October 2016 – One of the stops for RV travelers on the beautiful San Juan Skyway is the town of Durango, Colorado. This is a fun mountain town that is loaded with history. One of the most historic places in town is the pretty Strater Hotel.
As we walked down the streets in the historic district, we saw a wonderful horse and carriage parked near a store.
What fun it was to catch this rig a little later as it strutted down the road in front of the Strater Hotel!
Of course, Durango in the 21st century is quite different than back in the 19th century. A plaque on a street corner gave us a feeling for what this same area looked like back in 1896.
But the spirit of the old days is alive and well for Durango visitors, and I gave Mark a glimpse of what I’d look like as a barmaid at the famous Diamond Belle Saloon at the Strater Hotel.
Once we got inside the Diamond Belle Saloon, we saw the real thing. Much prettier!!
The Diamond Belle Saloon was absolutely hopping when we stepped inside, because the Strater Hotel was hosting the annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
The barmaids were zipping between endless tables filled with cowboys, and the cash register was humming.
Mark has a knack for getting pretty girls to line up for photos for him (check out our blog post from Spring Break on Daytona Beach years ago), and these lovely ladies were happy to oblige his request for a photo.
If you don’t know what Cowboy Poetry is, you are in for a special treat when you get to a Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Folks who love the western ranching lifestyle and people who are real live cowboys today get together and tell stories, sing songs and memorialize a way of life that is rapidly slipping away.
We are fortunate to be good friends with a popular cowboy poet, Don Cadden, a native Texan who heads up the enormous Cowboy Poetry Gathering ins Alpine, Texas, in February each year. Don has recorded many of his songs on CDs, and they are hauntingly beautiful (links below).
If you have ever felt nostalgia for a place that has changed with time, his song, “It Ain’t Texas Any More” will bring tears to your eyes (it does mine, and I’m not a Texan!). His poem “If Old Hats Could Talk” is a moving stroll through a row of old cowboy hats hanging on a wall that describes the personality of each hat and the story of the person that wore it.
The Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Durango fills every possible venue in the Strater Hotel and around town, as formal performances take place and informal groupings of friends play for each other in whatever nook or cranny they can find.
Don Cadden was scheduled to perform in the Diamond Belle Saloon, but the bar was so loud with reveling cowboys and cowgirls that he moved his group of perfomers to the hotel lobby where the audience could enjoy the music and be close to the performers. More than a few tourists coming into the hotel stopped to listen for a while before making their way to Reception or their rooms!
We watched a more formal performance on a stage in the Strater Hotel where a group of cowboy poets took turns telling hilarious stories, reciting funny poems and singing songs.
A common theme was the progression of modern day cowboy life — with its cell phones, Facebook and ATVs — away from the traditional ways of doing things around a ranch, in person and on a horse.
Even the oldest of today’s cowboys is fully connected to the world electronically, as we all are, and of course none of them are quite old enough to remember a time when the only connection between people across long distances was word of mouth, hand-written letters, newspapers, or the slick, newfangled telegraph system.
The really fun thing about the Cowboy Poetry Gathering is that there were cowboys all over the place, inside the hotel, outside the hotel, and strolling down the streets of Durango. Many of them talked with each other about their ranches and their horses as well as their music and poetry.
We had a chance to talk to a very old cowboy who has been part of the cowboy poetry community for many decades.
Of course, Durango is a pretty big city, and many of these ranchers had driven to town by truck. After all, Durango doesn’t really have any places to tie up a horse. But they do have cool bike racks!
We’ve been to Durango a few times over the years, and one of our favorite places to grab a microbrew beer is at the Steamboat Springs Brewing Company. We joined all the cowboys that had worked up a thirst from singing and went on in.
After quaffing a few, we mosied through town and came across a very funny sign:
If you are planning a Fall RV adventure in southwestern Colorado or if your winter RVing plans will take you to southwestern Texas, going to one of these gatherings of cowboy poets is a real highlight.
