Mountain Vision #187

The Road Nevada 1967
The Road, Nevada 1967


Desert rendezvous, westbound; destination Pacific Ocean. You can’t drive to the island, and it’s too far to swim. Time to make the Pierhead Leap. Start scanning the horizon. Feel the Earth turn as the Sun sets and stars come out. That’s where we’re going.

Where water out of an iron pipe is warm enough to shower. Where winter is two days with louvered windows closed and wearing socks. Where Christmas is a refrigerated ship container of trees, tied in bundles, and a stack of Coors beer in the entrance to the liquor store, which disappears before it can be stocked in coolers.

Where time is what you see in the sky. The Clouds of Magellan are where we’re headed, every night, standing South, South-by-Sou’west, a-quarter-South, and in the fo’csle bunk below, the sound of the sea rushing past.

But the Colorado River is “Closed to Navigation,” so we drive.


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

A Little Traveling Music, Maestro

Soul Center Bridge“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he (Bilbo) used to say. ‘You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien,

“The Lord of the Rings”

With a few exceptions across the mountain states, the lifts have, or will be soon, cranked to a screeching halt and, while many will undoubtedly trek off to higher snow, most of us are ready to load up the water toys, climbing gear and mountain bikes and head out into the oncoming spring. Cars and trucks may be the vehicles, but music is what gets us there. There is a rhythm to tires on open road, a vibration synced from engine to asphalt that sustains us through the journey, but it’s the music that puts down the miles and propels us into the adventure.

Cars and trucks have inspired generations of songs, but in taking our chariots to the next level of evolution in the marriage between vehicle and music, artists have lately turned cars into creative, tonal and percussive instruments. Using slamming doors, switches, ignition, revving and pounding the steering wheel, Los Angeles filmmaker Julian Smith made a music video starring a Jeep Cherokee. The genre is called “bootboxing” and it solely utilizes all the bells, whistles and actual sounds produced from any vehicle (check out “Techno Jeep” on youtube).

Japanese engineers even took it a step further, getting their groove on those annoying rumble strips meant to keep drivers awake and on the road. In California, they tuned the grooves of rumble strips to play the finale of the “William Tell Overture” when a car drives over the entire quarter mile of ruts (see “Civic Musical Road” on youtube).

My good friend, Cathy Hedin McNeil, who well understands the cadence of vibrations through the lower register of her bass guitar, is convinced that road and music vibrations work in harmony with one’s own internal field vibrations. “Music enables a person to travel in the most literal and the most figurative sense. Certainly on the open road, you can’t think about driving on the open road. The freedom that engenders necessitates music playing. The symbiosis of music and traveling is a very literal thing, in the car, rubber on the road, music blaring out of your speakers … In the figurative sense, a song like ‘White Rabbit’ (Jefferson Airplane) can take me traveling to unlimited other realms within the field. For instance, I can be in a normal state of emotion, but I can put on Tchaikovsky and it can move me to tears and traveling into that realm of my own emotion that I might not otherwise be able to access. I don’t have to travel … music takes me there from my living room. Between music and maps, I can go anywhere and it doesn’t cost much except a joint and a pot of coffee.” Indeed, that’s why they called it tripping in the first place.

Music transports us simultaneously into the past and the future, drops us into the heart of hot and gritty cities or takes us home down a country road. It lifts us out of a crowd and into our minds. It can bridge the distance of vastly different cultures. In Steven Spielberg’s conceptual movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it was a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale that was the communicative link between visiting extraterrestrials and humans during a starry-night concerto under Devil’s Tower.

Long before Led Zep rambled on, Steppenwolf decided they were “Born to Be Wild” and, yes, even prior to Lynyrd Skynyrd wailing about how they were such freebirds, there was music sparking wanderlust equally as much as wanderlust inspired the music. The lure of open road, open seas, endless railroad tracks, and space, the final frontier … it’s all about freedom and movin’ on. It’s enough for us to pack our bags, stick out a thumb and run down a dream and an adventure or two. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there, and with an inexhaustible playlist of traveling music, there’s no limit to where your mind and body can wander.


Dawne Belloise is currently staging a gypsy exit out of Crested Butte in a travel trailer large enough to hold a couple of guitars, a killer sound system and a 20-pound cat. Email her at 

¿Tienes Experiencia?

