08/18/2017 – GO WEST, YOUNG MAN…

August 21, 2017

 

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Head into Loveland’s Historic Downtown and first impression is amount of street art and sculpture: not just “junk jewelry”, but a variety of murals and sculptures which add ambiance. (Remain unsure whether “Dogs”, placed in proximity of fire hydrant is someone’s idea of a joke). Amid oversized grain warehouses, am surprised as a Burlington Northern freight train stops street traffic to uncouple a boxcar just beyond town’s train depot.

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Along Loveland’s non-boutique shops, Verboten Brewery and a rising “Forum Mall” suggest disappointing change is inevitable.

 

 

 

Shift onto US-287 for a short ride into Fort Collins. As is happening in Loveland, Ft Collins is already no longer a “town”, but, rather, long, linear strip “mauls” with bunches of interchangeable chain stores (is it REALLY Wal-Mart alone reducing local owner shops?)

As street paving continues its theme of “let’s do some infrastructure projects” (where IS all this money coming from?) prowl downtown. A colorful community church; Library Park’s Community Creativity Center (also a historical collection of old wooden cabins); a “Fox” mural and young Samantha serving at Equinox Brewing ; children enjoying a splash fountain in Old Town Square (where a stop @ Ben & Jerry’s is enhanced as two pre-schoolers “rock & roll” in a mechanical auto). A variety of charming buildings and shops, cheek-by-jowl with downtown campus of Colorado State University.

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For unknown reasons, GPS routes me along farm-laced CO-14 to Ault, where head south on US-85 and into Greeley. Am unsure whether ol’ Horace would recognize the place… an intimidating sprawl of ugly commercial sections set off from lovely neighborhoods. Downtown parking impossible, so stroll scratched.

Do head down to Plattsville, where Fort Vasquez State Historical Monument has already closed. Bummer!

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08/17/2017 – HOW THE WEST WAS ONE

August 21, 2017

 

A perfect morning for exploring downtown to catch unpeopled streets of unusually individualized “boutiques”, a 1926 Chief Plaza Theater movie house, followed by wandering around Holmsted Park’s winter sports complex: an interesting sight – some 20 junior high boys and girls on rollerblades, propelling themselves with ski poles. Obviously not a competitive speed race: perhaps simply a training exercise?

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Amble a bit, along Yampa River Trail, observing folks fishing, young innertubers, bicyclists and dog-walkers, pram pushing young families – just a pleasant pace of living.

Try my luck venturing up toward hillside mansions. Variety and size among a wealthier set raise a question about whether these are year-round homes.

 

Back onto US-40, pass long, wide, green valley of lakes/ponds, farms/ranches into Routt National Forest’s steep hills.

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Pass Kremmling, but pause briefly in tiny Parshall, attracted by a simple church, and then, driving around, impressed at a small community church’s parking lot filled with pickup trucks, and lumberjack outfitted old men: a community lunch program? Drive through Hot Sulphur Springs (which, despite its funky hot springs resort, looks like an old mining town).

 

 

 

 

 

Arrive in Granby and am attracted to Never Summer Brewery, a hole-in-the-wall oasis, run by a middle-aged man from Iowa whose home brewing business never got airborne. His variety of beers (and his naming process) satisfy, and a trio from Fond du Lac/WI admit to visiting based upon a friend’s recommendation. Lunch at Mid Town Café, where a waitress from Romania shares enthusiasm for film “And Quiet Flows the Don” (book “Harvest on the Don” adorns their bookshelves).

Shift onto US-34, and pass huge Lake Granby and through Arapahoe National Forest’s many campgrounds. At Grand Lake, enter Rocky Mountain National Forest/Park, and drive (interrupted multiple times by road work delays) through territory which reminds me of Yosemite. Unfortunately, too frustrating a journey to risk getting out to find anything enjoyable. Estes Park again seems like one of those “vacation” towns where too many people congregate at one spot and begin a shopping/eating frenzy inconsistent with “getting away from it all”

Journey through Big Thompson River Canyon, impressed at beauty of gigantic rock formations (tilted striations must be a geologist’s dream) but reaching Loveland, am too tired to do much sight-seeing

 

 

 

 


08/16/2017 – TIME BEFORE TIME

August 21, 2017

 

Wander about Green River campground, a bit disappointed at having too little time to fully enjoy its beauty. (Having, years before, camped along river closer to Moab may be developing a “crush”).

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Spend some time at quarry and Visitor Center (where ranger suggests a lot of recent French vacationers here to view impending eclipse), amazed by dinosaur artifacts. (Guess they had to roam SOMEWHERE, but, imagining this now barren mountainous land, it is impossible to imagine this as a steamy jungle indicated by youthful history textbooks).

