On my mind | AspenTimes.com

On my mind

Tony Vagneur

I think summer’s over. Yesterday, my daughter’s visiting friend, Andrea, picked me up from the mechanic’s shop, giving us the rare opportunity for a little one-on-one conversation. Having left in 2001, she was surprised at how much Aspen and the valley has changed in her absence and wasn’t certain she liked it as much now. Her take on it reminded me of a few things I’ve been thinking about in a non-serious way, some for a very long time.

In 1971, with a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing in one hand and a Red Onion draft beer in the other, I was about as happy as a kid could be. I had a ski pass, a job that let me ski every day, and somewhere in there, had an occasional tryst with a semi-serious liaison (girlfriend) who lived in Basalt. I tell you this background just so you’ll believe me when I say that in 1971, one could drive from downtown Aspen to downtown Basalt on Highway 82 in about 25 minutes. Progress the other way took about the same amount of time. I made this drive enough times in a red 1964 VW bug, in the winter, to know how long it took.

Today, with a spanking-new four-lane in place almost all the way to town, and provided one obeys the speed limit, it takes about 25 minutes to drive from downtown Aspen to Basalt, or vice-versa. Too amazing to really contemplate, I would think. And that’s in the summertime, driving a VW (for old time’s sake) Jetta or an Audi A6.

Remember when the highway department first put up the traffic light at the eastern end of Basalt? Everyone agreed it was a dumb idea and after a couple of people got killed there, the CDOT took it down. Then, from his lofty highway engineering perch, Ralph Trapani said the light would have to be put back up for traffic control, but only for so long as four-lane work was going on, particularly in Snowmass Canyon. He assured us that it was a temporary solution to a temporary problem. Even though the highway appears finished, the stoplight east of Basalt is obviously still there. Does that mean CDOT plans a four-lane into Aspen? If nothing else, it helps explain the above travel times.

This doesn’t have much to do with change (I don’t think), but it rankled my mind the other day as I perused the True Value hardware store in Glenwood Springs, looking for stove pipe. They had a long row of water heaters displayed in one of the aisles, each of them with a sign proclaiming “hot water heater” for sale. One can never be certain in today’s world, but why would anyone want to heat hot water?

I found it interesting that the Aspen City Council toyed with the idea of charging construction vehicles a $1,000 fee for the privilege of using city streets. The next time you’re stuck in traffic on Main, take a look around. Most of the construction vehicles have at least two people in them, some of them more, including Zen Excavation and Stutsman-Gerbaz. Gallegos Masonry packs three to six people in each of its vehicles. Then check out the city and county vehicles wandering around with one (1) individual in each of them.

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Sitting in the planning office the other day, I overhead a woman ask an employee what it would take to subdivide her 55 acres. The kid hemmed and hawed, moved his face around in consternation, talked some gibberish, shuffled her papers in front of her face and then declared with some kind of omnipotent sound in his voice that, “About the only way you could do that would be a zoning change.” Well, duh! A process open to many property owners. But why be so negative about it? It got worse from there, but you get my drift, I’m sure.

It’s not easy to make change with dolts like that in government positions, but the lady will be back with the requisite high-priced planner, taking up everyone’s time in a tedious manner for what should be a simple process.