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Alpine Life in The Twilight Zone,
Or,
How To Spend 3/12ths of a Summer
Running 5/12ths of a Hundred

By Rich ("Softrocks Rick") Limacher

So far (as far as weird experiences with the hotel industry go) I am 4-for-4 in Silverton, Colorado. Finishing the crazy hundred-mile run which starts and finishes in that same town, however, has proved to be less successful. But let's begin this diatribe with where I've had, without a doubt, the least success of all: in bed.

During our first sojourn to Silverton, some seven years ago, my bride and I could hardly find one. So we had to adjourn to Ouray--the neighboring town to the north, about a whole hour away. The following year we had better luck by forking over a king's ransom, the left lung, and our firstborn child to the witches and warlocks comprising Silver City's most hostile and least favorite hoteliers. Two years after that, having already paid for half-a-stay with that selfsame witch and warlock, our Run was canceled; and, contrary to what you'd expect, not only did the aforementioned Wicked Witch of the Vest not refund our deposit, but she then promptly charged our card for the full remaining balance.

( O_O )

Then when the calendar rolled around for our third visit, I spent most of the time camping on gravel in an RV campground which simply could not understand my pleas to pitch my tent on grass. Colorado was having a drought, they explained, so my ass wasn't grass; it was stones. Finally, this year's experience was the creme de la creme: me 'n' my spoose shacked up courtesy of a broad in a bawdy place which, legend says, back in the haze of the mining daze... was a whorehouse.

So, I'm lying in bed in the bawdy house on my very first night in town, when I suddenly happen to gaze upwards and see: the bottom of a bunk bed. Under the mattress of which, in full color courtesy of a couple crayons, was this drawing upon some ancient, crinkly, brown-edged paper which some wiseass kid (no doubt) had smooshed in between the springs and the mattress. It seemed to be the image of a brightly colored fairy castle, beneath which were the words: "I'm a cool minor. Eat your heart out."

Bunk beds. Yessir, that would be correct. Either the whole bawdy house history is a complete myth, or else maybe that paper was put there to hide some hole in the upper mattress... and those old miners possessed rare treasures that extended their reputations even farther than gold or silver. Oh, never mind. I've already worked far too hard to concoct that joke.

Butt still... there's more to the mattress angle. Early on in my stay, I chanced to return to my upstairs room after trailmarking one day, and there at the end of the 2nd floor hallway was a wide-open door. Whoa! That's something you don't often expect to see at the end of a hallway on the second floor, eh? Either it steps out onto one helluva a back porch stoop, or else... there's a fire-escape ladder out there?

Nope, neither one. I gazed out the door to see what I perceived to be a roof that must extend over some outcropped area of the first floor... a mysterious kitchen perhaps? Another bathroom I was never told about? The local meth lab? What? I never did find out. But... there was in fact another mattress laying out there on that roof.

And, after yet another day or two of trailmarking, I chanced to gaze out there at that same mattress... and there was my landlady sunbathing on it.

Whoa!

And the upstairs hallway door was wide open. What did this mean? I didn't wait to find out. I hurried up with my cold shower so's I could go back to Handlebars, or some such restaurant, to meet Joe and the rest of Charlie's trailmarking crew for dinner.

Gotta tellya 'bout Joe and the Crew. Joe and some few of the crew had gone in together to rent, yes, a "nice" house. Not a shack or a bordello or some leftover floppy house relic from a former floozy era. No sir, they'd rented a great place to which, after dinner, we'd all adjourn to drink beer, or Gatorade, and tell stories about flopping landladies and rain-soaked rooftop extra mattresses. And every night? Yup, another story.

Like, for example, how the way my room rental was supposed to work was: for the first 2 of the 3 weeks, I was to be alone and renting one of the upstairs little bunkbed rooms, but for the 3rd week my wife and I were to move downstairs to the deluxe room with the queensize bed and... no plumbing. I happened to "investigate" downstairs once, and there was this guy sitting on a sofa in "the common area" (complete with mini fridge and half-strength microwave) who told me, "You're moving into this room? Well, good luck. It's totally gutted. You couldn't force yourself in there now with a crowbar."

