“Welcome to Billy Goat Saloon!” the lead singer of the band yelled across the room, with perfect timing for our arrival at the roadside biker bar.
An assortment of characters is gathered at Billy Goat, one of the last few roadhouses left in Colorado and, luckily for us, it’s located 16 miles east of Durango. Some of the evening’s attendees are intently focused on the band, Carny Bones, and rocking out to classics by the likes of Johnny Cash and ZZ Top. Others are playing pool on the opposite side of the bar, or are bent over in conversation, trying, and mostly failing, to drown out the music.
We snag a spot near the fireplace and are greeted by a sign that says, “Welcome to our watering hole, where old drinking buddies unwind.” It’s appropriate signage considering that the Billy Goat has served the hydration needs of travelers along Highway 160 since 1982.
We had planned a trip to Billy Goat based on the allure of $1 PBRs – always a safe bet on a journalist salary – but we pull an instant U-turn after the Summertime Porch Pounder menu catches our eyes. With names like Cocktease, Island Cosmo, and Orange Creamcicle, we find it amusing to try and convince our male companion to order the more obnoxiously titled cocktails. Alas, the only one we fail to get him on board for is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Cocktease. We settle for Rosë All Day and Rum Sunset instead, which still garners about the same amount of enthusiasm from our male companion as the Cocktease would have.
“I guess I’ll be turning my man card in,” he mutters as we head toward the bar, located at Cold Hearted Bitch Drive, according to a sign that hangs over the bustling counter.
We instantly feel at home as we sip our drinks amongst the crowd of cowboys and hippies. There are no outsiders here, including us. It doesn’t take long for crowd members, whether they’re donning a cowboy hat or flowing, floral cardigan, to start nodding their heads to the beat. They fly out onto the dance floor or yell along with the lyrics from their seats once the band started to thrum Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me.”
During a rare pause in playing, the Carny Bones lead singer teases the crowd. “The more you drink the better people sound, and the more you smoke the more stoned you get,” he says, eliciting a steady stream of laughs.
His quirky wisdom is an instant crowd pleaser, and is met with attah boys, cheers, and whistles.
The decor of Billy Goat is reflective of the diverse personality of the congregation. Behind us is a sign that reads, “Welcome to Baytuckey,” while above is a kayak lodged in the ceiling. Next to the band hangs a piñata from a fiesta long ago, we imagine. Party lights flash different strips of color across the dance floor, giving one small section of the bar a club feel, while the rest of us down our beer and pizza, thankful, at least for tonight, for the feeling that we belong.