This a past issue of Weightshifting, a newsletter documenting overland travel and the American West by Naz Hamid and Jen Schuetz.
“Err, I just saw a head poke out.”
“I think there’s a rat or mouse in our room.”
“Near your bags. I saw a head.”
Gingerly and slowly, I tiptoe over to my pile of bags, just a few feet away and peer around them. I see nothing, and my bags are leaning against an old radiator, clearly from when the El Rey was still an old motel from decades ago.
I tap my iPhone’s flashlight on. I point it below the radiator, hoping to catch a glimpse of our new guest. I’m about two feet away, and the phone’s illumination isn’t quite bright enough. But I see it.
It’s small. So maybe a mouse. But it’s also mottled and hairy. Brown and back patches or stripes?
“Are you sure it’s a mouse? I think it’s a tarantula.”
“I mean, it’s small and not moving very fast, if at all…?”
And then it disappears. My eyes barely discern a little hop perhaps. I draw closer. I see a large cracked cavity below the radiator housing that leads into the walls. This is the only way in. Or out.
I hustle over to the bathroom, grab a bath towel, and immediately stuff it under the old housing to close off the opening. I tuck it around the sides. There should be no getting through that for a creature of that size. I reinforce the towel dam with one of our yoga mats.
We check out the next morning. We make note of the lack of wi-fi and the “mouse” and show the desk person a photo — I snapped one of the towel dam and the note I left housekeeping, warning them that there’s something down there and to move the towel at their own risk, or be prepared with a trap.
To the El Rey’s credit (and ours), we were issued 20% from our stay.
I have two meetings scheduled, which I attend outside on the patio of the lovely Sky Coffee. Located just across from an REI and some other local restaurants, we settle in for the next two chilly hours — a latte for Jen and a pot of green tea for me. The meetings go well, and we head back to the rig, make a quick lunch out of the back, and hit the road northwest for Cortez, Colorado, where we meet up with our good friend Grant.
Grant and his sister own, operate, and live in a pocket of Cortez aptly named Sage Canyon. The main rental is the ridiculously gorgeous and stunning Cliff House. It’s a small residence built into the cliff wall with a mesa above. We were fortunate to stay there on our last trip in the rig, back in late July/early September. It’s a very special place.
We rendezvous at the Workshop Loft, Grant’s new rental. When he’s not on the West Coast, he resides in the loft part time, though it mostly serves as a modern counterpart to the Cliff House. Our plan is to camp outside on the property for two nights, share his kitchen and bathroom, and work out of the loft space during the last two days of the work week. Then Saturday, the three of us would depart Cortez’s 5,600 feet of altitude and caravan to 10,000+ feet just outside Telluride, in search of fabulous foliage and the stellar 13- and 14-er peaks that Colorado is lousy with.
Thursday night, we cook a dinner of sausages and a salad together, thus breaking in the new space for Grant as his first dinner guests. We while away the rest of the rainy evening, catching up and going deep on topics such as religion, our pasts, and our unknown yet speculative futures.
Halfway through the couch n’ chill, Grant alerts us that the normally booked solid Cliff House has a last-minute cancellation and is available for the next two nights. He offers us the space — that is, unless we preferred to stick with our original plan of camping out in our rooftop tent, in now inclement weather.
The answer to the question, “Would you like to stay at The Cliff House?” is always a resounding YES.
So we found ourselves sleeping under roofs for four nights, two in Santa Fe and two in Cortez, all of which was unplanned. This is life on the road, though, and these are how things sometimes go. And we just roll with it.
11, 272 feet await us and you, in the next missive.