Last weekend, I ventured to the mini-metropolis of Montrose, CO. I call it that with impunity, for it's clear that Montrose aspires to be just like every other sprawling, mall-strewn city in America. The place has always been aesthetically challenged but for the might San Juan Range as a distant backdrop. There's a new development to the north that wants to be Highlands Ranch, a cookie-cutter housing tract smack in the middle of corn fields. It won't be long before the farmland is gobbled up by insatiable suburbia. North Townsend, a road that leads south to better places like Ridgeway and Telluride, Ophir and Ouray, looks like a miniature version of Denver or Colorado Springs or Anycity, USA. Generica.
Montrose does have a few things going for it, thing you'll have look hard or stop awhile to notice, but worth the effort. There's Murdoch's ranch store and Russell Stover Candies. A quaint downtown with a brewery, a coffee shops and a bakery, surrounded by a few blocks worth of old Victorian homes, give the place some character. There's also a cool, old movie theater and a nice library. At a little place called Sushitini, you'll find surprisingly fresh, well-presented offerings that belie its location so far from the sea. And then there's the clear, booming reception of KVNF Mountain Grown Public Radio, broadcast live from beautiful, downtown Paonia.
My late start getting to the big city turned into a later one heading home. As I popped sushi rolls and mango mochi ice cream balls into my mouth chatting with Nick, the sushi guy, the twilight faded. Within ten minutes toward Cerro Summit to the east, Betty and I (she's the car) slammed into a massive spring blizzard. In an instant, there were no lines to follow, no road at all. Switching to high beams made visibility worse, illuminating a barrage of fat kamikaze flakes, mesmerizing as they hurled themselves toward the windshield. The young, fearless me, the one with less brains, good snow tires and 20-20 vision, would have powered through that storm, whiteout and darkness be damned. The new me, or to clarify, the new old me, the chicken-shit, near-sighted one with crappy tires, turned around. Clearly, I've lost my caginess. I spent the night in a comfy motor-lodge bed, heater cranked, a long soak in the tub reading the oxymoronic Montrose Style Magazine. Next morning, I grabbed a so-so but oh-so filling country breakfast buffet, before heading once again toward the summit, over the crest, and home.