A good brew on the beach!’Bout the time that the blazing mountain sun pulls her annual spring prank, searing  “Last Call for Turns” across the slopes and forcing Ullr and winter back to the frigid lands of the north for another season, down south of the border, she’s calling a different tune, one replete with a rough reggae backbeat, bikinis sand, rum and the sea.

With the selection of beer produced in Mexico, one would think that a journey beyond to the countries comprising the isthmus of Central America would relinquish a cornucopia of fine cerveza for the intrepid traveler to enjoy. While it is true that beer abounds, craft brewing is all but non-existent, and what brew is available is produced and distributed by giant beverage monopolies, not unlike the bad-old-days around these parts.

In Belize, the national brand is Belikin, and comes in three varieties, Lager, Premium Lager and Stout. The crafty company also produces another brand, Lighthouse, which seems to be the same liquid packaged under the premium label, only marked-up and sold in green bottles. To help keep the beverage inside chilled for an extended period in the Caribbean heat, Belikin Lager and Stout are packaged in brown glass bottles with much thicker sides and bottom than average. The theory goes that the greater mass of glass takes longer to warm in the sun. After conducting a thorough test, my wife and I concluded that, despite only having a 10-ounce serving inside, the thicker-glass-prevents-the-brew-from-turning-to-warm-piss was a bunch of shit, and on the morning of day two, purchased a fine pair of bottle coozies, (proudly sporting a stencil of the Belikin label), a cherished prize that we own and operate to this day. A beautiful country filled with wonderful people, coastal Belize spoons with the second-largest reef system on the planet. If you’re a fan of Cancun, staying on the island/peninsula of Ambergris Caye would be a fine choice, or if, like us, you’re style tends more toward Tulum or Mahawal, staying a slight distance south on the tiny spit of sand known as Caye Caulker would be a wiser move. It was on the third day, while enjoying a bottle of Belikin at the café Herbal Tribe, that tragedy struck. The details are not for print, but suffice it to say that either the sun, water, gallons of scotch bonnet sauce, mountains of conch ceviche, multiple lobster breakfast burritos and dinners of fresh-caught and grilled bonefish had caught up with me, or the brew was funky. All I know is that, from that moment forward, I chose to spend the extra fifty cents on each bottle of Belikin Premium, and the ship, as they say, was righted.

Flores, an island/town located on the stunning Lago Peten Itza in the Peten region of northern Guatemala, is absolutely not to be missed. A primary jumping off point for visiting the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Flores is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunset over the lake from the deck of your five-dollar-per-night hotel and to chat with fellow travelers about the splendor of the city and the mystery of the ruins over a cold beer. Gallo, (the rooster), is the national brand, and a litro of the flavorless lager can be had for under a dollar from any of the shops around town. Limes can help the taste, but not much. Half hidden on shelves in the darkest corners of the shops, one may notice many small pints of a nameless clear liquid adorned with labels featuring icons of saints and other religious figures. BEWARE! The poison contained within is distilled juice of the hangover vine cut with low-grade gasoline. One shot may cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting, with a full pint inducing unconsciousness or death. This same filth is sold as Guarro in Costa Rica and should be avoided, that is unless your taste tends towards such pleasantries as snake venom, scorpion poison or extra-strength Rophenol.

The surf on the beach at Santa Theresa, located on the pacific coast of Costa Rica near the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, features a right/left break on an endless sequence of kilometer-long rollers. Spider monkeys nurse their young and feed on breadfruit above your hammock at the treeline, while Ticas in tiny hot-pink Brazil-cut bikinis and hombres with eight-packs and sun-bleached dreadlocks absolutely shred the surf in front of you. Lying there, half dazed by the sun, and exhausted from hours spent on the board learning to surf, ice-cold bottles of Imperial and Pilsen, jammed to the brim with the tiny orange-fleshed limes that grow locally, tasted like ambrosia, the nectar of the gods. Later, the German woman who owned the hostel across the dusty road that ran along the strip of jungle separating the beach from the town shared a bottle of Centranario Rum with us (the 12-year-old variety), and it was then that I truly found out what ambrosia was.


Erich lives in Durango, CO, at the alternate reality ranch, just outside of town. 