I suppose I should also mention that, during my secret explorations, I also discovered how, yes maybe, there actually was inside that house, on the first floor, a "secret passageway." Whoa-ho! It led conveniently from the deluxe big room with the bigger non-bunk bed straight out past the washing machine to the "other" entrance on Blair Street. Standing at that entrance, when the "secret" was closed, all you could see was a stairway leading upstairs with a wall next to it. Wellllllllllll, that wall moves! From the inside, from the bigger bedroom with the non-bunked bed, say for example, whenever the nineteenth century sheriff might "surprise" everybody by barging through the front door, there would be ample opportunity for, say for example, the county judge to pull up his overalls and slide out through that secret passage to the other door on Blair Street and happily make his escape.

"Mr. Limmickur," my landlady said to me one day through the open secret "wall" after returning yet again from another hard day of climbing mountains and planting little flags, "you're just the man I want to see."

Whoa?

And she hands me this battery-powered screwgun.

WHOA!

"Huh?" I ask.

"You need to install a lock on the downstairs door."

"Whaaa?"

"You're moving into this DELUXE room tomorrow when your wife arrives. But there's no lock. You're tall. So you need to install this." And she hands me a padlock.

Yessir, a padlock. Apparently, perhaps ever since the nineteenth century, there never had been a lock installed in the door of that DELUXE queen room. Either that, or this was just more of the current remodeling project yet to be finished. We quickly arrived at the truth of the matter, though, that "we" were all out of time (before the bride arrives) to install a bona fide key-lock within the door itself--and so this landlady's quick fix was for me to slap on a padlock.

Uh-huh. So, what happens when we're inside?

"Oh, no problem, Mr. Limmickur. All three of these doors have these little hooks inside them. See? When you're inside, all you have to do is hook 'em!"

Before "hooking" anything, I asked for, and received, the nickel tour of the gold room from Madam Mattress. Immediately I notice how, despite the massive and URGENT remodeling job, the toilet wasn't quite all the way put together yet, and several pieces of critical tile were still missing from the floor.

Then Mistress Mattress pointed out to me the real reason why my carpenteurial skills were needed. Her "handyman" had in fact already installed the latch for the padlock--not on the door, however, but on the door frame. One could see at a glance that, once the padlock was in place and locked, that frame couldn't possibly be forced "open" from the rest of the wall. The door, however, since the latch wasn't attached to it, could rather easily be opened.

"We'll forgive him for being stupid, won't we, Mr. Limmickur?" she said smilingly while handing me a "hasp" to use now in conjunction with the latch and padlock. This hasp consisted, no kidding, of a little hook-like thing you might otherwise hang your jacket on. Its fastening method consisted of just one lone wood screw--something that, say for example, even a weakling 19th century hangin' judge could rip out of the wall with one desperate push.

I installed the contraption... and then later after dinner relayed the story to my appreciative audience at Joe's house.

"Well!" exclaimed Mike. "I guess that's how we can get Deb [then on the waiting list] into the race! We just sneak over on Thursday night and padlock Rich inside his room!"

I reminded the group of how flimsy this new construction was. Besides, there were those two other doors which could easily be kicked open from the inside of my deluxe room.

But that wasn't the best part. No sir, not by a long shot. First, once my wife and I were in there, we discovered that the upstairs plumbing was bad. We had leaks raining all thru the ceiling whenever somebody upstairs took a shower! And then another time, the landlady explained to us how "someone who rented the room before us" forgot "their" laptop computer, so would we please be so kind as to retrieve it from under the bed?

And, oh yeah, there was all sorts of other junk crammed under that bed too, and stuff "hidden" all inside all the cupboards and drawers and nightstands and things... and the medicine cabinet in that hastily-remodeled bathroom was now duct-taped shut. Hmmm...

But here's the "killer." Her phone-plus-answering-machine was just on the other side of one of our three mysterious inside doors. One day, whilst being lazy and tapering for the race, we heard it ring.

"Rrrrrrrrrrrrrring. [click] Thanks for calling! I'm not here! Leave a message!"

"Hey, baby, it's me. And I am hot to trot. I'm driving up from New Mexico and I can be there in just a couple hours. I sure do miss you. And I sure could use a little..."

[click, phone answers, she's in another room! obviously on a wireless... and also OBVIOUSLY... not understanding that, hey, the machine keeps right on recording unless you're in the same room and push the button!]

"Hi!"

"You're there!"

"Yes I am, baby!"

"Are you hot?"

"That depends."

"Well, I'm hot. And I sure could use a little sex today. You busy?"

