The new Disneyland

Road hard.

Americans are hewing to the Gospel of Willie Nelson:

On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

The New York Times says tracking indicates that mountain-resort bookings are off the charts, well ahead of even last year’s record-shattering level.

Hotel rooms cost more, and so does go-juice for the family tank. Planning to camp? Do you have a reservation, m’sieur? Non? Please ’ave a seat in your Buick and I’ll see if we can pencil you in for, oh, let’s say … October. October 2022. Your bicycle should be available by then as well.

On the edge, back in the early Oughts. Photo: Merrill Oliver

I’m not immune to this sort of questing, especially since I’ve been up on blocks in Bernalillo County since fall 2019.

A couple old comrades recently invited me to join them for a spot of biking and hiking around Truckee, Calif., as in days of yore, but I couldn’t warm up (ho ho ho) to the idea of driving a thousand miles each way in a 17-year-old Subie through a series of forest fires. Visit colorful Flaming Rock! Retardant drops every hour on the hour!

So I scoped out a few getaways a little closer to home, quiet locales without zip lines, mountain coasters, or via ferratas, and ho-ly shit, no thank you, please.

Your modern highwayman is not an armed robber ahorseback bellowing “Stand and deliver!” but rather an innkeeper telling you your pitiful pile of Hilton points won’t make the nut here, Sonny Jim. You think Arizona was smokin’? Wait ’til you see what we do to your Visa card.

Samey same at campsites at any location with an elevation where daytime highs stall out in the double digits. Wanna pitch a tent? Thumb up some porn on your smartphone, Johnny Muir, our dirt is all spoken for. And you couldn’t afford it anyway.

The amusing part of the NYT piece is about how all these destinations hope to teach tourists how to eschew outlandish dickishness, which is a primary characteristic of the meandering jagoff. Pivoting from tourism promotion to tourism management, as The Colorado Sun puts it.

Hee, and also haw. You won’t have to drive to Tombstone to see the O.K. Corral, podnah. The same salt-of-the-earth types who were doing it hand to hand in the Dollar Store over the last jumbo pack of Charmin will be drawing down on each other — and the hired hands — at overloaded campsite pit toilets, chairlifts, and undistinguished chain eateries from coast to coast.

Being up on blocks in Bernalillo County suddenly doesn’t sound all that bad.

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24 Responses to “The new Disneyland”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Heh. Looks like we are trying to emulate Murderquerque. Two guys died of police-administered lead poisoning in the last two days up here.

  2. John A Levy Says:

    I live near Glacier National Park, The influx of itinerant refugees has arrived. They have ruined summer for those of us that tolerate nine months of winter and gloom. Don’t mind most of them but the 60+ buses have made driving a flippin nightmare. They are using places that are not campsites and cannot be policed by understaffed park and forest service employees. We are hoping for the OK corral syndrome to weed out the lesser of the species. I have to drive 135 miles to get to a park and then pay two dollars to enter with my over 65 pass that cost me $15.00 and 55 years of paying taxes. Fuel and food costs are getting ridiculous. This is our penance for four years of Trump and dumb-ass republicans. I too am stuck and not happy but if we are lucky this too will pass, I hope and wish upon a star>

  3. Libby Says:

    I live in NYS. Last year the Catskills, Shawangunks and Adirondacks were inundated with daytrippers. Easy to understand; it was the only activity/destination available. Even if it was just a drive and picnic without a hike. There is plenty of scenery along the way. Parking lots were full; vehicles parked on roads; small towns nearby choked with parked cars and traffic. The State was begging people to go to less traveled peaks, parks and trails but even those were getting overrun and getting (more) damaged due to foot traffic.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The locals have been pounding the daylights out of the foothills trails, so much so that I’m reluctant to ride them anymore. Tuesdays seem a little slow out there among the cacti, but I’ve been on foot the last couple Tuesdays, which makes it easier to dodge the knuckleheads whose trail etiquette starts and stops with “Get out of my way!”

      I’m not sure how big a role tourism plays in the local economy, such as it is. Bad guys dropping a body every few hours can’t help, though.

      Visit ABQ seems to have great expectations for masters’ nats, slated for August. But the numbers seem a little high (2,000 attendees, $1.1 million in spending). When I was still a masters racer we traveled without spouses and spawn; doubled and tripled up on hotel rooms; made our own coffee (and often our own breakfasts); and generally ate and drank hugely only once per race weekend.

      And of course the cynic in me wonders how many bikes, cars, and competitors will vanish mysteriously.

