Travels with TL: Crested Butte

cb mtn 1019
A view from the town of Crested Butte of Crested Butte Mountain, which is not to be confused with Mt. Crested Butte, a municipality. Got it?

You didn’t hear from me again yesterday because my morning schedule was once again thrown off, this time by a trip to Crested Butte for — is the suspense getting to you? — a dental cleaning.

I live in Gunnison and my dentist lives in Gunnison, but we both went north to Crested Butte yesterday so he could look at my teeth after his hygienist Kelli cleaned them. It doesn’t make much sense to me either, except that when he started his practice he lived much closer to it.

I ended up with a dentist in Crested Butte because my Gunnison dentist, who had been diagnosed with scleroderma, first did a root canal in a perfectly healthy tooth and later looked at an x-ray and told me, “Someone did a really lousy job of root canals in your teeth.” “That was you,” I said. He immediately put the x-ray down and walked away without another word, and that’s when I went shopping for a new dentist.

Leslie Channell led me to Dr. Harvey in Crested Butte. Her then-spouse, who was working at Pat’s, wrecked a tooth in a kayaking accident, and Leslie researched dentists in the valley and determined that Dr. Harvey had the best rates. Then it turned out he was one of my many friends named Mark’s dentist (because of a church connection, I found out later), so I took a chance on him and have been his patient ever since.

But it does make a cleaning an all-morning experience, even if it’s not a horrible all-morning experience. I set out in my electric car with 72 available miles in my “tank.” Now, anything you do as a driver is likely to cut down on those, which also happens in a gas-powered car, by the way — you just don’t notice it because your range is a lot better.

I set out with Oz, who insists on having his window open year-round. This was a mildly annoying insistence in the past that is going to become a major point of contention between us this year. Highway driving makes this much colder, and if only his window is open, we end up with a weird percussive vibration that hurts both our ears, so I have to open mine a crack — which makes this much, much colder. And the added wind resistance uses up more miles.

I left him in Almont, not by the side of the road or anything, but at the post office, where a nice lady said she would take care of him and bring him home later. Here is the plus to Lynn’s job: you can hear the Taylor River loud and clear, and it’s very pretty. Here is the downside: I was there around 10, and the post office had yet to see a lick of sunshine, hunkered hard by a canyon wall as it is.

Sans Oz I rolled up windows, but as I drove along, listening to my radio, heating my steering wheel and realizing I no longer remember the name of a single mountain between Gunnison and Crested Butte, I was watching my miles melt away at an alarming rate. I did recall that the one peak — I’m going to go with Round Mountain until someone corrects me — that kind of divides up-valley from down-valley — is a laccolith, a stand-alone volcanic formation. I believe Gunnison County is the laccolith capital of the world. (Isn’t it great to learn things?)

By the time I reached Crested Butte South, where the naming o’ things becomes inexplicably dreary (although Round, Red and Flattop are not highly imaginative either), I was mulling my options electricity-wise. There are two charging stations in Crested Butte, both owned or facilitated by GCEA, which would like every one of its members to be driving an electric car (I wonder why?), and I think they’re still free most of the time, but one is a Chargepoint station like the one in Almont that’s free but I can’t figure out how to use it. The other is a Sema Connect,and I have a card for that one — but it has no money on it and the card itself was safe on my desk at home.

Now, I’ve been to Crested Butte enough with the car to know that I pick up miles on the way home, so I figured I’d be good to get there and at least partway back. My fallback was going to be to reach the Almont station, use my phone to call someone who knows how to work the internet on their phone to get me a number, then call GCEA and demand someone help me use the free charger.

I arrived at my appointment with 26 miles left in my “tank,” a usage of 46 miles to go 26 uphill miles. (Crested Butte is roughly 1,100 feet higher in elevation than Gunnison.) The parking lot — the one for Clark’s Market and the movie theatre, so I did go to Crested Butte, but just barely — was dry, but the entire edge toward the theatre and my dentist was covered in ice and snow.

On my way up the road I had encountered several cars coming down with measurable inches of snow on their roofs (why not rooves? Like hooves?), and when I got to the edge of Crested Butte the sky above was largely blue, but clouds shrouded most of anything higher in elevation. And Kelli, who turns out to live in the more-or-less mining ghost town of Irwin, said she’s had about two feet of snow since Sunday.

To get to work once that snow decides to stick around she will have to snowmobile from her residence to a trailhead where her car is parked (utilizing a county parking permit), then drive in. I thought my new commute was some work, but never mind.

She cleaned my teeth; Dr. Harvey pronounced them fit, although I do have a recessive gum, probably due to extensive orthodonture work in my early teens (and why exactly are they “wisdom” teeth when mine weren’t even wise enough to come in vertically like they’re supposed to?); and my sojourn in Crested Butte was coming to an end.

I headed back out the way I’d come, stopping only to pick up a hitchhiker. Picking up hitchhikers between Gunnison and Crested Butte doesn’t come with the hazards associated with this activity elsewhere, but now that we have steady free bus service between the towns it’s a lot more of a rarity than it used to be.

This man, who only needed to get to Crested Butte South, had taken the bus in to get heart medication for his 16-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. And he could take the bus back, but because it’s the off-season he would have had to wait for another hour, so my ride gave him back a portion of his day, and we traded stories about our dogs.

Although I have to confess that I was a tad worried about the extra weight in the car — not that he was particularly heavy or anything, but passenger weight, car speed, auxiliary usage (especially heat or air) and wind resistance all factor into a car’s mileage, again regardless of fuel source.

And I felt I should offer to take him in to CB South, which is off the highway a bit, but he said he lived nearby and got out quite close to the highway.

Even with the extra weight and the minor detour, the downhill was with me, and ultimately I only needed six of my car’s miles to go from CB to my house. When you do the math, coming and going, I used 52 miles of fuel to travel . . . 52 miles, roundtrip. Which isn’t horrible at all.


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