Letters #183


Envelope: M.L. Ward Moab UT We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.
Envelope: M.L. Ward, Moab UT

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

A Zen Duality Thing

Dear John, I recently barfed on my copy of MG #182. No, I’m not asking for a new copy, just wanted to say what I thought of the mag. Look forward to the next issue, really!

Tom Slagle,
Moab, Colorado Plateau

More Scar Tissue

Mountain Gazette #183 Letter to the editor

Dear Jeff [sic]:  I read your commentary in MG #179 (“Scar Tissue,” Smoke Signals) that I picked up at our Ketchum library and I thought I’d give a try at serious scabbing.

Poor right clavicle, usually referred to as a collarbone, though it has never even approached the collar at the base of a size-sixteen neck, has experienced more than most of its contemporaries, even the twin attached to the opposite shoulder. At a relatively youthful four years of age, it suffered the indignity of fracturing when its host slipped down the sidewall of a bunk bed and caught on the bottom bed frame after having reached a state of blissful repose late one night. There had only been single cots in tar-papered internment camp barracks previously, so falling had never been much of a problem. A few weeks in a sling occasioned a great respite from everyday activities. For over a dozen years, the clavicle managed through innumerable scrapes on a trampoline, wrestling mat and in the odorous and humid confines of a football jersey. But life was too easy for a right-hander.

Mountain Gazette #183 Letter to the editor

Following a great week of activities with the nubile female counselors in the rarefied air at Camp Bluff Lake, located up a dusty and windy road from Big Bear Lake in the Angeles National Forest and high above the hot San Bernardino and Riverside cities of southern California, clavicle began the long drive back to San Jose and more athletic endeavors on the judo mat at San Jose State College. With temperatures exceeding one hundred degrees in the moving oven of an excuse for a car, it did its job to help keep the car pointed down the arrow-straight highway and the wind rushing through the almost-solid heated air. Even the crickets were smart enough to lay low till the sun said good night. The unending monotony of traveling over the tire hum of concrete through the Central Valley on Highway 99 was close to being an afterthought when the sign for the turnoff to the Pacheco Pass Highway and Highway 101 finally appeared. The main torso was uplifting off the sticky vinyl seat too often for a tired body part to tolerate. A little bit of zigging and zagging on a winding mountainous road was looking pretty good.

 

Forward progress was interrupted by a car pulling a vacation trailer and moving well below the posted 35-mile-per-hour speed limit. A straight stretch of road beckoned the in-need-of-a-shower-rest-and-food body to pass the laggard road tortoise. Unfortunately, the beast’s shell obscured the double-S curve sign, and unable to slow down or follow the curve to the right, the chariot of fire was soon airborne amid the rapidly passing shadows and silhouettes of the trees that appear in cowboy movies filmed in California. It couldn’t have been more than a heartbeat, but clavicle felt the incline in lush green grass its host had back landed feet first on, as if on a good ski jump out run, amid clouds of dust suspended in the still air. A few arm reaches to the left was a rocky outcropping that resembled the incisors of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and on the right was one of those movie trees, only a few yards away. Eight feet above and behind was a three-strand barbed-wire cattle fence. Rock music emitted from the silent hulk of the car below, adding some levity to the scene. The ribs were complaining that they couldn’t expand for breathing, as if a huge boulder were positioned directly on them. People sounds became evident, as rescuers quickly scrambled down the steep hillside. Attempts were made to push the knees to chest down, but were rebuffed because the chest could inhale better with them up. A trucker said that the car had spun three times in the air and clavicle was ejected during one of the rolls. The road knight tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but his smoky breath only nauseated the body. The sound of an ambulance’s siren rent the air and real help soon arrived. The host matched insurance demographics of a young male driver within 25 miles of home.

At the hospital, it was determined that two ribs were broken and a lung punctured with some internal bleeding, but there were no visible external trauma marks. Clavicle had to wait until four days later when its host sat on an aluminum chaise lounge, which collapsed and it suddenly met a knee and fractured. X-rays had not been taken high enough to show the slight fracture, which became larger and deformed it for the rest of its useful life. Sling time again for a few weeks of leisure.

A few years ago, on the television program, “You Want To Be A Millionaire,” a contestant failed to answer a question correctly, and clavicle could have given the right answer, if it could talk. The question was asked, “A private individual sued a major American corporation over a product liability issue and a book was written about the case.”

What was the book? A woman had lost her fiancé in an auto accident on Pacheco Pass, within yards of the host’s accident site and only days before during the same week, and she sued General Motors. Ralph Nader wrote a book entitled: “UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED,” about the inherent dangers of the Chevrolet Corvair. Host had been driving his father’s 1960 Corvair. So much for phone lists.

Life was good and clavicle managed to stay in one piece during the years of physical duress in the U.S. Army in basic training and through the rigors of OCS at the Armor School in Fort Knox and the near misses while traveling over rough ground in a tank. Even when a 100-pound periscope sight in the commander’s cupola somehow loosened and fell into the host’s lap during the main-gun live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr near the Czech boarder south of Nuremberg. And also when it took a Nantucket sleigh ride in the tank down a steep and winding snow-covered road with steep drop-offs while spinning 360s for almost a mile during another training exercise. The three- or four-inch-thick trees would not have stopped over 65 tons of heavy armor from plowing an alternate route down into the valley. Other than acceding to the demands of C rations heated over hot engine manifolds, clavicle felt relative comfort, knowing it wasn’t sweltering in some Far Eastern jungle and dodging I.E.D. mines or excrement-coated bamboo stakes hidden in foliage-covered pits.

Many years of helping with pole plants during rapid and continuous descents down Bald Mountain in Sun Valley and numerous other resorts, as well as backcountry climbs in the Sawtooths, strengthened clavicle and it felt invulnerable. There had been the occasional eggbeater falls down The Bowls and other venues during four decades of zestful endeavors, but luck held and clavicle scraped by with élan. Even after a fall following a drop into Corbet’s Couloir at Jackson Hole onto solid ice. The past two decades had been kind of a bummer because it was only needed to help right up the body from a sitting or kneeling position when snowboarding became the main means of transport. The less clavicle and its arm were used, the better. And it was always in the background while left twin got to lead the way in a regular stance. Oh, it was needed when releasing the back foot for lift entries, but only helping lift beginner boarders upright gave it a sense of purpose. Especially after the host was able to make many non-stopper runs from top to bottom without a rest.

