Dennis on the Road

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

a tale of two hostels

Driving West back to California, I am taking some familiar roads and visiting the mountains I got to know when I first came out here with my dad, brother and uncle at eleven and later came to explore on my own for a summer when I was 16 and national championships were in Boulder.

Monday I left Chicago early and pushed all the way through to Idaho Springs, Colorado, 30 minutes into the mountains West of Denver. The hostel there was home to a dozen Russian and Turkish youth who were working at McDonalds for the summer on T1 visas. They were a great bunch, but there were stuck in a small mountain town with no social life, working in McDonalds, and staying in a ratty hostel run by a guy who described himself to me as a Nazi. When I checked in the guy, donned in a Rebel flag belt buckle, started right in on how the Turkish and Russian guests smelled bad, couldn’t be trusted, and hated the US. He told me about the gun collection he kept in his room and about the time he pulled a gun on a guest. He shared a bit about his past: 12 years in the military followed by 4 as a bounty hunter. All the while, I kept asking for my key and explaining that I was tired and hungry. After a late night of chatting about the Northern Caucasus and the Turkish coastline, I returned to my room, which upon closer inspection, was an unlivable pit. There was more hair on the sheets than two people should be able to produce. I ran out to my car for my sleeping bag… had it been any worse, I might have set up my tent in the room.

Tonight I’m in a much different situation. I’m in a hostel I’ve been to once before in Glenwood Springs. This place is run by Gary, a guy who moved to the area from LA 17 years ago, bought a big house, and has kept it open to travelers ever since. The living room is packed with crates of albums. I put on some Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald when I arrived. I prepared dinner to Tom Waits. And I’ve been relaxing this evening to live Keith Jarrett and Joni Mitchell.

Meanwhile, I got a great ride in today, taking the bike path from Frisco over Vail Pass and back. Crisp air, stunning mountain scenery, and blankets of wild flowers. Sun one minute, showers the next.


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