The Million Dollar Highway….#227 (the 90’s)

Red Mountain


Gary couldn’t believe the passage on Highway 550 over the 12,980 foot elevation of Red Mountain,  its program south from Ouray  designated as The Million Dollar Highway  was  a carnage of progress,  the Willson’s destination being Durango and points west.   This renown  highway was a cornucopia of twist and turns,  the incline of the road finding highway signs disclosing a warning message to slow to a speed as low as 5 miles per hour thru the curving deviations.   The Buick ,its transmission paling,  registered in first gear to slow its downhill decent,   the brakes being applied on numerous occasions to moderate it’s speed,  the family taking notice that many sections of the road unsheperd with guard rails

The view of the gorge below,  the depth of the incline giving reverence to the perplexity of those workers  who fashioned a path on the sheer cliffs of the 13,000 ft.   mountain.   Halting their travel at Silverton,  the family disembarking the Skylark,  Gary noticing an emanation discharging from the Buick,  a familiar odor from his peregrinations with his father during his youthful travels in a ten-wheeler loaded lumber truck,  the smell of calescent brake pads.

Continuing the digression on the Million Dollar highway,  but this time being somewhat more cautious in braking the automobiles advancement, the smell emitted by the hot brakes still lingering,   the 70 mile journey from Ouray to Durango a two hours juncture being fulfilled.    A hesitation at Durango,  the Willson’s then embarking west on Highway 160 to the Mesa Verde National Park,  a historic presentations of Colorado heritage,  its Indian Cliff Dwellings dating from 550 AD to 1300 AD,  but never acknowledged until the 1870’s by William Henry Jackson and finally recognized as a national park in 1906.  The road trip ensuing a 40 mile venture,  the passing scenery mostly made up of desolate rock propositions, then a sudden conclusion with the appearance  of a vestige tree habitation,  thus acquiring its name Mesa Verde,  “Green Table”.

Mesa Verde National Park

The Buick reaching its destination,  the family embarking on a winding rock spawn path entering the realm of a Indian civilization that existed for more than 800 years,  their demise still questionable to this day.   The cliff dwellings and their presentation a wondrous vision of the past,  Gary a student of history,  intrigued with the surroundings,  a curiosity about the inhabitants culture, their thoughts about life and the future,  or was it all about survival.  Rob and Sandi touring the realm, examining its remains, Gary wondering how long the permutation would hold their interest., but what really matter was providing the opportunity, learning years ago not assess another’s inquisitiveness and especially with children, just enjoy the moment.

The tour of the relics of the past completed,  once again in the presence of the Buick reversing course but with a final cessation,  Gary noting a sign for an overlook, “Four Corners“,  a view from one vantage point of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado,  the family according the winding road to acquaint the presentation. Discovering the flatland view somewhat anticlimactic.  Returning to Durango, ensuing a discussion of acquainting the Durango Silverton Narrow Gage Railway Tour, but because of the late hour decided to forgo the two-hour tour,  Gary desiring to arrive in Ouray before dark,  postponing the event for another time

The Willson family Matriarch







Family Gathering

The contradistinction visits to Ouray finding Gary’s mother,  Betty Willson,  the dexterous matriarch traveling from California to the high altitude region,  making an aeronautical entrance to the Montrose Airport to join them in Ouray to celebrate the abundance of the Colorado Mountains.   The Murrow Family playing host to the eldest Willson,  sharing their riverside trailer pavilion for her stay,  Gary happy to see a closer articulation of the two families.

Acknowledging his mother’s presence as an uplifting experience,  her attendance giving acquiesce that another family realm existed besides those propagated from the domination and dynasties of Kansas and Oklahoma.  With the new arrival,  a return to many of the local enhancements including the dominion of Box Canyon and the cavalcade of rushing water.   Gary’s mother spending the better part of a week experiencing the presentations of Ouray community and the over-powering instigation of the Rocky Mountains.

The Rivers Edge Motel

Western Hotel

A departure time having ascended,  the Willson’s River Edge Motel provision having expired,  but a desire to remain another day was acquired,  a move up the street,  a block away to the historic Western Hotel,  it’s remnants from an earlier era.   The dining room and bar a depiction of something out of a western movie, the upstairs rooms having old metal spring beds,  the restroom a commune down the hall,  the experience a peregrinations back in time.

Turn of the century dining

A real saloon bar

The departure morning the family enjoying a buffet breakfast in the western hotel, Gary and Jan visiting with the proprietors,  the conversation revolving around the sale of the property, its ascension and its despondence,  for a second a peak of interest bridging Gary’s mind, a move to Colorado brandishing itself,  but being dismissed as only a dream of a beholder.

With the Willson family departure in the morning, Shawn Gary’s brother-in-law, affirming he would see Gary’s mother Betty to the Montrose airport the following day,  Gary very appreciative of Shawn’s jester.  With goodbyes having been said, the Buick once again embarking on a journey, only this time east towards Kansas.


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