 

 

 

Venture over state line into “canyon” portion of this national monument, climbing high, only to be jarred by how much visibility variance airborne pollution hides. On this crisp, early morning, it is possible to “see forever”, yet roadside advice shows times when distant mountains and valleys cannot be seen.

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Press on into Craig, only to be disappointed it is not a “Western” town: simply a small rural town serving needs of “townies” and surrounding ranchers/farmers. A muraled antiques store suggest non-local travelers, and a Museum of NW Colorado reminds me of the courage of early settlers (no Wal-Mart; no cellphones; no Fox News). A converted church carries “Community Center” designation and West movie house each offer places to get together, but little foot traffic can be seen.

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Along US-40, a Wildlife Refuge provides a view of open space, but wildlife must be partying indoors. Yampa River, winding close alongside this highway offers a state park which looks lovely.

Over the years, have heard of Steamboat Springs, but imagined it an Aspen – Lake Tahoe kind of town.

Turns out to be different; and more enticing.

Very nice woman at Visitor Center encourages trying talent at miniature golf course just behind this building, but, am more intrigued by Old Town Hot Springs. A non-profit “spa” in midtown, multiple pools offer a range of “hot”: very warm to tepid. A steady stream of people traipses in and out: a semi-hidden teenage couple “making out”, a thirtyish mom encouraging her young son’s swimming, a young man mechanically performing laps, a few older men idly soaking up late afternoon sunshine.

A long walk along crowded main street, as groups negotiate dinner plans, and, finally, a bar-style meal in The Old Town Pub, where bartender Shawn expounds on buildings history as hotel, brothel and business place.

 


8/14-15/2017 – PAUSE WHICH REFRESHES

August 21, 2017

 

Through kindness of Little Rock friends Gina & Brett Pharis awake in splendor of Park City’s Newpark Hotel. Their condo unit, though compact, is a masterpiece of architectural planning, and forms a perfect spot to relax and catch up on some writing.

Park City sprawls across a small valley, and, as a skiing oasis has a customary collection of upscale shopping set against natural beauty. Artifacts of Olympic competition scar one hill, but Winter snows probably prove pristine. Also, as a film festival site, where better to be inside a theater in January?

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Dinner at Maxwell’s offers a mixture of families and young people casually dining al fresco, and a noisier, younger, “go where the livin’ is easy” (ala Newport Beach in CA) crowd clamoring in sexual competition.

Much relaxed, head for US-40 (being reminded that an earlier pause in Auburn/CA was also along this historic highway) and into Heber City (again, set in an awe-inspiring green valley). An abandoned church, converted to City Hall annex, catches my eye, but my real goal is down at Heber railroad station and “yards”.

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Though a regional “vacation” railroad for nostalgia buffs, its “yards” offer a collection of “rolling stock” and a surprising selection of large and small, “bits and pieces” needed for maintenance. Alas, a modernish depot reduces its any historical sense.

Climb US-40 again and understand how Eastern farmers found attractive these verdant valleys tucked between scalloped mountain ranges. Road repair delays allow absorption which might otherwise be missed racing past. Through rain-scented Uinta National Forest pine stands, interspersed with farms; past lake-sized “reservoirs”, van struggles over Daniels Pass (8020’), and pass attractive campgrounds.

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Pause briefly at Duchesne’s Eagle Park’s remarkable memorial to veterans of many wars. (For so small a town, a surprisingly attractive homage). Stop for dinner in Roosevelt, but am amazed that so modest a town features two first-run movie houses.

Pull into Vernal at dusk, but families crowd closing library and take pleasure from a tiny fair sited in “Dinosaurland”.

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Cap off my day, as darkness descends, shuttling between Jensen/UT and Dinosaur/CO searching for Green River campground of Dinosaur National Monument. Camp host offers me her final campsite, usually reserved for “handicapped”. Tonight feel it “earned”

 

 


8/13/2017 – THIS IS THE PLACE

August 15, 2017

 

An overnight thunderstorm and mighty wind leaves no traces except sandspots on van. Sunrise opens lips of carmine/black and floods SLC w/sunlight.

Am surprised to discover what was once “Greek Town” – an area near Pioneer Park which once was home to immigrants.

On this quiet Sunday morning, SLC’s extra-wide streets seem almost empty – few cars, no trucks, just semi-silent streetcars sliding past, and occasional visitor autos meandering around in search of shady parking spaces.

Wander out near railroad stations, remembering in 1990, Margarita met me here before we began OUR cross-country tour. Much changed (though “down-&-outers”, for whom Mormons had provided housing, have expanded into “homeless” and collect in parks and sidewalks). Union Pacific & Denver, Rio Grande stations still exist, but UP has morphed into “Gateway Center” mall.

