Gangster’s Paradise

A couple of sun-soaked weekends ago, I decided whiskey-gingers would taste delicious after a day of Hardrock 100 aid-station hopping, so I topped off the flask we got in Telluride during our honeymoon. Our “special occasion” flask, festooned with a tiny Bluegrass Festival poster. It was the last time I saw that flask.

My 4Runner was stuffed with options for camping, running and celebrating with our gang. In with the chairs, tent, sleeping bags, my Lululemon collection of ass-flattering shorts and shoulder-blade-defining tanks, and a cornucopia of vittles, like cheesy popcorn, a prized Trader Joe’s summer sausage and Milano cookies. 

The nearly halfway aid station for the Hardrock 100 course is in Ouray. Idyllic. Serene. Nonviolent. These labels work well for this little slice of heaven and year-round romantic and recreational getaway.    

After cheering first-place woman and first-class friend, Anna Frost, through Telluride Town Park, we moved along on our trajectory to Ouray. Somewhere between Tacos del Gnar and Orvis Hot Springs, my 16-year-old 4Runner ticked off 260,000 miles. 

Parking at the Ouray Visitors Center was tight, but we finally snagged a spot near an awning-covered bench where an unassuming fellow sat in the shade.

With the car locked and keys slipped onto the driver’s side wheel well (where we [used to] always put them), we skipped to the park to join our comrades for some “ultra speculation” – the thing you do whilst waiting for runners to pop out of the wilderness. You really have no idea what’s going on out there but you heard this and read that on the iRunFar Twitter feed and recall what happened in the past and might happen in the future. Ultra speculation.

Around 4 p.m., Anna trotted into the park, sweaty, strong and focused. Quick change of shoes and she left for a long night clambering over Handies Peak. 

With another round of ultra speculation on the horizon, we ambled back to where the car was parked. But, instead of the silver goddess that has taken me from freshman year of college in Montana to buying a house in Durango, to two dozen Storyhill shows and a dozen years cranking Bobby McGee, from Glacier to Grand Canyon, Fernie to Florida and a thousand nights in between, there was New Truck, one I’d never seen before.

Was that the right spot? We scanned the lot. There were other silver 4Runners, but not ours. Not the one with the Thule bike rack and orange-colored Native American spiral sticker representing letting go, moving on, journeying.

Was it towed? Had our wily friends moved it as a joke? Nope. One of my girlfriends ran into the Visitors Center to check. She told the hospitality lady she thought our car might have been stolen. Not likely, said hospitality lady.

By 5 p.m., we’d called the cops and waited. I Googled what to do when your car gets stolen: file an insurance claim and cancel credit cards, it said, followed by a cheeky reminder to always take your keys with you so this doesn’t happen again.

Meanwhile, the owner of New Truck returned and was shocked to hear that the 4Runner she’d so patiently waited to back out was in fact not owned by the person driving it. That’s when I remembered the creeper in the shadows. White guy. Brown hair. Blue shirt. I’d made eye contact. Seemed harmless. When the Chief and Deputy (the only two cops on duty that day) showed up, I described the potential perpetrator.  

Turns out my portrayal matched the suspect they’d been chasing all day. On the lam from something in Salida, he’d ditched his car in the woods south of Ouray. Officers searched the woods and had homeboy’s car impounded before speeding off to aid a Red Mountain Pass wreck. Supposedly, this character had time to slink to town and wait for his ticket to ride.  

There was nothing we could do, and we no longer had our toys for weekend adventure, so a friend took us back to Silverton, and two other saints drove from Durango to pick us up. They’d brought Mexican Loggers to ease the pain.   

Saturday was the pits, and by Sunday, still no call from the police, so we made an itemization sheet for renters insurance. The sentimental sting of the car was violating, but the reality of the $6,000 worth of gear fondled by a stranger and probably sold off for drugs, was downright depressing. How to rebuild? Insurance couldn’t replace the memory card in my camera.

But something about typing out every item and noting its value was healing. And like the spiral on the back of the 4Runner, we let go, knowing that it was, after all, just stuff.

On Sunday night, the call came that our car had been found. Sweet relief. It was ditched 6 miles north of Ouray in someone’s driveway and seemed to be in good condition, with a lot of stuff still in there, according to the Chief. 

The Chief has no details yet, so we rely on good ole fashioned speculation, naming the thief “Donnie” because it’s the lowest low-life name we could muster. Besides, only idiots steal cars, and the biggest idiot of modern times is a Donald.   

Apparently, the towing company that hauled Donnie’s car didn’t have time to take it to the impound lot on Friday because of the wreck on Red Mountain. So tow company guy left it on the side of Highway 550, north of the Visitors Center. Donnie saw his car on the way out of town, parked our car out of sight, stole what he could carry and is still on the loose. Ultra speculation.

I picked it up on Tuesday. Had to sit on a towel because one of my friends had texted the “thanks for the f-shack” movie clip, and I presumed there was raccoon placenta on the seat. The odometer read only 6 miles more than when we’d left it. Donnie had escaped with my camera, binoculars, Steripen, headlamp, $180 cash, a flask full of whiskey and the Joe’s meat stick.

But we’d already moved on, spiral-like, focused on things we did have, like an amazing community of high-quality friends, a postcard-perfect back yard, ass-perfecting Lulu shorts and an untouched bag of Milano cookies. Thanks, Chief Perry and the Ouray Police Department; thanks, mi gente; and thanks for returning the f-shack, Donnie.

Joy Martin


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