Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Heading back out to eastern Colorado

We're leaving this evening for another stretch out in eastern Colorado. I said I'd mention a few things that had intrigued me when we were out there this last time. I grew up in a very small town--fewer than a thousand people, surrounded by orchards, corn- and wheat-farmland, cow pastures and muck, which is very rich soil that had once been marshland--good for growing carrots and onions and such. But rural eastern Colorado is very different. Growing up we had other small towns nearby and a large city within about a 30-minute drive. That part of Colorado has scattered small towns like the one we're in (which has about 3000 inhabitants), but they feel farther apart, and there's no decent-sized city within probably an hour and a half. The farming is all grains and cows, not the variety I remember. It's just a very different feel to what I grew up with.

The other thing that struck me were the side roads crossing the two-lane highway we were on. There's something so evocative of these little dirt roads with names like County Road YY or CR 32 that would struggle to accept a car going in each direction, heading off over the horizon with no buildings in sight. Now in some places, the horizon is so far off, that would be really impressive, but as flat as the country is, often there are long, gentle hills that make the roads disappear sooner than you'd expect. Still, I get curious as we drive by, something I've always felt with out-of-the-way roads I've never gone down: Who drives on them? Surely there are people who know those roads as well as I know the roads I grew up on. Who are they? What is life like for them? The writer in me--both the fiction writer and the journalist--gets intrigued, imagining these people. I want to explore the roads, find the houses and people, see what's over the next hill and the one beyond that.

Of course, I'd want that anywhere. We drove up into the foothills yesterday to a state park and went hiking, and I wonder what life is like for those who live there in the small community near the park entrance. It's not as far from Fort Collins, and many of the houses are likely only vacation homes, but for those who live there year round it must also be a source of wonderful and wild stories.

Have fun chasing your own stories while I'm gone!

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