John wasn’t the only one with a wandering eye this week.
I’ll just say it. I cheated on Park City with Durango.
This isn’t a one-time thing, either. Durango and I have had a long, tumultuous and passionate love affair, spanning (counting fingers) 19 years. My love for Park City is new, but Durango and I go way back. Sure, there are similarities between my new town and my old town- I guess I have a ‘type’. I shouldn’t keep visiting my past, but how many relationships these days are still intact after nearly two decades? Like any classic love story, ours is filled with new experiences, broken hearts, indescribable joys, a thousand lessons learned and even more tears shed. We’ve had periods of being inseparable. We’ve ‘taken breaks’ to sort out our feelings. We’ve even broken up a handful of times. And still the draw remains.
Though my family had camped at Lightner Creek Campground a few years prior, my true relationship with Durango began in July of 1993 when we moved there from Southern California. I had graduated from high school one month before. I had a serious boyfriend I couldn’t live without. I was basically joined at the hip with my best friend. I was 18 years old, smug and stubborn with the defiance that comes with that age. I knew everything, of course. And I knew I didn’t want to be moving to a tiny town nowhere NEAR the ocean where it snowed. I vividly remember pulling over the hill from Mancos and looking down into the gorgeous green ranch land in the valley, the raindrops on the windshield competing with the tears streaming down my cheeks. My life was over. I hated Durango before I knew it at all, and planned to leave as soon as I could figure out how.
Not the best first date.
I had plenty of time to remember that first trip to Durango on my solo drive there this week. It’s seven hours each way, but I don’t mind time in the car. Road trips are in my blood. My grandfather was a truck driver, the ultimate road warrior. A big chunk of my childhood was spent playing games, reading books, or listening to my Walkman in the backseat of my parents’ car as we wandered around the United States, sometimes towing a trailer, exploring new places and turning down unmarked roads, just to see where they went. My little brother is a true nomad, with a restless and adventurous soul that keeps him moving. And I spent a solid 7 weeks (over two trips) on the road with John last summer, towing our 13-foot ’66 Serro Scotty trailer around the West. Seven hours is nothing.
Since moving to Utah in 2001, I’ve made the journey to Durango and back 50 times, at least. I’ve made the trip to the halfway point (Moab) probably a few dozen more. I know every landmark and every speed trap along the way. I have my favorite stops for coffee or for food. It’s a gorgeous drive, with multiple mountain ranges dotting the horizon and the kind of landscape eye-candy that keeps the trip interesting (even though by now, I could do it with my eyes closed). It’s a short enough trip to never doubt if I should do it, and just long enough to really appreciate the destination when I arrive… usually just in time for happy hour with people I love.
Maybe it was because my close friend had just experienced a milestone in her life with the birth of her first child, or maybe it was my own upcoming milestone, my wedding, that had me reminiscing. Whatever it was, my mind was flooded with memories of past trips between Utah and Durango, the emotions I felt at the time and the phases in my life, all reflecting my ever-evolving relationship with that little mountain town. There was my first trip to Salt Lake City for a millennium New Year’s Eve party, the inexplicable Y2K excitement in the air. (I also met John on that trip.) There was the time I drove to Durango to pick up Sarah and head to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival to celebrate her 30th birthday. Many drives back to town after moving to Salt Lake City, realizing it may have been a mistake to break up with Durango. (Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.) There was the time I arrived home from Durango, trembling with fear and shock, lucky to be unhurt after totaling my then-husband’s truck. I remember the drive to spend Thanksgiving with my parents a month after my husband and I had separated, sobbing for everything that I was losing, vowing never, ever to return to this town so full of painful memories I needed to delete from my heart. There was the delightful trip with John last summer for Sarah’s wedding, for which she had waited so long, knowing she had truly met her soul mate. There have been happy trips with specially made soundtracks on CD (or even tape), and soul-searching trips when I was so introspective that I drove the entire 7 hours in silence. And this last trip, to meet Sarah’s day-old daughter, was filled with anticipation and joy. That drive had never felt so long.
You could say that after all of these years, we’ve reached a level of comfort and fondness that comes with having a history together. I look forward to being there and usually tear up a teeny bit when I leave, glancing back through the rear-view mirror more than necessary, nostalgic for the good times. But I have a wonderful life in a beautiful new house, with a man I adore and a big-eared, wagging puppy waiting for me to return. Park City is my home now, my new love, and our time together is exciting and full of possibilities. Park City hasn’t disappointed me yet, hasn’t made me cry. I am happy here. It’s where I want to be. It’s my future.
But I secretly look forward to my next date with Durango. I just can’t help it.
* all photos from my trip to Durango, April 6-11