Into the San Juans and hangin’ in Telluride

We are finally in the mountains again. This time for a while. The San Juans just might be the most beautiful mountains in the USA too.

Day 25: Dolores to Telluride
64 miles, 3000 ft

What a beautiful ride! We spent all morning riding up the Dolores river valley. It is nice to be in mountains again. The headwaters of the Dolores River are near Lizard Head pass, which is the highest point that we climb in the San Juan Mountains. Near the town of Dolores the river is pretty broad, just before it spills into the Mc Phea reservoir and is split off into numerous irrigation canals to irrigate the farmland in the Colorado Plateau. Another tributary of the once mighty Colorado bites the dust.

Nevertheless, the ride from Dolores to Telluride is beautiful. About halfway to Telluride there is a little semi-ghost town called Rico. The town is trying to come back to life and there is now a school, an Inn a couple of restaurants and a great Pub. The pub has a restaurant side and a music side, which is in an old movie theatre. They get some great musicians there. Burning Spear, Bela Fleck, The Dixie Chicks, John Mayall and many more. We couldn’t quite figure out why the town wasn’t more prosperous than it is.

Gabi and I had lunch with a fellow gypsy named Laura who has settled in Rico. Well up a canyon in a geodesic dome about two miles up a canyon and off the grid. She and her husband are still living the hippy dream. She said that she spent most of the past 30 years walking all over the USA looking for the perfect place and Rico was it. Their one room dome is on a year round creek which is where they get water and bathe. They make ends meet by having a couple of different jobs in town. They met in Ashland so we had some shared experience and we talked some about my donkey trek and the commune in Butte Falls. Wow, that was at least two lifetimes ago.

At Rico you are already pretty high, so after lunch it didn’t take us long to get to Lizard Head. The pass is right at timberline so you are right there in the middle of these jaggedy San Juan peaks. It reminds me of the Alps or the Dolomites. All the peaks seem so close that you can just reach out and touch them. From there it is a (mostly) screaming descent to Telluride.


Day 26: Telluride
Rest day in the Promised Land

The idea of Telluride being the Promised Land became a private joke between us starting in Nevada. Whenever we would miss some creature comfort like a drug store, fresh vegetables, good wine, great food, a bakery, etc, we would say “we’ll get that in Telluride”. Well, Telluride does have just about everything you can imagine but it comes at a cost. We thought San Francisco was expensive but prices in Telluride are just plain stupid. Oh well, we are on vacation and the next state is Kansas so what the hell.

After checking in and cleaning up, we pulled our nice shirts from the special places at the bottom of our bags and hit the town. We started at the Oyster Bar and Noir Bar for appetizers. We had some great drinks and a great chat with the bartender about life in Telluride, how to get fresh fish at 9000 ft, what to do in life after being a ski bum for 12 years and all kinds of stuff. With a nice buzz and a couple of hours of daylight left we decided to explore.

Telluride is an old mining town that had a pretty wild reputation in its day. They had 4000 people, 26 bars, and 4 brothels. The story is that skiing was introduced to the area but Scandinavian miners who would race down from the mines on skis to beat their fellow miners to the brothels on payday. While we didn’t see any brothels, I’m sure that there are still at least 26 bars in town today.

The town itself is a national historic town, which means that none of the old buildings can be altered on the exterior. But the interiors are fair game so you find some really stylish places hiding inside of these old quaint buildings. Like the Noir Bar which was done up in a Fred Flintstone meets Betty Page kind of motif.

After exploring a bit we went to the Excelsior café for our second course and a bottle of wine. We sat at the bar (like we like to do in new towns) and it turns out that the bartender is a transplanted New Yorker named Steve and a lot of fun. One thing led to another (as they do over a bottle of wine) and we ended up staying for a great dinner and talking to Steve, the chef and a bunch of other folks who seemed to be coming and going all evening long. We didn’t quite close it down, but the place was getting empty and after a shot of some fine Tennessee whiskey on Steve, we decided to stumble outside and howl at the moon for a while before heading back to the hotel for the night.

The next day, being a rest day, we decided to rest.


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