Return to A Deliberate Year

A Day in Durango

Haviland Lake

Some people, whose capacity for curiosity is matched only by cats, have asked how I organize my explorations, especially upon entering an new area. Well, it's real deep. In fact it was a complete mystery to me, too, until I decided to tell all. Perhaps the following will help you to understand the methodology.

First, I dump the trailer.

I breezed through Durango from the West, stopping only for 80 bucks worth of necessary groceries and the moderate allure of a place with a sign out front that said: "Serious Texas BBQ", and under that, "Miniature Golf". It was okay, considering that I was neither serious nor in Texas at the time. It did seem to have been cooked on a pit of some sort.

I passed on the golf. They were using stupid balls. That's what I heard a young girl say as I walked by, anyway. "Stupid, stupid ball." I have enough trouble when the balls are being sensible.

Heading up, and I mean up, toward Silverton, I found a campsite by the waters of Haviland Lake. It had only been recently abandoned by Those Who Must Return To Work, a sect I once nominally belonged to, but whose philosophy I never fully embraced. They left behind a container of Kool-Ade and a small pile of wood stacked by the fire ring. Using makeshift tongs, I disposed of the drink in an environmentally murky manner.

But I never turn down firewood.

Still, what I really wanted after a week in the woods was an electric site. I canvassed the grounds and found a fellow occupying one. On the lake. I then conspired with him to enter right on his heels as he left the following morning. Mission accomplished.

The plot thins a bit at this point.

Three years ago, when I first got satellite radio, hardly anybody in your average campground had it, and I got bragging rights. Now everyone has it. But I discovered a new wrinkle, something I'd not noticed before. I backed into the site, onto the leveling blocks. Ahh. The occasion warranted a little big band music. On with XM 004, "The Forties".

No signal. What?

After applying a curious phrase or two, first learned in a locker room, I was no nearer to Harry James. So I pulled the trailer forward and checked again. Signal! It was only Sinatra, but a good signal. I backed onto the blocks. No signal. I backed further, until one axle was off the blocks. Signal.

Man, this is precise, and doubtless caused by a single nearby tree in the way. So I moved the blocks back a couple of feet. Problem solved. But from now on, it seems, I have more to think about than just leveling fore and aft, and side to side.

Now the trailer must also be tuned, treewise, for Satellite Radio.

The science of RVing advances, step by laborious step. I hope future generations, the ungrateful whelps, come to honor this effort with a suitable holiday.

Tuesday morning. Wash day. Back to Durango. See how the strategy unfolds?

The washateria was notable for so called "double load" washers, costing two bucks apiece. Also a green house atmosphere, largely due to a trio of huge fronded plants behind the washers. These jolly green giants had a wingspan of 6-8 feet, and the dangling leaves had to be repeatedly swept aside for me to find a surface on which to finger through my change for quarters. It was a bit like shaking hands with an over-friendly alien.

Beam me up, Scotty.

The upside of the establishment was an abandoned Durango Herald announcing recent and upcoming events. There had been a biker rally in Ignacio, which I knew about from the overflow traffic. Sixty thousand Bikers in the middle of the Southern Ute reservation. As a counterweight, over in Pagosa, there was the Four Corners Folk Festival.

They still have folk festivals?

Both these events turned out to be soggy affairs, but were defiantly deemed successful by the newspaper. Thank god I missed them both. I don't want to do anything with 60,000 other humans. In fact, my tolerance for bush apes, myself included, starts to top out at 6 or 7.

About the number I could barbecue for. Up to that I like 'em fine.

What's coming up? Here's an item. Kathy L'Amour, Louis L'Amour's widow, announces a Silent Auction for various goods, at her ranch near Hesperus, in support of the Mesa Verde Foundation. Next Saturday. Public welcome.

It might be interesting to see Louie's old digs. Whoooops! Tickets, $100 apiece.

That's how they weed out the riff-raff. Like me.