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Pass Devereaux Mansion while heading back to Temple Square.

 

 

 

 

 

Today things seem a bit listless: well-dressed, polite Mormon parishioners and guides; a few, less appropriately garbed visitors. My favorite sculpture of a family pulling a two-wheel handcart across the plains still touches me deeply. An organ recital in Mormon tabernacle offers background music. Families line up for “selfies” with church as background.

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Move beyond Lion House & Beehive House to giant eagle sculpture framing Capitol on hill beyond. A couple anomalies: Alta Club and O. C. Tanner Jewelry offer architectural gems fast fading from view.

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8/12/2017 – ANOTHER HELPING?

August 15, 2017

 

A morning walk around Elko.

What was mid-town railroad tracks is now Green Belt Park. Old Western Pacific RR rolling stock seems as faded as rail travel. Great Basin College has a wan and lonely look. Copper-domed Elko County Courthouse is a classic of its time. There is no “lunch crowd” at either of Old Town’s casinos (is there a bigger play out at the edge of town where newer budget motels collect?) The 1868 Pioneer Hotel/Saloon now hosts a delightful Western Folklife Center Museum.

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Considering it is Saturday mid-morning, a steady throbbing of pick-up truck exhausts noisily gives rise to a question about whether there is any relationship between beat-up pickups and Trump voters? Is there some surrogate of power at work in each?

Another thought centers on our stereotype lean and laconic cowboy. If last night’s casino crowd is accurate, a newer mode exists: big, beer-paunched, ham-handed men in company with blowsy, busty, heavy-haunched women. Is a puzzlement.

Finally, a third “leg” of this falls into place: US culture was formed by rule-breakers (whether English convicts sent to NC/SC/GA; or Europeans dissatisfied with rules they resisted) and circa 1776 rebels. Being against prevailing rules tempts a sense of being “right” and a necessary sense that “standard” options must be “wrong”.

No wonder our country is so confused.

Back on I-80, another long drive:

Pause in West Wendover to marvel that what was once a tiny town now sports state-line casino palaces which would look appropriate in Reno or Las Vegas.

Stop for a few moments to be impressed with Great Salt Lake Flats. Even seeing it, it is hard to accept.

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Finally, into Salt Lake City, where, overnight, am treated to an old-fashioned thunderstorm.

It’s a great trip.


8/11/2017 – JUST DESERTS

August 15, 2017

 

Morning invites me to overcome my resistance to “gamblin’ joints”. As a fan of stock market gambling, can make no criticism of “gamblers”, but, deep in mind’s recesses prefer to imagine research superior to luck (which probably indicates just how far from reality my mind can go).

AM “lucky” though to find myself “early” for weekend’s big Classic Car Convention, and find Virginia Streets closed to all but wildly imaginative (and expensive) “improvements” to (mostly) “Detroit Iron”. Yeah, it’s hot in the sun! Yeah, there’s a bunch of street noise as cars find their spots! Yeah, there’s a bunch of people milling around (many, snapping selfies, far too young to appreciate their good fortune)! But, there are also some real “wrenchers” & to eavesdrop on their “techie talk” takes Time back to teenage years.

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Later, head over to Sparks, which is holding its own collection, but am left with a feeling of “copycatting”.

Launch out again on I-80, where haze makes mountains look like some painted backdrop for a high school play.

Pass Mustang, and wonder whether its famous brothels continue to delight adventuresome young men.

Again, tuck behind a slow-moving Wal-Mart truck and am amazed at the variety of bridges, of differing materials and design, cross slow-flowing Truckee River. A Southern Pacific Railroad engine pulls a string of six oil tankers: all Lionel-looking against immense size of valley and surrounding mountains.

Bypass Lovelock: have seen before its charming courthouse, and now, with OJ gone… (actually, its prison is several miles east, and set in a hot, barren desert). Also pass Winnemucca: its Northwestern Nevada Museum is a worthy tour, but after seeing it once…

Continue across mini-mountains which raise my anxieties about van’s rising temperature, but fluctuations are too inconsistent to do more than slow down.

Arrive in Elko, and search out Stockmen’s Casino/Hotel. (It was here, during a 1963 business trip for Western Pacific Railroad, where I learned about [and won some money at] a now-disappeared roulette table. The day after, while teaching railroad employees a new system, came news of a presidential assassination… John F. Kennedy was dead.)

Now, crowds of people sit a table-top high slot machines of seemingly incredible variety and complexity. A loud group of young people flutter around a square bar, and am surprised to see a slim young woman, atop speckled, transparent high heels, dressed only in white, padded bra, see-through half-slip & white panties, who collects noisy young men with whom to take selfies. (“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”)