Almost every June, Diane and I pack up the truck, load up the dogs and head west to the Arkansas River Valley of the Colorado Front Range. I started making the trip in around 1980 when Don "L.A." Brookings and I tied our kayaks onto the 2x4 roof racks of my Toyota Corolla hatchback and drove out in search of the legendary whitewater of the Rockies. We found what we were looking for and I've made the trip almost every year since, so it was only natural that Diane and I honeymooned here and I've celebrated most of my birthdays here for decades. The towns of Buena Vista and Salida have served as our bases of operation. While we were attracted to the area by the boating and the usually fantastic summer weather, since I've been riding I've aspired to hit the roads and ride the high passes but this was easier said than done. The altitude severely limited our abilities and, though we did a little riding, it seemed that we never really got into a good groove on the bikes. Our hope was that this year would be a little different.
Back in my early boating days, we'd make the 1000 mile drive straight through, but Diane and I break up the drive with an overnight stay along the way. This year, we decided to take a full day driving on Friday in order to arrive in Salida mid-day on Saturday. Our Friday night destination was Raton, N.M., just south of the Colorado border. Lodging choices are sparse in Raton, especially if you are travelling with a couple of dogs, so the Motel 6 had been our landing spot on a couple of earlier trips. Hoping to find an option, I got on line and came up with a small motel that got great write-ups from travelers, the Melody Lane Budget Host. It is likely 50's vintage and looks the part, a single-story motel left stranded by on the old highway by the construction of nearby I-25 in a row of similar motels. What differentiated the Budget Host was that fact that it was immaculate, with a lush little lawn and freshly painted buildings. The metal cut-out musical notes welded to the decorative fence in a tip to Melody Lane reminded me a little of Graceland. The owner was friendly and the rooms were, if a little dated, quiet, freshly painted, newly carpeted and absolutely spotless and the bathroom had a steam shower that made me want one at home.. Due to my geezer status, the rate was discounted from 75.00 to 58.00, plus a 5.00 per pup pet fee. I've paid three times the price for a room that had none of the comfort and charm of the Budget Host Raton. This was a good start!
We have friends in Salida who have graciously been our hosts for the last couple of week-long trips out, but for fear of wearing out our welcome, we decided to try to find a place to rent for the front end of our vacation. Diane located a place owned by a couple named Chip and Peggy Barton. The name had to be a good sign, so we booked it. The Colorado Bartons live on 80 acres a few miles outside of Salida and use their guest house as a vacation rental. Once again, we hit the jackpot. As write, I'm looking up-valley at snow-capped peaks, Diane is sunning out by the cool, clear pond beside the South Arkansas River, which borders the property, and Willie and Zuli are carefully ignoring Matilda, the Aussie-border collie mix who is the home-dog and really wants them to play!
I'll have tall tales and some photos soon, but I left my camera's USB cable at home and Diane's notebook won't accept my memory card, so I'm media-challenged at the moment.