Books: Rainier, Tour de Fat and Quitting Money

Challenge Of Rainier “The Challenge of Rainier, 40th Anniversary: A Record of the Explorations and Ascents, Triumphs and Tragedies on the Northwest’s Greatest Mountain,” by Dee Molenaar

Dee Molenaar’s book “The Challenge of Rainier” has long been the best way to experience Seattle’s famous mountain without actually climbing it — and flat-out one of the best books about a mountain or mountains, period, covering the human history of the mountain, drawing from Molenaar’s 70-plus years of experience on it as a climber and guide. For the book’s 40th anniversary, Mountaineers Books has published an updated edition with restored illustrations and historic photos, as well as updated route information and accident statistics through 2010, and a foreword by Ed Viesturs.
$25 paperback, $20 ebook at

Tour De Fat Photo BookBooks: “2011 Tour De Fat Photo Book,” by New Belgium Brewing Company

Perhaps you recall a time when a small mountain town near you rated high enough on New Belgium’s scale of bike-town worthiness to warrant a stop by the traveling circus of beer and bikes known as the Tour de Fat. Having outgrown these roots, the tour now travels to metro areas across the nation, spreading its message of beer, love and bikes. To commemorate, New Belgium Brewing has released a book that attempts to capture the burlesque cacophony of bicycle zaniness that the tour has delivered in its eleven years of rambling across the land. Thumbing through the book, which is presented in a coffee-table format, (think coffee table book hip enough to not freak out your friends), it appears that the tour and its message have remained as close to the heart of the organization as the beer they produce. Like the event it represents, each page is a giggle unto itself. Altogether, the “Tour de Fat” book is an excellent companion to a fine pint of craft-brewed beer in a comfortable old chair.
— Erich Hennig

Books: “The Man Who Quit Money,” by Mark Sundeen

The Man Who Quit MoneyThink about the last time you bought something. Whether it was a new car or a pack of gum, it was probably earlier today, or some time in the not-too-distant past. Now think about this: Daniel Suelo, the subject of Mark Sundeen’s “The Man Who Quit Money,” has not earned or spent so much as a single cent since 2000. He refuses to accept food stamps, welfare or any other form of government aid, lives in a cave outside Moab, Utah, and not only survives, but thrives, completely without the use of money.

Suffice it to say that this is a book that begins with a lot of questions. For starters, is it even possible to live without money these days? Apparently, it is — in addition to recounting Suelo’s tumultuous life story, Sundeen (whose first published story appeared in MG more than a decade ago) shows that Suelo is anything but a lazy freeloader. And he’s no hermit either — quite the contrary. He volunteers at a local women’s shelter, maintains a popular blog and is often asked to housesit by his friends. In fact, his story serves as much a history of the people and places he knows as it is a chronicle of his own turbulent journey to leave the monetary system behind.

Not everyone can live like Daniel Suelo. “The Man Who Quit Money” is not an instruction manual for leaving behind material wealth. The moral of Daniel Suelo’s story is not about emulation, but inspiration. Inspiration to live with less, to give more and in the end, to be happier. And who couldn’t use some of that? $15,
— Andy Anderson

Web: Drive Nacho Drive

Brad and Sheena Van Orden, very recently formerly of Flagstaff, are going to live your dream: They’re going to drive Nacho, their 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon, around the world. They started on Christmas Eve by leaving Flagstaff and heading south down the Baja Peninsula, and are headed slowly, indirectly toward Tierra del Fuego. They have no real plan, just some money they saved by moving into a 420-square-foot house in Flagstaff and living frugally, biking everywhere, keeping chickens, etcetera. On their Web site,, they’re promising a podcast and blog as they journey south, then west through Indonesia, China, India, Europe and eventually Canada and down the West Coast of the United States, if the rough, scribbled line on the route map on their Web site is anywhere close to what really happens. They’re young, enthusiastic and clever, so we’ll wish them luck as we root from our
computer screens back here.

Mountain Vision #186

Independence Pass, 1976Independence Pass, 1976

Love me. Love my dog. Oh, I do, I do! He was left behind with Karen when his owner left for South Africa to meet their boy-friend-in-common, ostensibly to finish sailing around the world.

His name was Bear, he had a displaced hip, and was about twelve or fourteen when he was shot by the Telluride town marshal, for being on the loose and chasing a Great Dane bitch in heat.

