I just swung into Silverton, Colorado—population 425. My mom and stepdad are 2 of them. They know about half of the townsfolk and probably most of the dogs. They have six of their own. And of course, there are no stoplights. This old mining town’s official beginning came in 1874 with the discovery of gold and silver, hence the name. (“There’s silver by the ton!!”)
There are still some active mines, although today it’s turned into a tiny tourist stop at the end of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train Route.
When the train reaches Silverton, with an elevation of 9300 feet, tourists get off the train for a couple of hours to shop at the tiny Western motif shops and traipse around the charming streets that mostly look the same as they did in the early 1900s.
My mom and stepdad moved here 8 years ago and built a 10 room motel—The Canyon View Motel, that they also run themselves; they are the desk clerks, the maids, and the maintenance staff. They also built a log cabin home about 6.5 miles out of Silverton. Way out. They actually are the only year-round residents of Middleton and consider themselves the mayor and the mayor’s wife.
Silverton is definitely an experience. While most people are very warm and friendly, it is definitely a stew of odd characters, many of whom are looking to ‘drop out of society’ a bit. Ben and Tina were alcoholic squatters. Warren is a hyper twitchy fellow that sometimes walks out to their house (that’s nearly a 7 mile stroll). Pappy is a former tunnel rat in Vietnam. And Bob Baer is a former CIA agent. George Clooney actually played him in the movie Syriana. Also right now there are missing signs posted all around town for some man who supposedly went up into the mountains and shot himself. And every year several people are killed by avalanches or simply by just driving off the edge of the road and plunging hundreds of feet to their death. Welcome to town!
So after crossing the treacherous (there are NO guard rails!) yet breathtakingly beautiful Red Mountain Pass on highway 550 into town I arrived here in one piece on a rainy Thursday afternoon. My mom was at home and would be back at the motel in about an hour. I actually have a master key so I can let myself into the motel (and any room!). I was staying in what I refer to as the 11th room. This is only a 10 room motel, but they built an 11th room in the back of the office where they can stay if they need to or in the future it could be an employee’s quarters. It’s a bit smaller than the other rooms and not completely finished. The drywall hasn’t been painted yet and is dotted with spackle like an unfinished basement. Also there is only one small window, but my mom had left me flowers and some birthday cards. It was very homey. Also this way they didn’t lose any money by having me in another room.
I hadn’t been here more than 5 minutes when I heard a “hello” ring out from the front office. I rushed in to greet a slightly disheveled, older country bumpkin type looking for a room. I had literally just gotten here so my mom hadn’t given me the quick rundown on running a motel quite yet. I happened to be on my cell phone with her so she spoke to him. He wanted to look at a room and she told him she’d be here in an hour and to come back then. My mom thought he sounded ‘weird’ so she said to lock the door. He seemed a bit slow and slightly ‘off’ to me, but this was Silverton, so I thought that might be normal, right?
Right after he left two nice women walked in also looking for a room. Well, I might as well jump right in, I thought, so I said I’d show them a room. We went upstairs and checked out the two remaining rooms. They said they take the single King room and with my mom still on the phone with me, we decided I could just take their info, get their credit card number, and my mom could ‘run it’ when she came in. Unfortunately, as we came back down the steps my new friend, the disheveled man, was waiting for me at the bottom. I do admit it looked bad. I said I couldn’t show him a room, but just showed these women rooms. So he came in and I said he could also fill out a card. But, alas, he had wanted the cheaper King room that the two women just took. I explained it was already gone and the only room left (2 Queen beds) was $10 more. He wasn’t pleased with this news and said, “But you said I should come back and I thought it was a done deal.”
We went back and forth and I felt bad and said it was my error and explained how I had just gotten here and wasn’t sure I was ready to check people in. I stayed professional and he seemed dismayed. Meanwhile my mom was still on the other end of the phone getting a bit concerned (as she often does) and telling me to put him on the phone as if he was harassing me. He wasn’t, but he and a women he was with also weren’t leaving. My mom wanted me to kick them out and lock the door behind them. I suggested a few other motels down the road. I apologized. There was nothing I could do. He asked if the women could switch rooms and my mom said absolutely not. But they still weren’t leaving. Finally my mom got on the phone with him and made up some white lie about forgetting that they women HAD called earlier, blah, blah, blah. After he handed my phone back he still stood there kind of dumbfounded.
They finally left and I locked the door and put up the “We’ll be Right Back” sign just as my mom instructed. I went back to “the 11th room” to unpack some things. In just 5 minutes the front doorbell rang. I started to walk back to the front and stopped dead in my tracks. It was them. I could see their truck parked out front again with the frumpy woman waiting in the passenger seat.
“Oh No! They’re back again!” I said to my mom on the phone.
“Don’t let them in! Go back to the back room and stay there. We are on our way in!”
In the meantime she also gave me the sheriff’s number! So here I was in Silverton holed up in my room, a prisoner in my own room. I think my mom was overreacting a bit. I don’t think this man was going to demand a room at gunpoint or anything, but I was still ‘battening down the hatches’ so to speak. They rang the bell several times and I tried to ignore it as I sat back here with the shades drawn. They finally stopped and I hoped they’d gone away. Far away.
About twenty minutes later, I heard the door unlock, my mom and Joe were here.
I jokingly shouted out, “Is that the crazy man again?!?” Right then, Joe walked in with a funny look on his face as the man WAS with him. Joe was checking him in after all. I’m sure I shouted loud enough for the man to hear me too. Oops!