The winter of 2009 began late with little snowfall to cushion the firm man-made snow. Few runs were open. One morning, the opening of Canyon Run was welcomed by avid locals, though the surface was more suited to the Sun Valley ice rink. After a couple of ski runs, host decided to forego searching for the Smith sunglasses that had been lost the day before while looking for a Christmas tree on the steep hillsides that encircled Adams Gulch. It had fallen off the ski hat when an icy patch occasioned a hard backside landing and it only became apparent when the huskies later pulled a found tree into bright sunlight and there were no glasses to shield the eyes. This was a case of not stopping in mid-stream, continuing whatever it was that you were doing. Returning to the locker room, host pulled out a snowboard and proceeded to ride the new gondola up to the Roundhouse top station, from which Canyon Run dropped precipitously down. Rated as a blue run, under these conditions it was more a black designation. Carefully tracing arcs down the pitches and using any upswing in the terrain, of which there were few, host carefully descended, much slower than he had on skis with their two edges for greater purchase. As the terrain leveled out for entry into 42nd Street, host sped up in a straighter line. Suddenly it felt like a patch of Velcro below a snowgun and a forward slam happened, with no time to take any evasive actions. A sudden deceleration with helmet and goggles hitting first and followed by the upper body. Like being kicked not only by two mules, but Sister Sara in spiked heels!

Clavicle felt instant pain and gratefully accepted the body’s lack of motion for what seemed an eternity. The lungs had the wind knocked out of them and the whole body felt like the front defensive line of the Boise State Broncos football team had run over them. People stopped to ask if they could be of assistance or if they should call the ski patrol, but host declined. Finally managing to get upright without clavicle’s assistance, host began slowly heel-side sliding down to the Number One Lower River Run lift. Bending over and using the left arm to release the K2 Cinch back binding lever helped keep clavicle from screaming bloody murder, if it could have. The lift down ride seemed interminable and the feared bottom station landing was soon a nightmare become real. Left clavicle had to do the honors of helping carry the snowboard back to the car and the short drive to St. Luke’s hospital began after a slow Native American-style of tiptoeing traverse of the parking lot.

At the E.R., the charge nurse was a stranger to host and she was very curt in her actions with him; the regular ward nurses knew him because he often volunteered as a music therapist, playing his harmonica and mainly conversing with patients, who were in the only facility after the morgue that locals and visitors avoided at all costs. After X-rays, a figure-eight strap was applied and some of the pain subsided, allowing clavicle to somewhat relax. Too bad that host was too macho to use all of the pain pills that were prescribed. Easy for him when it was clavicle that had taken the major beating, aside from all of the skin tissue that was rapidly resembling members of a Motown funk soul band. Two days later, host engaged in a required snow sports school boarding rehire clinic, of all things. Clavicle would have much preferred a ski clinic and not had to do the up and down routine. But how could it complain when the right Achilles tendon, which had been damaged the previous year when stomped on by a trenching machine, accepted its lot and trudged on, though often in intense pain? Host believed that he could muscle through most injuries, and usually he was right. But not this time. Dr. Woz would have to surgically repair it the following year.

Clavicle managed to avoid the knife and eventually healed well. However, the carefree days of mountain biking on local single-track trails or wakeboarding at Redfish Lake took on a misty moments-in-the-past feeling. Clavicle somehow transcended the normal
channels of physiological connections
and managed to alter the host’s perceptions of hell-bent-for-leather
behavior. An occasional night of riotous dancing to good classic rock music at Whiskey Jacque’s was tolerated, but clavicle and the rest of the body would pay dearly the next morning …

Rod Tatsuno,
Sun Valley, ID

Forgetfulness

John: In response to your call for stories about forgetting stuff (“Don’t Know What you Got ’Til It’s Gone,” by Mark Plantz, Mountain Notebook, MG #180): One time out at Elephant Rocks, in the San Luis Valley, after an eventful morning of hiking, lizard chasing and rock scrambling, we called the dogs back to the truck and loaded up the kid for town. The trip back to town was full of talk about what we would do with the rest of our day. So many options! The advantage of getting out early is you still have an entire day ahead, right?

Well, we get back to our place in town and unpack our stuff. I open the tailgate of the truck and out jumps one dog. I look in the back of the truck, dumbfounded. Did the other dog turn invisible on the way home? Panic sets in. Running not like a chicken with its head cut off, but maybe more like a two-headed chicken, with one head cut off about to get the other head cut off if caught. I grab the kid — back in the truck. I grab the not-left dog — back in the truck. I grab the wife, explain what is happening in three mumbled words out of the side of my mouth — back in the truck.

If ever there was hauling ass, this was it, meanwhile sweating, swearing, fretting. What if he chased us all the way back? What if he got to the highway and got hit? What if what if what if? A cloud trail of dust followed the truck as we fish-tailed into the winding roads of Elephant Rocks. Eyes bugged out looking for the telltale markings of our pet. To our relief, there he was, sitting patiently, waiting. He was dehydrated, so much he wouldn’t drink, or maybe he was just disappointed with his owners. Boy, we were glad to see him. We swore we would never tell the story to anyone. Don’t tell my wife.

Sean O’Friel

Film & Tech: “23 Feet,” ParkFinder mobile app

23 Feet

23 Feet Outdoor DocumentaryTwenty-five-year-old filmmaker Allie Bombach and two friends set out with their 23-foot 1970 Airstream trailer to find a community they knew was out there: People living simply in the American West, giving up the comforts of what we think is “home” in order to be closer to their passions in the outdoors. “23 Feet” profiles four characters living simple lives in California, Utah and Oregon, and tells the story of the filmmakers’ journey to find those lives. Out of the four characters profiled, Yosemite legend Ron Kauk is a definite highlight — years of living in and around Yosemite have helped him shape his philosophy of living, and listening to him speak from his campsite in Tuolumne Meadows, you can’t help but wish you could sell all your stuff and move in next door to him. Maybe even more fun than the film itself was the four-month tour to premiere the film: Five women packed into the 23-foot Airstream to drive all over the West and screen the film, outdoors, in towns in Utah, Arizona, California and Oregon. In the outdoor film genre, we’ve got plenty of glamorous movies that treat our outdoor passions as an end in themselves —  “23 Feet” is the first work of a refreshing new voice that looks deeper than the face value of our pastimes, and looks for a soul. Bad news is the tour is over — good news is the DVD is now for sale.
$15, redreelvideo.com

Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder Mobile App

Oh, Ranger! Parkfinder mobile appOn the last day of the summer Outdoor Retailer show, someone next to me handed me a business card with details on how to download the Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder mobile app. It was the best free thing I got the entire trade show. That night, I drove north from Salt Lake City, the start of a month of living out of my car, camping and climbing. The free app gives the user a guide to parks all over the United States, searchable by activity. Most of the time, I used it to find places to camp for the night after driving all day, and having a map of all the available campsites within a few minutes of my current location was invaluable. Less adventurous? Maybe. But how cool is the idea of taking off on a road trip with nothing but a smart phone in your pocket? The app finds parks based on things to do — camping, cycling, climbing, hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching, et cetera, and uses your phone’s maps application to show all parks in the area with those activities. The price — free — can’t be beat. Now, if they could just make an app that showed secluded places to sleep in my car, and best places to find $5 showers.
ohranger.com 

Breweries, Brewpubs and Beer Bars (Oh My!)

Steve Dressler, Head Brewer at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., puts a fine pour on a glass of Life & Limb
Steve Dressler, Head Brewer at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., puts a fine pour on a glass of Life & Limb.

We live in rad times. Proof of this can be found on the shelves of any decent liquor store, where the once homogeneous wall of light, and slightly less light beer, forced from the bowels of some cavernous monstrosity in St. Louis or Milwaukee, has been supplanted by a cornucopia of fresh, locally produced brews in an ever-widening selection of styles. Grab any two bottles of craft beer and you will find that, like snowflakes, each is unique. So too are the institutions that produce and sell these wonderful products.

Variety is the spice of life, and as with the beer they produce, craft brewers tend to create facilities that reflect personal style, creativity and marketing in equal parts. For the intrepid beer aficionado, intent on consuming new styles of beer in different places, the subtleties that differentiate one from the next can best be illustrated by breaking them into four categories, that of production brewery, the stalwart brewpub, the up-and-coming nanobrewery and the beer bar.

Production breweries, the workhorses of the craft industry, are primarily focused on producing volumes of beer for packaged distribution to the consumer. They hide themselves in light industrial areas across the West, in places where loading docks and forklifts are the norm. Despite this, the taprooms that operate in these facilities offer a chance to enjoy the freshest possible pints of product, while taking in the atmosphere of the place where it is made. Across Colorado, the number of these facilities that have evolved is staggering, with giants such as New Belgium, Lefthand, Avery and Odell’s in the Front Range being joined across the state by Ska, Oskar’s, Durango Brewing, Crazy Mountain and Telluride Brewing, to name just a few. I have many fond memories of visits to brewery taprooms, like riding to Lefthand for growlers on Saturday, the old roof-deck at Ska and not being able to find Avery on bike after sitting at Twisted Pine for a couple of hours (it’s just off of Arapaho).

While production breweries dominate annual production of craft brew by volume, by far the widest scope of small-batch beer comes from your favorite local brewpub, an American icon. These span the spectrum of style, but generally pair beer produced on premise (or elsewhere, in some cases) with a restaurant business. This is no easy task, as the two halves of the business, beer and food, operate on different frequencies. With the two in synch, the brewpub can function like the human brain, with each hemisphere specializing in the tasks that it is best suited to, and producing better results as a system than either half could alone. This delicate balance is rare, and finding really kick-ass beer paired with good food and service is not always a given. Style combinations vary widely, from great brew and steaks at Chama River Brewing in Albuquerque, NM, to fine pints and pizza at Amica’s in Salida, CO. Some brewpubs, like Tommyknocker in Idaho Springs, CO, have managed to pull off the triple crown of brewing feats, operating a brewpub and distributing beer on a wide scale. Increasing numbers of followers are coming to market every day, and finding offerings on the shelf from Wynkoop, Steamworks, Pug Ryan’s, Silverton and Eddyline are a real treat.

By far the newest entrant to craft brewing is the nanobrewery. While definitions vary, the “nano” generally produces modest amounts of beer in a few styles on a small-commercial or large home-built system. Run by brewers that may be operating part time, they distinguish themselves by having total freedom as to the styles of beer they produce, the volumes or changes they make from batch to batch. In essence, brewing at this scale represents the freest from of commercial brewing, meeting the requirements for legal sale, while flying under many of the constraints to variation that volume production introduces. A couple of my favorites are the Ourayle House in Ouray, CO, and Revolution Brewing out in Paonia, CO. The number of nanos out there is growing every day, and lacking large marketing budgets, sometimes these are hard for the intrepid beer writer to discover. Any tips as to where I can find these businesses flourishing and their beer flowing would be greatly appreciated.

And last, but certainly not least, for sheer quantity of beer styles on tap, one must give credit to the beer bar owner/operator. Wither an independent like Lady Falconburgh’s in Durango, CO, with 40 taps featuring selections both local and international, or a “captive” beer bar, like the (Breckenridge Brewery) Ale House in Grand Junction, serving both Breck beers and a strong selection of guest taps, nowhere else can whim and fancy for beer in varying style be met on such an uncompromising scale.

Enthusiastic homebrewer Erich Hennig lives and works in Durango, CO. Drop him a note at beer@mountaingazette.com  

Sad River Roundup

Ride along on a modern day cattle driveIt may be the longest cattle drive anyone does anymore. The cows have been on the mountain for four months or more, getting fat eating every blessed chewable thing they can reach. Just about every cattleman in the nation would truck their animals as far as these critters will have to walk to winter pasture. They are hamburger plants, not distance runners. You’d have to be crazy to trail a herd right down the main north-south corridor from Telluride to anywhere. The Switzers are that kind of ranching family though, a little different. They aren’t mountain people in that the fanatic spiritualism that runs in a streak through the clan is a product of dwelling for generations in an ascetic vacuum of empty desert. Great-grandfather Switzer had bought a piece of McElmo Canyon and the badlands beyond that was the size of a county in Vermont. He also locked up most of the grazing leases in West Fork of the Dolores River Valley. They say he had the same jihadi gleam in his eye as the current crop of Switzers, who are in close and immediate communication with the Lord and recognize a sinner by the look on his face. If you think you might have that look, head the other way.