It happened in someone’s back yard, about two or three blocks from our house, with the dog catcher looking on helplessly and crying out, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” — at which the plaintiff, also present, replied, “If he doesn’t, I will!” The marshal shot the dog over the back yard fence, but even at that didn’t kill him, only wounded his other hip, so he couldn’t stand. They loaded him, alive, in the back of the dog catcher’s station wagon, and drove out of town and threw him, still alive, over the steep embankment that drops right down to the San Miguel River.

The marshal immediately left town to attend a law-enforcement convention in Grand Junction, and it was a day-and-a-half before we could reach him by phone. When we finally did, he told Karen emphatically that not only did he not owe us an apology, but he would do the same thing again, if he ever had the chance.

We got the law changed, to prevent a recurrence, but they had Won the West. We are West of Dodge, after all. A dog is just an emotional “Sink”, we were advised.

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


Luthier Louis Hayes works the struts on one of his guitars. Photo: Dawne Belloise
Luthier Louis Hayes works the struts on one of his guitars. Photo: Dawne Belloise

Luthiers — makers of stringed instruments — speak in lilting tones of curves and tapered bodies, of deep waists and cantilevered necks, perfect action, sparkling highs, low profiles and how she sits in your lap. They focus on taking care of the desires of the player who is seduced by the dark smoothness or the glow of a golden face. The performance repertoire can vary from a sensuously rich timbre to a blues wail or pop and bark. Musicians have been known to refer to their beloved instruments as feminine and often bestow the title of “soulmate” on them. Although many don’t have the bucks to shell out for one of these handcrafted guitars, mandolins or fiddles, they might consider the advantage of having a single perfectly customized instrument that reflects their particular sound … and it beats lugging several cases to gigs.

In a converted carriage house tucked on the alley behind his downtown Paonia, Colorado, home, luthier Louis Hayes was hand working tiny pieces of wood for struts, the inner braces for the guitar — sanding, chiseling and fine tuning each one to exactly fit into the precise place for perfect tones and resonance. Exotic and beautifully grained woods, both cut and uncut, were stacked ready for transformation. Louie explained that different woods produce different sounds — warmer, brighter, fuller — and so the face of the guitar was usually different than the body. Holding up an unfinished and unattached guitar face, he tapped with one finger. “You should hear four tones … here … and here,” his finger rapping the wood in two different spots, the unborn guitar singing in sweet resounding vibrations.

Hanging on walls were molds and clamps, woodworking tools and guitar blueprints — the entire studio garnished with corkscrews of wood shavings in loose piles on the floors and worktables … a twisted sculpture in themselves. Like walking through the telltale aroma of a kitchen with a fine chef at work, the smell of wood hung thick in the air. Louie’s guitars are sold to musicians across the country, through music festivals and word of mouth. (On Facebook at Hayes Guitar Lutherie or call 970-527-8977.)

Heading to the southern mountain town of Crestone, Colorado, from Glenwood Springs, Don Paine and his son Josh, are multi-generational builders of Pomeroy Mandolins. Their shop specializes in F-5 Gibson archtop replicas, archtop mandolas and octave mandolins whose sound has been described as an old Gibson on steroids. Don, who also builds exquisite fiddles, says his Crestone shop in a town at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where 14,000-foot glaciated peaks are graced with stands of Engelmann Spruce, is an inspiration for any luthier. (

A short jaunt from Monarch Pass, in Salida, Colorado, Jeff Bamburg says it was like jumping off a cliff when he chose to become a full-time guitar luthier. In Jeff’s world, it takes around 150 hours to build a basic guitar, a more customized one can take up to 250 hours. Jeff also teaches classes for aspiring luthiers, where a complete guitar can take two weeks of 12-hour days. “Every builder has his own signature sound and trying to build a guitar that resonates what the luthier wants that voice to sound like can take decades to develop,” he said of the technique. (

Brian Deckeback of Deltoro Guitars, has been building electric basses and guitars since 2001. He notes that there’s a little difference between creating a guitar and a bass, but the lower range frequencies are a consideration. Crisp, clean sounds translate into harder, heavier woods like ash and maple for clarity of the low end, while the lighter, airier dynamics would sport, for example, mahogany and alder. He feels the anticipation and fun about building is that you never know what the instrument is going to do until you string it and play it. “They sound better as they break in and develop their own personality. A guitar will sound completely different a week after you string it than when you first play it,” Deckeback  says. ( and Deltoro Guitars on facebook)

There are basic rules of relativity that affect these stringed wooden instruments. Don’t expect to jump off a plane and start playing immediately since, most likely, a guitar, mando or fiddle will wonk out of tune. For acoustic pickers and strummers, air conditioning and the outdoors will be really tough on your ax, along with wind, sun and temperature changes, which affect it more than a solid-body instrument. There are many luthiers to be found throughout the mountain states who all have the same hope that their creations are played and not just kept in a case in a closet. All of the builders agree, it’s always a great feeling when you match the musicians with their perfect instrument.

