Friday, July 2, 2010

Holiday Road Part 2

Rodeway Inn - Estes Park, CO
At the end of Day One, we stayed at the Rodeway Inn in Estes Park, CO.  A decent enough place and cheaper than I would have was no Stanley Hotel, but then again I wasn't paying so I could hardly suggest a hotel that cost 4+ times as much.  Actually, I wasn't aware that we were so close to the Stanley until later, but we did do a drive by when I found out. The Stanley was the inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining (and part of the 1997 mini-series was shot there).  Following a 40+ hour day - A day  in which we drove 12 hours and I had a good start to a trucker's tan. A day in which I said "I hate much" more times that I can count. A day when at one point I was so tired while driving that I thought "Why can't I remember where the 'match speed' button is?" not the cruise control, the 'match speed' button allowing you to perfectly match the speed of the car in front of took me a few moments to realize that this button was in the early 90's PC game Tie Fighter, not real life.  After this day, you would think that I would sleep in a little.  However, both you and me would be wrong.  Having fallen asleep around 11pm, I proceeded to wake up at 4am.  WTF?  I tried dozing for the next couple hours but my body and brain were having none of it and around 6am, I finally got up and started the day.  Of course, Ex-GF-Unit and Ex-Kinda-Kid were still sleeping, so I quietly packed as much of my things as I could, showered and then watched TV for the next 3 hours until they finally awoke.

Looking back, pretty much all we did at the hotel was staying at the Stanley would definitely have been a waste but still cool...especially if we were in room 217 (and then I would have an excuse for redrum).  Getting my fellow travelers motivated in the morning is is always a struggle but eventually Jessica did take a shower and went to get us breakfast at the continental breakfast buffet.  You may say that I was being lazy as I could have done this earlier...but you do not realize that sometimes these people are two of the most indecisive and pickiest people on the planet and I have long ago decided it is better for my mental health to try not to make food decisions for them.  While Jessica was busy getting breakfast, I put the remaining destinations for the trip into Sheila. (TM)  Sheila was the Garmin Nuvi GPS unit borrowed from my brother.  If you have never used a GPS navigation unit for a long trip you are missing out.  Never again will Google maps or Mapquest be sufficient...the adaptability, change on the fly, and the location (gas, groceries, restaurant) finder make it all worthwhile.  It made the trip so much easier and spontaneous (even if Shelia often had to "recalculate" because we took a lot of detours...sorry Shelia).

(White Chocolate Macadamia Nut with Vanilla Ice Cream)
Photo courtesy of queenkv @ flickr
This day was mostly about me.  If I have to take a week off of work to help somebody move across country, I am atleast going to do some things that I want to do.  I had made plans to have lunch with Amanda (the First).  Yes, I guess it could make me a jerk that I planned to see an ex-GF while driving another ex-GF across country.  In my book they are equals - both friends...and as long as I am in the neighborhood (a neighborhood that happens to be 12 hours drive from my regular haunt), I am going to stop in and say hi.  Still being a little sick of driving, I made Jessica drive...this was probably not a good idea as at one point she became angry/jealous and was driving the family truckster way too fast through the curvy mountain roads while blasting angry chick music (Evanescence).  She calmed down enough after about 5-10 minutes that I no longer felt that death was imminent.  I understand the anger/jealously a little bit...but my mind says "Seriously?  It was 10 years ago...and I never drove across country with her, deal with it."  We finally arrive in Boulder, CO to meet Amanda at BJs Brewhouse.  Amanda had wanted to try a Pizookie for quite a while (and they did not disappoint).  I had a good time catching up with Amanda and I don't think it was nearly as awkward as I thought it might be.  I think even Jessica had an OK time once she relaxed a little.

Hell - photo by dema @ flickr
BJs was in the pedestrian mall of Pearl Street in Boulder.  I liked the Pearl Street area (although ) even if was a little bit hippie for my tastes.  Shelia did try to tell us to turn onto the pedestrian area and mow down a crowd of people (I think she hates hippies too).  Even worse than hippies was the fact that the devil had opened a store right next to BJ's...Crocs' flagship retail store was right next door.  I hate Crocs, always have.  I think they are the ugliest shoes ever...even worse that Birkenstocks (and that is saying a lot).  In the past couple years I have realized that Crocs probably do have a use at the boat ramp, pool, or beach...but too many people still wear them at inappropriate places (AKA In a Public Setting).  Anyhow, do you know how a pair of new Crocs smells?  That sickening plastic chemical off-gas smell?  Now imagine that multiplied by 20,000.  I had an instant headache from just walking past...I can't imagine anyone actually having to work there all day without permanent brain damage.

