A Colorado Driveabout– Buena Vista, Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and a Near Disaster on I-70
almost mud pie, we were
I found out long ago, oooohhhh
It's a long way down the holiday road, oooohhhh
Not the most profound sentiment from Mr. Buckingham but a solid sleeper jam, nonetheless.
On the occasion of playing the show of a lifetime last week at Red Rocks, I dragged my wife and kids to Colorado for a post-concert six-hotels-in-six-nights Clark Griswoldian driveabout. I dreamt of dramatic drives through the Rockies with stops in weird and wonderful mountain towns. We headed south and west; we did good.
Buena Vista - South Main
In the weeks leading up to our trip, I asked everyone I knew who had a connection to Colorado where we should point the family truckster and pretty much all of them said Buena Vista. Having just been to Marfa, I was getting town-on-the-come-up vibes as soon as we pulled in – a classic mountain town main street with a dollop of century-old buildings, old school Mexican joints, new school Mexican joints, yuppieshops (succulents, ceramics, wood-carved knick knackery), a distilling company, and a spot called “Bread + Salt” (obvs). The Williamsburg aesthetic in full effect, our “inn” was a converted brick building in the center of town straight out of Wythe Ave. Witness:
The odder part of town is a development on the Arkansas River called South Main – think Truman Show meets Southampton, NY plopped in the center of Colorado. A quick backstory: pro kayaker/son of a real-estate magnate bought the town dump and went all-in on an aspirational neighborhood replete with million dollar homes, $300/night hotel, “human scale streets” (!?), two high-end restaurants, a climbing boulder in the main square, and a kayak wave on the churning river anchoring the whole dealio.
It’s a trip stumbling into this bazillion dollar manifestation. On one hand, it’s very well executed and checks the “aspirational” box but also feels disassociated from the town, visually and spiritually. And of course the dudebro developer has been vilified and lionized for a project with this sort of clientele in mind, I can’t imagine a scenario where that WOULDN’T be the case. Divisive for sure, but they crushed it with the tiled furniture installation which tickled all my Burning Man neurons. And props to the random man who allowed me to steal his soul via electronic photography:
Telluride - Gondola Ride
I’d been to Telluride once before to perform at the Bluegrass Festival and vividly remember being blown away by the physicality of the place. Nearly two miles up (8,750ft!) and in the middle of a box canyon you are indeed in rare air. Local offerings seemed fine, our hotel was way overpriced but the legitimately breathtaking 13-minute free gondola ride to Mountain Village stole the show. I recommend skipping the village, disembarking halfway at Station San Sophia and getting your forest bath on. Special special stuff.
Ouray - Off Road Jeep Adventure
Ouray presents as a more accessible Telluride – stunning landscape, vibrant main street, steeped in history. The Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs (W/W:8/8) old school vibes (“The Switzerland of America!!”) were winning, as was the view from our room. The hot springs felt like a time capsule of 1977 and, honestly, that’s what I want from my hot spring resort. Ouray is smack in the middle of an extensive off-road trail system so we rented a Jeep and proceeded to drive UP A GIGANTIC MOUNTAIN. It was the most frightened I’ve been in a long long time and def the closest I’ve come to careening myself and my family off the side of a cliff. We loved it! 10/10!
After we didn’t die, we scurried down the other side of 14,000 feet and plopped into Silverton. The last scratches of my mountain town itch, we watched the Silverton Train depart and had a couple B+ brisket sandwiches at Thee Pitts Again. It would be fun to live here for a month, I think. Character and characters abound.
I-70, The Crumbling Colorado Highway System and The Aforementioned Near Disaster
Interstate 70 in Colorado is increasingly subject to closures thanks to mudslides originating in the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar. I know this because we were on said highway eleven miles away from the most damaging weather event in the history of I-70. Cars were abandoned and 100 people were forced to spend the night in the Hanging Lake Tunnel. Our hotel (The Hanging Lake Inn!) is usually a 3-hour drive to Denver but the multiple detours and flash floods the next day transformed it into an 8-hour crawl. Decidedly not wonderful, would not recommend.
An Extremely Cursory Denver Romp
Denver days were packed with work but I managed to get a bomb breakfast burrito at El Taco de Mexico (winner of a James Beard Classics award, W/W:7/8) and also charmed by Leven (W/W:6/8), a little cafe near the now iconic Denver Art Museum (I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but Libeskind gets my vote here.) Having devoured their exquisite cocktail book last summer, the local outpost of Death & Co. was at the top of my to-do list, but it was not to be. Lines longer than Legoland!
Hopefully I can peel the onion here next round. Too big of a town to not have a thriving underbelly of weirdos but, as of now, they remain elusive…
Thanks for tuning in. Back in Vermont as we speak so local coverage will continue…
Love you, talk soon,