The Good Life

Mountains outside Paonia, Colorado just before sunrise.

Saturday morning with no itinerary, I lay on the bed listening to the sounds around me. I was in the attic bedroom of a house where my friend was house-sitting. The air was warm and the bed cozy, so I was in no hurry. Gradually, the urge to get up came over me, so I dressed, made the bed, and went downstairs.

The house seems to be a renovated farmhouse, but it’s difficult to say for certain. A thing that I enjoyed on this morning was a large sunroom with windows all around that went from floor to ceiling.

Early light falling on a bench.

It was early and light on the snow was blue. Trees and fence posts were gray and faded into the distance. A layer of clouds still covered the mountains.

A beautiful mountain view.

There were books everywhere in the house. Shelves and tables held hundreds of volumes, which made me think that I might like these people. Also, there was a pour over coffee setup, which I made use of.

My friend rose later, maybe seven-thirty or eight o’clock, and we started talking over coffee. The conversation ranged from common friends to the journals that she makes and on to a ton of other things. All the while, I watched the light grow and clouds break up to reveal the fabulous mountains that surround Paonia. Finally, about one o’clock, we decided that we should really get something to eat, and I should get things ready to go back to Denver.

After we each had showered and I had gathered my things, we jumped into her car and she drove me around the outlying area. She said that the North Fork Valley is called the Banana Belt of Colorado, due to its moderate temperatures. This, I could readily observe, if I could look past the blanket of snow.

The Living Farm Café

For lunch, we went to a little place called The Living Farm Cafe. It’s owned by a farming family in the valley, and much of the food served there comes directly from that farm. I had Lamb Enchiladas, which were excellent, paired with a splendid syrah from local Stone Cottage Cellars.

Lamb enchiladas at The Living Farm in Paonia, Colorado

After lunch, we drove back to the house and I climbed into Grace’s driver’s seat, a bit sad for the leaving, but I know I’ll be back soon.

In the meanwhile…Enjoy the Life you’re living.

A Good Day

Paeonia mascula – The common peony is reportedly the inspiration for the name of Colorado’s town of Paonia. When the town was founded, in the late 1800s, a man named Samuel Wade suggested the name “Paeonia”, but the postal service wouldnt allow the extra vowel. So, the name was shortened, and that was that.

Today, Paonia sits in the middle of Colorado’s wine country. Resting just southwest of Azura Cellars, Black Bridge Winery, and Stone Cottage Cellars, its restaurants gladly serve local wines beside other, more well known brands.

An early adopter of the Farm to Table movement, Paonia enjoys its food. According to 2016 numbers, the town has a population of 1,425. Surprisingly, there are no less than fifteen eateries. This doesnt include the two food trucks, one serving Thai cuisine and another dishing up tacos.

The week before I arrived there, the town had been without water, due to some kind of health concern. The day that I pulled in was also the day that water access was reopened. That evening, my friend and I had dinner at Louie’s Pizza, and it was a bit of a party. There were lots of locals, along with a live band, pizza and beer.

Before I left Denver, I promised myself to be off grid, so I turned off my phone before I stepped out of the vehicle in Paonia. Adhering to that decision meant that I wasnt able to get photos of Louie, his place or his wonderful pizza. It also meant that I had an uninterrupted visit with a good friend. (Sorry. Not Sorry.)

Louie’s is a two-story brick arrangement with large windows looking onto the street. Narrow, but deep and tall, it provides plenty of room for tables, a kitchen, an upstairs bar, and a small stage for live performers. The trio playing that Friday night had space for the guitarist/singer, a standup bass, and a small drum kit.

Louie, himself, is an interesting man. Someone told me that he was also a luthier, so that gave us something to talk about. While my friend was in the restroom, I struck up a conversation about how he manages to do both. The story is that it’s difficult to make a full time living building guitars in Paonia, Colorado, so he opened a pizza place. Now it takes up most of his time, but he still has time to build a couple of nice instruments a year. Not a bad life, I’d say.

NOTE: Before we went to Louie’s, we spent some time at a local microbrew that I cant remember the name of. (Definitely sorry. I’ll have it in another post.) I had a nice, very dark brew that’s aged in old whisky barrels.

More about this trip next time. Until then…Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Today

Sometimes, the haunting beauty of this place can bring me almost to tears. It amazes me that I get to live here. I’ll be a little sad when it’s time to leave.

