McDaniel:Sorry, I Only Had Time for Valley Floor ‘Drive-By’ | Word on the Street
by Douglas McDaniel
Jun 03, 2007 | 359 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Word on the street is people can now go walking on the Valley Floor.

But I was so busy writing up a bunch of words congratulating everyone about having saved the world in this “VF” matter – as well as the additional news that, as you read this, scientists are on a train to meet in India with the Dalai Lama in order to halt the eternal suffering of mankind – I only had time to drive it instead.

Yes, some people choose hiking boots. Others go to worship upon it on bikes. Still others fly over “the Floor” in hot air balloons. My weapon of choice is known in my small circle as the “Blue Bomber,” a rusted, 80s vintage Subaru that, quite honestly, no longer really has reverse available as an option, has three out of four doors that are pretty darn hard to open, and about 400,000 million billion miles on the odometer.

I love to drive the “Blue Bomber” because gravity is its friend. Gliding downhill saves on gas. I hate to drive the “Blue Bomber,” too, because going uphill is well, embarrassing, or would be, if driving this dream machine weren’t my current solution to reduce the impossible suffering of mankind, too.

For, you see, as the “Blue Bomber” makes regular non-stop flights from Telluride through the friendly skies of the San Juans to my home in San Bernardo, this miracle machine is San Miguel County’s answer to maintaining the speed limit on Highway 145 for both the driver and every high-tech, gas-guzzling, fully loaded, tailgate pressing Imperial (as in the Empire is Real)” Cruiser lucky enough to fall in behind it as we, the great quick-dried community of hurried commuters, construction workers, tourists and so on, parade our way into town.

I have been driving these jalopies for 10 years now, in order to reduce the impossible suffering of mankind, ever since I was the editor for car coverage at the Robb Report, where one of my jobs was to test-drive high-end automobiles. However, since I was living and working so close to Walden Pond, which was right around the corner from that magazine’s offices at the time in Acton, Mass., a conflict began to arise in my Henry David Thoreau-poisoned skull about losing my sense of social responsibility by pimping, in print, the glories of living large, being insanely wealthy, owning expensive wheels and other kinds of pornography for the rich.

So to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground, I bought a $200 Volkswagen Rabbit and drove it, or, left it in the parking lot at the Robb, when I had to suffer through the guilt of having to drive the latest Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes or Caddy around, pretending I was rich, too. Honestly, that task was so exhausting it was not uncommon for me to drive the Rabbit at lunch over to Walden Pond (leaving the $90,000 custom Hummer or whatnot in the Robb’s parking lot) and take a short nap.

But now it’s 10 years after and we are going to Disneyland! Usually, as I crank up the engine beneath the haughty gaze of Sheep Mountain in San Bernardo, we lift off with three or four people on board. So we’re doing our best, as far as the carbon footprint goes, but for four adults it’s a hell of a thing to work out, in terms of fares, scheduling and so on.

My great great-grandfather must have worked the caboose for the Goose, I think, as the flight falls out of the clouds of the Matterhorn camping area and we descend down toward the Ophir Loop, knowing full well this wild curvy ride is really what Walt Disney had in mind for his bumpy roller coaster mountain ride, heh!

Now I’m the tour guide as we spin around the daily rock avalanches of Hwy. 145, Ames far down below, Alta far above, wheeee! ... Too bad Nikola Tesla didn’t consider wind before hydro first ... wheeee! ... Better let this first column of “The Empire Is Real” Cruisers pass! ... wow ... Look at those maniacs go ... geez ... that’s a hell of a drop ... Oh Lord, oh lordy low! ... Most of the cars I saw the high-mountain Peruvians driving in the Wade Davis film at Mountainfilm were 20 years newer than mine ... hmmm, Third World indeed, yes, yes ... the “Blue Bomber” will offer Meg Whitman free rides whenever she needs ... Oprah, too, but only if it fits in with our schedule ... Yeah! ... Here comes Lawson Hill, we are landing now, down on the Valley Floor, leading a parade of still more Empire is Real Cruisers as we go easy on the brakes, letting gravity do its work, wheeeeee! Wheeee! Wheeeee! Wheee!

... And then, a big sigh, that “E” ticket item itself: The Valley Floor ... let us pray ... I mean, finally, the Conoco Station! ... Yee-haw!

From high up above, coming down the highway into the San Miguel River Valley, the actual gateway to the Valley Floor, the conglomeration of civilization at Society Turn, could actually be confused with a large U.S. Calvary outpost with a big red corporate logo, a real rarity in San Miguel County (almost as rare as a traffic light), instead of a flag mast where the bugler might stand.

But there are no insurgents anywhere near Fort Conoco, just us consumers, who, if not for the price of gas, all seem to be immune to war. There’s nothing to explode around here but that pressurized bag of chips gas-pushed to us at 9,000 feet from the lowlands by that big ol’ Frito Lay truck belching out its own “Blue Bomb” of electro-petrol hoopla. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

Then, after obtaining a small loan for gas and guzzling up on all the necessary monoculture sodium glutton-o-mate we can absorb, we, the forever “Born to Be Wild,” are ready for the Floor!

First part is a bit of a disappointment, yes, with that mine tailing remediation site and, of course, the power lines, the channelized river and troubled wetlands. Gotta do something about that, someday. Old habits die hard. Then, the glories of the great field of dandelions, an invasive species, the mountains and the glittering waters of the San Miguel, with a fly fisherman out there, as we head eastward, invading forward.

Nice thing about this first drive on the almost freed Valley Floor, maybe just one court order away now, this great victory in preservation, is the fact we have so many other people dressed in orange now, along the way, to point out the highlights and, yes, directing us to slow down, as in chill, at 35 mph.

Then, at 25 miles per hour, where the first glorious grove woods and road meets, we are forced to slow down even more, due to construction, yes, but with time to appreciate the scenery explode as the whole vista opens wide again with a big fat “Welcome to Yellowstone”-style hello! And there stems the seed of an idea: Maybe we should keep it this slow, even after the Large Butted Caterpillar, Beeping Dumper and Asphalt Scorching Beetle-box return safely to their winter breeding grounds. Then we could extend the 15-mph ethic of town further out into the world, creating the drive into Telluride as just more well-intended take-a-breath time, eco-tourism wise.

That way, by the time we pass the other slight corporate oil logo, this time Shell, as we enter this National Park for human behavior, Telluride, Colorado, the Gunnison Prairie Dogs can be more easily watched and watched for.

This would, of course, force a bit of an alteration in the Blue Bomb’s daily flight plans. But we can make up for it with a less intensive tour on the way home after work, after we pick up a big bag of chips for the ride back up the mountain.

Does anybody remember the license plate number of that smog belching Frito Lay truck? No? It should be reported.

Oh well, as they always say, the good vibe of the sermon only lasts as long as the car ride home from church.
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