Monday, July 22, 2013

Tales from a Family Trip (Part Two)

Outside of Denver, we drove higher and higher into the mountains, in awe of the scenery all around us. Some in our vehicle thought we should be there at this point. But no, our destination was deeper in the mountains, through a lush canyon, past a touristy town, up a dusty road, to a quaint Bed and Breakfast: our home for the next two nights. (For privacy sake, I’m not going to give names of actual places. You can ask me later).

I wrote more of my book by this creek.
I loved it the minute we stepped out. It was listed on the Historical Register, as it was originally homesteaded in 1885. We had a great little cabin, right next to the rushing creek, which could be heard each night through our open windows. The main house was where we would eat our breakfast each morning. The front door of the house was always unlocked, so we could roam about and make our way to the plate of fresh cookies in the dining room. Everything was magical and peaceful.
The first night, we did not want to trek back to town, so we relied on food brought from home. It came in a box. It was frozen. It was called Grandma’s Chicken & Rice Bake. We love it. It took about an hour to cook in the microwave. It was perfect. (All that food planning so far was going well). We explored the premises, and slept well that night.
The whispering Aspen trees
A bridge that led to an open clearing, where I kept hoping to see a black bear.
The cat in the Main House stared out at us.
Our breakfast was the kind you take pictures of. It is also the kind your kids merely nibble on, and you are then obligated to at least eat the majority of their leftovers so as not to seem rude. (For the record, they got cinnamon rolls instead of the omelet-- lucky). So it's really like two meals rolled into one. 

With no real plans in mind, we asked our hosts for suggestions on nearby trails. Mr. H. said we could hike to see Doc Holliday’s grave. Excellent! We drove into the town of Glenwood Springs and found the trail, off a small residential street. The “hike” was not too bad, except that it was dry and we are not altitude-accustomed. So there was a bit of a challenge, and the first lesson was learned, which was TAKE WATER EVERYWHERE IF YOU PLAN TO SWALLOW HERE. 
There was beauty along the hike. A tree with colorful streamers grew from the rock. We spied a view of the entire valley. Then—what? My husband saw someone he knew. Out here in the middle of nowhere. An intern from work last summer. He talked with him, while the kids and I talked with his family. The first of random strangers you talk to on vacation that you know you will never see again, but you still make a connection that means something if only for those few minutes. But really, isn't that weird? What are the odds, I ask you?
We had to wander around the old cemetery to actually find the stone. I also wondered as I wandered how they carted "everything" up here. Not exactly convenient. I can just imagine that conversation-- never mind. I commented that I would like to come back here at night, to which the kids screamed that we would not be doing that.

I found a great name for a book character, by the way.

On to Doc's grave. What is sad is that it may not actually be his grave. He is somewhere in the cemetery, but the exact spot is unknown. Doc Holliday, as we reviewed while we were there, was a dentist who developed tuberculosis. He then moved to this area, known for its healing springs, in hopes of improving his health. Of course, he became quite the gambler and gunfighter.There was a sign in town at a hotel: “Doc Holliday died here.” We did not go in, but still, it was quite fascinating.

Next, we drove into the canyon to see the majestic Colorado River. We found a spot right by Grizzly Creek, where the water was loud and ice-cold. The sun was warm, and we had nowhere to be. Just paradise. My family loves rocks, and we could have stayed there all day. We actually seem to spend lots of time by rivers, looking at rocks. Anyway, this finally felt like vacation. Words can’t really describe it.
We found gold!
Back in town, we found the necessary bookstore, where I found the perfect used book. Then on to the ROCK SHOP. I think it was the kids’ favorite part of the trip. I’m not sure how long we were in there, but we got well-acquainted with the worker. She loved her job, and it showed. She was quite surprised when I asked her to pose for a picture. By the time we left, we were contemplating coming back for their “meditation” hour in a special room they had with large bowls on the floor. When she ran some kind of meditation stick around them, they let out different ringing tones that penetrated through your ears and down your spine. I could have meditated on many things there. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

Because we needed to eat. This time, we found a local pizza joint. The large calzones really hit the spot. The kids ordered $1 ice cream cones—they looked so good, I couldn’t resist one. I don’t know if it was the soft-serve or the sprinkles on top, but I had to have my own. The guys who worked there were so nice, and were whip-sharp. My husband ordered our cones at the counter, and I heard:
“Some mom must have got tired of washing bowls, man.”
My hb: “Wh- what?”
“Yeah, that’s probably how the ice cream cone got invented.”
Awkward silence.
Hb: “Why couldn’t it have been a dad?”
“Oh. Well, yeah, I guess it could have.”
I know I took more notes on my phone from the things those guys said, but the notes have since disappeared. The only other one I can remember is after seeing an acquaintance of theirs who came in the store. “Man, she’s been pregnant a LONG time.”

