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Visiting the site of besotted greatness

Colleen Norris

Margaritas are being served, fajitas are being made, my beer is being replaced … all this is happening while I sit in HIS chair and write this article. I know it’s HIS chair because I asked the bartender where he sat when he would come in. She had worked there since the bar opened and knew him well. The late, great Gonza Doctor, THE Hunter S. Thompson had sat where I was sitting a million times before to drink, to write, to think.

Every time I look up at his picture looking down at me sitting in his chair, all I can do is give this goofy, school-girl smile (perhaps the margarita’s fault). I want to pry the bartender for more insider info, but, my pride gets in the way and I don’t want to seem like a tourist, a role I had been playing all day, so I make my boyfriend ask all the questions instead. Obviously, I was at none other than the Woody Creek Tavern, outside of Aspen, and I was star-struck, over a dead guy.

Leaving Vail for the day was an easy decision. Autumn was in full swing, and the golden aspens just called for me to be outside. The previous night had been spent in the Village, taking advantage of the off-season deals. We had dined at La Tour, where the food and service were great, the company even better, and the wine … well, flowing would probably be an understatement. The night continued and I met up with friends and danced, danced, danced with wedding parties and other locals. That, of course, led to a hangover that only a breakfast at Westside could cure. It was here I decided that the previous night had been a blur, so today should be chill. I didn’t even have my usual red beer with my biscuits and gravy. Driving over Independence Pass was on the agenda, and after I over-stuffed my face, as I generally do when hungover, we headed out to view the leaves and visit Aspen.

We were not the only ones, on this beautiful sunny day, who had the idea; the Pass was filled with other drivers doing the leaf thing. By living in a town where a majority of people are tourists, you often don’t get the chance to be one yourself. It was fun to tool around, take a million pictures, stupidly crawl into a grotto and nearly get stuck below ground forever ” you know, do the dumb stuff that tourists do. Like visit bars where a famous person used to occasion and ask the bartender the same questions everyone else asks.

Another thing about living in a resort town is that when you leave and visit someplace else, you almost always run into other Vailites. We’ve all experienced that. It happened today. I was here, drinking my margarita, when two friends walked in. None of us knew that we had been doing the same activity all day. Like me, they were also ready for a cold beverage. Immediately my “chill” day turned into what is now: me, four or five tequila drinks in and writing this article. The best times usually happen by chance. This weekend was a product of that, so cheers to chance, coincidence, gonzo, tourists, and tequila. If it weren’t for these factors (among a few others), the people of Vail would not be drawn together; a place like Vail potentially could not exist. I would also probably be sober right now and have a better, coherent ending to this story. Which reminds me, cheers to Vail and the Vailites and … Bottom’s up!

E-mail comments about this column to editor@vailtrail.com.


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