So our Million Dollar Highway drive took us down and through sights and heights and split-pin turns, we could’ve flown with the eagles if we’d made a mistake on those corners on cliff tops and drops. We sucked in our bellies on the narrowest parts that twisted and fell with the mountains, we paused now and then to regain concentration, to make sure we were keen-eyed for driving…
The destination we’d booked in was Rico. As we’d been on the move for a new string of stops lasting one or two nights at the most, we figured sit for a week and take stock. We’ve been packing the hours in behind the wheel and we’re humans with dull jobs to do. The idea of a kitchen and a place to do laundry …these small things can add up to paradise.
We’d booked a room at Rico’s Mine Shaft Inn for its old western fronts and plush looks. It’s an old mining town with a past; no ego, small, and perfectly placed between tree covered mountains that rise on all sides in their midsummer shades against skies in cartoon hues of blue. Its industry once made it first best contender to become Colorado’s main city, but that never came as the industries waned and rest of the state overtook.
Less than 300 people inhabit, yet somehow it’s far from a ghost town. It’s a quiet type of vibrant with new influx of blood, it’s youthful and set in old ways, young in its history’s haze, a resurgence of interest and commuting workers all mix with the families who’ve stayed.
To my delight and in line with the sawdust and grime that has made up the most of our trip, the Mine Shaft Inn has its own history’s tale. Victorian hinges, split horseback saddles, un-restored pump organs; the building’s bay window shines its old-world opulence out over Rico’s now cooled-off main street, as it has since 1899. The reason for its numerous still-fancy rooms with their chandeliers, washrooms and bathtubs? This was a guest house of the most ill-reputes, or the original building was anyway. The new half was built sometime later.
Half hostel, half hotel, all grandeur and shine, it keep a romanticised, caramelised charm made of deep reds, skin-rugs and old west. I loved every inch of that place.
We could have hiked (but we didn’t) or fished (did that neither), gone looking for bears (unsuccessful but tried), or just suck up the time to slow down. We sought out the hot springs, hunted near-by lakes, shot pool and chewed fat in the town’s single bar where new blood and old guard, and hikers and bikers all gave us a welcome and warning: Once the bar’s closed the bar’s closed… But that’s when the hot springs get busy.
So on the back of dirt bikes after hours, after dark, we screeched through the roads to the woods. I guess most of the town’s seen each other unclothed seen as garments got flung off in moments… I’m splashing around in the heat popping bubbles, drink in hand, stars above and it’s bliss. It’s free, we all are, we’re perched, laid or strewn in a stew of mixed limbs and there’s no crossed intentions or fuss. Then I’m told that it’s custom to head to the river a few feet away and cool in the blue ice cold water. It’s a shock to the skin and a knock to the blood and I smile a wide grin ear to ear.
But we did take it slow between peaks. No one speed is interesting always. We took in the air, the past and the now, we bathed in the calm of the place. I’d never seen humming birds or heard their noise, or laid eyes on their pin-beaks or wings. Watching them sling ’round a feeder like darts had me transfixed and hooked in.
One got caught in the splendour and scope of our inn, trapped in its high windowed palace. Our hosts had been duct-taping nets to broom handles to try catch the panic struck thing. Poor bird beat against windows, all run out of hum, exhausted from trying to escape as we took it in turns to dangle off balconies and coax the creature to an exit.
I can’t claim the rights to the capture. But holding this threadbare and fast beating body of a bird that I’d just come to know, against spoons filled with sugar and water, that stands out as much as the bikes and the springs and the heat of hard nights. I guess none of the best things are planned.
And talking of planned? Well it came as a joke, got worked on and brushed off, but we may have just booked in a wedding. Las Vegas next stop and we best hit the shops ‘cus we got less than a week to get prepped. Seems the girl by my side wants to settle for life and now seems like the time to grab hold.
I’ll catch you on the run up to Vegas.
Instalment 12’s coming soon.