Steve Skinner

Welcome beautiful people. Welcome to Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, America's (I wish) secret playground. We've got the pot and the potholes, the music and the mountains, the brews, beavers and bike trails. The fishin' and musicians. Welcome one and all.

Unless you flew in on a chopper you may have noticed that our local and regional roads and highways are exploding with asphalt acne. The blacktop and concrete is pocked with tire gobblers, axle munchers, brake bashers and wheel whackers.

Dirt roads? Washboards and moist, muddy holes.

Highway 82? Either go really slow or really fast, so you can skip over the top of the cavities.

Interstate 70? Gotta swerve all over the place like a freestyle skier just to miss the really big hot springs, cavernous canyons and crusty caves.

When you blow your suspension don't go looking for a quick fix. All the guys at the tire places are too busy or too grumpy to get you back on the road in a hurry. I'm driving around on a flat as we speak, waiting for my opening. Hopefully the cops won't notice.

Night driving? Watch for cones, coyotes, cops and campers.

There is never a dull moment on Highway 82. We have 85.3 miles of mostly on-your-toes, white knuckle, road rage driving. From the Autotopia grooves between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale to the sheer cliffs with no guardrails near Independence Pass, you might say we've got it all. I did not even mention the traffic, which provides Aspen and the valley with its own climate change funnel and road anger gestator.

The roads are messed up because it's been a pretty wild winter. Snow, rain, cold, warm. Winter just ended a few days ago and I think it's scheduled to start again in a couple of weeks.

Don't let our afternoon thunderstorms stop you. Dress in layers. Start in a bikini but pack your layers all the way up to your Mount Everest climbing gear. We mountain people can handle it and come prepared for weather. Remember, afternoon showers can lead to afternoon rainbows, even afternoon double rainbows.

You hear some people complain about the endless winter but not me. Every time the sun comes out at 8,000 feet I'm reminded that I wilt in the sun. I like it cool more than I like it hot.

We are in a rare window of weather opportunity. Starting on Wednesday and through the holiday week we have sunshine and flowers in the forecast.

The rivers are peaking once again with the Crystal River running on Monday at 2,900 cubic-feet-per-second (CFS). That's approaching 3,340 CFS, the maximum value, which was recorded in 1957.

The Roaring Fork is indeed roaring along at 8,960 CFS, looking toward the high of 9,510 CFS recorded in 1984.

It goes without saying that this is not the time for tubing. The rivers are best gawked at from a safe distance right now. And up in the woods the creeks are cranking, too. Do not fall off that wet log when you are crossing with a heavy pack. Watch your pets, too.

Speaking of pets, are we still blasting off Chinese fireworks as we celebrate our patriotism? I'm asking for a friend.

NPR just ran a story on the impacts of fireworks on birds:

Late on New Year's Eve 2010, thousands of birds rained from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas. Some 5,000 red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, common grackles and brown-headed cowbirds suffered blunt-force trauma after colliding with cars, trees and buildings, an ornithologist from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission would tell National Geographic,” said the report.

We have some of those birds around here. And plenty of bird brains, too.

I'll see you out there.

Steve Skinner reminds you to drive fast and take chances. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.