Tom Ross: Caution: Dragons in the mirror are closer than they appear
January 29, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Spike the Big Red Dragon, whose overheated exhalations became a fixture at some of Steamboat's best-loved events including Merry Mainstreet and the Halloween Stroll, headed off to Los Angeles this week to pursue a film career.
Spike, the creation of Gail and Charlie Holthausen, was a Nissan 4wd pickup in another lifetime. He was loaded onto a flatbed trailer Tuesday and hitched to a westbound motor home.
By Saturday, Spike will have joined his new owners in Los Angeles, where the high temperature is expected to reach 65 degrees.
Don't blame the dragon — in spite of this fire-breathing tendencies, he is a cold-blooded reptile, and Routt County winters have become too much for him to bear. Lacking a spare dragon-sized garage, the Holthausens have had to store their dragon in a snowbank.
"Every winter he gets pretty beat up," Gail said. "We have to change some of the CDs that are his scales, every spring. It's probably saving Spike's life, moving to L.A."
And then there's Spike's fledgling film career.
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Yep, that's our own Spike making a cameo appearance in the YouTube trailer for a new documentary called "Spark," which is about the Burning Man Festival in northern Nevada.
So Spike is on his way to bigger things. What's next? The Rose Bowl Parade? Or maybe a part in the upcoming "Lord of the Rings: Barbecue in Mordor?"
To be forthcoming, the Holthausens received a cash offer for their frigid lizard that they couldn't turn down. After his appearance at Burning Man, a group of revelers, who also happened to be real estate developers, invited the Holthausens to bring Spike on an expenses-paid trip to Vegas last fall for a parade along the revitalized Fremont Street.
Spike's fiery breath was a big hit, and the couple from Los Angeles, who happened to be in the crowd, fell in dragon love. They agreed to pay $5,000 to rescue Spike from the snowy Yampa Valley.
As the Holthausens headed west on U.S. Highway 40 on Tuesday afternoon, they had to be wondering what reactions they would receive from passing motorists who, for the first time in their lives, were encountering a motorhome towing a red dragon.
"We've had people do crazy things, like zoom past us then pull over suddenly to take a picture as we went by," Charlie said.
But nothing compares to the reaction of a curious Wyoming peace officer who encountered Spike on the way home from Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
Charlie spied a bar of flashing lights in the rear-view mirror outside Rock Springs and pulled over, wondering if he was about to be arrested for transporting a dragon across state lines.
"He came up to the window and said, 'Don't worry. Nothing's wrong. I just wanted to get a better look at that thing,'" Charlie recalled.
The Holthausens may have lost a dragon this week, but they already are plotting their next creation. It's top secret, but Gail did say they rejected a friend's suggestion that they build an elephant car.
If you ask me, a giant fire-breathing sasquatch would be a big hit in Steamboat.
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