Mesa Verde

My mother-in-law is a lovely and fun-loving lady who makes it a point to give me each year for my birthday at least one item from the church thrift shop where she volunteers (along with something of genuine value).  Her past contributions to my garage shelves include the singing wall-plaque bass (“Don’t worry, be happy”) and a cookie jar shaped like a dog that barks when you take the lid off.  This year, she gave me a coaster that reads “I’m so far behind that I think I’m ahead.” 

Well today started behind, and I spent the day working on enjoying it anyway, as if I was ahead.  Vickie and Olivia slept in and could not be roused, so I sat on the deck admiring the mighty Colorado River a stone’s throw away, and playing guitar until Cameron showed up.  Then he cajoled me into hitting the pool and hot tub for an hour.  Check out time was approaching, so we walked the gravel road back to the room, and found that the ladies had risen.  We packed up and headed for the dining room for breakfast, a half hour after the dining room closed.

We drove into Moab and found a breakfast place still open—the Pancake Haus.  It was empty inside, except for our attentive waiter, Amit.  It struck me as a noteworthy emblem  of multiculturalism--a young man from India in the land of cowboys and Indians, at a place with vaguely Bavarian décor serving quintessentially American breakfasts.  Hooray for the USA!  He was highly capable and courteous, the breakfast was everything it should be, and off we went again.

We got to Mesa Verde at about 3:15, thinking we would dart inside the park, look at the spectacular Anasazi cliff dwelling, and zip back onto the highway to pick up Dave in Durango at 5:45.   Instead, we once again encountered a road crew spreading fresh asphalt as liberally as Washington is spreading stimulus dollars.  We decided that the most recession-proof industries must be hard hats and tar. Once at the gate and armed with the handouts, we realized that the visitor center was ten windy miles uphill from the gate, and that the place was a vast network of dwellings, ceremonial sites and museums spread over several more miles, the best of which required a pre-purchased ticket to a ranger-guided tour.  When we arrived at the visitor’s center at 4:00, I quickly got in the line for tour tickets.  I asked the ranger “What would be the one thing you’d recommend to avoid having my wife mad at me for missing the good stuff?” He said “Getting here a couple hours ago.”   Undaunted, we headed for the main museum (spectacular) the Spruce Tree House ruin (ditto) and the loop trail from which you can see twelve or so cliff dwellings (ditto twelve times).  

Then on to Durango, except that everyone else was leaving the park too, and the road crew was spraying down the road with a water truck that seemed to move more slowly than the geologic forces that formed these ancient gorges.  When we got to the main road, Dave had already landed in Durango, and we still had an hour to drive.  When we finally pulled up, he told us the café in the tiny airport had closed ten minutes before he tried to get some food, so we gave up another hour of our schedule and went into Durango for dinner.  Finally, a full two hours behind schedule, we drove up the mountain to Telluride in the dark, greeted only by the very occasional oncoming car and at least a dozen deer and elk standing in or near the highway.  Finally, with apologies to our genuinely warm and friendly host, Scott, we pulled up to his house at 11:00.  He surrendered the whole house to us and is spending the next couple of days at his girlfriend’s place, and has set up a concert for us at the library to open the huge Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  Somehow, despite being behind all day, we really did end up ahead.

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