Stories and a Speakeasy…

I depart Durango on the morning steam train. The train is longer than usual due to the number of riders, so two engines are “doubleheading” us back into Silverton. The Alamosa is the last car, which allows me to get some shots I wasn’t able to on the previous trip. I arrive in Silverton in time for lunch, and another trip to the post office to mail more books, and what they call in the theater trade, “a costume change.”

I was told by two separate shop merchants that my return drive through that OMG pass on US Highway 550 would not be so bad because you hug the Red Mountain as you drive north, putting you on the inside lane instead of the outside edge.

Pants. On. Fire.

You do hug the mountain for much of the northbound trip, but the rock face hangs precariously over your head, threatening to drop off at any minute. The hairpin curves are blind and so tight that you can almost see your own back license plate. There are stretches where you are on that outside edge with no guardrails and 12-18″ away from the sheer and unrecoverable dropoff. But I did not meet any big rigs at the summit. The motorbikes in front of me did not wipe out in front of me on the steep downhill hairpins. I did not blow a tire or hit an oil slick. And I have been here before. At the Animas Museum in Durango, there were references from tourists in the early 1900s who were so fearful that they would hire local sheep herders to drive their cars back to town. So at least I am continuing historical precedent…

I drive through the mining town of Ouray, which looks like Silverton on steroids, but I don’t stop because I’m trying to get out of the mountains before dark. I arrive in Montrose with just enough time to make a quick round of their county historical museum, which is housed in an old D&RG train station (thus continuing my train theme). I share the them of my Colorado trip with the docent. When she finds out which B&B I’m staying in, she tells me to ask the proprietor to show me her carriage house.

I check in to the B&B and meet Kendra, the proprietor. She takes a pass on the carriage house but gives me a history of the 1900s home we are standing in. I share my family photos and my 1900s inspired wardrobe with her. She asks me if there is anything she can serve for breakfast that will help me to stay in the proper historical mindset. And then she says, “You should visit the speakeasy that’s just around the corner…”

When on travel, always share your stories…

Phelanies – named by the owners Phil and Melanie – is my first experience with a speakeasy, complete with the secret door with the little grill that opens up so the doorman can ask you for the password. You won’t be admitted without it…

And there are rules. No cell phones. No loud or foul language. No politics. He deemed my apparel appropriate. He hands me a small glass of blue coconut mule punch and seats me at the bar. He introduces me to the barkeeps as a traveler from 1910.

The barkeeps are in 20th century dress, but everything else is spot on. The room is darkly lit, with a ceiling that looks like the underside of the floorboards from the room directly above. There are no TVs or video screens. Seating arrangements away from the bar are intimate and delineated by gauzy curtains in some places. The drink menu features cocktails that mostly date to the 1920s-30s.

Kendra had recommended the Old Smokey, a bourbon drink served in a glass that has been smoked with a piece of charcoal made from a whiskey barrel, that is lit on fire under an inverted old-fashioned cocktail glass. It’s a showy presentation, and Stephan, the barkeep, will make a dozen of them during the two hours I am here. For my second drink, he introduces me to the Sazerac, which he prepares by ‘washing’ the glass with absinthe which gives the cocktail its distinctive flavor. He tells me about the history of every drink as he prepares it, as well as those on the menu that haven’t been ordered yet tonight. He keeps his patter to topics a 1900s person would be familiar with.

Always share your stories.

But Never Share the details of the neighborhood speakeasy (beyond what they already post on their website : )

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