Sweat, beer and other controlled substances


by Lindsay Nelson

Smell that? It’s the unmistakable eau de Durango summer – sweat, smoke and suds. It may contain hints of Spandex, coal fumes and Face Plant Ale. This special fragrance is released every Memorial Day weekend during the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, an annual commingling of hard-core body punishers of both the athletic and alcoholic species. While the hard bodies are breathing train smoke and screaming down Molas, the couch jockeys are inhaling the day’s first nicotine and downing a shot at El Rancho, holding onto the good seats for the in-town street races later on.

Leave it to Durango’s motley crew to skillfully intermingle a series of extremely taxing, seriously athletic and potentially deadly sporting events with a carnival of beer drinking, silly bike-riding and all-night partying. The peculiar addiction to this healthy/unhealthy adrenaline cocktail is evident throughout the year, but never so much as in the days to come.

Thursday afternoon provides a first glimpse at the natural pairing of beer and bicycling. The bi-weekly Ska-B-Q at Ska Brewing is transformed into a Bike-B-Q, raising funds for the local 3-D Racing Team. There’s free Serious Texas BBQ, a band and $2 pints, starting at about 4 p.m. out at the brewery’s Bodo Park pad. Ride your bike to this one – “It’ll be bikes all over the place,” Ska honcho Dave Thibodeau says – and come back the next day around 4:30 to join the impromptu, “Unofficial Bike Parade” down the rush-hour treachery that is South Camino del Rio.

No one is responsible for this happenstance; it’s just a bunch of people on bikes who happen to all decide to go downtown at the same time. At five o’clock. At Ska. As in the animal kingdom, you’re safer in a herd – unless you find yourself left behind, in which case you are at the mercy of a pack of wild Hummers. Those who arrive at Steamworks Brewing Co. unscathed will be rewarded with the Face Plant Ale tapping party at the East Second Avenue brewery. Buy a $5 pint glass and get $2 refills of Face Plant Ale, an English-style bitter, all weekend. The beer is brewed collaboratively by Steamworks and Ska each year from a different recipe; this year’s version is in local liquor stores now.

Riders of the Saturday morning torture trip up to Silverton will be sound asleep Friday night, if they are wise; the unwise among them and those of us who know better can avail ourselves of the revved-up hillbilly funk served in large quantities by Brethren Fast, Friday and Saturday at Steamworks, starting around 10 p.m.

The appearance of this three-man Colorado band is a tradition of Iron Horse weekends dating back to the last century. The two Messina brothers and their nonkin drummer are known for blasting into bars and other quiet places astride their chrome-plated beasts and inciting some rather unladylike behavior among some female patrons, judging by the concert photos on their website. They also sell hot pants and G-strings emblazoned with the Brethren Fast Racing Team logo. At press time, it remained unclear whether the “racing team” actually participates in races – drag, bicycle or otherwise – but the team does appear to include four thoroughly waxed ladies in racy team uniforms of white undershirts and above-mentioned skimpy panties.

Steamworks manager Jeff Baker said the racing team image is not just a stage act. “They have motorcycle parts all over the place, a mini racetrack in their kitchen, everything in the house is all Elvis and Marilyn Monroe … I told them to bring their motorcycles, and I just might ride mine into the bar,” he said. Better wear your boots, then, but leave your bikes outside the door.

Steamworks is also a good vantage point for watching the endless loops of criterium racers as they zip around Durango on Sunday like demented couriers serving the beer and sunscreen needs of the assembled masses.

To relieve yourself of high-tech fabrics, hairless man-legs and toe clips, head on down to the Wildhorse Saloon, “where the cowboys come to play.” And play they do … members of the Durango-area recreational

elite, for whom baling had nothing to do with hay, have likely never seen so many pairs of tight Wranglers and Ropers, lips full of chaw and cowboy hats of felt, not straw. This week the two stepping and line dancing and suggestive hip swinging will be attended by the music of Wolf at the Door. Noncowpersons are advised to avoid stepping on anyone’s foot, drinking from abandoned cans and attempting to order some kind of faggy microbrew. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

On the other side of College Drive on Friday night, you may find the tripped-out attendees of the Abbey Theatre’s club night known as DOWN. Only “quality” people need attend, for who else could blend in with the glassy-eyed, sweaty, polyester hipsters with arms akimbo, driven into “ecstacy” by an endless loop of bass beats and electro-tweaks? It’s totally rad, or whatever. You should check it out, seriously.

And, on a personal note…

Following a series of unfortunate events (and people) leading to the abrupt death of my professional relationship with the daily fish wrap, my sarcasm muscles have lain idle. And so I thank Ted Holteen, your big, blond Society Page master, for taking his Canadian vacation and letting me usurp his kingdom of newsprint. It looks like Ted is in the midst of a career adjustment, too; something about the odd smell in his KSUT studio. He says he’ll be back in two weeks, but when there’s a war on and a young man heads north of the pine-tree border, you have to wonder if he’ll ever come back. We all hope he does.

This week’s sign that the end is near: The 34th annual Iron Horse bicycle race up to Silverton is now officially called “Durango Coca-Cola Road Race and McDonald’s Tour.”

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Lindsay_damico@yahoo.com.



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