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact 

Dude, Where’s My Dog?

Porter the malamute wonders, “Dude, where’s my beer?”
Porter the malamute wonders, “Dude, where’s my beer?”

I have seen the future, and it’s dark. Not in a cataclysmic, greed-driven economic meltdown kinda way (been there, done that), nor in an apocalyptic end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it kinda way (the peculiarity of an 1,100-year-old Mayan astronomical cycle ending in 2012 of the Common Era IS NOT a harbinger of the end), but in the sense that trends old and long forgotten often become new again.

According to some estimates, as much as 75% of beer produced in London in the mid-19th century was Porter-style ale. First produced late in the 18th century, the brew had caught on among the workers of London, and through trade had become a rampant success across Europe, on order of the beaver-pelt hat. While the latter faded from fashion around 1850, Porter continued to be produced by British brewers until grain rationing during the First World War forced the beer to be brewed with lower alcohol content, on the order of Stout. This, along with the increasing popularity of Stout, nearly led to the demise of the style until a number of breweries began producing Porters again in the 1980s.

Porter is dark ale, brewed with heavily roasted malts to create a rich body balanced with dry flavors of coffee and nuts or sometimes a sweet character of caramel or toffee. Porter is commonly brewed to finish at 5-6% abv, with its heavier cousin, Baltic Porter, finishing between 7-10% abv. Hopping rates vary, with many Porters using modest amounts of hops to compliment the astringency already present from the darker malts. Some domestically produced porters, such as Deschutes Brewing Co.’s Black Butte Porter and Avery Brewing Co.’s New World Porter, hop to much higher levels, on order of a Pale Ale or India Pale Ale. (Avery has even been so bold as to lay claim to their New World Porter being the first Black IPA, thus entering an ongoing dispute among Pacific Northwest brewers and the Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, CA, over the origination of the style). Occasionally, breweries choose to add a small amount of smoked malt to the grain bill. This is roasted malt that has been placed in a smoker or dried over a wood fire. Generally found in bigger Baltic Porters, a modest touch of smoke can be an excellent addition to the overall flavor, and hearkens back to a time prior to kiln-drying of malt, when all beer would have contained some level of smoke flavor from the use of fire-dried barley.

Today, Porter is readily available at the package store, and is offered by many craft breweries. For a baseline example of the style, one can’t miss with a bottle of Fuller’s, or Samuel Smith’s Old Taddy Porter. The latter was a crowd favorite in parking lots outside of music venues in the ’90s, and while drinking a bottle in preparation for this article, a friend reminisced fondly that it and a piece of paper had been dinner on more than one occasion before seeing a band.

For a smoked variety, pick up a bottle of Smoked Baltic Porter from Great Divide Brewing Co. or the excellent Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Co. Alaskan has chosen to add their alder-wood smoked malt to a base brew of modest (5.5% abv) strength, allowing the smoke to play a more prominent role in the flavor profile than it does in the offering from Great Divide. The brew is released annually and labeled with the year of release. I was lucky enough to find a bottle from 2009, and was happy to find that it had mellowed nicely in the bottle with little loss of body.

And so, will darker beer, like Porter, become the norm again? I don’t know, but for every beer, there is a person who drinks it. The two major international beer producing conglomerates, (AB/InBev and MillerCoors together controlling 265+ brands between them), are making quite a bit of money selling the likes of Michelob Amber Bock and other filthy poisons of a non-yellow color to someone. This was unheard of 15 years ago, and as the craft industry continues its impressive year-over-year growth, I can’t help but hope for a mass change in consciousness away from lite “beer.” Perhaps this time, it can be done without the beaver-pelt hat craze and the near extinction of the hapless beaver from North America.

Erich Hennig lives in Durango, CO and is a contributor to the blog He can be reached at