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Having decided to give thanks in Aspen this year, in part for having such a beautiful state to give thanks in, I also thought it would be nice to take a little drive around the area, before the snow came in earnets, and 4WD vehicles and owls became the most reliable methods of communication.

There's a little town, just northwest of Aspen called Basalt, and off of that, a road follows the Frying Pan River for about 30 miles. (The road is imaginatively named Frying Pan Road, for those of you headed off to Mapquest.)

In late November, here's what you get for your trouble (as always, for all pictures, click to enlarge):


Now there's also an underused and unpaved road through the backcountry to Eagle. I thought that perhaps, it wasn't too late to take it, and see some country that most people, either flying in on the private jet besotted with champagne, or driving in on 82 to hit the slopes, never see.

It was just about as I was taking the second picture up there that I realized that wasn't going to happen. The snow sure looked plenty packed, but as I kept going, it was clear that 1) that wasn't getting better, and 2) there wasn't going to be any good place to turn around. So I had better take what was available, and rock myself out if need be.

Need be. Which of course, all taking place in low gear, overheated the engine and blew off about half the reservoir of coolant. I was able to stagger back into Basalt with a judicious mix of high gears and coasting, but it was clear that that wasn't going to work on 82, with its speed "limits" of 55 and up. So it was off to the only garage open on Black Friday, and an hour long cool-off to see What Was To Be Done.

Now Basalt is one of those old, small towns that you always say, "Gee, wouldn't it be fun to just stop there and walk around for an hour or so." Except that you always end up telling yourself, "no, the real goal in Disney World, and it's probably just like every other small town along the way, and I had us pencilled in for 500 miles today."

Well, I actually had the hour you've been denying yourself all those years, so here, as a public service, is Basalt as you've never seen it before. And if it really is like every other small town, think of all the time I've just saved you.

The town actually hasn't been frozen in time since 1900. If it were dying, you wouldn't see this:

would you? As though the aging miner's son who started the pool hall and watched his kids grow up and move to Grand Junction would have any use for that.

Which means the town is growing. Here's the part of the new town that the Fine Arts and Zoning Commission got it hands on before it went up:


See, by definition it's new, which means it has to live up to code, which means it can't actually be interesting. But they want to make it look as though it's what the original town fathers would have come up with if they had had sheet rock instead of wood. Right down to this:

Which is kind of - cute - compared to this:

Which comes from this:

Which is what you normally associate with Growth Near Aspen. Old downtowns and small original houses, lorded over by people with trophy homes, further up the hill, Then again, given what the original residents are doing for paint jobs:

you get to thinking that gentrification can't come fast enough.

Of course, it also helps to know where the growth is coming from. In this case, it's Mexico:


There's another even larger trailer park off to the right of the first picture, but by design, it's well-hidden, and there's no reason not to enjoy the view. Chatting with the guy at the hotel about the Valley, he had claimed that about 40% of the population was illegal. I couldn't believe it. For one thing, where would they all live? That's where.

At least the Fine Arts and Zoning Commission has a sense of humor:

Yep. Catch-and-release.

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