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By Reid Wright

I’ve moved out of my car and into a van. The change in square footage leads me to believe I’m moving up in the world.

Now this is living

Now this is living

The van — named “Myrtle” — is the apex of bum technology. She has one good tire, one working headlight and occasionally stalls out on me in front of cute college girls who giggle while licking ice cream cones in the McDonalds parking lot.

Myrtle is the mutant product of an incestuous relationship between a van from the love generation and Doctor Strangelove — both children weaned from the protective cradle of Nazi Germany under Hitler.

In fact, if you crank the van’s steering wheel too far to the right, the horn sputters out “Sieg Heil!” in Morse code.

Makes sense

Makes sense

There’s a sticker on the back that says “Northern Arizona University Mom”— a ploy to throw off the police so they think I’m just another harmless citizen.

Like this guy

Like this guy

Regardless, I was standing with the sliding side door open in the Durango City Market parking lot, ready to brush my teeth when a young lad of about four came skipping up with his mother in pursuit.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a van,” his mother answered for me.

I stepped aside to offer a view of my clothes and bike gear strewn about inside.

“This is how you live if you don’t have a job,” I explained to the boy, then half-heartedly added the customary, “Stay in school.”

The mom laughed nervously and pulled the boy away.

Only in Durango

Only in Durango

“I want to live in a van mom!” the lad chirped as he was being dragged off.

Another American youth ruined. My work here is done.

I sputtered out of town towards Silverton. Myrtle lurched up mountain passes at near-glacial speeds. Rolling down the other side, the van picked up momentum. I careened around sharp turns carved into the mountainside.

Colorado road builders have no regard for shoulders or even guard rails. Just over the white line is a 1000 foot plunge to the jagged rocks of death below. I saw the occasional road-side plaque to commemorate the brave snow plow driver who found the edge the hard way.

Some sort of buzzer would randomly go off in Myrtle’s dashboard — warning me of impending doom and milking my adrenal gland.

The smell of burning rubber wafted up through the floor. Sometimes the brake pedal would push against my foot for a few inches and then flop uselessly to the floor. I clung to the shimmying steering wheel for dear life as the bald tires screeched around the hair-pin turns.

Two mountain passes later, I decided it was high-time for a beer to settle my nerves. I stopped at O’Brien’s pub in Ouray for an Irish Red. Tourists wander in and out like cattle. There are no bar-flies to provide entertainment, just regular flies.

Colorado mountain towns are the perfect place for a bum because of their cool temperatures and prime real-estate in the form of abandoned buildings and mine shafts left over from the gold rush of 1859.

The servers ignored me as my glass sat empty in front of me. I could see them out of the corner of my eye, looking at me warily as they stood idle at the bar — saving their smiles for the tourists.

I reckoned it was time to move on, to look for a new adventure.



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