Vagneur: Woody Creek Tavern etiquette 101

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

This is a letter from Woody Creek, a little enclave of folks just down the road from Aspen, a locale known for the Woody Creek Tavern and — known for the Woody Creek Tavern. Oh, our mascot is the earwig and we have a post office here, believe it or not, otherwise Woody Creek may not exist. Not officially, anyway.

Summer is off to a slow start, but just like the greening of the trees, there’s a feeling in the air around the tavern — it’s spandex season again! Those laid-back winter lunch days of sitting where you want in the place are over, but dining at the Woody Creek Community Center next door, while apparently less chic for the Lycra crowd, is always nonchalant and friendly.

It won’t be long before the brand-new canopies are swaying in the breeze above the tavern patio and just getting to the entrance to inquire about a table will become a basic lesson in obstacle courses. And then, if you’ve lived through the waiting game and scarfed a huge cheeseburger washed down with three or four beers, or margaritas, it’s totally understandable that you might end up standing in the middle of the county road, bikes in hand, trying to figure out which direction Aspen is, or waiting for the next available taxi cab (it’s a long bike ride home on a full belly and a buzz). Such behavior is unintentional, I’m sure, but it’s not attractive.

We love the business and the attention — we’ve come a long way from the days when we had to tell people we were “near” Denver to give them an approximate fix on our location. Aspen and Woody Creek were unfamiliar names to 99 percent of the population and sometimes the other 1 percent weren’t quite sure about it, either. Back when the tavern was the Woody Creek Store/post office, had local charge accounts, sold two grades of gasoline, and people picked up their mail or Cracker Jacks on horseback.

To the bikers and others — it’s incalculably understandable that you’ve chosen to “experience” our Woody domain, even if just for lunch or a short bike ride. If you believe that you’ve luckily entered some sort of wonderland, or if you purposefully came to score a look at some imaginary celebrity you think hangs out here, that’s fine, but please remember that real people live and work here. The management did not embed us in the decor for your viewing pleasure.

And while we’re on the subject: Just as it’s entirely rude to talk on a cellphone in a crowded restaurant, so is it exceptionally rude to lean into the table in front of a photo of Hunter Thompson, exclaiming that he was/is one of the most important people to ever inhabit the U.S. All this as you drool excitement into my fish tacos while taking a photo copy of what you must consider the photographic find of your life. Trust me, Hunter was our neighbor, we knew him personally, and you wouldn’t like us anymore if we told you some stories.

This is still a ranching community, and you may occasionally ride upon cattle being driven along the road. This is not to impede your travel unnecessarily, but rather to get the beasts from one location to another. We understand your dismay at getting cow s— on your bike tires, but try to understand our difficulty of rounding up a hundred of the scattered bovine beauties after you’ve taken an unwelcome turn at playing cowpoke. And don’t forget — pedestrians and livestock have the right of way.

And a last friendly reminder — the white picket fence in front of the Woody Creek Community Center is a yard fence, not a bike rack.

We wish you a long and pleasant summer season and love your smiling faces. Please come see us, but respect us, as well.

Tony Vagneur, who writes here on Saturdays, grew up in Woody Creek and still observes its comings and goings, somewhat like an old raven with tousled feathers and a loud opinion. You can reach him at