• ,

How's Bayou? Your turn, my turn. Minturn

The crew at the Minturn Shop&Hop: Donnie, Charlene and Brianna (Photo: Keith Marshall)

The crew at the Minturn Shop&Hop: Donnie,
Charlene and Brianna (Photo: Keith Marshall)

Everyone's downright friendly in Minturn, Colorado, a once-flourishing Gold Rush railroad town, founded in 1904 at 7,861 above sea level in the Rockies. No one, it seems, wants to leave.

Donnie once left Minturn and headed back to the big city where he grew up. But now he's back at the cash register of the Shop&Hop gas station and provisions store, chatting with the sprinkling of customers who remain between winter and summer seasons.

Resting in the shadow of posh, upscale Vail, Colorado, Minturn is a place where a Wild-West version of Andy Griffith wouldn't seem out of place, strolling along the mile-long main street and a few block-long side roads with grand names like Nelson Avenue. There's not much left of Minturn, but visitors feel like they've struck the vacation equivalent of a small but rich vein of gold that the glitterati just down the road have overlooked. Celebrity photos line the walls of the Minturn Saloon, a stalwart remnant of the past, and you can cook your own steak at the Minturn Country Club restaurant across the way.

"Oh, great -- someone's using a grocery cart!" exclaimed Shop&Hop manager Charlene as she took long strides toward the front of the small but well-stocked store. She smiled as she swept past me toward her associate, Brianna -- clearly a woman on a mission. A cart meant I was shopping for more than I could carry, a good sign as the season was drawing to a close.

The 'Eurostyle' Hotel Minturn towers over the town. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

The 'Eurostyle' Hotel Minturn towers over
the town. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

I was there for Gatorade, and had loaded the cart with the strawberry-flavored version that my wife, Millie, had requested.

"Pattie said to get the red," Millie had moaned, almost inaudibly, as she rolled over and plunged back into deep sleep. For hours she'd been replying in strange tongues to questions I'd never asked. Her friend maintained that red had superior powers.

It was that "feet-above-sea-level thing" that had done Millie in. A few days earlier, a cup of TCBY frozen yogurt had quashed her queasiness upon arrival at Denver's "Mile High" airport, though she skipped dinner that night and slept soundly to prepare for Sunday brunch at the spectacular Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. There's almost nothing that a dose of the grand life won't cure.

The Holy Toledo thrift shop, in a former church on Main Street. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

The Holy Toledo thrift shop, in a former church on
Main Street. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

But not altitude sickness. As we headed skyward after lunch, approaching Vail on the Interstate highway, brunch wanted out. I brought our vehicle to an abrupt standstill. Millie, feeling nauseated, unbuckled her seatbelt, opened the car door, and, as I watched in horror, rolled limply out onto the asphalt shoulder like the proverbial sack of potatoes -- mercifully, toward the peaks, not toward the steep drop-off on the other side of the roadway.

Which brings us back to the Gatorade on Tuesday morning. Not realizing the seriousness of her condition, we'd stayed in bed in our diminutive, "Eurostyle" accommodations in the four-room Hotel Minturn, run, in absentia, by a couple with shops in Minturn and another hotel in Italy. Everything we consumed from the adjacent Local's Market, a boutique provisions shop, was either organic or artisanal -- and topped Whole Foods prices, just as Pikes Peak dwarfs The Broadmooor hotel.

Interior of Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

Interior of Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

It gradually dawned on me that Millie was starting to look like a corpse as she lay listlessly next to me.

"No jury would ever believe my story," I joked. She didn't find that at all amusing.

So after Gatorade, it was off to nearby Avon Urgent Care, where nurse Kathy -- another Minturn resident who swears she'll never leave -- calmly hooked Millie up to oxygen and grimly admonished her that, with just 60 percent oxygen saturation in her bloodstream, she was at great risk.

Light from the examining room fixtures flickered off the Nautilus swirl of Aqua-hued jewel studs that lined the shape of Kathy's right ear. Millie's oxygen level might even have gone down to as low as 40 percent at night, Kathy speculated.

No jury would have believed my story, I thought.

Hooked up to a portable oxygen tank, Millie was reviving, asking the kind of questions of emergency-facility staff that her 41 years at The Times-Picayune had prepared her to ask.

Carly serves up great French toast at Minturn's Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

Carly serves up great French toast at
Minturn's Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery. (Photo: Keith Marshall)

By the following morning, she was ready for the much-hyped breakfast at Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery, just across Main Street.

Amidst walls festooned with local paintings, surfaces encrusted with memorabilia and banquettes rife with patterned pillows, Carly, who served up remarkable French toast and bacon, was, at first, almost indistinguishable. But the smile that radiated from beneath her knitted cap outshone the surroundings.

A native of Minnesota, she's only been in Minturn a couple of years, but she might just be there for good. Her brother graduated from Tulane and now hunkers down in app and software development in New Orleans.

"So he's a different breed?" the reporter in Millie inquired.

"He's just as laid back," Carly replied, her cheerfulness making us sad we couldn't linger longer in the ethereal atmosphere of this often-overlooked alpine retreat.

How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.