Thursday, November 17, 2011

Denver Colorado, Summer 2011: Day 4

“You may want to eat further down the mountain.”
Not as peaceful as it looked.
We started the day with a good old fashioned emotional upheaval. Anabelle, who had been sleeping on an air mattress on Titi LuzMa’s floor, woke up extremely sad, and telling us she missed us.  This caused us a bit of concern as Rosa had recently realized that with our insane schedule we’d barely be able to fit in all the sightseeing we planned, never mind the sisterly stuff she also wanted to do.  We discussed it and as much as we didn’t want to be apart that long (for the first time in almost a decade) we didn’t want the opportunity to be missed.  Rosa started checking on the possibility of staying an extra week.  Work was such a zoo at that point, I was lucky to get the week off I had already scheduled.

Anabelle’s mini breakdown passed, and while sad to be away from me, she did want to stay and enjoy Colorado longer.  Even though she was excited, she told me she missed me already.  Therefore I dropped everything and immediately made her the grilled cheese sandwich she requested for breakfast.  Then we looked pathetic having our early meal together before leaving on the day’s excursion.

We kept checking the weather to see if there was a better day to ascend into the Rocky Mountains, but the weather in Denver is identical every single day:

Sunny clear and beautiful almost always…with the exception of the thunderstorm from hell that rolls through for about a quarter of an hour at the most inconvenient time of the day.

Our schedule, once again (and unsurprisingly, I hear you cry) went down the toilet. The original plan to take the scenic route up the Rockies, stopping for breakfast at a casino along the way, was wiped out by a sea of travel plan revisions and emotional outbursts.  We decided on the more direct route up the mountains, realizing most of Colorado is pretty scenic on its own, and we could leave the super extended scenicness for the way home.

As Rosa snapped pictures with the super deluxe magic Cannon camera every thirty six feet, due to the overwhelming beauty of the landscape, Anabelle informed us that her belly hurt. Knowing she does get carsick from time to time, we looked for a place on the windy, if impressive, road to stop.  The Colorado Cherry Company turned up just in time, giving all of us a little stretch and providing a great deal of local jellies, pies and jerkies to taste, use as souvenirs, and buy for ourselves.  I found some buffalo jerky which would end up being one of the most important purchases of the week.

We learned a few things shortly after the stop:

1) The break did not help Anabelle’s stomach.
2) The bags we kept in the back seat were sealed shut.
3) We didn’t have much of an idea where we were.

These three led to a large amount of chaos and screaming in the Big Orange Sissy for a bit, until we rounded a corner and spotted a two level shopping center. We pulled in hoping to stock up on cleaning supplies and possibly a change of clothes.

The large red and white sign that greeted us as we pulled in proclaimed we were entering “Stanley Village”. It’s nice to know he was watching out for us all those miles from home. Thanks to the overuse of hot air driers it took multiple cross parking lot sorties to get enough wet paper towels to complete the initial clean up.  Anabelle had enough of a change of clothes packed to allow us to continue on after a brief cleaning supply run into the supermarket.

From Stanley Village, it was only a short trip to our destination.  Once again, my lack of travel experience served to make me surprised when I should know better.  I’m used to a state where if you drive for an hour, three of the four main compass directions will take you out of that state. Plus any parks we have can be walked end to end over a lunch hour. Therefore, not only was I amazed that this “short” trip already look an hour and forty five minutes  but I was horrified to learn from the ranger at the gate that the main camp with the restaurant (as we were well past feeding time) was another forty minute drive.  The horror continued as he began to give us express details of all the places we couldn’t go now that we were there. The main camp was getting terrible weather and was closed down, and all the parking lots by things we wanted to see were full. We finally got Ranger Helpfulpants to stop talking about things we couldn’t do, and tell us something we could; before I told him something he could go do.  There was a parking lot with a shuttle bus a little ways past his gate and to the left. Obviously as soon as we hit a fork in the road, I turned right.  The day was pretty frazzling, and I hadn’t really started tucking into the buffalo jerky, which ended up preserving far more of my sanity than I usually get to keep on days where we blow by meal time.

