History, independence shine on Colorado road trip

By: P. Gregory Springer

By: P. Gregory Springer

By: P. Gregory Springer

Back in the day, we thought nothing of cramming ourselves into a barely functional VW bus (or sticking out our thumbs) for a quick trip to California or Colorado and back.

The road trip is the great American mythic adventure, typified by the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. When my wife, Lee, and I decided to pay a Christmas visit to our son's home in the hidden-away ski town of Telluride, Colo., a road trip seemed the way to go, taking along the dog, Honey aka Poochie, a golden retriever mix.

First stop, Lawrence, Kan., a liberal oasis in a state otherwise known for anti-abortion billboards and the world's largest prairie dog. We hoped to find the little house where Beat author William Burroughs ("Naked Lunch") lived out his last years.

As we pulled into Lawrence at dusk, we drove to the address, arriving just as the current caretaker had opened its doors to locals for a rare gathering of artists and writers. We were given a tour, which included Burroughs' extensive cat cemetery.

So far, so good. Our retracing of literary steps had been rewarded beyond expectations. Finally in Denver, the snow-topped range of Rockies draws you in. When you read Kerouac's "On the Road," Denver and Colorado serve as the recurring hub.

In 1968, I had stayed at a counterculture commune in Denver on the night of the moon landing. This time, in a much more domestic situation, I drove a Prius and headed out across the mountains, paying as much attention to my gas mileage as the fantastic terrain.

A bighorn ram stood along Interstate 70, watching us speed past. The ski towns of Breckenridge, Vail, and Aspen flew by. Colorado remains a fiercely independent state with a cowboy sensibility – a place where skiing is a family affair, almost second nature.

Finally pulling into the secluded Telluride, home and playground for the rich and famous, we found ourselves nestled into a quaint and lovely storybook town surrounded by steep slopes and crowded with holiday snowboarders and skiers.

Telluride was founded in part by miners, by rugged Finns and Swedes, and there are historical markers throughout the town of small, colorful houses, with the multimillion-dollar mansions farther away in the mountains.

The air was brisk and bracing. The gondola carried us all (including Honey) 2.5 miles over the slopes, giving a view of skiers below and mountains above. We ate well, kept warm and celebrated Christmas Eve watching the annual nighttime parade of skiers weaving their way downhill bearing torches.

Later that night, I spotted an anthology of Beat poetry on my son's bookshelf, with works by Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg. Apparently, the singular sensibility of independence and freedom remains unchanged across generations, 10,000 feet high in Telluride, Colo.

P. Gregory Springer is the author of "Chuang-Tse Meets Jesus: Vol. 1 and 2" (available at Amazon.com) and a columnist for the local online magazine SmilePolitely.com.


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