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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Roads Not Taken... Leading An Intrepid, Four Seasoned RV Life

Another six inches of snow thursday night; it's really beginning to pile up now. This is the Lovely Ouray of old... foot upon foot of wondrous snow. Just when I was beginning to think Old Man Winter was growing old and tired of it all, he comes out of his coma with a vengeance in time for Christmas. Better late than never.

I realize most RV'ers shiver at the thought of snow and temperatures below 50 degrees. They scurry off to Sun Belt States like Florida, Texas, Arizona and So Cal every winter, avoiding one of the most beautiful, if not, misunderstood, seasons like the plague. I only "realize" this because I was you... until now, anyway. "Was?" What's with this "was" stuff? Oh boy; this might be a two-part post, and there won't be many, if any, converts, no matter how many times the choir sings Amazing Grace, or White Christmas. But I'm burdened to get this off my chest, so the least you can do is hear me out.

 Thursday was forecasted to be cold and snowy, a good day to stay indoors near the hearth, right? But on the heels of five days of Christmas gluttony, and jeans that would no longer button without a struggle, I invoked Bobbie's Axiom: "Never stay home because of a weather forecast." In other words, "I am a man-boobed pig in need of exercise, come avalanche or deep snow."

Winter clouds drifted above town... snagging peaks and filtering precious morning sun. Sue Bee's tires squeaked along Lovely Ouray's deep-frozen back-streets. Northerners know it well, the sound rubber makes against packed powder snow at near zero degrees. Vibram soled boots make a similar sound as you walk; "squeak, squeak, squeak." The sound is often accompanied by frozen nose hairs, breath you can see, and sluggish lips that sound as if they've been shot up with novocaine... Pheeher Phiher phicked auh pheck auh phickled pheckers... or something like that.

Squeaking along, I suggested (as I always do) that we go somewhere we haven't been... someplace "exciting." Poor Bobbie, married to a typical male... obsessed with "new territory" and "drama." But she tolerates my "ways," actually supports "drama," to a point, and has a gifted memory for yet unexplored places. She recalled an obscure backroad near Red Mountain Pass, "County Road 31," she says, "On the last switchback before the Overlook." Voila, a road not taken in all the bygone years of our local mountain life. 

U. S. 550 south had been plowed, right down to the underlying sheet of ice. Mud/Snow rated tires don't squeak on icy roads. Rather, they "groan," due to grooves etched by truck tires with chains. Further up, 550 became snowy and fell into a silence... quiet as the night baby Jesus was born. Reaching 31, Sue Bee waded into a foot of shoulder snow like an Alaskan sled dog... both bred for snow and cold! We strapped on snowshoes and stepped into a winter wonderland of soft, deep, powder... tracking our way through a lonely, hushed forest. 

During wintertime, the air at ten thousand feet is both rarified and raw. It's edgy, cold, thin and dry... the kind that bites and tares like a junkyard dog at lungs too long indoors. It leaves one momentarily gasping... a raspy wheeze that brings the faint taste of blood. I felt a hundred years old... hacking up phlegm from a week's inactivity, limping from wednesday's interminable sitting marathon behind the wheel. Bones and tendons creaked like snow underfoot, and I sensed all the butter and gravy and other fine carnal-sin drippings of a proper Christmas dinner paving layer after layer of cholesterol in the arteries of my recalcitrant heart. I digress, as usual. 

Here's my "rub," for what it's worth... tho I don't actually believe it will be of much value to escapists in the RV'er crowd. If there's one thing that can take my mind off winter, it's winter itself. Let me try to explain the "love/hate" relationship, starting with "Love." Imagine stepping into a classic Hallmark Christmas Card. It's a magical, serene place, where clouds cling to jaunty peaks, obscuring the prize like a negligee... a "wedding veil" tease for beholding eyes. Light dances, refracting from rolling mounds of glistening sugar-snow... reds, blues, and golds. 

Imagine a calm, frigid place, where diseased exhales flash freeze into crystalline dust and fall dead to the ground; a place deserted of color excepting an intense cobalt dome... a place where intermittent stands of dark spruce cast about-face shadows, in opposition, refutation, and contradiction to and of, undulations of sunlit crystals of virgin snow. 