The route takes the cows right through the middle of the town of Dolores. By then, the herd has been trailing for days, off and on. It used to be there were more places big enough to park a congregation of cattle that size and let them eat and rest, but most of those places have been carved up. Now you have to push the cows a little harder than cows would naturally go. It takes all fifty Switzers cowboying and every body they can find who can ride a horse to keep them grouped. A lot of people help willingly, as it is, after all, probably the longest cattle drive anyone does anymore and the authenticity of the experience is unquestionable.

The thing about herding cattle is to understand that one thing they do well is walk around. They don’t go fast, but they go willingly, for the most part, and would be going somewhere after a while even without your encouragement. Your job is to point them. A cowboy galloping around shouting “Yeeha” doesn’t speed up a herd one bit. It might just scatter them like a rack of billiard balls and you’d be the next two hours coaxing the calves out of the thickets. Just gently get them all going the same direction. Sit back and watch the parade. If you’ve got good dogs, you can just idle along in the truck if you’ve only got a few cows. The Switzers had hundreds.

They got to town about noon that year, spread out for half a mile. Railroad Avenue was pretty much solid cow from one end to the other, and the early crowd at the Hollywood Bar & Cafe drug off their stools to watch the longest cattle drive in the country troop buy.

Among the blurrier spectators, Dexter B. had found it was safer to drink early in the day, as the various agencies charged with enforcement of restraining orders and arrest warrants didn’t seem to get fired up till late afternoon. That’s when they had chased him into the alley and cuffed him the last two times anyway. Dexter is a flight risk the same way a homing pigeon is. If you need to drop a leaned-over tree that’s otherwise going get in bed with you some windy evening, Dexter is who you would call, only you wouldn’t call him, you’d just go down to the Hollywood and maybe knock back a couple of drafts while you talked it over. Dexter is a mountain person. He knew that the deputies couldn’t get around town any better than anyone else. Not when there were two dozen four-footed animals in town for every person, and that’s not factoring in the dogs. The cops wouldn’t be motoring by.

If you could get to the north-side streets, you could drive around the herd’s flank and proceed a couple of blocks toward or away from the center of town. Leaving the city limits was like going the wrong way at the Hajj. A lot of the locals were creeping down side streets trying to get to the bank, the market or the bar. One of these was Mark Morane in his flashy Jeep, running a little late. Mark leaves his Jeep in town on nice days and switches to his motorcycle, which he keeps in a garage on Fourth Street, for the last five miles in to his office. Born and raised nearby, Mark is a lawyer, which is not a well-represented population among mountain people. Mark is no exception to this generalization and, birthplace notwithstanding, would be a dense-atmosphere-sucking flatlander if he lived to be a thousand. He can’t help it.

Immobilized in the stream of steers that day were a number of automobiles that had encountered the bovine frontal system in the middle town and become embedded in its flow. Southbound vehicles could sustain a walking pace while watching a shifting vista of four-to-six shit-smeared cattle bottoms like a drive-in movie. Northbound wasn’t going much of anywhere, and this group included Victor, who was headed up to the West Fork in the strangest thing he had ever driven, and that included just about anything with wheels or tracks. It was a 1974 NATO military fire truck built on a German Unimog chassis. The Unimog was an internet purchase, kind of an impulse thing, bought by the owner of a resort that is so far from the nearest fire department you may as well not bother calling. The Unimog had been delivered “as is” on the back of a flatbed, from a shipyard in Baltimore.

Luckily, its driver was a genius of the physical. Last month, when somebody put his truck in the ditch and his equipment trailer like a barricade across the rest of the road, Victor loaded up a bunch of timbers and built a road right over the damn thing and got the valley’s commuting population home that night. This morning, he had poured a quart of Baltic seawater out of the fuel filter of the Unimog, purged the fuel system and rebuilt the throttle linkage with a piece of wire he found on the ground.

Born on a ranch in Chihuahua, his size put him in the position of jockey for the family’s race horses, till, still in his twenties, he was too old. He was fluent in Spanish, diesel and horse. A mountain person, he knew the Unimog had been mistreated. As it stood 37 hands at the shoulder and was skittish and ill-tempered, he wasn’t about to push it.

There’s not a lot of foot traffic when the herd is coming through and it’s best to watch your step for a couple of days afterward. This day, one of the scarce pedestrians was Patricia the Yoga Instructor, tall and lovely beyond words, to whom cows may carry some sort of bleed-over sanctity from a geographic proximity to Hinduism of the “sacred cow” type, which has some kind of vague association with Yoga. At least their outfits are the same. You might think she was walking among the herd because they are a natural thing, like a mayfly hatch, which is to be neither applauded nor decried, but simply lived through, endured. Patricia seemed to be, at times, only lightly tethered to the earth. Bright fires of health shown out through her skin and blobs of inadvertently jellified males bobbed in her wake. She didn’t seem to notice, but despite her ethereal aspect, Patricia, a mountain person, was actually strong as an ox and quick as a snake. She was also well used to walking through cow shit and simply didn’t want to be late for her class. Among the herefords, Patricia stood out like a statue of Madonna on the backs of the Penitents.

It all might have played out peaceably but for the Lady in the Burgundy Escalade. The car shined like a new penny except where it was streaked with fresh cow excrement to the tops of the windows. She must have been doing ninety down the stretch of 145 that had served as the herd’s latrine for the last couple of days. There was nobody else in the car, but if you don’t think the situation was explosive, it had Texas plates.

There are pockets of a toxic gas that chemists refer to as nobium-bromine-butane, nobrotane or nobrane for short, which leak from depleted oil wells and gather in invisible bubbles across the state of Texas. Though mostly concentrated around Crawford, hazardous nobrane enrichments occur randomly statewide and many, if not most, of the states residents have suffered the effects of nobrane poisoning. Loss of brain tissue is immediate and dramatic and the resulting voids are often inflated with an indelible sense of self-worth. In its end stages, nobrane poisoning can result in “Texas Vertigo,” the chronic sensation that the world is revolving around you. The lady in the Caddy weaved right then left, gunning the ponderous, careening burgundy tank around one group of cattle and another, gaining a cow length each time till she came up short against a solid wall of shitty rumps. This was ridiculous. She gave a tap on the horn.

She gave another tap, then two more solid honks, then, with a fury that was palpable through the grape-colored skin of the preposterous auto, she mercilessly straight-armed the horn button, lurching the car forward while screaming noiselessly at the windshield.

