A traveling businessman, alone on the road in another state—in this case, flying into the Denver airport, joining the mass shuffle of humanity in the airport’s internal train system.
Crossing four lanes of traffic to squeeze into a rental car shuttle, sitting quietly while it crosses former prairie lands, and then standing in line half an hour to get the keys to a black Mazda. The drive begins—traffic in the Denver metropolitan area, and then the long, steady wind southwest on I-70 into the Rocky Mountains. After two hours of that, the turnoff comes, toward Leadville, and now the scenery’s better, the mountains magnificent, the cars fewer.
Leadville turns out to be as charming a Rocky Mountain mining town as you’d ever hope to find, with a good cup of tea to go and healthy, gleaming people selling the trail map and snacks our traveler will need for the work ahead. The country gets prettier still as Route 24 wends farther south, and then becomes staggering on Route 82 west toward Independence Pass. Twin Lakes, Colorado, isn’t much more than a handful of weather-beaten old houses, a general store, and a couple of inns, but our traveler has a room in one of them, and work to do here in the morning, so he drops his bags at last and feels giddy at the places fate takes him: Huge mountainsides sweep toward a gray, cloudy sky, with the setting sun breaking through below and throwing a gold glow across the turning aspen trees. The air wakes a fellow up, makes the modern travel miles feel worthwhile.
And then it’s dinnertime, not expecting much, walking over to the Nordic Lodge. Not many people around, just a few locals eating in the ancient all-wood dining room, calling to the waiter by first name. The oven’s out, the waiter says, will a steak do? The lamb, he says, comes from just down the mountain—a big nearby sheep ranch. And so, all alone in the Rockies and far from wife and children, the traveling businessman finds himself with a beautiful plate of meat: a rack of lamb, to be precise, crusted with pepper and pan-seared as best the cook could figure out how. And to drink? A glass of Colorado Sangiovese from Woody Creek Cellars, across the mountains. Light and plummy at the same time, it’s an awfully good and awfully distinctive wine, made the old-world way: unfined, unfiltered, unfussed-over. And so, just like the local lamb, it tastes like a place on Earth—a terrifically beautiful place at that, especially seen in the darkness on the walk back to the inn.