their faces.

    Love the imagery in this excellent turn of phrase:

    “Then I turned my back on him like a matador executing a clean veronica before a good bull…”

    From what I’ve only seen online, it’s easy to understand why you all fell in love with Durango.

    The scenery is spectacular.

    I can hear the camera and keyboard now, both clicking into overdrive. 🙂



    1. I don’t like violence either, but if any was going to happen, the driver would have to start it, but he was in a terrible defensive and offensive position. He was just showing off, and maybe so was I.

      But he really pushed my buttons. I don’t like that at all. I’m getting too old for tussles.


      1. Sounds to me like they were a couple of bullies, and bullies often back down when someone stands up to them.

        Let’s hope you taught them a lesson, or at least planted the seed for one. 🙂

        No doubt you all are well away onto bigger and better adventures by now.

        Happy Trails. 🙂


  2. You tough dude, you! We have never been to Durango, but have heard good things. We spent one night in Cortez on our Grand Circle tour of the SW in 2006 and had a bad experience, though very different from yours. We went to a restaurant (pizza, if memory serves me) that had good reviews on Tripadvisor. However, the night we went, a boys baseball or softball team was there having a huge party and apparently using all the kitchen resources. It took us TWO HOURS to get our meal. Probably the longest wait for food ever. We stayed in a very nice Holiday Inn Express, but all I remember about the town was that bad dinner experience, so have no desire to return. By the way, Kansas has the same alcohol laws as Colorado (did NOT realize CO had those silly rules as well), and living there for awhile, I found it to be a royal pain. I want to buy my real beer and box-o-wine at the grocery store, dernit!


    1. Em, getting in that chump’s face was a stupid thing to do, but stupid things have a way of happening. More interesting to me was the town’s angry vibe. Nobody seemed happy and all the fuses were short. Cortez is a fine place not to be.



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