Just after I took this photo, I pulled onto Colorado State Highway 9, where it was raining lightly. After all the cold and snow, rain seemed kind of alien.

–==||Selah||==–

Flexibility

(Read to the end for a Bonus!)

Apparently, I’m an unusual character. I enjoy the big snow storms that come to us up here on the mountain. Snow storms in the city are stressful and inconvenient. Here, though, the monotone palette is soothing. The quiet of a snow laden landscape is a salve to my soul. Driving has a similar therapeutic effect, which is why I try to travel as much as I can.

Today, a steady, light snow has been falling. Another layer on top of the already deep covering. Truckers have told me that the road to Denver is a sloppy mess, but that everything up here is fine. That will mess up my drive down to the valley, this evening, but I’ll enjoy the mountain part.

Last weekend, I had planned to make a food trip from Denver to Hays, Kansas. There are a couple of restaurants that I want to visit. One is supposed to serve a mean plate of chicken and mashed potatoes. The other is a kind of hip looking joint, situated in a tiny town along Kansas State Highway 383. Both looked promising and I was excited to go.

On Thursday evening, though, the forecast was for snow, wind and ice along my entire route. Snow is fine with me. Wind, however, is a different thing. Adding ice to that combination was not the recipe for a pleasant, relaxing drive. I’ve been blown off the road twice in Kansas. So, I decided to postpone that trip until another time. Autumn sounds good.

Springtime in Kansas brings massive rainstorms, and summer is just hot and humid. Autumn, though, can be beautiful. The fields are ready to harvest, the light is getting good, and school is back in session at Fort Hays University. Yeah. Autumn it is.

Friday morning came and I still felt the need for a road trip, so I began looking other directions. In the end, I decided to visit a long time friend in Paonia, Colorado. We hadnt talked in about five years, and I’d never been to Paonia. The weather west of the Continental Divide was supposed to be fair, so I opted for that.

To get to Paonia from Denver, one travels Interstate 70 into Glenwood Springs, then turns south on Colorado 133. Both are picturesque drives. The I-70 portion takes you west through the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels, over Vail pass and then into Glenwood Canyon. Turning south out of Glenwood Springs, one travels State Highway 133, which skirts the north fork of the Gunnison River. This is a truly fun drive. Curvy enough to keep you interested, but not challenging enough to make you nervous. Even the portion that climbs McClure Pass is pretty easy going.

Friday, the sky was mostly overcast, with periods of partly cloudy. Grace was in good form and took to the road eagerly. Without a deadline or agenda, it was easy to get into a groove as we glided along. Traffic was surprisingly light, so we were able to cruise along, relaxed and free.

Grace, in her natural state. It’s difficult to keep her clean, up on the mountain.

In Glenwood Springs, I stopped for gas, then lunch at KFC (Solo breast and a jalapeno. The service was excellent and the place was very clean.). Afterward, I picked up a bottle of Malbec at Springs Liquors and headed over to 133.

Truthfully, I cant remember a drive that I’ve enjoyed more. The lazy, meandering road was exactly what I needed, and Grace handled it like a trotter. I’m grateful.

Next time, I’ll tell you more about this trip. For now, though…

Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Bonus! As promised, here’s a short video, to give you a sense of my marvelous drive!

Deep Winter

It’s mid-February in the White River National Forest. Snow happens almost every day, and we cope. Gratitude comes easy for me, and I am thankful for the beauty of it, and the moisture that it brings.

Cold no longer bothers me, as I’ve been doing this for two years. I know how to keep warm, and how to enjoy it.

My life is good.

In the deep winter, though, a lot of things change. Wildlife stays mainly out of sight. Bears are sleeping. Deer have moved high up, even above the 9,000 feet where I stay, although I occasionally see a few crossing the road.

Recently, standing beside Grace before turning in for the night, I’ve heard the chirping of a lion. It doesnt bother me (too much) because it’s quite distant.

When I first came to the mountain, I was near enough to hear the low growl, and the chirping wakened me. That made me nervous.

Mountain lion attacks are rare, but you may have heard of a recent one. In lion country, to run is to take your life in your hands. Just like a house cat will chase a moving object, so will the big ones. I dont run, and I stay upright.

Another thing that changes in winter is economics. Silverthorne and Dillon experience high levels of ski season traffic. Prices of everything go up and it takes time to get across town.