It's Ansel Adams-like in it's black and whiteness... white snow on bended bough that is all but drained of chlorophyl. That's what we had, and we had it to ourselves. Aloneness was the perfect "frosting" on our mountain.

It might well seem like a contradiction, that a Hallmark Christmas Card could detain a surly old misplaced desert rat... one who despises long pants and the weight of clothes in general, not to mention homes without wheels... until the ides of January. I remember a time in my newbie RV life when I flirted with a blog theme... verily, a post retirement life-purpose... of an existence based solely on 70 degree weather, the kind that suited my clothes of preference. Yes, I would become a stalker of mild mannered weather, and lead an unassuming, albeit, shallow, roving lifestyle existence based purely on temperature. I would seek out like-minded groupies, form a mobil commune to watch the Weather Channel with, and at the end of the day we'd sit around in lawn chairs and say, "Man, how about this weather." 

What happened? This? after I moved to Colorado for mountains and snow, and married a snow worshiping woman? 

Where did that kid go... the one who loved skiing, the one who went sledding if there was but an inch of snow and a mole-hill, the one who abused his VW Bug, spinning endless donuts in parking lots after one of Missouri's infamous ice-storms?

Why must one outgrow simple winter fun? Maybe it's because they can't afford it. Nowadays it involves trendy hi-tech name brand clothing, Salomon skis, Hang Ten snowboards and 15 dollars for a slope-side peanut butter and jelly sandwiche. Why not shuffle up a mountain on snowshoes instead of riding a lift? Why shed hard earned money when all we have to do is pack a lunch, drive up any old mountain road, and step out of the car.

Snow needn't become a bother as we age, especially in Colorado. We tend to forget how warm zero degrees can be when the sun is out... to the point that we shed clothes down to tee shirts from overheating. Why, when nearing the age of being forced by health and/or circumstances... when freedom is on the verge of meaning a wheelchair spin around the outdoor fountain at some "home," would we choose to stay indoors where air is stale, TV programming is a vapid wasteland (beyond football) and putter round and round when we could be walking a winter wonderland? We can sleep when we're dead, and staying indoors will only hasten that fateful day.  

And so it was... at this point in my thought process, sifting through powdered sugar, breaking a virgin trail, switchbacking up to an old mining head-frame, that I declared an epiphany. 

This is fun! I was having fun! And not only was it fun, it was good for my aging, decrepit body... in spite of it's objections... to push beyond reaching for the remote control and having a look-see at what's in the fridge. Blood infused brain; it made me feel alive. Striking out on a winter's day elevated mood, from from the doldrums of routine in an otherwise drama-less existence, to alive and thankful. Winter, in measured amounts (it wasn't a complete conversionshould not be avoided like something that's bad for you. Why shun cold 24/7/365 ? Why not "balance" a Sun Belt winter lifestyle with occasional mountaintops, thin air, and playing in the snow? Maybe I don't belong on skis or a snowboard anymore but I can still strap on a pair of snowshoes, layer up, if need be, and walk.  If it elevates my spirit and body... restores my soul... clears my mind of rubbish. Not only should I do it, I need to do it. 

With maybe the exception of Florida, RV'ers can, if they want—need—should, taste of winter's delights. Arizona's RV belt is but a short drive from snow... I give you San Francisco Peaks, White, Lemon, and Wrightson, as example mountains. For real drama, one could, in less than a day's drive, be in Lovely Ouray or some similar place. Go on a "holiday" from the "rig." Break routine... better yet, smash it to pieces once in a while during winter. Go check out Ansel Adams black and whites and a little Cold Play. Put on a coat and go walk Lovely Ouray, or Prescott's old town, maybe buy a plastic sled and scoot down a mole-hill. 

Admittedly, there are limits to my tolerance for long winters in places like Lovely Ouray. But it's not so much the cold and snow as it is the freaking lack of sunlight. And there is nothing I can do about that.