The effect was spectacular. Cows scattered from the epicenter as if launched by catapult. A dozen turned left up Fourth Street toward the bridge and a similar number did a complete about face and were galloping upstream, creating havoc among the following herd. Cows in front of the Escalade were climbing over one another and one big calf went down in the rush. When it scrambled to its feet, it was under the Unimog, which presented the calf with a situation for which there was no behavioral precedent. It began to bawl at terrific volume and throw its 50-pound head-bone against the empty 200-gallon water storage tank on the underbelly of the Unimog, making a noise that was not of this world. The lady was still leaning on the horn, perhaps frozen there by the magnitude of the reaction, but the call of the Escalade was now lost in the din.

In the vicinity of Eighth Street and still gaining speed southward now flew Jacob Switzer at full gallop on a horse the size of a locomotive. Sparks flew off the pavement where the giant’s hooves touched down and, passing Seventh, Jacob grabbed his coiled lariat, stiff as a cable by design, from where it hung next to the saddle horn and began to whip the flying steed across its flanks. He wrenched his mount’s head up when he was fifty feet from the Escalade and set it back on its haunches where it slid to a stop directly adjacent the Caddy’s left front tire. Raising the coiled lariat over his head, he smote the hood of the car with the terrible strength a just and all-powerful God had given him. It left, the first time, a crescent-shaped dent that would hold a gallon of water. “You.” “Stupid.” “Stupid.” “Stupid.” “Bitch.”  Jacob intoned, beating on the hood with every word. Then, considerably calmed, he headed up after the group of cattle that had taken off toward Mancos.

Forty head of stampeding cattle were southbound at a high rate of speed along First North. It looked for a moment as if it might be the end of Patricia, trampled two blocks from her house, but she turned to meet them and raised her hands in front of her, palms out, as if delivering a blessing on the multitude. She floated a couple of feet to the right or left as the circumstances dictated and the thundering pack flowed around her like water.

Mark wasn’t so lucky. Oblivious to the ruckus, he had just opened the door of his Jeep and had one foot on the ground when 980 pounds of terrified beef smacked into the door two inches from the handle. The impact flattened the door against the body of the Jeep and jerked Mark out of it. He was deposited face up and perfectly centered for an instant across the backbone of the rampaging steer. There he stayed for four or five seconds, certainly not long enough to make the buzzer, but adequate time to carry him to the reviewing platform in front of the Hollywood Bar & Cafe.

“This your first rodeo?” asked Dexter.

“That was a tough draw, Mark,” said another.

Victor got out of the Unimog fire truck and was amazed to find he could not extricate the calf from under his rig. It was totally blinded and beating itself slowly to death repeating the opening bars of the Dirge for Martian Gong. The racket was making it hard to think. Victor had the inspiration then that he might motor slowly to the park, where the bar ditch was three feet deep and drive right down the ditch with wheels on either side, effectively raising the Unimog off the calf. His path took him and the stumbling calf right in front of the gallery outside the Hollywood.

“Hey Victor,” shouted Dexter, “I hope you’re not expecting that little calf to pack yer goofy rig all the way to Dunton.”

Cooper lives near Dolores, Colorado, in a state of disgruntled bemusement. He lists his occupation as “fabricator,” which just about covers it. His last story for the Gazette was “High Water,” which appeared in #178. 

When in Doubt, Pee on the Fire

Beyond the service industry shroud, there is madness and mayhem in Moab. Within each river guide, shuttle driver, restaurant server, bike mechanic and hotel operator, there exists an undercurrent of something more. This undercurrent is a man rolling down Main Street in a handmade hamster wheel. It is the annual fashion show, wherein minimum-wage workers get to be top models — bedecked in mini-blinds or vacuum hose — for a night. It is Molotov cocktails tossed off Hurrah Pass at 2 a.m. It is a 28-day Daily run on the Colorado River. It is a stealth mission to turn the iconic “G” on the cliffs above town (“G” for Grand County) into a directive to “Go Away!” during Jeep Safari. It is the brilliance of Moab Community Theatre, the thrill of breaking world records at the Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival, and the hushed glory of prominent community members dancing with nearly naked skydivers — leather-bound leg acrobatically propped up on bare, brawny shoulder — at the bar on Halloween.

Yes, we are a tourist town. Yes, we survive by the grace of our guests, living thanks to those who love our surroundings. But Moab is also something more. There still exists an element holding steadfast to eccentricity amidst the onslaught of gentrification and commodification. For, once we’ve lost our idiosyncratic heart — beating to a rhythm as unpredictable as summer monsoons and sudden rock fall — then the real Moab is dead. Eccentricity is vanquished. And I will have to plant the seeds of my landscape love elsewhere.

Moab needs its eccentrics. It needs its darers and dreamers. They are the essential artists painting on the canvas of the day-to-day, reminding us that this life is less desperate — and more urgent — than we suppose. The eccentrics advise us that imagination is not a childhood relic, that dreams need not be confined to the brain and that conformity is the first sign of societal heart disease. But eccentricity is a dying breed, relegated to the shadows — especially during tourist season.

My boyfriend, Tyler, is an import to Moab from Durango, a town where, much to his sadness, the flame of eccentricity is flickering out. He came to Moab for me, but other loves have since abetted the original, including mountains, canyons, friends and the town itself.

He, too, is a daring dreamer, an important addition to the Moab milieu. Together, we ran the Colorado at high water on an air mattress, asking hapless boaters, “We just woke up; where are we?” and noting, “Wow! We’ve never seen the Dolores this big!” Inspired by the sweeping cinematography of a National Geographic documentary, he built operational camera equipment — an enormous jib and a dolly — out of scrap metal. During the first month of our courtship, he bought us a 1971 Streamline trailer to live in. He is my mountain man — a firefighter, a flawless feller of trees, a fearless adventurer. And he is my artist — with an ear for the essential, an eye for the emotional and a mind for the intuitive. And when he dresses as a bunny to run the half-marathon or plays alt-country versions of Lady Gaga on the guitar, no one around him can take this life too damned seriously. Like any good nonconformist, he helps me to see the comic within the consecrated. And for that I am grateful.

