Monday, August 19, 2013

Denver 2012: Day 12

July 14th 2012

Following the previous day’s extended wanderings, any and all alarms in the same county as we were got completely ignored. By the time we rejoined the land of the living, Titi LuzMa had already gone out biking. We knew the day’s plan involved a casino buffet, and Waterton Canyon, which the zoo sign indicated had bighorn sheep, but the details would remain fuzzy until we had breakfast and our host returned. Rosa spent some of the intervening time fixing Titi LuzMa’s computer, which I swear I didn’t touch.

Again, after the trail wanderings of the day before, I expected this day to be much more relaxing. A nice buffet lunch before stopping to see the sheep in the Canyon, much like the way we saw the Roadside Ninja Stealth Bison a few days before. The fact that our restful day contained both an accidental six mile hike and extended urban wanderings should surprise no one by this juncture.

Our relaxing morning ended abruptly due to the need to get to the bank before its early closing time. During this rapid exit was when the Dramamine fell out of the travel bag without any of us noticing. The drive up to Black Hawk was, again, visually impressive, but also highly twistyful and mountainy. This left Anabelle quite nauseous and with a massive headache by the time we reached the AmeriStar hotel and casino.

Being used to East Coast gambling resorts, we made a bee line for the nearest little shop, and found ABSOLUTELY NO medical supplies. Obviously this was only a minor store in the sprawling hotel, and we quickly asked around for the location of the other, larger little shop which would have enough to stock a small hospital along with enough food to open a grocery store and enough “other” items to start a Red Light District.

Not only were there no additional shops in the building, but two different friendly and polite, if not well informed, individuals told us of a general store “on the corner” that might have something. Both referenced completely different names for the store, and somewhat different directions. They also politely recommended trying the next town.

Rosa and I left Anabelle to rest with Titi LuzMa while we ventured out. We walked to the only viable corner, which kinda matched one of the directions we got. There we found absolutely nothing, no medicine, no store, not even a door to the casino standing there. We spotted a guy up the block and went to ask him. He was on break from yet another Casino. Turned out that Black Hawk used to be a mining boom town, but in some weird, gambling based version of the Shoe Event Horizon, every single address within city limits had turned into a casino. This also friendly and polite individual recommended taking the free bus to a store “a mile or so away…or maybe a half hour up to Central City.”

We jumped on the next bus and asked the driver where we could find the medication, and she dropped us off two blocks from where we started. We entered what used to be a tiny bar and grill. In fact it still had a kitchen crammed in the back, but every other square inch of the place was packed with slot machines and smoke. The soulless stare of a slot machine zombie was unchanged by the usual friendly and polite veneer over most people in the area. We squeezed through to the back room and told our story again to a guy who became much less friendly and polite, once he realized we weren’t there to play his machines. He was in the process of telling us he didn’t have anything, when hearing about our daughter’s plight kicked in his wife’s maternal instincts. She yelled at him a bit to show us where the medicine was, and sure enough, on a back wall nearly covered with variously individually packed pills were a couple of Dramamine. We thanked them profusely as we paid for the pills and a snack to keep ourselves from passing out on the short walk back to the AmeriStar.

Anabelle had pretty much recovered when we returned, partially due to the time that passed, and partially due to Titi LuzMa buying her a small glass bunny at the store with no practical supplies. It was good that we found the pills though, as both she AND Rosa needed them for the tortuous trip down the mountain later.

We reached the buffet brunch late and starving. It fitted our needs most excellently. Anabelle was thrilled to being able to mix tacos with breakfast food, especially the “Mickey Waffles.”

(The casino had card suit waffles; she’d only pick the clubs, and break off the stem, making Mickey Waffles. This continued the family tradition of tying any vacation into Disney World…That’s my girl!)

I was able to assemble a very healthy and satisfying lunch by mixing items from the Asian and Mexican bars…plus a chocolate chip cookie, because the horrendous sugar free one I tried generated a moment of weakness.

I could stop at only one cookie, because Rosa disappointedly discovered the Clam Chowder was much lumpier, and greyer than it should have been. It turned out to be oatmeal which served as most of my dessert while Anabelle took an around the world tour of the real dessert tables.

Anabelle and I goofed around with the interactive map and escalators for a bit while Rosa and her sister played a few slots. Rosa won ten bucks which is colossal based on our usual levels of gambling.

Winnings and Dramamine in hand, we took the more scenic Canyon Route back toward home…


And also partially went the wrong way when we got off the Canyon Route too early on Interstate 70.

Apparently, the entire country of Peru has NO highways delineated by east and west directions, causing a mental blind spot for those delineations in all of its citizens. This coupled with occasional yells of, “Go that way,” from the back seat where I was unable to see which way “that” was, added a few extra reversals.

A gas station convenience store provided a pit stop, as well as the opportunity for my ritualized west of the Mississippi quoting of, “Something strange is afoot at the Circle K.” What started as a quick pause rapidly degenerated into whatever the politically correct term currently is for a Chinese fire drill. Between buying snacks, sodas, Powerball tickets, scratch offs, and the trading in of winning scratch offs, all of us took turns pinballing in and out of the Impala.

Finally we got back onto Interstate 70 east and made it to Waterton Canyon. Once parked, I did not see the carefully controlled and fenced herd of bighorn sheep I had delusionally expected. Instead there was an Up the Lake looking dirt road with trail head signs at the start of it. Anabelle was already tired and hungry, as were we all since it was pushing dinner time when we arrived.