Street Performers
Photo by Jessica
click to embiggen
Pot Flyer: Never Pay more than $54.13!
Photo by Jessica
click to embiggen
Luckily, there were much hippie activities to keep me entertained and away from the Crocs.  At the pedestrian mall were vagabonds, panhandlers, guitar & banjo players, various performers, skate boarders, etc... basically a stinky hippie fest.  We watched the hula-hoop gymnasts for a while.  They were just starting to work out all the kinks in their act, but they were fun to watch anyways.  Plus the guy had "white-guy dreads."  Let's see: not working on a weekday, asking for money/handouts, dreadlocks...I would say hippie even if they were more physically fit than most.  I calls 'em likes I smells 'em.  I also really enjoyed all the pot flyers posted throughout the pedestrian area.  "Bring in this flyer for a free 1.2g joint."  I got a flyer just in know for medical conditions.  Hey Colorado, if you are so progressive, where is your Same-Sex Marriage?  Iowa has you beat there!  I was a little shocked at all the people smoking in Boulder.  I am used to most people I know not smoking or rarely smoking and seeing it in public even less...but there were many heavy chain smokers on Pearl Street - high class and hippie alike.

On the way back to Estes Park
After lunch and a little strolling around, it was back to Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park for some camping.  Just looking at a computer map it is hard to know which camping site in going to be a good one...but I figured being on an outer loop would at least have one side open to the wilderness.  We really lucked out.  We had a great view of mountains and foothills from our campsite as well as a view of a mountain stream and small grassland.  I think it was one of the better campsites in the whole Moraine Park Campground (well at least as much of it that I was able to explore).  After checking out a bunch of other campsites while hiking, most had one of these sites, but ours was one of the few that had all of them.  It might not have mattered to someone who was camping for a week and hiking all the trails but for someone who had just one night and the morning of the next day it was a great campsite.  A short 10 minute hike from the campsite and I came to a place where I could see no one else and was surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Anyone who thinks Rocky Mountain High by John Denver is about drugs has never experienced this isolation, beauty, and wonder at is intoxicating.

At first, it didn't seem like we were really in the wild...the campground was closer to the park entrance than others and we had campers to the left and right.  I didn't think there was much chance for seeing wildlife but after a short hike and then back to the campsite herd of elk walked about 20 yards from our tent, later we would find a dead elk about 30 yards from our tent...that was maybe only a week or two deceased.  Bear?  Wolves?  I don't know, but something had definitely been eating it.  Although we didn't have a chance to see it, a bear was spotted near another loop of the campsite that was about 1/3 mile away.  No bears, wolves, or big horn sheep were within our sights though.

10 minutes from our campsite
Photo by Jessica
Click to embiggen
After campfire roasted hot dogs and marshmallows while sitting under a gorgeous full moon and star-filled sky it was time for bed. It should be obvious, but it gets cold in the mountains at night...really cold.  Owing to the fact that I was flying back to Iowa, I did not bring a sleeping bag...I didn't have room in my suitcase and didn't want to pay $45 to check another bag at the airport.  I had emphasized this point to Jessica and demanded that she must bring some kind of blanket for me to use when camping.  She did, but it happened to be a very light summery type blanket.  I don't know if she didn't realize that it gets cold at night in the mountains or didn't think of it since the preceding week had been 90 degrees all week...but the blanket did not do a lot of good. It was a very cold night with chattering teeth and all with wolves howling in the distance at 3am.

Day 2: ~80 miles driven, ~2 driving time, -5 miles toward goal

Forest Fire = Not Me
Photo Courtesy of Estes Park News

I know what you are thinking - "Can it be a coincidence that a forest fire started in Rocky Mountain National Park around the same time that I stayed there?  After all, didn't your hotel catch on fire last time you were in Vegas?  Wasn't there that one incident when you were a kid that involved fireworks and a hayfield?  This sounds pretty suspicious."  I would agree it does sound suspicious but it is all coincidental (at least as far as all the evidence can prove).

To be continued....


*Lesli* said...

I kind of love it. And that lovely family portrait ;)

Michael said...

Oh, how many times I turned down a random stranger offering "to take a picture of the whole family." I gave in this time...I thought I would include at least one since I was on the trip with them.

Did you embiggen the Pot Flyer? I love the names:
Green Crack
Golden Goat
Romulan X Cotton Candy
White Widow
Hawaiian Haze