Tyler was a Moab resident for just a week when he experienced the town’s harbinger of the holiday season, the Winter Sun Festival. We ran the 10K, we visited the craft fair and we bundled up to stand among the crowds on Main Street for the annual Electric Light Parade. This is Moab at its shining finest. The spectacle is an assemblage of trucks full of teenagers and bisexuals on bicycles, antique tractors and elaborately decorated trailers, livestock and live music, dance troupes and costumed groups. The unifying theme is that every entrant — animal, vegetable or mineral — is adorned in lights. And the greatest beauty is that, for 30 golden minutes, Main Street is closed to everything but this one, locals-only holiday event. Suddenly, Highway 191 isn’t bisecting our town, cleaving west side from east with the noise and girth of semi traffic. Instead, it’s simply Main Street. And it belongs to Moab, a town not worried about making a buck — because there isn’t one to be had in December.

I was thrilled to share the parade with Tyler, the neophyte Moabite, to show him that this desert town is much more than the Slickrock Trail and Jeep Safari. We are passionately quirky in ways our visitors will never know. We live hidden lives of authenticity, colorful communion and song. Our increasingly short off-season is full of creative pursuits — parades, fashion shows, theater and craft nights — to while away the darker, carefree hours. We give off a shine that money can’t buy when winter is at its worst. I wanted Tyler to know that he was in the midst of kindred spirits.

At the parade, he got it. He loved it. And I loved him for loving it.

Following the procession, Frankie D’s Bar hosted an after-party with Moab’s best (and only) disco cover band, Sparkle Motion. The bar is housed in a Quonset hut painted with enough magic and memories — or alcohol, I suppose — to make its origins seem less humble. One never knows when Frankie’s will implode with debauchery — it’s hit or miss, directed by some devious turn of collective consciousness — but when the masses arrive, it’s disorderly perfection.

Ty and I sat in my darkened car parked across from a crowded Frankie’s, downing the contents of my thermos (a drink we labeled Hepatitis C on the Beach in honor of one of Moab’s many eccentrics). As any good, recession-era dirtbag knows, you do your drinking before entering the bar, to save money.

Just as we were about to make the move from car to bar, a straggler from the Electric Light Parade rode his bike across our field of vision, headed toward Frankie D’s. The scene was double-take-worthy.

His bike trailer was on fire.

Initially, the flames were small and confined to one portion of the trailer. We assumed that it was perhaps a portable barbecue — in Moab, why not? However, as he swiveled and swayed his way across the street, the mobile conflagration grew. When he hit the curb in front of the bar, the trailer broke free from the bike. With this, he finally became aware of his dangerously flickering hitchhiker.

We watched from our shadowy vantage, unobserved and absolutely titillated.

The cyclist stood above the trailer blaze and scratched his chin, seemingly unperturbed, puzzling over the predicament as if it were a simple mechanical problem that could wait until morning. But inspiration struck, and even in the dark, we could see it light up his features. We watched him unzip, extract, aim and fire. His urine flow was so copious that, not only did our hero douse the blaze, but hardly a wisp of smoke remained in the aftermath.

The alcohol that likely led to the fire’s ignition also helped to put it out. The inundated bladder saved the day for the inebriated brain. It was a glorious display of bodily self-correction. We silently cheered from the car.

Seconds later, a figure emerged from the bar. She wore a glowing, spinning electric fan on her forehead and a boa bedecked in sparkling lights. It was none other than Moab’s Queen of Westwater, our most infamous and beloved eccentric, trained (among other things) in the arts of branding and bondage. She stormed over to reprimand the hapless biker, fan spinning on forehead all the while. We desperately wanted to hear what was being said, so I inserted my key in the ignition to roll down the automatic windows. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the key-ignition combo prompts illumination of the dome lights and commencement of buckle-your-seatbelt beeping. I’d blown our voyeuristic cover. We froze. But the Queen of Westwater and the King of Firewater didn’t notice. And we’d already missed the bulk of their absurdly surreal confrontation.

With the eventual dissipation of the spectacle, Tyler breathlessly broke the silence in the vehicle with, “I think I just fell in love with Moab.”

And he’s been falling in love ever since.

Finally, we made our way into the bar for a typical night in Moab — fires, fans, freaks and all — our lives painted vibrant by the creative palettes of our compatriots in nonconformity.

Jen Jackson resides in Moab, where she will spend the off-season learning the finer arts of driving a 1976 Kenworth W900A, servicing a Stihl MS290, shooting rabbits with a .22 and loving this life —quirks and all — with an ever-bigger heart. 

Creation and the Dirty Shame

RoadtrippingOn the first day, I created the Roadtrip, and I saw that it was good. And the Days stretched out before me, gangly arms reaching high over glossy heads, first long and deep breaths taken.

The Days collectively winked. They smiled. They licked their full and rosy lips. The Days lined up in front of me, just waiting to be taken. With an easy equanimity borne from frolicking amidst the wild and green, they waited. Some tapped their toes and hummed contentedly. Others danced joyfully in circles. The first three sat cockeyed on barstools at the Dirty Shame Saloon, rang the bell and ordered another round of something dark and yeasty. The first Day belched moistly without covering his mouth.

Earl old pal, god of weather, graciously bestowed upon this adventure into the imagined and unknown clear skies and breezes mild. Two conditions imperative considering my mode of transportation: VW camper bus with high-rise fiberglass turtle-top, a vehicle that is entertaining as hell to keep within the lines in any kind weather. Be it inclement, be it fair. It’s just easier in fair.

The bus putted on, faithfully if not enthusiastically, over one state line and then another. In celebration of the busted radio, I composed psalms to the Roadtrip to sing along with the arrythm of the engine. Often I pulled off the road, listening to rivers meander, stretching my long and restless legs, letting the two big dogs out to pee and frolic. I watched the odometer tick off miles and I grew thirsty. I imagined English would be waiting at the Dirty Shame, wedged solidly between Days One and Two, ordering another round.

He was not. Prayers to Earl and myself answered, I arrived two hours ahead of schedule. This never happens. So I continued up the byway in search of a site therein to revitalize. I parked the bus in the cool shade of dense and fragrant pine gathered about an old service road, and let the big dogs out to romp. I romped right along with them through tall trees until the overgrown gravel road gave way to primitive trail and the trail gave way to thick impassible brush. Eliciting goose bumps, I stripped down and cleaned up in a chill and snow-lined creek, decided to go cowboy (cowgirl?) — very liberating — and pulled on fresh and faded blue jeans and a clean T. I brushed my hair. I brushed my teeth. I fished a barley wine from the cooler and drank deep.