      • Libby Says:

        I hope the Masters is a big success but I fear potential competitors may “run out of summer”. I think there is a legitimate pent up desire by many to get out; compete; meet up with friends but there are probably competing interests with other obligations (weddings; milestone celebrations or family or personal vacation plans). I read there aren’t enough pilots or rental cars so perhaps some people may postpone making plans.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Yeah, it’d be nice to see ABQ get a little money and some love out of the masters nats. The parade of evil tidings around here lately is getting to be a bit much, even for an old newsdog like me.

        But you’re right — there’s only so much summer, and there will be a lot of demands made upon it. Talk about your 20 pounds of shit and a 10-pound sack. …

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Is it too early to start drinking? Got to start early before prices go up.

    The “travelers” must think the pandemic is over. Not by a long shot. Delta is fixing to kick some ass in the ole US if folks, young ones in particular, don’t line up to see the medicine man. I guess 600,000 dead people isn’t enough.

  5. Shawn - Not related to the moron who drove his truck into a pack of riders Says:

    The Flume Trail eh? When I used to hang in Reno I made the Flume Loop about once a month. I’d typically drive up and park just over the top of the summit of the Mount Rose Highway. I’d then hop on the bike and ride the trail down through the trees where it hooked up with the Flume Trail, do the loop and then make the climb back up to the truck. I don’t recall the distance but I would say that it must have been in the 20 to 25 mile range. I can’t imagine what the Flume Trail is like now. With the massive increase in mountain bike riders over the last 20 years, I can imagine that it, along with a lot of other well know trails are inundated.

    I think there are still a few places to go to that would make a road trip fun. I’m not saying where they’re at though. You just don’t know how many people just like us that like to do things that we like to do, are reading your site and would take advantage of such intelligence. But wait a minute. I think I recall a really cool trail system just outside of somewhere in Mississippi. Or maybe it was Alabama. No, no I think it was down in Florida. You know, that place where mtb riders who really like to shred those downhill trails like to go. I hear that it is really great “way” down there.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Good eye. Flume Trail it is, but about 20 years ago. I don’t remember seeing anyone else out there; this was a fall excursion, back when I still had the 1998 Tacoma and could kip roadside en route without the dubious benefits of a Motel 666 sleepover.

      One of my buddies is a member of a ski club that maintains a lodge in Truckee, which cuts the cost of a road trip more than somewhat.

      They were planning to ride the Flume yesterday, or the day before. I haven’t gotten a traffic report yet.

      Good trails are like good fishin’ holes. Never tell anyone about your No. 1 spot. Maybe a No. 3, or a 5, but never 1.

    • carl duellman Says:

      a couple of years ago i ran into a guy from houston riding on a trail i built out here in florida. i guess he had made that long boring trip along I-10 too many times so this time he made it a point to ride in every state along the route, texas, louisiana, mississippi, alabama and florida. all in one day. he rode the trails in houston at 2:00am and finished with a night ride in pensacola at 11:00pm.

      i did find a sweet trail in mississippi that maybe isn’t worth a road trip but it’s great if you’re just passing through. alabama is chock full of good riding. we’ve got good trails here but we can’t get anyone to maintain them. they take a beating with the over use and torrential rain.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      My trail riding has been largely confined to Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Mostly dry, occasionally prickly sorts of high-altitude excursions.

      The exceptions have been one trip each to Truckee, Moab and Ashland, Ore. I don’t know what the hell to do with wet roots. Or dry rocks, now that I think about it. I was as tentative in Truckee, Moab, and Ashland as I was at home.

      Frankly, I’m just not much of a mountain biker. I don’t have faith in friction, momentum, or the U.S. medical-industrial complex. Cyclocross taught me that it was OK to get off and become a pedestrian from time to time, which is not helpful when you’re chasing people with mad skillz and suspension.

    • Shawn Says:

      My mention of southern state trails was obviously in jest regarding coercing the masses away from trail riding places we like to visit. But I’ve ridden some great trails in the south and of course there was an Olympics down in Georgia one time in the past. I haven’t ridden in Florida but I suspect along with some really great diving, the riding can be really nice. Perhaps a lot nicer than struggling up some wicked rocky trail at 10,000 feet in Colorado sweating your butt off in the cool air and wondering if you’re going to get off the trail before the afternoon storm hits.

      I recall riding trails in Houston when I lived there. Memorial Park just to the the west of downtown actually had some good riding. When MTB’ing became more popular, some of the main trails there really changed (from trails to ravines). Later there was a technical section through some trees added on the east side that I really enjoyed zipping through.

