Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Durnango needs to fix Camino del Rio crossing NOW

While it's good plans are under discussion to improve the intersection at 12th Street and Camino del Rio sometime in the next decade, the city needs to immediately do something to help pedestrians cross the highway in that area.

The city has done and is doing many excellent things along the riverfront -- the bike path, parks and benches, and the fantastic skateboard park that has become such a positive and important social spot for many of Durango's youth. Those positive developments, though, have created a dangerous situation along Camino del Rio – and a responsibility for the city.

In our house, we call it Camino del Muerto. My wife and I do this partly jokingly, but also to remind our kids that Camino del Rio is a gauntlet of death waiting to take down teenagers crossing a road they've crossed dozens of times, excitedly headed to a place they go to all the time.

Yes, I understand that our kids -- and everyone, tourists and residents alike -- should use the available options for crossing Camino del Rio, at the light at 9th Street or on the underpass at the Main Avenue bridge. But many people -- for I've seen everyone from parents with toddlers to old folks lurching nervously across that five-lane death run – can’t help but make a bee-line. It’s human nature – and it’s particularly the nature of those impatient, impulsive, cocky, testosterone-driven creatures we call teen-aged boys. The very people drawn to places like the skateboard park.

So while I'm glad my son, and his friends, and tourists who come to Durango with teen-aged kids have a splendid amenity like the skateboard park, the bike path, the riverside parks, and, soon, the Durango Discovery Museum (which many people already are going to see under construction), the city has to take responsibility for its choices, immediately, before the inevitable tragedy occurs.

Here I think specifically of the four-lane highway crossing in Mancos, where CDOT dragged its feet on putting in a light until four people were run down -- the last a 12-year-old girl -- just trying to get from one side of town to the other.

A bridge over the highway. Using of the existing light. Anything. But do something. Now. You owe it to both the town and its visitors. Before the nickname "Camino del Muerto" is no longer a joke.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Barefooting vindicated!

I've long been a barefooter. And not just around the house or on the river, but also walking to town, doing errands, playing catch in the street with the kids, and picking up the kids at school. (Their elementary school was in walking distance, and I became known, I was once told, as "the barefoot dad." I've been called worse things.) Even hiking the backcountry -- I once even approached and climbed 12,800-foot Engineer Mountain barefoot a few years ago, just to see if I could. And, of course, in karate, we train barefoot.

So, I've long been something of a barefoot believer, believing it was better for the body, and (therefore) better for the soul: That the condition of your soles indicates the condition of your soul. Or somesuch ...

Well, I feel vindicated: The article "You Walk Wrong," from New York magazine, looks at the biology of how we walk differently barefoot and shod, and how we evolved for the former (in both ways) condition. The article is illuminating, informative, and fun to read. And it's one more thing that reminds us how much we can learn by looking at where we came from ...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dewey Bridge over Colorado River burns

Dewey Bridge is no more. (For now.) The bridge burned on Sunday, April 6, in a fire started by a 7-year-old playing matches. Seriously.

The first time I wandered into southeastern Utah, it was over the old Dewey Bridge. It was in the early spring of 1983. I was finishing up my first season of ski bumming in at Winter Park, where my life-plan of getting a good job in a city back East was dashed by the lure of the ridiculous mountains and their wacky towns. I was wondering what to do next, when I read Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Well, you know the story from there ... had to go check out that surreal place he was describing ... which would only deepen my ski-bum psychosis into desert-rat neurosis, and later, river-running dementia.

First, though, I had to cross that bridge. The one that crossed the Colorado River, which that night, when I arrived at 2 in the morning, seemed a slow, dark, greasy slice of desert sliding under my feet as I stood on the dark wooden slats of the old suspension bridge. My car was stopped and silent on the bridge -- there was no traffic in March in the desert back then -- and I just stood there smelling the dryness and the aromas of tamarisk and silt and thick water and the rock. Perfumes I would never again be able to be far from.

I had crossed over, and there was no going back for me.