• Plan A Travels: Spain→Andorra→France
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Status: ruined
  • Cause: coronavirus
  • Plan B Travels: Colorado→Utah→Colorado
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Status: completed

Dragging myself out of bed the morning after summiting Mt. Sneffels, I groaned with each new movement.  I was suffering from the kind of soreness that inspires hyperbolic utterances (delivered with protracted moans) like, “Even my eyelids hurt.”  I wondered how the heck I was supposed to climb more mountains in just a few days’ time, as our itinerary dictated.  But, deciding that that was a problem for future-me, I shoved the worry aside as we said goodbye (and “we’ll be back”) to Ouray.

Literal flower bed in downtown Ouray.

We spent the next five hours driving through more spectacular landscapes toward the Mosquito Range in the central part of the state.  Towns on the western side of the Mosquitoes —Salida, Buena Vista, and especially Leadville—are very familiar to us.  We consider Leadville our home-away-from-home, but on this occasion, visiting our old friend wasn’t in the cards.  Given our hiking plans, it made much more sense for us to stay in the town of Fairplay—only 20 miles away from Leadville as the crow flies, but 75 miles away by car and, alas, a world away in terms of charm, as I had feared.

So close, and yet so far . . .

Now, as I was travel architecting this trip, it was pretty obvious that our accommodation—one of only two RV parks in Fairplay, neither of which looked all that appealing—wasn’t going to win any beauty awards, but when we pulled in, its awfulness became starkly apparent.

First, the scenery from our site was atrocious.

Ewww. And the other sites – all occupied – didn’t fare much better.

Second, though we had indicated Bobbie’s size (12 adorable feet long) on the online reservation form, they put us in site #2, which is designed for 40-foot behemoths.  As such, though we paid for full hookups (that is, water, sewer, and electricity), because of the yawning gap between the electrical box (seen in the photo above) and the other two hookups, we could only reach two utilities at once.

It was the weekend, the owner wasn’t around, and the place was being staffed by a young couple who were friendly enough but seemed at a loss for how to solve the problem.  First they suggested that we go buy a longer electrical cord.

Um . . . no.

We suggested it was their problem to solve and—after an age—they managed to scrounge up a longer cord for us to use.  While waiting for the resolution to our hookup problem, however, I had hopped on the Internet and begun searching for somewhere nicer we could escape to in this sparsely-populated region (or wasteland, as I was beginning to call it) known as South Park.  In short order, I discovered a B&B just five miles away.  It was a beautiful log home with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Mosquito Range, but unfortunately, its price matched its grandeur.  Undeterred, I tried to convince the husband—after all, we had spontaneously splashed out for luxury in Death Valley just two years earlier—but in a rare and inexplicable show of fiscal responsibility tightwadness, he demurred, not wanting to spend the money.

Then we discovered—by sense of smell—the third and worst problem with our situation: Site #2, as you would rightly expect, is right next to site #1.  This isn’t normally a problem . . .

. . . unless site #1 is a dump station.

So here’s a little primer for those unfamiliar with RVing.  If you get a site without full hookups (this usually means you get water and electricity, but not sewer), what happens to all the water you use in your RV, from brushing your teeth to cooking and doing dishes, to, ya know, doing your business?  Well, it goes into your RV’s holding tanks.  There’s a “grey water” tank for everything that goes down your kitchen sink and a “black water” tank for everything that goes down the, uh . . . toilet.  Eventually, those get full.  Gross, I know.  You get rid of all that disgusting, sloshy weight by emptying the tanks at a dump station.

Good to know

So yes, we were housed right next to a mini sewage facility.  Car after car pulled up, unleashing their foul effluence just feet from our home on wheels.  Worse, the drivers usually left their vehicles running, so the stench of noxious exhaust fumes intermingled with the sickening miasma.