We did find a very impressive overlook to park, in which we prepared to bask in the natural beauty before turning around.  We saw a chipmunk and a prairie dog, and a large impressive famous mountain peak that we read all about, and took several pictures of.  I have no memory of what the peak was named because of what happened shortly after. Anabelle saw some kids clambering up a rock and (after asking) dashed up after them.  Because Rosa had her super deluxe magic Cannon camera; I, and my near phobic view on heights, had to ascend with her.

We reached the top, and Anabelle was so thrilled to be there, that my terror took a back seat to parental pride.  Then it quickly took a back seat to parental concern as she had an encore performance of the messing up of the Big Orange Sissy’s back seat.  A very nice woman, while steering her children around the new decorations Anabelle added to the protected national treasure, gave us her water bottle, informing us that it would help with altitude sickness.  Yes, Anabelle hit the nausea jackpot by being susceptible to both car sickness (treated by an empty stomach) and altitude sickness (treated by a full stomach).

Rosa did some clambering herself once we were all calm again. In a rare and amazing moment I actually got to try the super deluxe magic Cannon camera.  From this point on, Anabelle would repeatedly declare that she wanted to go home and didn’t like the Rocky Mountains. (We learned when we were all back in the teeny mountains of New Jersey that she can take Dramamine next time we go.)

We turned the Big Orange Sissy around, aiming toward the parking lot Ranger Helpfulpants told us about.  On the way we had one of our brief encounters with nature. (Considering Colorado has animal crossing signs every four feet on their high speed highways, I saw more animals between our home and Newark airport than I did there in a week.)  We saw one deer and an elk’s butt.  Thanks to the super deluxe magic Cannon camera we will be able to recognize this elk by its butt when we go back.

Once we had basked enough in the heiney of nature, we made it to the lot with the shuttle, which Anabelle flat out refused to get on. Therefore, we investigated the little museum there and talked to the attendant about how to combat altitude sickness and where to find Bighorn Sheep. (Anabelle’s favorite.)   She gave us the infinitely helpful advice that given our daughter’s condition, the time we had, and the fact that the rain from the main camp had currently started whizzing on us; the best place to see Bighorn Sheep would be the display in the Denver museum.  We patiently explained that seeing them there the day before was what made them her favorite.

Then, Buffalo Jerky continuing to sustain my sanity, and pausing only to photograph an unusual bird, with the super deluxe magic Cannon camera, which seemed to enjoy watching confused New Jersey travelers. We decided to try our luck in the obviously named Sheep Meadow, which was usually the best place to spot bighorn sheep…if it wasn’t raining.  We told Anabelle, who no longer cared about anything but leaving, that we had to pass that spot on the way out. This was a low level parental lie, as, while it wasn’t the way we came in or the shortest route out, it was on the way to another exit and didn’t require an increase in elevation above anything we’d already done. 

Cooperative as always, the rainstorm kicked into full gear as we reached the meadow. Anabelle continued to refuse to leave the car. The adults took turns scanning the soggy tree line, trying to figure out if we were seeing sheep, horse-riding tourists desperate for shelter, or hyper squirrels with overactive thyroids.  After Rosa snapped a few extremely close up, high definition pictures of nothing with the super deluxe magic Cannon camera, we gave up and pointed the Big Orange Sissy towards the park exit.

This park entrance and exit, which I would like to point out was walking distance from the park entrance and exit with the increasingly less respected Ranger Helpfulpants, had a large gift shop, restaurant, and everything else we were asking about on our arrival.  Not only that but we saw a bighorn sheep peeking at us from a high outcropping. (At least we said we saw one, this would be a high level parental lie, since the super deluxe magic Cannon camera revealed it was a sheeply shaped bush swaying in the wind.  But since we saw one in the zoo the next day, this secret can be revealed.) Concerned about the effects of a big meal before beginning the long drive down, we left it behind and descended back into Stanley Village both to check food options and buy Anabelle the stuffed bear she saw in the store that lacked anything useful for her to change into.  (She had a rough day, and we’re all kind of softies.)

