Quiet Desperation

Awash in beauty and wonder — that’s just how we roll


Jennifer, Harry, and I went on a road trip.

Don’t yawn. Yet.

We looped from Littleton to Salida to Monte Vista to Durango to Mesa Verde to Telluride to Gunnison to Littleton, and stopped along the way in the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s.

Road trips were common in the 1950s. Thank or blame President Eisenhower and his authorization of the Interstate Highway System in 1956, although he didn’t do it for fathers, mothers, their kids, or Stuckey’s, but that’s how it turned out. It was during the Cold War, and Eisenhower thought large cities would be military targets. An interstate highway system would “facilitate their evacuation and ease military maneuvers” (Wikipedia).

Stop yawning. This is meaningful, if you care about traveling without going through security checkpoints and being told to take off your shoes.

I have a few tips: Go with someone you love (as I did), or don’t go. It’s hour after hour, and no amount of beautiful scenery — and that’s what Colorado amounts to — will make it bearable if you have someone in the car who is listless, lifeless, disengaging, or is a sign reader.

Don’t try the road trip we took in an automobile that isn’t fit. The roads themselves wind and climb, and the drivers, many of them, think it’s a Japanese touge race, especially guys in Dodge Rams.

I said we saw the 1940s. For that, try Saguache. For the 1950s, try Ridgway. For the 1960s, try Gunnison.

The highlight of the trip, and one of the highlights of my lifetime, was Mesa Verde.

The day started in Durango, where we dropped off Harry at a daycare, and then ate breakfast at Durango Diner on Main Avenue. The manager, an endearing character named Gary, had been invited to appear on “Chopped,” but declined.

The program’s coordinator couldn’t believe it. You will have to discover Gary’s reasoning for yourself. In 2018, when relentless self-promotion is everywhere, Gary is a soldier of originality.

My abilities as a writer are up against it when it comes to Mesa Verde. It was my fourth time, and Jennifer’s first.

It is a treasure, a place of contemplation, mystery and beauty. Inconceivably, Ancestral Pueblo people made it their home, living in precarious cliff dwellings, from AD 600 to 1300.

On December 18, 1888, a couple of men who were looking for lost cattle with a Ute guide discovered Cliff Palace. The rest of the park’s history is best reported elsewhere.

There are several dwelling tours. My favorite is Cliff Palace.

You have to schedule a tour, and you can’t schedule online. They don’t overbook, like Delta.

Each tour (55 people) is led by a ranger. Matt led ours. He was eloquent and informed and respectful of the park and its significance.

He asked us to take a moment of silence, just look at the dwellings, and then volunteer a single word that came to mind.

Of course, some park visitors showed up in flip-flops and prom dresses, and took cellphone photos endlessly, without looking at what they were looking at.

The access and egress are almost incomprehensibly difficult. The steps are irregular and crumbing, spaces between boulders for passage are not passable if you are Hardy rather than Laurel, and the vertical exit ladder is something only a SEAL could love.

If you’re wondering, Harry had a great time. For some reason, he was particularly fond of the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park in Ridgway, primarily the trees.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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