Unspeakably gross

The husband tells people we tried to like Fairplay, but honestly, I didn’t try that hard.  If you stand facing east, the view is surprisingly flat and unscenic.  I love a good intermountain valley, but South Park is so unexpectedly vast that it felt cold and unwelcoming.  A brief foray into town for dinner hadn’t gone well either.  Though it wasn’t that busy, we were told two bowls of chili would take 40 minutes, nearby patrons were drunk, loud, and obnoxious, and the town had a vibe I couldn’t put my finger on but didn’t like.  Cancelling our order, we headed to the grocery store, only to find it closed, before being forced to settle for dinner at a characterless strip mall restaurant with bad food.  Maybe it was just us, or maybe it was travel in the time of COVID, but between all that and the RV site issues, the ill-will toward Fairplay was building fast.  Finally, when the faucet of the campground bathroom’s sink popped off in the husband’s hand, it was the last straw.  He stormed back to the Bobbie not only willing to flee to the B&B, but insisting upon it.  Score!  Reservations weren’t available that night, but the next day we fled up the road to the tiny town of Alma and never looked back.

The owners of Mountain Comfort B&B are looking to sell. If you’re ever forced to spend a night in this area, I hope for your sake the place is still up and running.

Yes, we were breaking our self-imposed COVID-travel rule of “no shared accommodations,” but desperate times called for . . . well, you know the saying.  Besides, the lure of their “Wilderness Bedroom” with two-person hot tub was overpowering.

During our time here we visited both Buena Vista and Breckenridge.  The husband cycled Alma to Breck via Hoosier Pass, and happily, didn’t suffer physically as he had when cycling Ouray to Telluride.

Colorado cycling Hoosier pass (1)

This can likely be attributed to the shorter distance—a mere 17 miles, though still on steep grades and at altitude, he rightly points out—but I think our stay at the B&B breathed new life into both of us.

A funky Eiffel-tower-like sculpture in the streets of Breckenridge. It appealed to the husband’s love of both cycling and France.

And while a fun diversion, visiting some of Colorado’s fantastic (masked-up, impressively COVID-compliant) mountain towns wasn’t the reason we were in the Mosquitoes.  We were there for the DeCaLiBroN . . .


21 thoughts

  1. Jonny Fairplay was a conniving “Survivor” contestant who lied about having a dead grandmother in order to score sympathy points with his fellow castaways. I’m not at all surprised a town with that name would be equally unappealing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh! Before we left I told the husband I didn’t have a good feeling about Fairplay. When he asked why, I reminded him about Johnny Fairplay and we reminisced about what made him such a scumbag. I’m a huge Survivor fan! We continue to be very twin-like, you and I/us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh esteemed architect of travel and modern day Odysseus,

    There are several items from this missive that merit comment. First, Mt. Sneffels. This peak, which obviously took a serious toll on you and your husband, has a name that sounds more like a Sesame Street character than a daunting summit. Somehow I can’t see Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay holding a crowd of thousands spellbound with the lecture “Why climb Sneffels? Because it was there!” (And bring a handkerchief).

    Your less than positive review of the town Fair Play was also a bit harsh. Fair Play is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its annual Black Water Festival, celebrating the invention of the fifty foot RV (by an ancient tribe by the way- pulled by 36 mules and capable of covering 8 miles per day). And you didn’t even buy a t shirt there!

    Part of the charm of travel is getting to know the locals. Had you gone over to the rowdy people at the local restaurant and said “You guys as stupid as you look?” , the whole day could have taken on a new and exciting edge. You don’t even know if Fair Play has a hospital! You could have found out by displaying a spirit of adventure.

    Moving into the Hoity Toity lodge (probably more than fifty bucks a night) is not what I would have expected from you adventurers. Buy some nose plugs to block out site 1, enjoy the flatness of the landscape and appreciate the generosity of the RV park to supply you with the electrical cord.

    Personally, I can’t wait to visit Fair Play! Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you must have been holding back your true traveler self when we were in Italy a few years back. We didn’t get into any trattoria fights or anything! After COVID we gotta travel together again and this time we’ll totally follow your lead. Should be quite an adventure.
      P.S. Send us a postcard from Fairplay!

      Like

  3. Funny this post should show up on my Reader today… we were just in Fairplay yesterday for South Park Brewery’s Oktoberfest… which was fine (food was decent, beer was tasty) but rather meh as far as celebrations go, even in a COVID world. I think Fairplay gets most of its business from people passing through from Denver. Until yesterday, that’s the only reason we’d ever stopped there too. As you said, it’s definitely lacking the charm of so many other towns.

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  4. While I am enthralled with you traveling the country with Bobbie, I cannot imagine me being able to handle all your difficulties with the grace that you do. I could, however, imagine me staying in the B&B which I’m glad you found. I like the literal flower bed. Clever.

    Liked by 1 person

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