A wonderful spot for an RV trip in the winter is Big Bend National Park in Texas where you can find a cowboy poetry gathering in nearby Alpine, Texas, each February.
The Fall 2016 issue of Coast to Coast Magazine includes a feature article I wrote about our RV trip to Big Bend National Park and is decorated with photos from both of our cameras during our stay there.
Mark’s photo of the balancing rock on the Grapevine Hills Hike is on the cover of the magazine:
Big Bend National Park has mountains, deserts and a big ol’ river (the Rio Grande), which makes for an incredible variety of options for hiking, cycling, photography and sightseeing.
There is also a ghost town and a very funky hippie town in Terlingua on the far western edge of the park.
And passport holders can slip across the border to Mexico in a rowboat and enjoy a daytrip to the classic Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen, a place that we found offered as authentic a Mexican experience as any we had had in our nearly four years of living in Mexico on our sailboat.
Here are links to our blog posts from our RV travels in Big Bend National Park:
- Big Bend Bound – To Texas!! 02/17/15
- A Glimpse of Big Bend National Park in Texas 03/05/15
- Big Bend National Park TX – Vast and Varied with Views! 03/17/15
- Big Bend National Park – Mountain, River & Desert Hikes 03/19/15
- Boondocking at Big Bend National Park – Cheap & Scenic RV Camping 03/26/15
- Terlingua, Texas – A Living Ghost Town in Big Bend 03/28/15
- Boquillas del Carmen – A Taste of Mexico in Big Bend TX 04/03/15
Never miss a post — it’s free!
More info about Durango and Cowboy Poetry festivals:
- Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering Official Website – held in October
- Diamond Belle Saloon Official Website – inside the Strater Hotel
- RV Parks in Durango, Colorado
- Location of Durango Colorado – interactive Google Maps
- Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering Official Website – held in Alpine TX in February
- RV Parks in Alpine Texas
- Location of Alpine Texas and Big Bend National Park – interactive Google Maps
- Don Cadden’s CDs and books can be purchased at this link
Other blog posts from our RV trips to Colorado:
- Where All News is Good News – At the Saguache Crescent in CO 11/25/22
- Lakes and Light in Wyoming and Colorado 10/14/22
- Colorado’s Stunning Scenic Drives…by Porsche! 07/23/17
- Brilliant Fall Foliage + Snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado 11/22/16
- Colorado’s San Juan Skyway – An RV Trip in Dazzling Fall Color! 11/18/16
- San Juan Mountains Colorado – And then it Snowed! 11/14/14
- RV Trip on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway – Ouray to Silverton 11/02/14
- Ouray – Finding the COLOR in Colorado on an RV Trip! 10/26/14
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO – Steep and Deep! 10/21/14
- Romance at Maroon Bells Colorado! 10/09/14
- Colorado GOLD – A Fall Foliage Photography Workshop 10/21/12
- Ridgway, CO – Peak fall foliage on the Dallas Divide – WOW!! 10/19/12
- Colorado National Monument & Fruita CO – Red Rocks, Cycling & Wine! 10/18/12
- Mesa Verde National Park, CO – Life on the Edge with the Ancients 06/19/12
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What a great post !! Loved the “today cowboys” who enjoy all the “today toys,” but fondly reminisce about the “good old days”…
The stories were all so heartwarming. One foot in the next century and one in the last. I feel like that too!
You folks keep adding to our “Places to See” faster than we can get there! But your stories and photography are, continually, a delight, and refreshing to look at and read.
Guess you might have already visited Organ Pipe National Monument. Just down the road from Gila Bend.
Take care, and enjoy!
Thank you, Bette & Glen! We’re happy to pile up awesome places to check out in your travels!! We haven’t ever been to Organ Pipe National Monument, and it’s on our list of things to see. Not sure if we’ll get there right away, but we will get there eventually, as we’ve heard it is very beautiful, especially when the wildflowers are blooming!!!