duck-shaped pain


Where I Have Bookstore Envy

The last part of my trip diary. The first part is here.

It doesn't really seem fair that Montrose, a much smaller town, should have a better coffee shop than where I live. But it does. So, if you're ever driving through town, stop at a place called The Coffee Trader. It's located on Main, in an old house. It's a very nice place. It has a garden you can sit in and drink coffee, an enormous front porch with lots of tables, and a bunch of different rooms inside, all with different seating/themes/decor. They also make some of the best americanos I've ever had. For some reasons, none of the coffee places where I live serve americanos, even though they're one of the easiest coffee drinks to make. But this place had very, very good ones. They also sell newspapers and local food products (odd thing I noticed about Montrose: it's easy to find The New York Times there, but even after a lot of looking, I could not locate even one copy of the Rocky Mountain News). The Coffee Trader is also open late - until 10 or 11 most nights. Even the good coffee places here only stay open until about 4 in the afternoon. The one place in my town that stays open late (other than Denny's, that is) has horrible, horrible coffee drinks, which are all made worse by the gimmicky names they give them. Drinking terrible, burnt coffee is not made any better given the fact that what you're drinking is called the "Uncompaghre Uplift".

My mom and I ate breakfast at a place called JoJo's. It's located in a truck stop on the west end of town, on the road to Gunnison and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I ate something called Debbie's Breakfast Favorite (or something like that): a bowl of green chile, tortillas, 2 eggs and cheese-smothered hash browns. Not a light breakfast.

I love Mexican food breakfasts. Most of the Mexican restaurants in this area serve breakfast, and they're all very good, cheap and satisfying. I usually only eat cereal for breakfast, but when I'm in the mood for a savory breakfast, Mexican food just hits the spot.

The green chile at JoJo's was good, but not the best I've ever eaten. Good green chile is one of those things that makes life worth living, and is one of the few reasons that I'm not a vegetarian [1]. They had poached my eggs too long, so the yolks here solid. This was disappointing, since the whole point of poached eggs is to have really runny yolks that you can combine with the hash browns.

On my last day in Montrose, I decided to drive around and look at buildings and explore the downtown area. When I drive around the state, I often take two books with me: Buildings of Colorado by Thomas Noel and the 1941 WPA/Federal Writer's Project guide to Colorado. The former is an excellent guide to public buildings and houses across the state, and the latter is interesting because you can compare what Colorado was like in 1941 which what it's like now [2].

Montrose doesn't have many entries in Buildings of Colorado, compated to better-preserved towns such as Telluride or Ouray. I drove around and looked at the post office, the courthouse, the old Masonic temple, and the movie theater.

The Fox Theater, above, is Montrose's oldest movie theater, built in the 1920s. Its entry in Buildings of Colorado is describes it as "an onion dome and parody of a minaret top this two-story masonry box, now devoid of any further decoration to carry the theme." Even through it was playing Chicken Run, I didn't go see it (not enough time).

After the short building tour, I decided to go to some stores. I went to the Salvation Army, and the Montrose location is probably one of the worst I've ever been in. They didn't really have much of anything, and the people running it were very, very surly. I've concluded after years of research that the idea of the pristine, small-town thrift store is mostly a myth.

Then, I went to Montrose's two book stores. It's sort of surprising that a town of its size would have two, and two good ones at that. The first, Valley Books and Coffee (or, maybe, Mountain Valley Booksellers -- both names were on the windows) was excellent. It's a very small store, but it felt like every single book in the place was carefully chosen. There were so many books in there that I wanted. I almost became depressed, since I didn't have any money with me and I just wanted to buy something from this store. Next time I go in, I'll be sure to bring money. I felt a bond with this store, more so when I saw that they carried only eight or nine different magazines and they were all ones that I read regularly. I wish this place had a website so that I could buy things from them, but they don't, unfortunately.

The second one, Sagebrush Books, was also good, but sort of paled next to the first one. However, Montrose residents are lucky in that they get a choice between the two. Sagebrush seemed like more of a general-variety bookstore -- more magazines, more bestsellers, more children's books -- than the other one. Valley Books had a better selection of regional and Western history books, books on the environment and more "serious" fiction. I didn't buy anything at this one, either, dammit.

After that, I started to drive back. I made a detour or two, through the town of Olathe (home of the giant Sweet Corn Festival) and through my dad's hometown of Delta (which, too, has a supremely crappy Salvation Army). But it was a really gray and rainy day, so I didn't really want to stop anywhere. I just drove the rest of the way back, came home, had a Gardenburger for lunch, and took a nap.

[1] The other reasons are:

  • Roasted chicken

  • Carne asada

  • General Tso's Chicken

[2] The guide to Colorado was written before the modern ski industry was really begun. It's interesting to read the entries on towns that are now known for skiing, but back then, were not known for much at all.

Here's part of the entry on Aspen, Colorado: "Today, with the mines operating on a reduced schedule, Aspen retains only a trace of its former glory."

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