At the Dirty Shame, Rick, Bartender Proprietor-Priest, poured me a tall one, relaying that English had phoned to say he was two hours behind, his intended route yet to be plowed out from the past season’s heavy snows. But with a Moose Drool bedded down patiently before me and new friends in the making, none of the waiting mattered. The big dogs were invited into the establishment and life was sweet. So I made those friends and nursed that beer, while the big dogs lounged on the worn wood floor.

Day One tipped his hat to me and promptly fell off his barstool. It had been a long one.

The sun was just narrowly above the hills when in walked English, throwing open the door to release long, sinewy fingers of cigarette and cigar smoke, friendly vulgarity and loud guffaws. I stood up and walked over. We grinned and wrapped our arms around one another. Squeezed. Tendrils of soft dark hair were blown askew and into his dark, mischievous eyes. It was a very nice effect. He was wearing a thick cotton shirt that had seen better days, a tattered pair of shorts, and he smelled like the forest. For all of my waiting, the payoff was fine.

I introduced English to my new best buddies at the bar. With eyes bleary, Days Two and Three scootched over to make room as he pulled a battered barstool next to mine.  Spread-eagled and snoring, Day One hadn’t budged from his spot on the floor.

All through the evening, the bell was busy ringing. Thirst was no longer a dilemma. Another Rick grabbed a guitar from the back of the room and played Celtic folksongs for a while. He really was good. Barkeep Rick joined in at times and was pretty good himself. Old Bernie told a few tall tales and we all belly laughed. Bernie had been in the valley for a very long time. I felt like I had been in the valley for a very long time. It was beautiful. Before English and I ended up joining Day One, who was clearly passed out cold and had begun to drool, on the floor, we thought we’d call it a night. We slept entwined and peacefully in the bus parked on the grass and weeds behind the saloon, beneath a starry starry sky, full moon, big dogs, thick blankets.

In the wee hours, Day Two arrived naked — without a stitch of cloud cover, entertaining temperatures in the high teens and masterfully finger-painting a layer of serious frost onto the inside of the bus’ windows. It was so cold, Day Two’s teeth were chattering loudly and her knees were knocking violently. All three of us were in dire need of hot coffee. We walked over to the wee mom & pop, cozy’d up to another fine drinking establishment. Yaak Valley: population 300 give or take, two taverns, one one-room schoolhouse, one place of worship and one sparsely stocked store offering bad but gratefully hot coffee in leaky paper cups. It was easy to see wherein the priorities of this populace lie. Good for them. We reclined in the bus, watching the sun straddle the hills, while eating trail food and sipping steaming Joe. Day Two burned her tongue on the coffee, cussed sweetly under her breath, smiled sheepishly and quickly began to warm up.

Adventure beckoned. We left behind the bus and boarded English’s late-model pickup. Up the road we traveled. The big dogs sat eager in the back of the extended cab, long tongues lolling, twitching noses poked out of windows. Past cabins and homesteads, past the board-and-bat schoolhouse, past the little log church, past a few more cabins. Up the road we rolled until it was flanked by continuous forest, and then out into the woolly wild we ventured. Packs packed and boots laced. We were keenly aware these woods were home to black bear and grizz, big cats and an assortment of ungulates. Neither of us had hiked often in grizzly territory and it felt a little spooky. I watched the big dogs closely.

Upon returning down valley, for two bucks each, we bathed at the Yaak-O-Mat, finding our way back to the Dirty Shame. It was handily the next building over. We ordered burgers and brews and let the good times continue to roll. We saw a few new faces. We made a few more new friends. A slight woman, brown hair gathered into an awkward ponytail, burst like a balloon into the saloon and, wasting no time, tried to talk a familiar patron out of paying any attention to the ring on his finger. He was a good sport about it. A short while later, she slipped into an unintended cartwheel behind the bar, both feet flailing in midair, legs splayed. Her landing scored low but she appeared unharmed. Rick paid her little attention as he poured another round. Sometime before last call, in through the front door, the ponytailed sprite maneuvered a child’s bicycle, resplendent with glittered banana seat and colorful plastic streamers hanging from the handlebar grips. She peddled forth a few feet before tipping over, joining Day Two who, with moss ground into her knees and forest detritus in her hair, had curled up on the floor for a nap.

A blond man walked up to English and me, grinning wildly and dancing with his own round belly while adroitly balancing a drink within his big, chapped paw. He winked at me. He winked at English. He introduced himself as Jeff, flirting with me and teasing English about his mop. He wondered where we were sleeping, so we told him. Jeff said that was no good, offering his cabin located a few miles up the road. He wasn’t using it. What about the big dogs? Without the slightest hesitation, Jeff said to bring ’em along. I pictured a cobwebbed and drafty shanty with an outhouse if we were lucky. Probably no running water, likely no electricity. Hey, just like the camper bus only perhaps a bit roomier.

We arrived to Jeff unlocking the door and flipping breakers. He motioned us in with a hearty sweep of his big, burly arms and mixed himself a drink for the road from a cupboard in the kitchen. He told us to enjoy ourselves and then he left. Just like that.

The cabin was not cobwebbed, nor was it drafty. The cabin’s interior was blanketed in hardwoods and softwoods, comfortable furniture and picture windows that would offer 180-degree views of the sunrise, mountains, river and meadows. We selected a bedroom and made ourselves comfortable, if not ready for sleep forthwith. One big dog made three circles on the braided rug at the foot of the bed and began drafting ZZZs. The other, chin resting on front paws, kept an alert canine watch from down the hall. When all was said and done, we closed our eyes, slowed our breathing, and were carried blissfully away to our own private dreams.

Day Three bolted upright as dawn cracked bright and shiny. We let him out the front door along with the big dogs and found coffee to brew. We reclined on the sofa and watched the big dogs chase Day Three around the frosty meadow.

We found ourselves in a vast and lonely sea of mountain acreage. We moved casually around in our birthday suits, swimming peacefully in the low tide of morning sun that slowly crested through shade-less windows.

