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 Inn, we 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|
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…|