road trippin’ west, part ii: colorado, land of elevated dreams

13 May 2012 § Leave a comment

As the belly dancer tied her sash around Joe’s waist, he shook his leg trying to wake it up.

She wore dollar bills tucked into the straps of her sequined top, which wasn’t abundant enough to cover the suction cup effect of silicone breasts. Joe followed her hip movements as he recovered from his handicap, the whole restaurant watching cross-legged, in his lumberjack plaid and schoolboy-parted hair, smiling and not at all embarrassed. Our applause afteward was genuine – the 12-year-old took in the experience like an open-hearted traveler, and we three – Stuart his father, who the dancer took a quick liking to, Heather, and I sat enjoying our Moroccan feasts, admiring the young man who’d been everywhere already.

We cruised through Denver in Stuart’s Maserati under dying streetlights and past hipster bars with inevitably great tap selections. It was by far the fanciest car I’d ever ridden in, Stuart’s recent birthday present to himself, and begged the driver to ride comfortably. At 140 miles an hour. Anything less in that sleek monster was a sin – if only cops recognized that.

That afternoon we’d traded travel stories and artifacts from around the world. Joe brought me pieces of his treasure while his dad gave us a photograph tour of a trek in Nepal. They reminded each other of where and when a carving came from, told us of Egyptian towns bulldozed for archaeological excavations – undermining of the present permitted by a government that saw more value in its nation’s distant past than in its culture now.

They’re going to Peru this summer, and Joe was adamant about my joining their expedition up the Amazon. I told him I would love nothing more.

Heather and I landed in Salida, Colorado, which for some reason is pronounced ‘Sa-lye-da’, similar to how Alaska’s displaced coastal town Valdez is pronounced ‘Val-deez’. It seems white people have problems with the Spanish language.

She on her iPad – both the bane and boon of my philosophical compass – found among the town’s accommodations the Mountain Motel, a peaceful and kickin’ spot with wood-ceiling cabins that inside feel both like city studio apartments and remote self-built lodging. The view is a liquor store, but the atmosphere and the festive, friendly owner, Irene, were convivial enough to keep us here another night.

But just one? I feel like I could live here; drinking and writing by morning, adventuring afternoons and nights. ‘Salida’ translates to ‘exit’, or ‘departure’. From the lives I’ve chosen to lead and pursue, staying in this high mountain valley for a while would be a welcome recovery.

On our way to breakfast, an old cowboy mistook us for someone else, and as repentance invited us into his church. They were giving away free stuff – a garage sale with cookies instead of cash. Heather and I walked out with full stomachs and festival gear. I grabbed a LEGO man on the way out. A local climber headed up to climb Denali told us of some spots around town to climb.


Since we first traveled together – nearly a year ago – we have found magic more consistent than polka-dotted. I’d like to think it’s been because when something feels out of balance, when the energy is wrong, or something in us says ‘no’, not only are we usually in agreement, but also are open to the next possibility, unknown as it may be. When an idea – a place to stay, a city, a theory on how people work – feels right, we know it immediately. We know we’re not settling for less than what we’re searching for.

Individually, we want nothing more than to thrive. It so happens that we do that together.



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