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.