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Local Color

Posted on November 13th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

I didn’t have any plan when I left Santa Fe. Well, not much of one anyway.

I knew I was going to head towards four corners to try to find a campground of some sort so I could spend the night for cheap.

I didn’t get on the road until the early afternoon, so I crossed into colorful Southeast Colorado. Naturally, the brown sign declaring the state to be colorful is the same color as everything else in the state.

There are some remarkably beautiful brown things here, but they are still brown.

I drove towards what I thought would be an open campground until I got to Cortez, Colorado. It was about 7 PM, so any gates would be closed, though I might be lucky enough to have a late entry place like there was in Texas. I expected there to be a small road that lead towards the campground leaving out of the west side of the city.

There wasn’t.

I realized I had no idea how to get to this campground.

I drove back into town and checked on the prices at a motel that offered WiFi. I figured I could at least get some writing done.

Her price was above what I paid at the three star place in New York. There was no way. I went back and sat in my car and tried to do some research on where I could go. I was getting tired.

I needed some caffeine. Luckily, the motel shared a parking lot with a diner.

I sat at the counter and ordered my coffee. Ever since I listened to Steinbeck again, I’ve tried to stop for coffee more often. I always do it the same way. I walk in, ask the waitress or hostess if I can just get a cup of coffee. She’ll sit me at the bar or a table, bring the coffee and ask if I want any cream. Nope, just sugar. Real sugar, please. I can’t stand the nutra-fake stuff. I always use two packets of sugar. This is regardless of the size of the coffee or the packets of sugar.

You get some interesting local color in diners. Rarely are these people the top crop of society, but probably good for an inward laugh.

“They’re real short handed today,” the guy at the other end of the bar said.


“One of the waitresses didn’t show up today, and it’s been real busy.” I’m sure he would have told me this even if I hadn’t prompted him. I looked around. He was right. It was pretty busy.

“I’ve worked in a restaurant before,” I said, “I know how frantic it can get when you are short a hand.” I realized he might be able to point me to the cheapest place in town, or maybe some other option. I didn’t know, I decided to hint at what I wanted. “I’m trying to find a place to stay for the night,” I opened.

He either missed it or ignored it. “It’s like when a dishwasher doesn’t show up. I’ve washed a lot of dishes, you see. When a dishwasher doesn’t show up, you’ve got to make up for the guy who isn’t there. Everyone expects you to do the work of both of you.”

This was not only a repetition of what I had just said a moment earlier, but it had a blatantly obvious statement tacked on to the end of it. It would be one thing if he was just complaining, but it sounded like he was actually trying to teach me something about the world.

Maybe it was the way I looked at him, but he paid for his coffee, got up, and left.

I followed shortly after, ending up a motel across the street that was considerably cheaper, and possibly even nicer.

The lobby had a couple of old couches and an iron stove. An elderly gentleman came out and asked if he could help me. There is so much inflection that a person can put into a statement that simple. He said it in the manner of a person who honestly wanted to make sure I got what I wanted.

It was really refreshing.

The room was clean, the WiFi was slow, the TV wasn’t cable, and the beds were comfortable. I wrote a post, talked to some friends back home, watched the one movie I had brought with me, but never got a chance to watch, and promptly fell asleep.

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