Have a great Football Sunday! or "Whatever"
Mark and "Snow White"


  1. Great pictures and post. Reminds me of the winter I lived in Breckenridge. -35 felt warm and would shovel snow from my deck in just a down vest. I have about 16" here in Indiana after Wednesday and Fridays snow falls....people complain but the hounds and I love it.

  2. I totally get it! I'm so glad you met your Snow White too! And if there was ever anything to make someone tempted to give it a try, it would have to be your Ansel/Hallmark photography!

    smiling at the shorts...

  3. Yesterday, I ventured out in the cold and snow to be rewarded with magnificent eagles to watch soaring. It reawakened the love of the wilderness and the need to wander. I thought the wonderlust was buried by snow and inactivity. It is just below the surface waiting for us to just gooo. Loved your pictures. Now if my house would just sell I'd be a wondering soul too.... At least I can get out now and get back to work!!!

  4. Well, I suppose when you post such gorgeous winter snow scenes, how can we not agree that some enjoying the four seasons can certainly be much more rewarding than perpetually chasing 70-degree sunshine!

    I remember driving that trail when I was there last year in mid-summer, and I must say that the Yankee Girl mine looks as fabulous with snow as she does with wildflowers!

    Thanks for sharing such beautiful ideas and images, Mark!

  5. Walden creek rv SteveDecember 29, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Ernie(Mark) - You know what a fan of your rants I have always been--BUT not when aimed at Florida beach bums!! really I agree -thus trip to Wisc for week of snow fun-- and pushing for RV swap opportunities with certain Ouray folk! Great pictures for a change! relax at end of day!

  6. You "almost" converted me....but a snowbaby I will never be. Thanks for the beautiful pictures!

  7. I think most full-timers from places like Chicago or Buffalo hate the snow and cold because we had to commute to work in it for many years. And the lack of sunshine, as you mentioned is a big factor for avoiding cold, snowy places. I am actually planning to spend some time in either Seward or Haines Alaska in the winter, maybe a year or two from now.
    You have the best of both worlds with a house in Ouray and an RV.

  8. Hmmmm nice blog today but let's see what you say in another month or two.


    Actually, I am envious, Mark. Enjoy!

  9. Been there. Did that. Enjoyed every snow shoeing journey when I was living in Denver. Nothing like the change of seasons for inspiration. Great photos. Good thing you can get out in January -- to the sunshine -- for a spate of relief from the beautiful world of snow.

  10. I feel your invigoration and love the look of the white blanketed earth yet I seem not able to stay warm the older I get. Even without the snow here in central Arizona I feel the winter chill my bones. Next year I'll head south sooner. Enjoy this time.

  11. One of the most beautiful things I remember about growing up in Michigan was the moonlit sparkle on fresh fallen snow.
    I can't imagine how much fun it must have been to be Snow White in that last photo... making the first tracks in the beautiful fresh snow.
    You make me homesick! Wonderful post!
    Grace (in Tucson)

  12. Enjoying winter?? Location, location, location:))

  13. Being a Chicagoland gal it's not the snow I mind, it's the WIND and the wind chill factor. The last two days in Kentucky it hovered right above freezing but it felt like a heat wave even without the sun because there was no wind! We got to Asheville last night...escorted by high wind which I heard blowing all night long.

  14. Excellent posting, just love your pictures!

  15. Absolutely beautiful photos! I suppose winter can be beautiful if you don't have to drive and "slug it out" with crazy people in a hurry. I hope you have a big window with a fireplace, and an "adult" drink in your hand...

  16. It's half time Broncos 21 KC 3, we have 10 inches of snow and I was out earlier for a walk in the sun soaked snowy woods. Now I can justify Samual Adams winter larger, pistachios, fudge, cookies, etc......Eating whiile I look out the window enjoying the winter. Winter is fun until Jan 31, then I'm ready for warmth. With those shorts, I'm assuming you didn't do much butt sliding down the mountain. Great pictures, sun makes all the difference in enjoying the white sparkly stuff.
    John Q

  17. Susan here. Maikel has been saying every day, "I wonder when we're going to see Mark & Bobbie again." Do I need to tell him that it's going to be a loooong wait?