"Ha-ha! That depends, too!"

"Yeah, you're hot. You are one hot little mama."

"Mm-hmm!"

"I'm thinkin' about ya right now while I drive. Guess what I'm holding in my hand?"

"I can only imagine..."

"Right!"

"Are you on your way?"

"You got it, baby! I'll be there in less than three hours!"

"I'll be waiting!"

"Baby, you can turn a trick like nobody's business. Are you hot now... and wet? [pause] You still have that sexy little cowgirl outfit? [more pause] You remember the last time we did it in your bed?"

"We can't do it in there now."

"No? Why?"

"Because I rented it!"

"WHAT???"

[Here we listened as the "hot little mama" finally discovered that her conversation was being broadcast... she arrived in the room where the answering machine was and pushed the button. Still, of course, we could hear her side of the conversation--in considerably muffled tones. She probably just realized the padlock was off and that we were in there.]

(hushed) "I've rented my room to a couple. They're here for the race."

[Then she walked back outside of that room and beyond our hearing.]

So we spent, oh, just a few little moments looking in drawers for that cowgirl outfit.

Uh-huh. But no, we didn't find it. And so, as we whispered amongst ourselves, it now seemed like the "notorious" Blair Street reputation was living on into the 21st century, eh?

We got ourselves together and left to go to breakfast. As we stood outside the room and fastened the padlock, Madam Cowgirl came up to us--her face very definitely displaying a deep color of blush and her eyes kept kinda diverted--and asked if we needed fresh towels.

"Sure do," I said. "We need something to mop up all this water that keeps leaking from upstairs."

"Oh my God!"

We then showed her the damage that fell from above while she was spending time on the phone unknowingly damaging her reputation. She was embarrassed. We were amused. She mopped up and promised to "fix things" and we went to breakfast.

When we returned much later in the day, fresh towels were there but she was not. We guessed that, well, if her hot-to-trot New Mexican boyfriend did in fact show up, he might've had to rent a room himself--at another hotel--if he and his well-heated cowgirl intended to tryst again like they did last summer.

[We now must interrupt this exciting commercial message for your Old West tourist attractions and return to our dull regularly scheduled program: The Hardrock Hundred.]

The Hardrock Hundred this year can be summarized in three lone letters: DNF. There. And that's about all you need to know about it, too. Let's return instead to our irregularly re-scheduled commercial....

Someone once said about the entire Hardrock experience that: "It's two weeks of great fun interrupted by a horrible footrace." Which, to my way of thinking, is completely correct.

The fun part encompasses at least two weeks of trailmarking, during which everybody totally enjoys a leisurely hike through the mountains, and after which we all have nightly fun at dinner and tell jokes after that at Joe's. It was especially fun this trip to meet Joe's pals George and Barbara and Doug and everyone who drove up from Texas to entertain us with such unique talents as unicycle riding and mocking crazy men from Illinois. At one point, the humor extended to include hapless starving citizens from Maryland, whose Jeeps back home were destroyed when the little-known levies of Washington DC broke.

Yeah, Mike and I commiserated over hastily (and partially) cooked spaghetti one evening, while everybody else waited in line at Handlebars Saloon. Then on another night, all the "power elite" associated with the Hardrock Run came over for Deb and Barb's WONDERFUL lasagna dinner, and everybody enjoyed the stories of both the DC floods and those coming down from the second floor on Blair Street. Plus, I suppose, we all enjoyed the tangential hardware-installation-and-construction-project stories as well as presumed fantasies of visiting New Mexican truck drivers who probably found themselves having to live out their own fantasies flopping atop smelly soggy sacks on the roof.

Now back to our program: "That Horrible Interruption Due to a Footrace."

Allow me to summarize. This year there was one thing I didn't have (training) and two things I regretted: left (foot) and right (foot). I just knew I was going to have problems when, the very next day after sleeping all night under the top bunk, I promptly hiked out-of-town in the counterclockwise direction... and got lost. And I ended up climbing the totally wrong mountain. And I fell, nearly disastrously, while trying like crazy to hurry back down to timberline on account of the sudden lightning and thundershower. Ouch! My butt continued to hurt well into raceday itself.

At six-in-the-morning on July 14th, of course, we headed out-of-town in the clockwise direction. And, no, I didn't get lost (till way later) and I didn't fall down and go boom (until probably midnight). I sadly watched as almost the entire field passed me just beyond the creek while heading up our very first climb.