There were more Days of course, as I had created quite a few of them. But they had traveled ahead as a group to the top of the next valley east, damn near a stone’s throw from Canada. Days Five and Six, an extremely athletic pair, had already strapped on snowshoes and were camped out at the base of Terriault Pass, sharing an exceptionally succulent apple. It was snowing again in the high country and English and I would catch up with them soon enough. Meanwhile, we had mountain to climb and road to travel.

And on the seventh Day, I rested. I still had a long, long way to go.

Tricia M. Cook writes from a wee hamlet snuggled into the eastern toes of the North Cascade Mountains. Her last story for Mountain Gazette was “Eating Wolf,” which appeared in MG #176. Catch her bimonthly blog, “Living Beyond Lost,” at mountaingazette.com.

Bob Chamberlain’s Mountain Vision #183

At the Mad Dog. Aspen, 1966At the Mad Dog. Aspen, 1966

Here’s Pierre, taking stock of his life: He’s got the job on the Mountain, with plenty of time to ski, a place to live, and his “Honey” to take out dancing when he wants, and enough change in his pocket to have a beer or two in the bar. This is it.

So here he is, contemplating the seasons still to come, and wondering how long he can continue to do this, how long before too many people make it impossible. And what about Taos, when will it be time to move on? To keep this happening, this life. Because this is “The Life.”

Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.

It’s Always Weekend At Bernie’s Somewhere

Cartographic - Beer DrinkingThere’s some predictability when it comes to the West’s watering holes and the all-too-human habit of using them. Each year, Portland will snag a lot of mention for its exquisite beers, a bunch of people will do stupid things under the influence and someone, somewhere, will outdo the people who established the previous year’s criminal records relating to alcohol and its consumption. But this year we’ve got a couple idiots in Denver who simply won’t be outdone, shored up by a visit from Dog Chapman. Apologizing in advance for the 2012 issue, we present …

1) Things to do in Denver when you’re dead

Robert Jeffrey Young and Mark Rubinson must have anticipated the Mountain Gazette’s annual Bar Issue when they took Young’s roommate out for a night of boozing, with the roommate picking up much of the evening’s tab. Jeffrey Jarrett had no complaints as the trio went to Teddy T’s bar and grill. The three went on to Sam’s No. 3 bar before Young and Rubinson drove Jarrett home and put him to bed. Young and Rubinson then went back out to snag a little Mexican food and naturally, made a final stop at Shotgun Willie’s strip club, where they used Jarrett’s ATM card to withdraw $400. Right about now you’re saying Jarrett should be pissed, but we’ll never really know. You see, Jarrett was dead when the two loaded him into Rubinson’s Lincoln Navigator, and he stayed in the back seat for a couple bar stops before being returned home. Young allegedly found his roommate unresponsive on August 28, and instead of, I don’t know — calling 911 or something — he took Jarrett out for one last night of fun. According to police reports, Young and Rubinson flagged down a cop at about 4 a.m. and indicated that Jarrett was back at the house and might be, I don’t know — dead or something. The two are charged with abusing a corpse, identity theft and criminal impersonation, although neither is charged in Jarrett’s death. Denver police aptly described the incident as “a bizarre and unfortunate crime.”

2) Come on, white boy!

La Montaña Linda is a cozy little bar and restaurant on Breckenridge’s funnish Ridge Street, and most nights you can rest assured that Duane “Dog” the Bounty Hunter Chapman isn’t going to come in and go batshit crazy. But all bets were off in early July, when the mulletted Chapman and his entourage busted in, looking for the owner’s father and generally acting like a bunch of assholes. Something to do with jumping bail, naturally. The father seriously was not there, but that didn’t stop a near-brawl from ensuing, with several bar loyals getting in Chapman’s face, and one of them spraying one of Dog’s muscle men in the face with cleaning fluid. The spray-wielding patron ended up in the emergency room with a cut face requiring 15 stitches — after Chapman’s man lashed back. A potted plant was thrown, naturally, Chapman allegedly brandished but didn’t use a stun gun, and the incident moved into the street, which had filled with patrons from nearby bars. Somewhere in all this Chapman issued his famous “Come on, white boy! Come on, motherfuck@r!” mantra to a would-be aggressor, and was able to get in a brazen hair toss before jumping into the getaway SUV with similarly haired Buxom Wife Beth. Catch the action on YouTube.

3) With distinction, naturally

The Daily Beast came up with a formula that combines total drinks per month, percentage of heavy drinkers, percentage of binge drinkers and deaths per 100,000 of alcoholic liver disease to establish the esteemed Most Hungover Cities of 2011. We were stunned to see Milwaukee top the list, but a few locales in the American West show that people here are willing to live and die for booze. Coming in at No. 5 is Reno, which quaffs an average 12.13 drinks per person per month, and where 11.9 out of 100,000 die from alcoholic liver disease. Denver held up its end at No. 12, with 12.94 monthly drinks and 7 liver deaths, respectively, and 17 percent of adults admitting to binge drinking.

4) Buzz Killers

Montana State Rep. Alan Hale (R-Basin) spoke out last spring against a law to stiffen DUI penalties for repeat offenders. Montana consistently leads the country in drunk driving stats, but Hale, who runs a tavern, oddly enough, said DUI laws were “destroying a way of life that has been in Montana for years and years… They (bars) are the center of the communities. I’ll guarantee you there’s only two ways to get there: Either you hitchhike, or you drive, and I promise you they’re not going to hitchhike.”

5) If Esquire says it’s true…

From the magazine that rightfully decries Bud Light’s Chelada, which is infused with Clamato (yeah — tomato and clam juice), salt and artificial lime as the worst beer on earth, we have the best cities for drinking beer. In no particular order we have Chicago, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, St. Louis and San Diego. The other cities come and go in various ratings, but Portland is always on any list that puts beer in a favorable light. Perhaps because it has more breweries than any other city on the planet, Portland is bound to get it right at least some of the time.

6) Brrrrrp

The general rule is that the colder the state, the more beer people drink. That said, Alaska and Hawaii’s annual consumption are nearly tied at 32.4 and 32.7 gallons per capita. With kudos to Las Vegas, Nevada comes in at No. 1, with a belchsome 44 gallons. Montana is 41.5, New Mexico, 37.8, and Arizona, 36.4. No shocker here that Utah lags behind the pack at 19.5 gallons.

Tara Flanagan splits her time between Boulder and Breckenridge, where she works as an equine massage therapist. Her monthly blog, “Out There,” can be found on mountaingazette.com.