      • SAO' Says:

        Britton Hill, Walton County tops out at 345 feet. We have driveways with that much elevation gain!

        • carl duellman Says:

          yep. been there. from there you can see clear over to alabama.

        • carl duellman Says:

          i wanted to ride from pensacola beach to britton hill but it’s farther than i want to do in a day. plus it’s fairly bad roads until you get north of I-10. maybe a multi-day bikepacking trip?

    • carl duellman Says:

      there was a story in outside magazine years ago about a guy traveling around and hitting all the mom and pop ski areas. i would like to do that with my mountain bike. looking at trailforks there are a bunch of trails in america. they probably aren’t epic thus don’t get a lot of attention. still i bet they are fun to ride. that might be my retirement plan if i’m not to stove up by then.

  6. SAO' Says:

    We flipped a coin on Memorial Day, typed some basic parameters into Err B&B, and grabbed the best looking cabin we could find, regardless of location. Ended up in Grand Lake, which narrowly escaped the East Troublesome last year. A couple of observations:

    1) There’s no direct route from Fort Collins to Grand Lake, options being all the way down to Denver, all the way up to Laramie, or cutting through Rocky Mountain National Park. We decided to go with the more scenic route, hey diddle diddle, right up the middle. Good thing my smarter half remembered they were doing timed entry into the park, so we booked a slot from 1:00 —3:00. Arrived in Estes Park around noon, already saw the traffic, so decided to boot scoot boogie that way pronto rather than later.

    Estes Park to the RMNP entrance is 4.3 miles. It took us over 90 minutes to drive it.

    2) RMNP is using a timed entry system where we commoners need to reserve a slot in advance. For holiday weekends, these things are getting scarfed up a month out. The weird thing is, 90% of RMNP access is from the east, via Estes Park. But the reservation system doesn’t care which gate you’re using. Again, 90 minutes of stop and go to get into the gate from the east. Same day, from the west, the longest the line ever got was 4 vehicles. No reason folks from Grand Lake can’t meander in and out as they see fit, but they’re stuck using the same reservation system.

    3) Grand Lake was transitioning from 2020 COVID restrictions, but stores and restaurants were still slow to fully reopen simply because they can’t find employees. Like the Sun article said, we’ve priced out all of the folks who make things work.

    Looked like the same deal in Fraser and Winter Park. “Help Wanted” signs everywhere, including the Help Wanted Sign Company.

    Can’t remember exactly where it was, but somewhere along Hwy 40 there looked to be a seasonal employee Levittown going up, row after row of 600 sf condo-looking things that had to be aimed at providing shelter for those of us who can’t afford a $7M villa.

  7. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Making a reservation for a National Park, and then have to pay for it, is just wrong. All of these fees are nothing but taxes. I know, I have the $10 geezer pass, but I still had to pay for it. Trillions for military adventures, but we, as a country, can’t fully fund National Parks or hire people to work there because they can’t afford to live in the area. Teddy was afraid such beautiful areas would become playgrounds reserved for the rich. Despite his efforts, and many others, that’s what they have become. Where is the rage?

    • SAO' Says:

      $80 for an annual pass, but thanks to timed entry reservations, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get in. The weekend slots go quick.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      What really sucks is when you try to make the reservation online and all you get back from the app is “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”

    • khal spencer Says:

      We have the geezer passes too. Have not used them much lately. Back when we lived in Los Alamos, I used to do the Bandelier Loop on weekends and in the summer, drop down into Bandelier National Park, grab some oatmeal cookies and fresh water at the snack bar, and then climb back out again, adding about 600 feet of climbing to the circuit. So I always bought the eighty buck pass back then, if for no other reason than to put a few more bucks into the till to keep those beautiful places up and running. Yeah, its criminal we can sport a couple trillion bucks for a fleet of F-35’s but not keep the parks humming.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “Yeah, it’s criminal we can sport a couple trillion bucks for a fleet of F-35’s but not keep the parks humming.”

      And yet the parks work, while the F-35 … eh, not so much.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      I got my geezer pass at 62, 10 years ago, before the large price increase. I think that I gave a heads up on a comment on this very blog that other Mad Dog Media fans should get one before the price increase took effect. That’s right sports fans, the pass went from $10 to $80 in one price increase. As far as reservations, well, I guess we just have have too many people. Or, just maybe, not enough parks in the right places?

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