Travelog I

A sign on 285: Ralph Carr Memorial Highway.

“I wonder if anyone remembers why,” I mused.

“The Japanese do,” Phil replied.

It took an hour to escape the metro area. Once we were well into the mountains, traffic thinned and we relaxed. We could have taken I-25, but we’ve done that many times and it’s too much like city driving. On a Tuesday morning, we soon had stretches with no other cars in sight and gorgeous scenery.

After Fairplay, CO

The overlook after Kenosha Pass is a favorite, that sweeping view of South Park, snow-studded Collegiate Peaks in the background. We were thrilled, didn’t expect so much snow to grace the high country as warm as it’s been. The light was sharp, sky blue and the snow blazing. Phil, the graphic designer, says “that white’s at 90%.”

We always block from our memories one fact about being on the road: a decent lunch—or maybe any lunch—is hard to find. Fairplay was too soon and at Buena Vista we found only a Subway. We’ve shunned Subway for decades but had no choice.

“Next time,” Phil said, “we research places to eat lunch.”

Phil at Friar’s Fork

We passed the Sand Dunes, made our Alamosa destination in time to settle into a nice room, shake off road vibrations and clean up before our dinner reservations. The Friar’s Fork was a semifinalist for a James Beard award in 2023, had atmosphere, good wine and service. Maybe we caught them on an off night, but the chicken marsala was only average.

Jason said there were any number of Mexican restaurants we could have tried, several that specialize in the cuisine of the region the owners are from: Oaxaca or Jalisco or Michoacán.

Cold rolled ice cream makers, Jason and Paloma

Jason and Paloma are proprietors of Frosty Acres, cold rolled ice cream, a place Phil found. Their young son Cruz sat in a corner, engrossed in his laptop. “Go with Nana,” Jason told to him as an older woman prepared to leave. A family business.

Jason lived in Florida a while, came back home. His family counts eight generations in the San Luis valley, back to the time of land grants we said we’d honor and didn’t. (Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848, ending the U.S.-Mexican War.) Cold rolled ice cream is light, delicious, each order rolled individually. We had the Jitterbug, made with cold brew coffee, almonds, drizzle of chocolate.

Like many small American towns, Alamosa has restored Main Street, creating a charming downtown that seems alive and well. So many downtowns are museums, fake fronts hollowed out by Walmart’s depredations. The Narrow-Gauge Book Co-op is on Main Street, staffed by volunteers, has an impressive range of new and used books, from the usual bestsellers to the likes of Valeria Luiselli, Mexican writer translated by Christina MacSweeney, published by Coffee House Press. I have her books, was pleasantly surprised to find them there.

Narrow Gauge Books and Magazines, Main Street

Alamosa is a college town, which may account for such literary stock. Adams State University. Trinidad State College. Decades ago, I saw only Mexican Americans and white folk outside the metro area. In Alamosa, we saw Blacks and Asians in mixed race groups—college students, likely—and at our hotel breakfast, met an older black guy visiting his past. He’d been stationed at Ft. Carson as a young soldier. Our blossoming diversity has spread beyond cities, enriching as it goes.

The next day we visited old friends in Bayfield, then headed for Mesa Verde. We’ll return to Alamosa some time, try one of those Mexican restaurants, get some of Jason and Paloma’s cold rolled ice cream, scout the bookstore.

Ralph Carr’s portion of 285 is from C- 470 to Kenosha Pass. Colorado’s governor 1939 -1943, he opposed the WWII federal policy of internment camps. Doing so cost him re-election. Japanese Americans placed a bronze bust of him on Sakura Square in Denver in 1976. Last year, on Veteran’s Day, Japanese Americans laid flowers on his grave. Phil’s right. They have not forgotten him.

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