Nothing much else going on. Good. That means I am free to plan my own party, unencumbered by organized recreation. My first thought, after loading the dryers, was that I needed a pie. I am fond of pie. I was told by a fellow washerite that the only bakery he had heard of, besides the blah efforts in grocery stores, was the "french baker" down on Main. I went down there.

I knew as I entered I had the wrong place.

A perky blonde behind the counter looked up and asked, "Seating for one?"

"No. But maybe you can help me. I'm looking for a bakery."

"This is a bakery."

"No, this is a restaurant, of sorts. You are selling ambiance. I'm looking for someone who sells pies."

"How about a tart? This is a French bakery. We sell tarts." She looked at a list. "We can sell you a 9 inch tart. Would that do?"

She was game, I'll say that for her.

"How much is this 9 inch tart?"

Hard question. They may never have sold one whole before. She called another girl over, and they put their blonde heads together. Finally she looked up brightly.

"Twenty dollars."

"No thanks."

Twenty dollars for a French Tart. What is the world coming to? Whatever happened to Mademoiselle from Armentieres?

I went around the corner to the Wells Fargo Bank, to buy a couple of rolls of quarters. Passed by the Smoke Shop. Keep walking, keep walking, keep walking.

There was a substantial line in the bank lobby. The last fellow save me wore a prominent scowl. He had the sort of complexion caused by not eating often or well, and spending a lot of involuntary time in the weather. Sallow and pale and rough and ruddy, all at the same time. Unshaven, unshorn. His jeans were as greasy as his leather hat.

He smirked up at me. "Man, for a minute there I thought it was Halloween. You fall off your bike?"

I remembered the mark on my forehead. Part of my RV dues.

"Nope. Ran into something."

"I bet you did. How many stitches is that?"

"None. I taped it up myself."

"Man. Ain't that the way it is? Bang your head, and you can just bleed to death. Nobody gives a damn."

"It's not that bad. I'll live. Looks worse than it is."

"I hope so. Man, this world is just a crock, isn't it? Every day I stay here, it's worse and worse. And nobody gives a damn."

I was beginning to sense a little of his mood. "Well, it's a pretty day, anyway."

We shuffled forward in line. He was unimpressed.

"O yeah, but what does that mean? There's no love, man. I used to live in Hawaii, and it was beautiful every damn day, but there's no love, you know? So I left. What's the point if there's no love?"

I was beginning to think that love was well down the list of things he needed. I could be wrong. I didn't want to jump to conclusions, but by then I was being pressed from behind. The line advanced.

"George Bush, man. He's got the plan. I bet we're all in a world war in 5 years."

"So vote for Kerry."

"Kerry, man. He's just slow poison. George is fast. Fast. I say go for Bush, man. Get it over with. I'm tired of all this waitin' around."

The line advanced. Not long now. Maybe I could throw him off his stride. Break the rhythm.

"I'm sorry, but... well, see where I hit my head? It just knocked the Devil right out of me. Nothing in there but smiles now. Smiles and butterflies. Sorry. God bless you, man. It's a beautiful day."

This almost worked. I could see him chewing it over. The scowl deepened.

The line advanced.

"No, man, that's naive. It's not that easy. This world's a crock, man."


He went to his teller.


I went to mine. Handed her a twenty. "Two rolls of quarters, please."

"Is that all? Why, you're about the easiest customer I've had today."

She smiled. So did I.

"Well, good. I'm glad I could be here for you."

I walked out into the sunshine. It really was a pretty day. Now all I had to worry about was getting back to the truck without going into the Smoke Shop.

Dryers ought to be done by now. Time marches on. So do I.

Well, there it is. You have it. The secret is out. Bob's Own Plan for a Traveling Retirement.

This is how I try to organize my day, no matter where I am. I miss opportunities to join crowds, keep myself in clean underwear, stick to pies when offered tarts, and stay out of banks as much as I can.

Give it a shot. You might have the gift.

I'm still working on it.


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