Back to our little home away from home! We had to savor every minute left at the cabin by the river. This meant: taking advantage of the free Wi-fi and making sure we didn’t miss the Finale to "The Voice." 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tales from a Family Trip (Part One)

A common habit nowadays is to "blog your trip." I've read some great tales of my friends' road trips, and I don't know how they did it along the way. So now that I've been home, settled, and started vacation withdrawal (and because I don't want to be left out), I'm going to blog about my trip after-the-fact. 

In the hopes of looking at something different than we're used to, we took a family trip to Colorado. I am the planner, and I had planned where we would stay, which would include three nights of "camping." (Meaning: I am not a camper; I only hoped I would become more of one in CO since there is a lack of humidity and mosquitoes; we would be in a cabin with beds; there would be showers nearby; it would save money). Still, I looked online to find "camping lists" so that we could pack properly. The lists I found out there were obviously written by people who planned to spend entire summers in an RV, with lots of little kids, who wanted to be outdoors and also cook a lot. Items like "potato peelers," "Dutch ovens," "musical instruments," and "sidewalk chalk" graced those lists. They also planned for a lot of accidents, because the list for the first aid kit was long enough to open a small emergency room. 
Scratch that list.
I made my own, and started packing a week beforehand. I felt a little like Kate Gosselin, which was weird since I only have two kids. Still, with a full-time job, I had reason to bark at everyone to quit laying around. "There are only six days left to pack!" We wanted to leave at 4 a.m., which is unheard of. "The entire truck has to be loaded and ready to go the night before!" I had to plan almost a week of meals, which was the worst part. I barely accomplish this at home. But we couldn't eat out every meal, and again, camping-- I wanted something other than hot dogs. 

Anyway, we made it out of the house by 5 a.m. Still, an accomplishment. But wait, at the end of the street, we had to turn around for something. Heading out again, we made it to a gas station. While there, I realized I had left a bag of cash* at home. To my husband's credit, he did not kill me. So delaying us about 20 more minutes, we turned around for that. Finally, on the road to Kansas! That long, lovely state that lay between us and our mountainous destination. (*We do not normally have bags of cash at home. We had sold something on Craigslist and had saved the money for the trip. It was hidden. Too well). 

Art made from fossils
A week before, while looking for my book of Colorado state wildflowers, I came across a brochure advertising a museum in western Kansas. I whipped it out, and we made a stop at this Fick Fossil & History Museum in Oakley. I would highly recommend it to anyone. The massive amounts of fossils and bones, from the days when Kansas was under a giant sea, were found by locals who had donated them. Mrs. Fick created amazing folk art from thousands of shark teeth. (I imagine her sitting with Mr. Fick, saying, "Dear, what should we do with all these teeth?" "Why don't you make a mural of a shark? Or our nation's flag?" "That's a great idea. I'll get started right now.")
Shark teeth and fossils

U.S. Flag made with shark teeth

After picking out some cheap souvenirs (a shark tooth, postcards, and candy sticks), we climbed back into the truck. The battery was dead. This meant: my daughter was forced to play on the dinosaur playground equipment while we waited. (Not saying who forced her). I took pictures because my kids are almost past the playground age. And I had never seen a climbing apparatus like this. Fortunately, the truck battery soon revived itself, and we were on our way. We skipped the Prairie Dog Exhibit at the next exit.

We were almost to the edge of Kansas when we stopped at a little gas station. Inside, the clerk asked if we were heading west. We told him indeed we were. He said there were tornado warnings, and to be careful. He showed us the bright red radar on his little black box tv, we thanked him, then my daughter freaked out outside. ("Are we going in that direction??") Seriously, THANKS FOR THE WARNING, MISTER.

Not one to shy from warnings, my husband drove right on through. I kept an eagle eye on the clouds, sure a twister was going to drop any second. I know I saw swirling in the dust. I tried to keep a calm look on my face, but my exit plan was spinning through my head. Thankfully, we hit some rain, but the worst of it was always ahead and to the north. Once we got to Denver, we heard there had been a touchdown right by the airport. There were news crews right on the highway. Apparently, this was a big event. 
Nothing to fear here, right?

Did I mention we could see for MILES?
Just rain?
Sheets and sheets of rain?
What the Bill Paxton is that?
Low, angry clouds
Lord, please get us through this. . .
Ahh, blue skies again. 

The mountains were just ahead of us. On we drove.