For the most part, travelers are polite, but some are rude, dumping their trash in the parking lots or on the sides of the road. Many are fearful on the snow packed roads and simply drive where they feel safe, instead of staying in lanes. I get that. People also park wherever they want, because snow has covered up the lines.

For townspeople, it’s a love/hate thing. They love the business, but are glad to see the end of ski season, when things can get back to normal.

Upcoming Trip

Speaking of travelers, I’ll be headed out to Hays, Kansas next weekend. I’ve heard raves about a place called Al’s Chickenette, so I’m going to check it out. Along the way, I’ll also visit the Destination Kitchen in Norton. Both look super online. I’ll report back later.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and following.

Enjoy the Life you’re living.


Morning Routine

Some people have asked, What’s your routine in the morning? What’s the first thing you do? Living out of a vehicle, it cant really be the same as if you were in a house. Right?

My first alarm comes on at 5:20. I shut it off and lie in bed. This is gratitude and imagination time.

I think how grateful I am for my warm, cozy bed. It’s -9 degrees outside and below freezing inside, and my bed is very comfortable, so I simply enjoy it for a couple of minutes.

Then, I begin to imagine what my life should look like. This morning, I was leading a small group in meditation. We focused on breathing and future/present self. (This is a key to building your reality.) I do this until 5:30, when the last alarm comes on.

Pushing the covers back, I lie very still, allowing the heat from the bed to dissipate into the space, while my body adjusts to the cool. Believe it or not, this does take the edge off most mornings.

After a minute of letting the space warm a bit, I sit up and do some breathing. Just a quick little meditation before the day begins. Then I grab some socks and begin to dress for the new day.

Next, I climb out, move up front to get Grace started. I also take a minute to enjoy the morning, again breathing in the newness. Noticing my surroundings, the sky and stars, what the city smells like, etc.

Then, I make my bed. Yep. Every day. This is a mindful thing, if you make it so. Attending each movement and making sure everything is right.

It isn’t about discipline or rules. It’s about focus. From that brief time of breathing when the first alarm came on, until this, I’ve already had three or four progressive bits of mindfulness.

Some mornings, I shave with an electric razor, others I don’t. Then I brush my teeth, tidy things up and climb in the drivers seat.

“Good morning, Gracie!”, and I’m out for another day.

Ellie Hoskins

It’s 1972. I’m sixteen years old, sitting on a guardrail about halfway between Amarillo and Dallas, Texas, eating a biscuit and thinking about the earlier part of the day. I’d been on the road for a day and a half and had was feeling grateful.

In the ’70s, hitchhiking was a much more acceptable way to travel. I’d been in Texas for a while, but hadnt gotten to the point where I enjoyed it. (Willie and Waylon and the boys were just getting started.) So, I decided to head back to Colorado. That summer, I spent in a park outside of Golden, playing my guitar, exploring the mountains, and just enjoying life.

Toward the end of July, I headed back to Dallas. Winter would be harsh in the Colorado environment, and I still had a bedroom in my Dad’s house.

Interstate 40 runs through the heart of Amarillo. At that time, it passed through several neighborhoods, some of which were old. You know, the ones with clapboard houses painted pastel shades of pink, turquoise and green.

I arrived about mid-day and was walking along the sidewalk when an older woman called out to me from her front porch chair, “Y’et yet?”
“No, ma’am”, I answered.
“How long?”
“Two days.”
“You hungry?”
“Yes, ma’am”.

She invited me in and began to prepare a magnificent meal, which consisted of three fried eggs, bacon, gravy and homemade biscuits. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed. While she cooked, we talked and she told me some of her story.

Her name was Ellie Hoskins. She’d been a Methodist minister, preaching to folks around the area, including parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico. When her husband died, she stopped traveling and took up in this little home that they’d bought. Now, she spent a lot of time setting (sic) on her porch, ministering to passersby.

After an hour or so, it was time for me to leave, if I wanted to make Dallas that night. “Before you go”, she asked,”would you let me pray for you?”
“I’d appreciate that”, I said, sincerely. So, she did. Then she handed me a plastic bag that contained three of those homemade biscuits. “They’ll keep you going”, she said.

Sitting on that guardrail, in the warm Texas evening, I was grateful for those biscuits, and for Ellie Hoskins. She might not be preaching to those church congregations, but she was still affecting lives. This is obvious, as I’ve never forgotten what she did for me.