Hans, for example, scooted past as if on a mission. "I just want to finish," he said. "I don't care how slow. I just want to finish." (I later discovered he finished in front of about 2/3rds the field!) Jan, for another example, sang me a song and invented a limerick as he sailed past:

"There was a big man from Chicago,
Who journeyed the way that we all go;
He tripped over Handies
And fell down in pansies,
Which cushioned that big DNF blow!"

...or, something like that. It's hard to remember poetry when you're teetering over the brink of cliffsides and hoping your wife can remember the insurance agent's phone number.

"It's a good thing," I said as he jogged ahead of me, "that I already got all my shopping done."

"What shopping?" he asked over his shoulder.

"For caskets."

"LIMMICKUR!!!!!!!"

It was Joe. Closing ground behind me like a freight train, and flyin' on by like a tailspinning 747.

"Go get 'em, Joe!" I hollered after he passed.

That meant, I was guessing, that only Lethal was behind me. I'd gotten ahead of her only because, being from Texas, she'd stopped to put gloves on... here on this lovely 70+ degree morning... which, I should also hasten to point out... later progressed to become a helluva lot hotter.

In fact, by the time I found myself struggling up Oscar's Pass, this erstwhile loveliness probably evolved into a 100+ degree sauna. Oh, and did I mention the ten trillion black flies and mosquitoes arising as I rose up out of the Chapman Aid Station?

Well, that's about how the whole day went, till Lethal herself caught me on the way up to Virginius and we both slid down on our painful, rock-punctured butts at midnight or so. Later, back in town, she asked me: "We had fun, didn't we?"

My answer to her, Joe, and all those way-fabulous Texans now would be: "Sure. Just like sitting ducks have fun when all the hunters' bullets miss, too!"

The only--I repeat, only--thing that got me out of Ouray was my pacer, a stalwart and strapping young lad named Zack. This young man could be a future Karl Meltzer--mark my words! And I felt guilty as either sin or my landlady for making him wait HOURS beyond my estimated arrival time at the Ouray Aid Station. But arrive I did and away we trudged...

...'till only about the very next aid station, where, promptly and abruptly with exactly TWO minutes to leave there before cutoff, I sat in a chair and held out my wristband for the aid station captain and said, "Cut it."

And that... was that. I can now, whilst gawking at the results, "read 'em and weep"; but no amount of my staring is ever going to change those numbers. Once again, with regard to me versus the cosmos, our 4th inning score is: Hardrock - 3; Little Richie - 1.

I'm glad you've just finished reading all this, because that is NOT what I sat down to write about. No. Actually, my purpose here today was to curse, thumb my nose at, and/or otherwise totally defile and defame United Airlines. I'd like to start a boycott even! And convince you your own self never to book a flight on United ever again for as long as you live! And I don't care that it, like me, is Chicago-based. If I did business like United does business, I'd want you to boycott me, too.

On Monday after the whole thing was over, Chuck gave my bride and I a ride to the Durango airport. We left early in the morning, for Chuck's convenience, because Chuck had an early flight. Ours (anticipating complete failure, I suppose, on the Hardrock course) was booked for 7:10 in the evening. But, on the day before, we'd called and United had told us there'd be "no problem" going stand-by and hopping an earlier flight to Denver. Right. And, oh by the way, there were FIVE earlier flights out of Durango to Denver that day.

Right.

So, we get there and Chuck, who's booked on Frontier, gets out of Dodge right on schedule. Note: same airport, same conditions, same weather.

But United suddenly ups and tells us: sorry, the heat conditions are too hot, the planes can't take off with a full load, and all flights are thus now delayed.

WHAT???

Yes, this is what MF'n United now told us. When it's too hot, you see, there's some goofy aerodynamical formula that dictates (to United, apparently, but not to Frontier) that propeller-driven airplanes cannot get enough "lift" off an already-short runway, and so those planes must significantly empty their loads.

Prop planes. Uh-huh. And didn't we all witness that Pearl Harbor movie a couple years ago where these HUGE GIGANTIC B-52 propeller-driven BOMBER planes ALL succeeded in taking off an already-short aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Doolittle's Raiders, weren't they called? My own father has since verified that, yes indeed, Col. Doolittle and his brave little band of SUPER HEAVY B-52 bombers did in fact manage to take off from that ship's flight deck... but here in Durango, Colorado, over sixty years later with much longer runways and much smaller airplanes... well, suddenly United is now kicking passengers OFF their pre-booked flights... 'cuz "it's too hot" and "you're too heavy"!

