Greetings From: Ouray, Colorado

Ouray is nicknamed “The Switzerland of America” for the way it’s nestled into the San Juan mountains in Colorado.

                                                        by Michael Boyink/mike@douglascountyherald.com

“We got ourselves a convoy.”

It was the 4th of July.

I was 9 years old.

We were just outside of Ouray, Colorado. 

Parked on US 550. 

The stretch of 550 coming into Ouray is known as the “Million Dollar Highway,” either because it cost that much per mile to build it in the late 1880s, or because the fill dirt under it held that much in gold.

No matter the origin of the name, it’s one of the most beautiful drives in America. 

With constant turns, steep grades, no shoulder, no guardrails, and plunging drop-offs, it’s also one of the most dangerous drives in America.

But we weren’t there just to drive the road.

We were lined up to be in Ouray’s 4th of July Parade.

Along with hundreds of other Jeepers.

It was approaching dusk. The driver of each Jeep uncapped and lit emergency flares on either end of their front bumper.

Sitting in our rig, we tuned the CB to the predetermined channel at the predetermined time and made sure the volume was up.

The voice came through the speaker.

“We got ourselves a convoy.”

You may recognize those words.

“Convoy” was a 1975 hit by Bill Fries, singing under the character name of C.W. MCall.

In the song, the narrator uses the CB to lead a group of truckers in a protest of government regulations.

In 1978, the song became a movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw.

Bill Fries was a multi-talented man who loved Southwest Colorado. He wrote other songs about the area. He settled in Ouray, running a scenic slideshow for tourists. He ended up becoming the town’s mayor, serving for six years.

Bill Fries was at the head of the Ouray Fourth of July parade.

On the CB.

As a nine year old kid, hearing his voice live from our CB speaker became my first celebrity encounter.

The sun slipped behind the mountains. The road fell into dusky shadows.

The convoy moved out.

Viewed from below, the bumper to bumper Jeeps with flares burning looked like a giant orange glow worm snaking down the mountain and oozing into town.

20 years later I told the C.W. McCall story to another Jeep owner from Canada. He was also a fan. The conversation led to another visit to Ouray, this time with MsBoyink and our infant newborn.

I’d brought the same Jeep I’d sat in as a 9 year old. No memorable holiday convoys this time. 

But I still remember that trip very well – because I rolled my Jeep on a mountain trail just outside of Ouray.

No one got hurt, but the Jeep wore scars from that rollover for years. Right up to the day I tore it down to build a new Jeep. 

I spent five years working on that one.

Then we decided to travel full-time.

I was telling our kids that in order to have the adventure of long-term RV travel, they’d have to make some sacrifices.   

They’d have to give up some toys.

And it struck me.

I couldn’t ask them to give up some toys unless I did too.

So I sold that Jeep. And the matching Jeep trailer. And all my spare parts.

We ended up needing the income from the sale to be able to afford the RV.

So we might have driven a Chevy pickup into our last visit to Ouray.

But it was still a Jeep that got us there.

On our own cross-country convoy.

 

The Beaumont Hotel in downtown Ouray has hosted several Presidents and celebrities since opening in 1886.
Following a brave RVer down the curvy Million Dollar Highway into Ouray, Colorado.

Pronounced “Yer-ay”, Ouray Colorado offers  miles of four-wheel-drive roads, hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, fishing, hot springs, and more. Visit ouraycolorado.com to learn more.