Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Beauty That is Colorado

Hello, people of Dubuque! Get in your car, leave the Burger King parking lot , and follow me into the beauty that is Whole Foods. It is an explosion of healthy, organic, wholesome and overly expensive food that is meant to enhance the body and bring a glow to your internal organs. We don't have one in Dubuque and I am estimating its eventual arrival at about 2045 or whenever every last redneck, sexist, mulligan-sporting resident would leave the city or politely, expire. If Whole Foods or Trader John's were in Dubuque I would be very poor but I would be very healthy. We buy veggie whole wheat pita chips and sandwiches of turkey and robust cheddar on sourdough and thinly sliced beef that bleeds into the crunchy ciabacca roll with spinach and sprouts. Jason wants cabbage dumplings and bean salad.

I buy organic lemonade and mint mineral water and feel very superior about my food choices. We travel south and see the lovely yellow aspens, their leaves twirlng and shivering like gold coins on strings. They make a strong contrast against the deep green of the Ponderosa pines.

This southern gentleman from Kentucky was overly friendly and yet a most resourceful and creative guy. He took a 1977 Scamp, whatever that is, and turned it into a cute little trailer. There were cupboards, a sink,

a bed, and a laundry rack and clear plastic Rubbermaid bins holding related things. Sonny, an overly organized person himself, was interested.

"At least we know who slept in our bed last night," added the wife. I try not to think about that as I leaf through the AAA book looking for our next night's accommodation. Typical southern folks, they craved human contact and conversation. Y'all probably can't see this, but the wording on the back side above the window says "Think Big."

We are officially out west. The men wear plaid shirts covering t-shirts covering big bellies over huge belt buckles, have unshaven faces and drive big, rusty Ford pick-ups. The women have long grey hair, wear plaid shirts and dusty jeans, I can see their round tobacco tins in back pockets and drive big, rusty Ford pick-ups. They are a quiet, reclusive folk. No one looks like they want to make conversation and they keep their eyes straight ahead.

We are in a vast treeless plain surrounded by mountains and Jason tells us that if we looked at a three-dimensional topical map this area would look like a huge bowl scooped out of the earth.
How can I ever leave this place, I wonder, and return to only mediocre landscapes? Sorry, my lovely Iowa, only a fleeting thought, I am sure.

Herds of cattle rendered tiny by the huge backdrops cluster around fiercely-turning windmills. All this emptiness leaves me feeling somewhat small and not a little lonely. I am not accustomed to such vastness and I find comfort in the rolling hills of my native Dubuque. I dated a guy, a real cowboy from a tiny town in North Dakota right over the Canadian border, and he was always anxious in the unflat territory of the Dubuque Driftless Area. Guess he couldn't see the enemy coming. He did find a house in Dubuque and it was on a very flat, very high plain.

We eat our incredibly nutritious lunch at Buena Vista, another vast plain bordered by the Collegiate Range. They are eight mountains, all 13,000-14,000 feet high and named after universities: Harvard, Princeton, Yale and so on. Jason climbs "fourteeners" on his days off and he has about twenty of them scaled as of this reading.

We ride through the little mountain towns nestled in the high regions: Del Norte, Saguacha, La Gorita. They are self-sustaining and their inhabitants look to be a tough and rugged crew undaunted by rigors of Colorado winters. A pleasant surprise - there are restaurants serving tasty and classic menus, theatres sponsored with traveling acting troupes, art galleries filled with local works.

We ramble into Creede, a dusty little town of early mining fame and only 250 inhabitants. Nicholas Creede and his partner were mining

here in 1889 and Nick hit a silver lode. "Holy Moses," he said, being a rather quiet and not too overly emotional mountain guy. And of course, there is a shop in town with that very same name and menu selections also have this moniker as in the Holy Moses Burger. And one more time, our cabin at the Antlers Lodge also bears the same tired title. Our cabin is on the ancient Rio Grande and we will fall asleep that night to its song. We have a back porch and a swing and oh, this is good. I feel I am on a dude ranch and I swear I am developing a cowboy swagger as I saunter down the dusty road. Our cabin is designed in Mountain Magic motif and everything is green and brown and decorated with moose, bear and pines including the toilet paper rack. (Jason and I have issues with this.) Problem with cabins: they come with cute little kitchens with cute little pans and dishes and the nesting mama in me wants to fill the shelves in the cupboards and make scrambled eggs in the morning. But then

that kind of falls apart when you are at the sink up to your elbows in suds and everybody else is on the porch watching the river and drinking tea out of mugs with cutsie bears on them. Most of our cabin neighbors are from Texas with big hair and gaudy, gold chain wardrobes and martinis complete with olives in their hands.

Sonny is feeling his oats and plays a couple of games of pool and pitches a few horseshoes.

That night we dine outdoors with tiny white lights in the tree above us and baskets of very purple petunias and zinnias. Flowers do well in this cool mountain air.
Our restaurant serves a mean Cabernet and I enjoy grilled mahi-mahi with pineapple salsa and I choose not to think of Jason back in the cabin preparing his meatless meal of quinoa, beets, avocado and spinach.


Melissa said...

Oh come on now, quinoa is GOOD for you. :-)

dawn marie giegerich said...

When I got back to Dubuque I purchased a box of the stuff. Eight grams of protein - you can't go wrong.

MrDaveyGie said...

Bless me father for I have sinned, my last confession was 42 years ago. Today I had cheeseburgers, beer, and fries.

LoRFLoR said...

I eat quinoa!

I love reading about your time in Colorado! I am from Utah, and have relatives in CO. SUCH beauty - and your pictures and words make me want to be out in nature so badly!

your writing is fab.