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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Paradise Lost To Fat Wallets and ATVs

This week Bobbie and I received an invitation for "pie and coffee" from long time BCB readers Rocky, Al, and Doug. Actually, Rocky's the pup and can't read yet, but he seems to enjoy sniffing my photos :)  Sitting on a sun-dappled deck in front of the slightly askew Seldom Innwe whiled away a delightful Sunday afternoon, tête-à-tête over Al's mouthwatering, homemade apple pie.

Doug and Al are interesting world travelers who hale from north-central California—about 13 miles inland from the Pacific blue, sandwiched between stands of mighty redwoods and rolling fields of agriculture. It's beautiful there in Sonoma County, rural and charming and the northern gateway of the country John Steinbeck used time and again as the setting for his slice-of-Americana novels. But the rich Sonoma soil that used to grow hops for brewing beer now grows "Grapes of Wrath." 

You see, in todays harried world "quaintness" can be the kiss of death for quiet country living; it seems to draw "Fat Wallets," those pesky flies from the Big Citahh in dire need of a place to hide from hustle and bustle and crime. The "flies" bought up Sonoma County's quaintness like a rare new commodity on the futures market. Actually, if one is forced to live, work, and commute bumper to bumper in the greater megapolis of So Cal, "Peace" is a rare commodity.

The Seldom Inn
It's a sad yet familiar tale Doug spoke of. We have our share of "Fly Magnets" around here, too, places the Fat Wallets deem beautiful and quaint. They rush in and start buying out locals—drive housing and costs of living into the stratosphere—and pretty much turn the place into the very thing they were trying to escape in the first place. 

I remember a while back some rich Texans moved to Ridgway. They bought themselves a "Hobby Ranch" along with nearly half the town—stuck their noses into politics, got themselves on "planning boards" and committees, and so on. Soon, Ridgway wasn't good enough and the "fornicators" decided to clean it up a little. They couldn't get used to all the dirt, dust, and mud in the streets of their newly bought boutique and decided they ought to be paved. Lordy, talk about a backlash. The locals smelt them out in about two seconds, rallied, and nipped that "pavement plan" in the "Ass Fault." Don't you go and pave MY street, Newbie. I like it just the way it is; dirt, dust, mud and all. I digress... 

And so it goes in Sonoma County, Doug laments, from Hops to Grapes of Wrath. Like Ridgway's dirty streets, I guess beer wasn't good enough for the highbrow Infiltrators. Today it's one "hobby winery" after another… vineyards to point to and impress friends still trapped in the Big Citahh. They make wine to swirl in goblets of crystal, and "nose" and sip and swish it around their refined palates like so much Goldschlager mouthwash. They dream up preppy new ways to describe "bouquet" and "aftertaste:" It's reticent, complex, and slightly chewy, don't you think?" Doug goes on to lament the influx of abominable traffic and tour busses on their narrow, curvy lanes… all doing the Tour de Grape, with blood alcohol climbing into the danger zone. 

These are not your "Mom and Pop" vineyards, more Silicone Valley and (Silicone) Hollywood types. I feel your pain, Al and Doug, every time I see/hear/am dusted by an ATV, flying by as I try and walk along Ouray's backroads. WTF? ATV's used to be little tiny four wheeled scooter thingies. Now they're bigger than SUV's and must be transported by Mac trucks with trailers longer than a Greyhound bus. Doesn't anybody hike anymore? Must we all be motorized all the time? 

I had to laugh. Just a bunch of geezers, shaking their heads and lamenting the loss of their precious Golden Age, a time when the Grand Canyon was uncrowded, when nobody wanted to live in the "country," when innocence was not yet lost.    

As connoisseurs of fine places, Al and Doug have been coming to Lovely Ouray for years, "to enjoy the best place on earth in fall." But we had never had the privilege of meeting them until Sunday. Though I love having written more than writing, and the fact that the pay sucks, writing the BCB certainly has paid dividends in terms of making new friends like Al and Doug. Bobbie and I always appreciate and enjoy meeting up with BCB readers, especially fellow wanderers. We now count several as "best friends." People that come our way via the BCB already know our "story" (often to the brink of TMI, ha ha, "want to see my hernia scar?"). 

As a wanderer who has been to nearly 80 countries, Al was a wealth of information. He is also a fellow photographer and shared with us a photo-book of travels through Switzerland with Doug. They were there in spring, a time of resurgence, when chlorophyl is at work greening Swiss pastoral valleys into lawns that stood in stark contradiction to rocky, snowcapped crags hugging the skyline. 

