Well, it's been quite a summer for our little piece of Heaven, eh? Fire. Drought. Blazing heat. A murder or two. These kept Durango and southwestern Colorado in the spotlight here and there. But, of course, there were other things that drew the heavy eye of the media upon the region. And a few of the bigger of those this year had to do with cycling.
In May, the Fort Lewis College Cycling team was crowned the #1 division I collegiate cycling program in the country -- for the fourth time, and the third year in a row. Then, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic was another smashing success. The Classic -- living up to its name, now in its fifth decade -- filled with riders. Again. In December. Three days after registration opened.
And then, of course, there was (ta-da!) the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge. On par with the Tour de France in terms of competition and importance, if not prestige (yet), the stage race began in Durango, and the first leg snaked (at an average of around 40 mph) from Durango through Mancos and Dolores, up the Dolores River valley to Rico, over Lizard Head Pass, past Ophir and on into Telluride. The world-class cycling event drew ... well, lots of people. Quite a few, actually. Regardless, it put Durango, Fort Lewis College (alma mater of Tom Danielson), and all of the western San Juans on computer screens and smart phones of Spandex wearers worldwide.
Overall, for those of us in southwestern Colorado, it was a grand spectacle, for which we spruced ourselves up and showed off our towns and our landscape to the world. And we had a grand ol' time doing it. Because, well, we're pretty fun-loving people down here, and it was, for sure, a peloton-full of fun. But it was also an investment: Because in order to survive in this grand landscape with all these fun people, we must use these very communities we've built and places we love as the bait to lure the tourist traffic that is part of what we harvest. (Strictly catch and release, of course.)
Good stuff. And I'm all for it. Still … I think that, regardless of how much fun the Pro Challenge was, if you harbor a mere molecule of conscience then you have to feel a little ... well, dirty, with the shameless way we shilled ourselves when the international lens was pointed our way. So, now that the preening and celebrating and -- let's say it, shall we? -- whoring is over, let us reflect upon the lesson from this summer's orgy of Lycra-clad narcissism.
See, a lot of what we are blessed with here we can chalk up to just "good fortune." Certainly, when it comes to the crags, creeks, canyons, forests, deserts, and generally ridiculous mountain majesty here in our little corner of the planet, well, it's true: We who get to greet that every morning have mega-lottery good luck.
But when it comes to those fun-loving others with whom we share this place -- as diverse and varied and quirk-full as we may be -- that's more than mere luck. Because one thing pretty much all of us who live here share in common is that each of us, at some point, had to make a conscience choice to stay here -- because it's not easy to make it here in this remote, rural, dry, rocky, mountainous mega-lottery prize of a place.
We all live here deliberately, and generally at a cost. And I believe the we therefore appreciate that in each other, however differently each of us may make our stay in Four Cornercopia work. And that, to me, makes all of us here together in our many manifold ways a single quasi-unified, unintentional "intentional community." And our shared community motto could be: Earn your turns. Because regardless of how we many define each of our "turns," we all know what that "earning" entails here.
Which, of course, is why we love cycling. And backcountry skiing. And backpacking long trails. And hunting and growing our own food. And running remote rivers. And _________ (fill you your own obsession that makes this the place you cannot not live in).
Unfortunately, that's also likely why so many fewer cycling fans than were anticipated poured into Durango for this year's Pro Cycling Challenge. Because, well, we're remote, and rural, and kinda small, and fairly hard to get to. And I fear I already hear the murmuring of the commercial Madams of our Best Little Whorehouse in Colorado: Bigger highways! A larger Airport! More luxury hotels! Posher accommodations!
Well, while I sincerely thank our community leaders who put together this summer's grand party for us to celebrate, share, and -- yes -- sell who and what we are here, I also say: if the hordes don't want to come, then so be it. It shouldn't be easy to get here. And the folks who do choose to take the extra hassle of getting here and staying in our simple little mountain and desert towns as they are, then, well, we'll welcome them. And we're happy to share with them our great lottery prizes of community and landscape.
Because they will have earned their turn here.
Read and share this in the Durango Telegraph's "La Vida Local" column.