Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Flour, Garlic, and Peonies

Mrs PG and I hit the road for Colorado about ten days ago. We were anxious to get out of town and see something and somewhere new. On our first night we stayed in Georgetown, CO, at over 9000 ft ASL. The locals told us the trick is to drink lots of water to help get acclimated to their altitude. The local beer, Tommyknockers, is quite tasty but doesn't work as well. I-70 west of Denver is a great drive. The Honda doesn't respond quickly at altitude and I was really jealous of the folks with turbocharged engines in their cars. We were both glad that we didn't have a tight schedule.

The next day we continued west going past ski resort towns that are expensive and not built for real people. I decided that we needed a little bit of off the beaten track and we headed up to Leadville, CO, home of the fabled "Baby Doe Mine", the original WW2 training grounds for the US Army's 10th Mountain Div., and the National Mining Museum. Don't miss the museum if you find yourself in the area. It's worth the detour. The mountain pass road to Aspen was still snowed under so that will have to wait for another day. That night we stayed in Grand Junction after a day of scenic view overload. The I-70 scenery is made possible by some great civil engineering work that has to be seen to be appreciated.

On Sunday, we took the long way to Durango, stopping for lunch in Telluride, whose charm eluded me due to the once again high dollar atmosphere. It's nice but it has to sell itself as an exclusive little town to survive. So I've been there, done that, won't likely ever go back. Well, maybe I might for the roads to and from there. They go way up high, over 10,000 ft ASL in one pass, and when I wasn't keeping my head on a swivel for road dangers, I could only wonder just what would have driven so many miners in the late 1800s to take their chances on prospecting for minerals or working the mines of the area. It's stunning scenery in many places and the towns all seem to have a story or two behind them. Many of the stories have something to do with the brothels in the towns.
While in Durango, we took the opportunity to go out to the Four Corners site and do the cliched photo thing of having my legs in two states and arms in two more. For those of you who are familiar with the Firesign Theater, this is additional complication to the question of how can you be two places at once when your not anywhere at all.

From Durango, we ambled down US 160 for quite a while on Tuesday, doing a lot of slow climbing up and down mountain roads until we got into south central CO where there's more farming and ranching than mining. I can't express fully how different this is with the open spaces, sparsely populated counties where the cattle outnumber the people, and occasionally, no utility lines to remind you of civilization that you hope to find along with a restroom at your next stop. You have to respect and sometimes envy the people who live there by choice but just shake your head about the people who live there because they are trapped there due to misfortune. It's not Kansas and it sure isn't Massachusetts either.
We spent Tuesday night in Colorado Springs and rolled out in the morning just before the snow came in from the mountains to the west. Our destination was Marienthal, KS, home of Heartland Mills, with whom I had placed an order for some flour before we left. Now, that drive on the High Plains was just as much fun for me though it lacked the grandeur of the mountains. It was 284 miles of two lane going from the almost desert conditions of eastern Colorado into the great wheat growing areas of Kansas, hammering down the road, grateful that I had brought some CDs because the radio was either farm reports, C&W music, or "classic rock". It wasn't NPR country soon after we left the Springs.

Marienthal is a little bump in the road these days. It's one of the towns that are desperately trying to hold on as the population shrinks due to lack of opportunity for their children. Farming is mechanized, ranching requires a LOT of acreage, and when your town can't support a convenience store, bar, or church, the sidewalks will have more tumbleweeds than people after 5PM. That's if sidewalks are even built.
The Heartland Mills operation is just great. They had my order ready and waiting at their warehouse. While I was paying my bill, I saw invoices for businesses in Lewiston, ME and Marietta, GA. FedEx and UPS help keep the orders going out and the business in operation. As we started on our way home, we passed a couple of feed lots. If you've never seen one, you'll won't ever think of your hamburger or steak in quite the same way after the experience. The rest of our trip wasn't too eventful. I didn't get a speeding ticket and the most notable things we saw were two billboards just off of the Ft Reilly Army post. The first one read, "Obama is a fraud! Demand his resignation now!" while the other one had a picture of the President and read, "Wannabe, Marxist Dictator". Ah, the beauty of Freedom of Speech is that it enables people to make fools of themselve in public if they can pay for it and they're not yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater.
When we arrived home that night, we had enough light to see that several peonies had started blooming. I counted eight different varieties today and I know there are three more that haven't bloomed yet. The peppers and tomatoes I planted hadn't died which doesn't necessarily have any justification for neglect as a gardening style. The picture of the chaotic mass of green stems is my mini-plantation of garlic. There are 7 or 8 types of garlic there, mostly hardneck and one softneck. If you won't grow your own garlic, you'll just never know just how good garlic can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment