Movin' on

“Something strange is happening over there,” I said in suspicious tones. “He’s been at it all morning.”

Just like Gladys Kravitz – the nosy neighbor from that late-’60s televised pulp “Bewitched” – I’d spent much of the morning in observation mode (what can I say, things can get a little too peaceful out in the country). Unlike Mrs. Kravitz, I’d already deduced that a coven of witches had not taken up residence in the neighboring house. But rituals or no rituals, something was definitely amiss.

George, the man now pacing frantically up and down the driveway, had moved in just three months earlier during an especially balmy November. He and his wife, June, were retirees with a penchant for Lone Star beer and barbeque brisket. Nice enough folks, they’d had enough of Houston for one incarnation and decided to give Colorado life a go. The pair happily settled on a rental in the Animas Valley for their first taste of Durango, and against this backdrop George and his bride were out living la vida local – wearing their Levi Strauss jorts (that’s “jean shorts” for those who don’t frequent J.C. Penney), sipping late-afternoon cocktails and slinging dozens of pounds of meat onto the Weber.

“Tell you what,” George drawled after doling out a neighborly punch in the shoulder. “I s’pect we finally found the good life,”

That was until George and June mysteriously vanished Dec. 1, right when Durango’s first dose of white stuff arrived. In the ensuing weeks, we’d see the occasional light flash or car leaving the driveway, but little to no other signs of life.

Three months and 85 inches of in-town fresh later, George reappeared one morning, his jorts having grown into full-length, pressed jeans. Doing my best Kravitz (eyes squinting and standing on tip-toe to see over the snowbank), I saw that he was actually holding a propane tank and torch in hand and doing a little Texas-style snow removal. Over the next couple hours, George burned through the tank, slipped a half-dozen times and shouted nearly 75 expletives.

The climax hit that afternoon with the arrival of a monster-sized U-Haul, its Florida Ghost Orchid graphic mocking our mid-winter pain. George and June then loaded their lawn chairs, the Weber, the propane torch and all of their worldlies into the back of the behemoth, bid their rental a less-than-fond farewell and jumped into the cab of the moving van.

Visions of Scottsdale dancing in his head, George slammed on the accelerator with a little too much Texas bravado, hit a rogue patch of ice and sent the Ghost Orchid careening out-of-control down the

steep driveway. The white and orange beast stuttered as it hit dry pavement, George overcorrected, and suddenly the whole works was sideways in the narrow driveway, the front-end wedged into a ditch.

In split second time, I transformed from Mrs. Kravitz to Ned Flanders (“Howdy, neighbor. Anything I can do to help?), arriving just as George bellowed, “Judas Priest! Not another night in this hell hoe!”

George, June and the orchid had been gone nearly two months when early last Monday morning, I pedaled by the fresh coat of snow covering their old driveway. But the Texas couple was definitely at the forefront of my mind, as I cursed one of winter’s parting gifts. The tires of my two-wheeler slid through that spring slop, blowing ice-cold mud all over my upper legs, back and (best of all) crotch. “Only 6 more miles of this,” I thought as a minivan sped by and battered my entire left-side with the inch of snow-turned-slush. “I guess George and June are having the last laugh after all.” I could almost see the two kicking it in lawn chairs, back in their legless jeans and toasting two ice-cold Pearls over a saguaro-studded horizon.

This reverie was broken when another car, this time a jacked-up Jeep, touched up my personal paint job with another load of ice and slop. “Uncle!” I cried out to the sea of white. “That’s it. We’re getting out of here.”

At that moment, I decided to load up the Sands family, split this “hell hoe” and head south on the George and June trail. When new snow sets even your 5-year-old into a fit of depression, it’s clearly time for change.

So this week, I loaded up our personal effects, researched sunny locales in Arizona, bid the house and yard farewells and prepped the family for a new beginning. The only things missing in the whole affair were a propane torch and a Florida Ghost Orchid.

And as you read this, we’re already down south, riding desert singletrack, showing off our ghastly pale legs and toasting two ice-cold India Pales over a saguaro-studded horizon. We may even get lucky and bump into George and June just as they’re lighting the Weber.

But unlike our bewitched neighbors, seven days is my personal Arizona limit. And like it or not, the Sands clan will be rolling back across Durango City Limits on the eve of April. With any luck, spring, sunshine and buff singletrack will be trailing close behind us.

– Will Sands