A Tribute to The Rio:
Our Heart and Home
Art | Alex Reynaldo
“I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” -Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
The Rio wasn’t a great bar. It wasn’t hip, or clean, and it had no windows or natural light at all. But that didn’t matter because it was so much more than a bar. It was a community gathering place, a local watering hole where you didn’t worry about what you were wearing or how dirty your hands were or even how you smelled. It was a place where you could be you, no matter who you decided to be that day.
The first time I ever laid eyes on Moab, I got more than I bargained for. I almost immediately was swept up by a lively group of ragtag river rats and hippies that took me down the river, and afterward, to the Rio. On the river I made memories, but at the Rio I made those people my friends.
Ed Abbey’s old tales tell stories of the hippie vs. redneck brawls that used to frequent Moab’s bar scene. I like to think that, in the generations that followed, the two cultures rubbed up against each other enough to conceive a different breed: the redneck hippie, now commonly referred to as “the dirtbag.” The Rio housed this aesthetic well: psychedelically influenced climbers, hikers, and river rats wearing cowboy boots and carharts and drinking $2 pints of PBR. Nowhere else I’ve been has ever felt so much like home.
After I climbed my first multi-pitch desert tower, the first place I went to was the Rio. We walked in with climbing tape still on our hands and wore it like a badge of honor, covered in sweat and desert dust, badly needing a burger and a beer. I’ve conducted interviews for the local newspaper at the Rio. I’ve fallen in and out of love at that old bar, sang my heart out at karaoke, and spent many nights in the parking lot. Sometimes that place was practically a dirtbag hotel. They never said anything about it, and we loved them for that. We may not have had much money to spend, but we were loyal patrons.
Losing the Rio is a tragedy. I feel genuinely sorry for those that now must experience Moab without ever knowing its charm. I could rail all day against the mighty forces destroying our town by erasing its history to make a dollar, but I won’t (not here, at least). Instead, I’ll honor the Rio in the way it would want us to: by keeping its spirit alive.
Long Live the Rio.