Nomad Life

June 3rd, 2021 · Nonfiction | Travel

Dolores, Dolores (Leg 1)

Chapter 2

M

Dolores doesn’t have ski resorts, beaches, cultural entertainment, or any of the other amenities most people seek when they travel. It’s a town on the arid plains of Colorado with a grocery store and a handful of mom-and-pop restaurants. A two-lane highway bisects its single-street downtown strip, separating the population of 900 into east and west. “Dolores” means “sorrows” in Spanish. The city was established in 1900 when the nearby McPhee Reservoir was constructed, swallowing the original settlement of Big Bend, Colorado.

We closed on our condo on March 1st and arrived in Dolores on March 2nd. The combination of that and having to either sell or store most of our belongings led us to eat out a lot throughout February, so we loved that our house in Dolores sat within a stone's throw from the local market. I’ve never lived within walking distance of a grocery store and enjoyed buying fresh food to cook dinner with each night. I embraced the local cuisine as best as I could by preparing an array of tacos, tostadas, fajitas, and enchiladas at home.

The grocery store in Dolores is smaller than most gas stations, but they carry a nice selection of fresh meat, produce, and prepared foods. Our favorite item was the local, hand-picked strawberries. I had to keep an eye on Shelby around them. The store seemed to get around five cartons per week and Shelby would purchase three of them on first sight.

We got to know the grocery store employees—there was usually only one or two working at any given time. There was a girl my age whose belly button ring was visible regardless of the weather and who cursed like a sailor in excitement whenever she sampled prepared food pulled fresh out of the oven. One of the guys that worked mostly behind the meat counter recognized my GoLite brand jacket and commented on how impressed he was with its condition considering the company went out of business in 2015. The best moment may have occurred when Shelby was searching the medicine shelf. A lanky guy wearing black lipstick and several chained necklaces asked her what she was looking for so he could help. She was too embarrassed to tell him that she needed wart cream, so she picked up something random and pretended like she’d found what she was looking for. Then the guy started showing her his rings, one of which was molded into a House of Stark emblem.

Other than a quick trip to Telluride and one morning hiking in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, we locked ourselves up in the house.

That’s why we chose Dolores.

Isolation in a quiet town is what we needed to decompress from the transition of selling our stuff and becoming nomads. Dolores earned bonus points for being close to Telluride, where we have good friends we wanted to visit.

Updated Stats

Dates: 3/2/2021 - 3/14/2021

Days nomadic: 13

Miles traveled: 750

According to Skutull

We’ll be spending more time in the American Southwest after Dolores, so we gave Skutull an ephemeral southwestern name—Sku-ti-ja (based on the cheese, cotija).

What did Sku-ti-ja think of Dolores?

He loved that we had a hiking trail we walked on every day just a few steps from our front door. This was also the first time he’s ever lived in a house with a yard. Those were pluses.

Unfortunately, it kept snowing and melting while we were in Dolores, which made it muddy. Skutull got a lot of baths while we were there, which are his least favorite thing in the world. That was a big negative.

He also got frustrated whenever we left the house because there were lots of interesting smells, but mom was so paranoid about rattlesnakes he wasn’t allowed to sniff or pee on any bushes.

The highlight of his stay was probably the night mom and dad kept telling him it was his birthday. That was fun because he got to eat an entire salmon, can of pumpkin, and carton of yogurt.

Our adventure in pictures

Skutull was nervous the first few days after leaving Boulder. He knew something was happening, but probably didn't grasp that we'd just left the only home he's ever known for good.
Skutull was nervous the first few days after leaving Boulder. He knew something was happening, but probably didn't grasp that we'd just left the only home he's ever known for good.
It took us almost an hour to figure out how to fit all of our stuff into the car the first time we packed it. We will be shedding possessions throughout the first few months of our journey, but we wanted to bring everything we might need to start.
It took us almost an hour to figure out how to fit all of our stuff into the car the first time we packed it. We will be shedding possessions throughout the first few months of our journey, but we wanted to bring everything we might need to start.
Skutull was not pleased with how much space he had. There was a lot of huffing and grunting during the drive to Dolores.
Skutull was not pleased with how much space he had. There was a lot of huffing and grunting during the drive to Dolores.
First stop, Dolores!
First stop, Dolores!
The Dolores Food Market where we shopped almost daily.
The Dolores Food Market where we shopped almost daily.
Skutull looking out over his new territory on the trail by our house.
Skutull looking out over his new territory on the trail by our house.
Skutull begging to swim in the icy river...
Skutull begging to swim in the icy river...
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument felt like a hidden gem. I've been to Mesa Verde before, which is cool, but it's always crowded. There was almost nobody at this monument.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument felt like a hidden gem. I've been to Mesa Verde before, which is cool, but it's always crowded. There was almost nobody at this monument.
The silence was spooky at times when we were standing near somebody's house from hundreds of years ago.
The silence was spooky at times when we were standing near somebody's house from hundreds of years ago.
Smothering my bud on his birthday.
Smothering my bud on his birthday.
It was mud season in Dolores, which meant Skutull got lots of baths! This is me carrying him to the bathtub so he doesn't get the house muddy.
It was mud season in Dolores, which meant Skutull got lots of baths! This is me carrying him to the bathtub so he doesn't get the house muddy.
Birthday dinner! I can't believe he's five years old...
Birthday dinner! I can't believe he's five years old...

If you enjoyed this story, consider subscribing to my newsletter and sharing it.

Section Break

Continue reading Nomad Life...