The plan was to walk in the listed one point three miles to the “Bear” picnic area and turn back. Not that we were hoping to run into Yogi, mind you. All the rest spots were named after animals. We figured we could return Monday morning with a fully packed lunch, water supplies, and also not be at the end of an already tiring day to more actively hunt the big horns.

Carrot the bunny greeted us again as we started walking, much to Anabelle’s happiness. We saw him again a short while later leading us on. Titi LuzMa initially thought it wasn’t Carrot, but a slightly smaller relative. After we corrected her, through partially clenched teeth in some cases, she agreed that Carrot had, in fact, returned to show us the way.

Far more used to viewing these scenic parks as exercise areas rather than sightseeing ones, Titi LuzMa jogged ahead to check for sheep signage while we took in the environs. She came back to us shortly after we passed the “Bear Area,” rounded a curve and hit an insane amount of wind. Rosa and Anabelle could lean into it at about forty five degrees without falling over. It was painfully buffeting us with particles of the road we had decided to stop progressing on.

On our way back some cyclists caught up to, and passed us. We asked them about any sheep sightings and they informed us there was an entire herd “about a half mile back.” That would put the animals just around the bend from the windy spot we gave up at. We exhaustedly reversed course again. Titi LuzMa went back to jogging, and Rosa walked ahead to keep both us and her sister in view. I trudged forward at Anabelle’s pace to stand in front of her and block the wind, along with the bits of road the wind was hurling at us.

Sadly, we didn’t reckon with the fact that, being on bicycles, the riders’ sense of scale was vastly different from ours. After much more than the promised distance of draining hiking we were ready to turn back yet again. Luckily, our forward scouts ran into a guy with an even bigger Super Deluxe Magical Camera than my wife uses. He told them that there really was a herd just around the bend, for real this time. When they were making long distance hand signals to us that they had sighted them, Anabelle’s energy all returned and she broke into a sprint around the last turn…

Only to be completely deflated and have a borderline meltdown when no adult males were found with the herd. Apparently, they’re around more in the fall and winter. In those seasons, Titi LuzMa went on to send photos to her Sheep Excited Niece on a regular basis. Anabelle calmed down pretty quickly and enjoyed watching the mothers and tiny babies wander around on miniscule cliff edges, and almost completely vanish into the background colors when they stood still.

I juggled in front of their mountain for a couple of brief seconds when the wind died down. Considering I spent most of the return hike with my club pack on backwards making the handles poke me in the throat, I kinda wish I had forgotten them in the car again.

Once we were Sheep-full I was ready to follow up on my promise to carry Anabelle back. According to a later map check, we had walked three point two miles into the park (not counting our windy double reversal), it was starting to get dark, and she had nothing left.

The trouble was: she had gotten too tall to comfortably (for either of us) be piggy backed anymore. She kept sliding down, making her grab my face and neck nervously. I tried desperately to convince her that my shoulders were stable. Heck, Little Richie spent most summers of the 1980’s practically living on them with me walking on similar dirt roads. She was too tired to walk but also too terrified to sit that high.

I spent an exceedingly long (and rapidly approaching darkness) time kneeling on the road next to her trying to talk her emotionally down. I was finally able to use the experience with the rays at the aquarium as an example of how staying on the border of “Want to” and “Don’t want to” for a long time is much worse than picking one or the other. I got her sitting on my shoulders, stood up, waited for the initial freak out to abate, and started walking to catch up to the other two.

Titi LuzMa was developing a cramp from standing still and had to run it out. Rosa was trying to both keep all of us in sight, and be far enough from Anabelle that she wouldn’t use Mami as a crutch to keep from trying the ride.

I carried her about a third of the way back. That gave her enough rest to walk. Plus she was so tense, she managed to cramp her legs and put her feet to sleep due to her death grip on my neck. Luckily, my brain is used to extended periods without oxygen.

The three of us walked out together, and good ole Carrot showed up again to say farewell. There was brief panic that we left Titi LuzMa down an alternate fork when we didn’t see her upon exiting the park.

She was already at the car, leading the way to a shoe changing and water guzzling party before driving to a badly needed meal.

Rosa said she was pretty much done with Mexican food by this point, but there was enough variety in appetizers and sides for her and her sister to allow another dinner at “Three Margaritas.” Anabelle devoured her taquitos, while I reaped some benefits of the local patience and politeness.

I asked the waiter about a sauce being fat free. He didn’t know (which I was used to) but before I could pick something else that I was sure of, the manager came over to help (which I was not used to). He went over the menu with me and pointed out the most heart healthy sauces that they could use to prepare any dish. This coupled with the latest wave of plant matter that I magically started liking led me to a nice combination of chicken and vegetables with rice and vegetarian beans in a light spicy sauce.

Sorry, “Jose’ Tejas” you’ve been totally dethroned.

We went home, all ready to enter comas, Anabelle and Titi LuzMa leading the way. My wife and I snuggled down to review the day’s photos when she said those three little words…
“You are stinky.”

After a much needed shower, the camera wars continued. While I was no match for the Ginormo Telephoto Lens on the Super Deluxe Magic Camera for Sheep Shots, I got a fair share of great scenery pictures now that I had finally figured out the whole “use the touch screen to focus and adjust light levels” thing.

Doesn't this tunnel lead into the western mountains

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