Sunday, August 14, 2016

Our First Month in the Valley of Big Pink, Part 1

Observations on my relocation from the Pikes Peak Region to the San Luis Valley. Among the first of an interminable series.

The big fixer-upper we call Big Pink, because Big Salmon-Colored Thing didn’t quite sing.

Yesterday marked one month since my wife and I loaded our four cats into the minivan and made the three-hour drive from the Hotel Purgatario in Colorado Springs to our new home at Big Pink in Monte Vista.

Like our month at the Purgatario, the time spent has distorted my perception of reality to such a degree that everything before this past month is dimmed in memory, like an intense dream that haunts you through breakfast, and is forgotten by noon.

A lot of work has been done. A lot of work remains to be done. I have the singular fortune of being married to a woman who enjoys getting down and dirty with home improvement projects, so all I have to do is set up an office and write. Which I’ve done, for the most part, with interruptions allowed for electricians to rewire the upstairs from old tube-and-knob to modern Romex cabling, and those occasions when my brute strength is required, which isn’t all that often.

Curiously, I’ve found this biggest clearing of psychic obstacles towards my writing was when I built the files for all my creditors, and began paying filing the bills. Once I got the last of the bills settled, I realized what I had to do. I even have a rough schedule mapped out in my head for finishing my SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER series.

More on that later. Our top story is the big adjustment that’s been made, and more than just moving from one region to another within a large Western U.S. state. My wife and I are “on our own,” getting by and making decisions without our children beside us. In many ways, after 26 years of marriage, we are starting over. 

We’re operating without the safety net we once enjoyed courtesy of the US Navy. We’re living in a small Colorado town that was our best choice among what was available in our limited price range. You can tell two things from the photos you’ve seen so far. First, it’s flatter’n than freakin’ Kansas where I am for a valley floor that stands over 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) above sea level.
Eastbound US 160 between Monte Vista and Alamosa. You can just make out the Sangre de Cristo  Mountains in the far distance. If you enlarge the shot and look towards the middle far distance you’ll see some standout “fourteeners,” i.e., mountains over 14K imperial feet in elevation.

This is no exaggeration. I’ve done the eight-hour drive across Kansas back and forth from Colorado five times since 2007, and I can testify that the terrain not only rolls in long, undulating ridges in a way the San Luis Valley does not, but there are bluffs from which one can actually enjoy a view of things, as I describe with the auto mall in the fictional town of Natalia in my book Bleeding Kansas
Westbound on US160 between Monte Vista and Del Norte. Those are the San Juan Mountains ahead in the distance. The San Luis Valley is surrounded by mountains, but the ranges are at least 50 miles apart east to west, and 150 miles north to south. It does render the name of Monte Vista ironic, as it’s difficult to vista the montes from where I am.

The terrain does climb all of 200 feet in the 17 miles between Monte Vista and Del Norte to the west, but this is as flat as I’ve ever seen the earth in all of my travels across the continental USA.
Hills do close in a bit about the road the closer one gets to Del Norte from Monte Vista.

The second thing you may have noticed from my initial photos is that the area is somewhat...depressed. According to an uncited statement in the Wikipedia entry, the San Luis Valley is “one of the poorest rural areas of Colorado,” but my wife and I saw far worse while house-hunting in the eastern plains. At least it’s not like the lower Arkansas River Valley, where you can all but taste the despair in the hot, dusty winds blustering through the small towns there.

One is tempted to say we’re the Real America, where all the settlements outside the cities are poor, just getting by at best. After all, wouldn’t we live in the city if we could afford it?

If I could afford it, I’d move to Aspen. Colorado Springs cured me of cities for a while. In any event, we’re glad we got out. There are far worse places to end up than Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley.
If nothing else, our views of the sunset from Big Pink’s front porch are satisfactory.