I managed to forge a cycling purpose into a non-cycling vacation in August, 2011, using the brute force of a big-ass 1996 GMC camper van.
Leaving Durango, on Saturday, we drove to Silverton, Colorado, and filled up the thirsty beast. I opened the back door to give my Dahon a peek at the scenery. I snapped this photo to prove that I did indeed have a bike with me on this trip. As of this writing, the thing has not been ridden.
Loyal readers (I like to pretend that some exist) will recall my emotional attachment to Sinclair gas stations. There are plenty of these dinosaurs in Colorado.
And the view in Silverton is priceless. Not exactly priceless. I paid about $3.80 per gallon at the pump to the dinosaur god.
Way on the other side of town from the gas station — almost 300 feet away — I saw these Surrey Limousines. I remember these from the 70′s. Back then they looked fun to me. Now I look at them and they seem like a ridiculous attempt to make a bike conform to the car paradigm — as though four wheels and a steering wheel might make pedal power more palatable or respectable to a society raised on four wheels and a steering wheel.
After passing through a succession of Colorado mountain towns, we began to feel entitled to quaint, historic, and touristic scenery. Then we hit Montrose, which seemed like a generic American suburb that somehow has left the orbit of its metropolis — kind of like what happened to the moon in Space: 1999, but with Walmart, KFC, Taco Bell, and Dollar General.
This town showed no visible signs of character, nor did it seem notable for bike friendliness. But it was our destination for the day, so we went and saw a documentary about Nosed vs. Noseless Saddles.
The next morning, as we were preparing to leave, the guy at the Good Sam RV Park asked, “Have you been to Black Canyon?”
I gave him a dumb look. “No. What’s that?”
“What? No! You’ve got to see Black Canyon!”
He ran into the office and came back with the Park Service brochures for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
So we went. And I take back everything I said about Montrose. Who needs quaint, historic, touristic scenery when this is your backyard?
Yes, I took that photo. And I realized that the nice guy at the RV park probably muttered, Idiots, as we drove away.
In Salida, bicycling seemed woven into everyday life as much as cars were. Bikes were everywhere — almost all of them were unlocked.
Strangely, Salida seemed like a town with no visible means of support, other than tourism. Yet, it didn’t have the theme-park feel that, say, Durango had.
At Benson’s Tavern and Beer Garden, this beer cooler served as a synopsis of the local economy.
We happened to be there at the end of the 7th Annual “Salida Classic” bike race. But most of the bikes we saw were easygoing cruisers that looked like they’d never seen a race in their lives. It was pretty easy to spot the tourists from the locals.
When we were admiring this unlocked New Belgium cruiser, the bike’s owner walked up and introduced himself as Chris, the proprietor of Current’s Steak and Seafood. He told us that in Salida, bike theft isn’t a problem because everyone knows everyone’s bikes. Although, he told us, once or twice marauders from out of town have rolled in with a big van and filled it up with the defenseless bikes left out by trusting locals.
In spite of Salida’s apparent bike-friendliness and an abundance of art galleries, the rules for bikes on sidewalks were posted bluntly and artlessly with crude stenciled signage on every sidewalk corner.
I complied with these instructions. I hadn’t been a bike at all in three days.