Are you kidding moi? OK, then how come Frontier Airlines has no trouble? Later that day Delta also managed to land and take off again. All on schedule. All in the very same hot heat. And all on the same short silly runways!

OK, quickly, here's the box score for that Monday's "game" at the Durango-La Plata County Airport: Frontier - 1; Delta - 1; United [further breakdown needed]: the 11:59 a.m. flight took off around 4:00 p.m.; both the 1:00- and 2:00-something p.m. flights took off before the 11:59 did; the 4:00-something flight left after 6:00; the 5:00-something flight took off at around 7-in-the-evening; and the 7:10 didn't take off until 8-FREAKING-30!!! Further to that score, now, are these batting averages: Chuck batted 1000; another HRH survivor and conqueror, Bob, who was listed on the stand-by list after us, got off on the 5-something flight ahead of us; his pacer, Cheryl (from Hawaii!) managed to get on the flight before him, but still (she calculated, and later confirmed) missed all her connecting flights to take her home; and finally... me & the wife were left high and dry.

At one point the United ticket-taker said to the now-large group assembled in the waiting area: "You should all get together and discuss amongst yourselves how you're going to get to Denver. Maybe you could rent a van."

ARE YOU KIDDING US? We have ALREADY DECIDED HOW! We all bought tickets on YOUR damn plane!!!

So all the Limmickurs spent ALL THAT DAY on hard chairs in the waiting room, waiting to "sure, no problem" hop aboard an earlier flight to, uh-huh, Denver, where we might even catch another early flight back to Chicago.

Right.

Not only did we NOT catch an earlier flight, but United was also late with our 7:10 "confirmed" flight... so late, in fact, that we thus missed our regularly scheduled connection in Denver!

And not only us, but Dale too! Yes, 'tis true. None other than our very own Hardrock race director himself (and--do I dare mention this?--he is also none other than the mayor of Durango!) was also booked on that same 7:10 flight and he also arrived too late in Denver for his connecting flight to Omaha. (So much for mayoral clout.) Apparently, United Airlines doesn't hurry AT ALL for ANYBODY. Probably not even for the mayor of Chicago! Although, Hizzoner being who/what he is, I'm betting even the Mayor of Chicago does NOT fly with this idiotic Chicago-based airline.

No, and neither should you either. Repeat after me: "I will NOT ever again for the rest of my life fly United. No one can make me do it! I hope and pray this gigantic often-broke airline goes bankrupt forever. No more federal bailouts. No more special considerations from City Hall. I will walk to Milwaukee and fly Air Wisconsin rather than riding to O'Hare and flying United." Repeat that over and over for the rest of this week. And next year for Hardrock? Fly Frontier!

United almost--except for the fact that the Limmickurs were standing at "Customer (non) Service" and hollering our heads off--didn't even give us a hotel voucher for our now-necessary overnight stay in Denver. Wow. Imagine that. We sit for one whole entire day in Durango, and now they expect us to sit for an entire night on some chair in a waiting room in Denver?

Nuh-uh, babycakes. United WAS gonna put us up for the night, or WE were gonna commit murder right there across that "Customer (no) Service" countertop!

So, finally... and finally... we at last arrived home nearly 48 hours after leaving Silverton. Most folks finished the entire Hardrock (except for Matt--sorry, Matt :-( within that time and some folks were no doubt able to "entertain" every truck driver from New Mexico in a now big empty queensize bed before we ever got to Chicago.

And here. This is more or less precisely what I now think of that:

A Colorado hotelier entertained,
On a roof-mattress
just soaked by the rain,
Every manjack and Jill
Ever needing a thrill
Who drove truck over the New Mexican plain!

Or this:

Once all United's passengers got miffed,
'Cuz its plane sat aground and adrift.
They said, "Today's way too hot;
It needs to sit till it's not...
...unless... you know a 'land' lady with lift!"

Anchors aweigh, my lads!

An' cords (including foundation garments, petticoats, and cowgirl outfits) away!

And the next time I journey to Colorado, I'm hopping the stagecoach.

( O_O )

 

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