What stood apart in the photos from Lovely Ouray and her San Juans, was all the narrow cobblestoned lanes worming through well kept villages. Picture that, against a calendar backdrop of working farms with cows grazing lazily in meadows speckled with yellow dandelions. Serene. Where the arid western U. S. A's story is often depicted in shades of ramshackle ghost towns, rust, and ruin, Switzerland's story is steeped in cleanliness and longstanding architecture. It seems to stand in rebuke of our contemporary cookie-cutter and budget-at-all-cost mentality. Imagine this; in not one of several hundred of Al's photos did I see a single metal building or mobil home. 

There appears to me to be an common old world depth to Switzerland and Europe in general, something I think Americans can't fully appreciate, especially those of us who live in the far west. I suppose it's because we've had so little exposure to detailed, ornate, artistically inspired architecture. Certainly, economics favors sleek, glossy-modern over detail, modular over on-site, quick and easy over painstaking craftsmanship. I guess that's the price one pays for "efficiency." Yep, just another thing lost to Golden Ages. Not sure I have the patience to go to Europe and stand in line to see it, though. I hear it's getting pretty touristy these days, sort of like here in our local "Camelots," eh Doug and Al?     

Now a few more BCB friends, and relatives… starting with my son, Caleb, and his Sig-O, Kelli, getting ready to take on a Maggie's Burger, fries, and onion rings. "Grease is the word…" 

Below is new BCB/RV acquaintances—and soon to be full timers—Sharon and Ed, then part timer Susan (far right) who we met last year while on the road in Capital Reef, Utah. We hosted a little Pizza and Beer gathering at the Mine Shack and (as usual) dispersed hiking and must see suggestions. Sharon and Ed have a Bounder Class A, which he just outfitted with Solar panels (400 watts) and extra batteries, while Susan travels with her two "Indian" dogs and tows a Casita. 

Below is the common HLM (Horny Local Male), roaming the streets of Lovely Ouray.

Random shots from Ouray walkabouts…  

The "Blowout" above and below...

Fall on the mountain

Thar's Gold on Corbet Mountain, view from the end of the road… 


  1. There are too many humans everywhere. Parts of France are totally over run, as are many cities in the Czech Republic. Cesky Krumlov, which is a World Heritage site, has NO ONE living in it. All the homes have been converted to tourist lodging and tee shirt shops. It's happening everywhere. As a certified geezer, I can definitely attest to the fact that things were better before there were so many humans, especially the ones driving ATVs.

  2. I find it ironic that no one in your blog is originally from the Ouray area, including you. I myself moved to that area when I was a mere lass of 15, so I am also an outsider, in spite of spending many years there. I think the only ones who have squatters claims might be Ouray and Chipeta, and I bet they could identify best with what you wrote. It's a quandary for sure, but we humans are a nomadic bunch. It would be less of a problem if we didn't have to think we needed to own the land so we can exclude everyone else. The Utes didn't think that way, unfortunately for them. But yes, the real problem is overpopulation.

  3. And I would also like to add that your blog helps draw the very people there that you're complaining about. I'm guilty of the same thing. How many readers had never heard of the place and now have it on their bucket list. I was asked to write guidebooks to that area as well as to Moab and declined for that very reason, but it didn't really make much of a difference in the long run. It's human nature to want to share these places, but it also helps lead to their destruction.

  4. If Ironic" is a polite way "hypocrite" then yes, I am guilty as charged.Humans are curious and migratory beasts, or else we'd all be squeezed into the Garden of Eden or the Cradle of Civilization or whatever anthropologists calls that place where it all began. And it is a dilemma, indeed, as we spread our filth and exhaust and destructive ways "westward."
    Do you blame me, or do you blame Columbus? It's a little like chastising Al Gore for global warming because he drives cars and flies everywhere, or chastising Earth First tree huggers because they live in stick build houses.
    I don't claim to have any answers… (I'm much better at complaining and asking questions :)) but birth control would be a good place to start. Oh wait… can't do that cause it would screw up our pyramid based economic system (sigh).
    Thanks for your comment, Chinle… maybe we can discuss this further over a beer sometime.

