Friday, August 28, 2009

Telluride Townies

Friends: The small town of Telluride, nestled in the high mountains of southwest Colorado, is a haven for active outdoors people with a progressive bent. For the second time in the past decade-and-a-half these townsfolk are attempting a free bike program. The first ended in disaster when all the pink painted bikes that were available to anyone on a "see bike, take bike" basis either disappeared or were trashed.

Two months ago the New Community Coalition in conjunction with the town library started a bike borrowing program. They collected an assortment of donated bikes, painted them pink, converted them to single speeds and equipped them with a handlebar basket. They are known as "Telluride Townies." Anyone with a library card can borrow one of the present stable of fifteen bikes for four days and renew it indefinitely as long as there are bikes in stock.

The program has been a fabulous success, "Our most successful program ever," one librarian said. Tourists, as well as locals, have been taking advantage of the bikes. Any visitor can acquire a temporary library card for five dollars, putting down a twenty dollar deposit and then receiving fifteen dollars back when he leaves town.

The bikes are kept locked outside the library, each with a number on it. All one need do is select a bike to his liking, tell the librarian the number, and present his library card. He is then given the key to the lock that he will use to lock the bike wherever he goes, though that isn't entirely necessary in this laid-back, casual town. If he fails to return or renew the bike in time, he is charged $5 a day. If he should lose the bike, the fee is $250, which can be worked off volunteering for the library. So far that hasn't been necessary.

The bikes are meant for getting around town and enjoying the three mile bike path through the valley floor rather than taking on the mountainous terrain, as without derailleurs and multiple speeds there's not much chance of anyone climbing the steep inclines all around. With their baskets they have been especially designed to encourage people to bike, rather than drive, to the the grocery store at the far end of town.

This is my 18th straight late summer visit to this enlightened town. I was initially drawn to Telluride to attend its renowned film festival. I've been drawn back each year since for the film festival, but also by the spectacularly beautiful box canyon it takes place in and by the many people who live there who share a love for adventure. When I learned that first year in 1992 that this small town of just 2,000 people was always in need of volunteers to put on its world class film festival that attracts over three thousand people each Labor Day weekend, I signed up. I am now a full-fledged staff person, getting to spend a month in Telluride enjoying a paid vacation.

It feels like a privilege to be out here. Today I spent time working with a woman who spends ten months of the year living in Thailand teaching yoga, a woman who regularly goes to Bhutan to volunteer at a medical clinic and another woman who leads trips to Japan. The night before I had dinner with friends whose son is traveling around the world by bicycle, also a friend of mine. Also at dinner were two woman artists who were leaving for New Zealand in a month to attend an art festival where their work had been accepted.

One meets one fascinating individual after another in this town. Another of our dinner companions was an artist who wild camps outside of town during the summer months and then spends a good part of the winter in Death Valley, also living out of his tent. He is part of the local "Woodsie" community. He comes in and out of town on his bicycle and also makes his yearly migration to Death Valley via bicycle. He has traveled the world by bicycle. He plans to be in Greece this spring. We might just meet up and do a circuit of the Black Sea.

Later, George


Stan said...

Last weekend we got a visit from a young (33 year old) bicyclist on a bike tour of Japan. Take-uchi is taking a break from his work. We met him when we were on vacation on a small island in west Hokkaido and told him to stop by. I talked bicycles with him, about touring and the environment. He was real patient with my bad Japanese. A wonderful young man! You meet the nicest people in the world on a bicycle!

stephen said...

Hi George, just read your last two posts. It sounds like it was a good festival this year - wish I could've been there! Generation 2 of the pink bikes sounds pretty awesome. I remember generation 1, and was sad to see them go. Nice to have a new set of town bikes. Hope that life is good in Chicago!