There wasn’t much in the healthy food choice options there, and the Coloradinanite woman who sold us the bear advised descending down to Lyon before feeding our altitude susceptible child. Rosa and Luz Maria grabbed a snack, and I finished off the Buffalo Jerky (initiating the Countdown to Crazy unless we found real food).  I made sure to pass and peek in the Stanley Museum to say thanx again before we started downward.

Rosa and I decided it was a very good thing that we didn’t take the scenic route down as she felt dizzy and I felt queasy. We also thought the fact that the opposite didn’t happen was a very good thing as I was driving.  Rosa wasn’t impaired enough to slow her near constant excited picture taking of all the beautiful mountain scenery with her super deluxe magic Cannon camera, but there were a few more “I missed it again”s than usual.  Anabelle felt OK, and told us she would continue to as long as we kept listening to the new Weird Al CD. (That’s my girl.)

Since the GPS hadn’t tried to kill any of us for hours, Luz Maria relaxed her back up navigator position and fell asleep.  Since the rest of us were also settled in and comfortable, (and the jerky level in my bloodstream was holding), we drove through Lyon.  We all remembered passing through a main drag in Boulder that was filled with restaurants. Waiting till we got there would drop the altitude more, prevent interruption of rest time, and just make it before the Countdown to Crazy ended

We entered Boulder to find a smattering of unacceptable fast food joints and delis, half of which were closed.  The jerky reserves were gone, the countdown complete, but I managed to hang on, foolishly assuming we would pass by the restaurants we saw any minute now.  Little did I know that, having bided its time and lulled us into a false sense of security; the GPS guided us down into Boulder by a different route than we went up.

Suddenly Boulder was behind us and we were driving through something, while common in much of the U.S.A., is like an alien landscape to those of us used to the New York metropolitan area: a vast expanse of nothing. (This is, of course, not counting the myriad “wildlife crossing” signs, put there as a joke on us tourists by smart aleck Coloradins.)  The next sign of civilization on our route would be near Titi LuzMa’s home, causing me to start grilling her about places where they grilled other things.

The first town we would hit was Morrison, where she knew a good Italian restaurant.  Unfortunately, there is a law in Morrison that says every square inch of possible parking must be completely filled on a Saturday night. Considering the population density differences between New Jersey and Colorado, I can only assume that Morrison imported every last Utaharian, Montanaite and Wyomingoleo to prevent us from eating, and send the Countdown to Crazy into dangerous overtime.

Speaking, and thinking, in monosyllabic incomplete sentences, I flew the Big Orange Sissy (or slowly but angrily drove, the Big Orange Sissy to be more precise) back onto the highway. Luz Maria scouted a place right near her complex with “Authentic New York Pizza” for Anabelle to have her favorite food.  We parked and I staggered in, ready to devour any grilled offering.  The amount of grilled offerings was equal to the “authenticness” of their New York Pizza…none.

Beyond words, I crossed the parking lot to the Asian restaurant and managed to order sushi through grunts and hand signals.  Luz Maria joined me shortly to put in a Chinese food order.  When she told me Rosa was only ordering desert, I got a roll for her too.  We then returned to the pizzeria and proceeded to enjoy our Oriental feast while Anabelle ate her single slice.  The kid at the counter asked where we got the sushi and I was prepared to either be thrown out or end up leaving a thousand percent tip on the pizza slice, when he revealed that he really liked sushi and wanted to know if the local place was any good.  (I still wasn’t used to the attitude difference between New Yorkers and Coloradoizers.)  

Luz Maria walked Anabelle home; we put the Big Orange Sissy to bed for the night, shortly followed by us after a viewing of the way better than I expected it to be Next Avengers.
Someone should really change this sign.
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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Days Alone

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