Starting Point: Denver
Total Miles: 1,200
Resorts: Taos, Telluride, Crested Butte
Min. # of Days: 6
Road info: Colorado: cotrip.org, 877-315-7623; New Mexico: nmshtd.state.nm.us, 800-432-4269
There's road-tripping, and then there's just…tripping. I'm southbound with my boyfriend, Tom, on Colorado's Highway 115, kicking off a weeklong loop from Taos to Telluride to Crested Butte and heading straight into the heart of what we'vedubbed the Patchouli Triangle. We're steering clear of glitzy megaresorts, and instead seeking out the steep and rowdy ski areas that are tucked in funky, rough-around-the-edges ski towns way south of the interstate. The high plains in between are rife with earthship-dwelling check-of-the-month clubbers, energy vortexes, and kitschy attractions, so our M.O. is simple: See weird thing. Pull over. Take photo. Go skiing. Repeat.
2 hours out of Denver: Nine miles southwest of Colorado Springs, we pass by the world's largest Hercules beetle—16 feet of rebar and fiberglass with pronged jaws bigger than Yao Ming's wingspan.
2.5 hours out: A grinning Tom Doxey—the owner of Doxey's Apple Shed, in Penrose, Colorado—maneuvers his beeping backhoe toward me to scoop me up to the seat of the World's Largest Rocking Chair (21 feet high, 9,100 pounds). I'm the first non-Doxey to put ass to Douglas fir in a decade.
3.5 hours out: Jim Bishop has been hand-building a castle in the San Isabel National Forest since 1969—complete with local stone, a fire-breathing dragon, a chapel, and a 160-foot tower. “I have the rest of my life to work on this, and a few more lives after that,” he informs me.
25 hours out: I fall in line with ridge hippies on Taos' Kachina Peak. It feels like some sort of New Age pilgrimage.
44 hours out: On the road to Telluride, we take a 10-mile detour to see Jack Dempsey's birthplace in Manassa, Colorado. And I hate boxing.
45 hours out: I'm not a big alligator person, either— yet we swing 17 miles out of Alamosa (home of The Best Little Meathouse in Colorado!) to see the world's highest-altitude outdoor alligator colony. Sir Chomps-A-Lot and His Knights and Ladies of the Royal Order of the Gator say hello.
69 hours out: I ride the Gold Hill lift in Telluride with “Neil,” who's wearing rainbow suspenders, a star-spangled tie, and several peace is patriotism buttons. “I don't do it for show, I just do it for me,” he says. Hmm.
117 hours out: On the last day of the trip, it really doesn't seem that strange to don Tom's fishing waders and vest and enter Crested Butte's Annual Al Johnson Uphill/Downhill Telemark Race—where costumes are mandatory. Flavor Flav skins past with a wall clock swinging from his neck, and a boom box blaring “Can't Truss It!” Then Braveheart, with a kilt and poodle-hair legs. Next is a six-foot-four pink bunny. I manage to hang with Evel Knievel. And that's when it hits me: I'm trying to fit in. Maybe I've been in the triangle too long.