  18. Mark, I love Red Mountain in the winter, and I admire anyone who can drive that darn pass when it looks even a bit icy to get there. It's like a guantlet to see if you really love Red Mountain in winter, and I guess my love is a bit on the puny side...

    Beautiful pics.

  19. I LOVE that area. Have only been in summer. Must be amazing in winter. Beautiful photos !!!

  20. So beautiful! Grew up in the snowbelt of Pa, but as soon as I could, I moved to Texas. I was still a teen. The back pain I experienced daily in the cold weather as a child was intense. I can't say I miss that. And yes, there were times I actually did have to walk home in the snow from school(3 miles)...but I did have shoes on ;-)

  21. Love the snow.... the cold? not so much :) Nice photo! Happy New Year!

  22. Aha! The Editor is back!!! I took a little Christmas vacation from "commenting" on comments. Thanks for your understanding and patience, and for what it's worth, I missed "you guys." ;))

    B Hounds,
    Thank you...
    Breckenridge... what a beautiful place, now getting too big for it's "britches," tho.
    Indiana needs the water... so good that the snow is piling up, especially since you and the hounds love it :))

    It is as fun and pure experience as my photos depict, believe it or not. And Marathon Man Leonard has yet to wear long pants! I'm not the only "crazy." Thanks for commenting :)

    Kib Explores,
    True "Wanderlust" is incurable... of course you know this already :) When it resurfaces, it does so with a vengeance... and no amount of snow or cold can contain it. How grand to see the Eagles, fishing for dinner. Great comment!

    Well, I do wax poetic after a great day in the snowy outdoors :)) But good for you recognizing the Yankee Girl and knowing of the very road we snowshoed. It is, I think, more beautiful in white than green. Thank you.

    Walden Steve,
    Hey, I'm not dishing Florida :)) I love your beaches, but you can have the rest of it... but I'm admit to prejudice. We'll do that swap some cold winter... bring your long pants, buddy. :))

    Al and Karen,
    Can't win every "soul," I guess... thanks :)

    I think you hit the nail on the head... Playing in the snow and cold is quite different than working and committing in the snow and cold. I look forward to your Alaskan winter! Thanks.

    Good to hear from you!
    and part of my renewed love affair with winter is that I can leave whenever I want. Thanks for commenting.

    Wandrin Lloyd,
    I know you did your time here... but you must miss the occasional trek on snowshoes on a bright sunny winter's day, following a big dump of snow. :)

    It seems to me that we are colder in arizona than colorado sometimes... I think we lose our "resistance" quickly... as well as acclimatization.

    thank you Grace... Sorry to make you "homesick." Being from Michigan, you know snow and cold well.

    Bayfield Al,
    Indeed, friend. :))

    Pam and Wayne,
    Yes... I don't do wind. It's the ugly side of Old Man Winter. Enjoy the east!

    George and Suzie,
    Thank you for checking in...

    Desert Diva,
    We do have big windows, a fireplace, and adult beverages. Come on over :)) thanks!

    John Q.
    And your Colts helped us out by beating the crap out of Houston :)) thank you!
    Your "scene" sounds nice. Aren't you glad you don't have to go to work... commute with the crazies anymore? A walk is better. Good luck in the Playoffs... until we meet, that is :))

    Susan Wiseone.
    Tell Maikel that we are coming...
    maybe you will meet us somewhere cool, like Death Valley?

    Spotted Dog,
    A "puny" love is not to be scoffed... I know there is a place in your heart for your old stomping grounds, even in winter. But, it takes a hearth and home, not to mention endurance. That explains why we are heading south in a couple of weeks :)) Hope you snag that vintage trailer... very cool.

    sierra sue,
    Now you know what it's like in winter. For a more realistic effect, go sit in the freezer while viewing the Box Canyon Blog :))

    Ha... the old walk to school snow stories. Cold does exacerbate pain... Then again, they tell us to "Ice" it. What's with that?

  23. Sunny,
    Your name suggests cold is not for you :))
    Thanks for commenting.


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