  5. Well, we all want places to stay like they were when we first discovered them. I remember when your little town was just a quaint little mining town. I would love it if it were still that way. I also remember when Moab was undiscovered and you could buy a house there for $15,000. Not really all that long ago, the mid-1980s. And now, I hate to even go into town, I only go for groceries. I grew up skiing at Telluride before anyone really knew it was there. It was great. You could buy one of those old Victorians in town for $20,000. Every reader of your blog could name a similar place, I am sure. We all contribute to the destruction of these places by telling others about them. But even if we didn't, others would, and what right do we have to any particular place on this planet, it all belongs to all of us. I think that's part of the angst we feel when the wealthy come in and buy things up. Heck, I remember when you could hike in places that are all now fenced, especially around Ridgway. But there's really nothing wrong with wanting to conserve a place, and the more people, the less conservation. In other words, we humans tend to mess things up, even when we have good intentions. Just ask the wildlife.

    1. Oh don't get me started on the once Lovely Moab…
      At 3 hours from Lovely Ouray, and a solid 20 degrees warmer, it was our Go-To spot to get a jump start on spring every year (and the reverse is true for fall, too). We would always camp and/or boon dock up off of Gemini Bridges road, in the pinion pine and snuggled up to a canyon rim. Now it's off limits for camping… which would be ok if it was because of "overuse" or "destruction." But to put it off limits, yet allow gas and oil well drilling any fucking place they want, complete with bulldozed roads, polluted ponds, stench, and noise and heavy equipment and motors running all night long to pump, pump, pump… and then fence me out because of "Campfire rings"!!!! Give me a break, Govie.
      Edward Abbey must be spinning in his grave…

  6. Thanks for the colorful Fall pictures of lovely Ouray with wildlife roaming the streets. Glad to see you are back to hiking and feeling good. Saturday is Octoberfest in Zionsville, wish you could join us for some German brew. Love those small town get together.

  7. Fat Wallets....yes, it will always be the desire of people who start running a business in need of scores of visitors. It may be a cafe, a restaurant, an activity company or....sightseeing, which is what we did. In order to run a business and find some income one needs customers of some kind. In our case it's visitors to the island. WE came here because we like the island's remoteness yet being connected by a bridge to the outer world. We do encounter some opposition from locals as they seem to be quite happy with themselves and the "quaintness" of the place. Yet some complain about having no work opportunities. And that, Mark, is the problem in many remote communities. It's the wish of having an active community with the (contradicting) wish of living in a quiet place. We do have summer residents here owning quite a few elaborate homes. So far it hasn't impacted taxes too much, but if we get a major boost in those business-friendly numbers it might get to be a problem for local fisheries families. On the other hand population numbers have been decreasing for a long time. We might end up as a "ghost Island" one day. Or the entire island is turned into a park conserving "quaintness and quiet" for ever. Do we wish that? Are we ready to turn into a museum or shall we continue to partake in life ....as it has always been?
    I absolutely agree in your Moab-opinion. Moab has gone over the top and today it attracts a different crowd than it did in 1996 when I had the pleasure to experience it.

    1. It is a delicate balance, I agree. But must we always error on the side of greed? I think yes, unfortunately.
      Thanks P and B,

  8. Mark,
    What you describe about Ridgeway is exactly what happened in Crested Butte. We had a base near the mountain, but now who can afford to live there? The McMansions are growing, in fact the seasonal help cannot even afford to live in town.

  9. The Texas coast is fast becoming exactly what you have described.Ratzzz

  10. Hey, thanks for posting the photo of us at the meet-and-greet in the "Mine Shack" Enjoyed meeting you, Bobbie and Susan. Great time. Look forward to more conversations down the road.

    As for "Fat Wallets", etc all, what else is new? It's happening everywhere. Not just in the "quaint little mining towns" or the wine country. It seems that regardless of economic status, many people are 1) unhappy, and 2) wanting something different than what they have. We have been coming to the area for 30+ years. We even owned property there when we had "fat wallets". But as I alluded to when we met, we decided, at least at the time, that we probably would not live there because, although our wallets were somewhat fat, we were still part of the working class. And work was not readily available there. So, we sold. Now we come and enjoy, staying as long as we want. We don't have to own there. If we did, we would probably become dissatisfied, wanting something further down the road. We are nomads after all. :)

  11. Ah yes fat wallets and gentrification. It happens everywhere. Optimally I'd like to travel the world staying in those places that are just on the cusp of development. That perfect time (in my opinion) between rural and fat wallets where the town has character and energy, but has not yet gone over the dark side of being upscale and unaffordable. T'would be a nice life, no?

  12. It is evident that Al and Doug know how to live...and then there's that pie. Oh my!


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