My husband’s blog!!!! Part 1
My husband Warren Benton Ames decided that we could have a great road trip. His sister Abbe was moving from Colorado to Maryland, and needed a car driven back. He loves to drive and I love to travel, so….I was (improperly) informed that we would be filling one of Abbe’s six sports cars (oh, my poor husband!) with valuables and would have just enough room for ourselves and some camping supplies. I envisioned pottery, classware and jewelry boxes. No. Turns out, as Abbe is a very high-ranking Army Doctor, she possesses a lot of high-ranking Army valuables.
Therefore, we drove a neon yellow BMW sportscar from Colorado to Maryland- filled with legal and licensed weapons.
The vegetarian, peace activist, serenity now woman that I am was not happy with this miscommunication! “It’s in the details hon!”
Part 1 – Our Time in Colorado
Part 2 will cover the travelling (not light) adventure with valuables.
Jodi and Warren’s
-or, “Are We Somewhere Yet”
Saturday – (D)epart Day. 05:30 am. And that is depart time, as well. Trouble is, we’re still in bed. As we are both ‘worriers’ neither of us has slept more than about twenty minutes all night. Pure speculation on whether we slept through the 05:00 alarm or whether it never actually went off, but it doesn’t matter. Out train leaves the station in forty minutes, and it’s a twenty minute drive to the station. (Slacker) Jodi can’t get herself together enough to prepare the Eggs Benedict and Cappuccino I would have normally expected, but no matter. Tumble Alina out of bed, pitch the luggage into the diesel Benz, and we’re officially clattering and belching exhaust smoke toward wherever it is we’re going. West, Old Man. Colorado. We arrive at the train station with time to spare (78 hp from a three litre diesel isn’t much, but it’s the TORQUE that got us there on time!) VISA card buys us one-way tickets to Newark airport (as well as a one-way ticket to Secaucus, NJ – somehow. But remember, I’m running on twenty minutes or so of sleep.) Uneventful train ride to Newark, nifty monorail to the airport. Delta flight ETD 08:20, and we’re at the ticket
counter seventy minutes before scheduled departure. Or, as it turns out, just short of four hours before departure. Pilots and crew were late getting in, and federal regulations specify ‘x’ hours of rest before they can take off again.
Bored and tired! Fantasizing about the snuggly bed we abandoned not too long ago, Jodi and I make ourselves as comfortable as possible in the torture devices the airport calls ‘seats’. 07:50 and I’m thinking the five or six people sitting at the bar might just have the right idea.
Short flight to stop-over in Detroit is uneventful, and we have an hour or so to stretch our legs in the airport and see black-and-white photos of the Motor City in its heyday. We telephone my sister Abbe to let her know we’re way behind schedule and won’t
arrive in Denver for another three hours. Or, actually, we telephone somebody whose phone number is one digit away from Abbe’s number. Slight typographical error – I eventually figured it out. There may still be some poor schmuck sitting at Denver International Airport waiting for us to rendezvous with them, but we don’t know them and they don’t know us so it’s all OK.
Somehow, though, Jodi has upgraded our flight from Detroit to Denver to first class! Clearly, she didn’t mention the name ‘Ames’ in the negotiations. So we watched “Win, Win” which is a movie featuring a high school kid who dropped out the high school I drive by every day, and ‘our’ flight attendant provided Jack Daniels and ice in place of the Eggs Benedict I so rightly deserved earlier in the day. Either way, my liver will wind up harder than woodpecker lips.
Denver International proves to be quite a disappointment, to me anyway. I had heard (“Discovery Channel” I think) that this was a very difficult airport to fly into, as it sits in a bowl with tricky crosswinds and downdrafts. Fool plane just glides down and eases onto the tarmac. Where’s the excitement in that!? I’d squawk about a refund, but Jodi informs me that not only did we fly first cabin, we did already indeed get a couple hundred dollars discounted from our next Delta flight. Shoot, between that and the ‘free’ JD it’s probably cheaper for me to be on vacation than it is to be back at home. And right about now, if Abbe completely forgets to retrieve us at the airport, I don’t much care.
Because I have a plan: Once in Denver, we’ll just take a shuttle into The City and see a few sights I’ve picked out. Plenty to do, and
we’ll just drift along according to Abbe’s ETA. Just one problem. I don’t spend an awful lot of time in airports, so the fact that every major airport in the world is built in The Middle of Nowhere just didn’t register. “Denver” airport is in “Denver”, which is a big city, right?
Abbe arrives to collect us from baggage claim. One smoking AMG burnout (or two), and a five dollar parking fee later we are breathing mile high air, hurtling up the interstate at Mercedes Benz speeds (and opulence) that would embarrass the Boeing 767 we left behind. Having optioned for soda crackers and organic water on the plane, the warning light for Jodi’s energy level goes from yellow to red on the way to Fort Collins so the Benz rolls to a stop at “Austin’s Grill” and we all top off our tanks. Buffalo Meatloaf for me (was OK, but Mom’s venison version is much better) and, I forget, more soda crackers and water for the girls. On the way back to Abbe’s house, through and enjoyed the comforts of her home. She shared the relics collected from her travels worldwide. Everything sacred, everything with a memory. End of day one, safely horizontal on a comfy bed at Abbe’s house, exact hour of the night uncertain (even without considering the time zone thing) – coyotes are howling us to sleep. This is already great vacation!
Sunday – Day two. The itinerary I’ve planned for the week is somewhat complex: Wake up. Decide where we want to go, what we want to see. Drive there. Jodi isn’t comfortable unless every eventuality is planned for and mitigated, which is how she plans our vacations. So I’ve somehow sold her on this free-spirited (read: low effort on my part) vacation plan, and now it’s Show Time. The next plan was Estes Park, which I remembered my dad talking about and looked good on Google. That’s it; The Plan. Right about now I’m wishing I’d packed Rosary Beads. Abbe volunteered to guide the tour, so we packed ten or twelve boxes of MRE (combat rations, to us civilians) into her X5 and headed out. Left turn, right, left, left, left, right turn out of the neighborhood.
I am SO glad Abbe is driving! Even here on the flatlands there is too much to see – rust-free ’58 Corvette in that driveway, 12-window micro bus in the Rite-Aid parking lot. Here we are, and my check book is 1200 miles away. Like the $376 I have left in there would buy anything more than a set of hubcaps. RUST FREE hubcaps, though! We drive past a small dirt lane with a hand-painted “Used Auto Parts” sign out front and it takes everything I’ve got to resist venturing in. This is not just YOUR vacation, Slick. At the foothills outside Estes Park Abbe points out the Stanley Hotel, where the Jack Nicholson movie “The Shining” was filmed. Way cool! We gotta see this. $5 to park the car and hoof it around, and it doesn’t look like there’s any shortage of tourists. It undoubtedly looked better in the movie and I already saw that. Maybe more than once. Bootleg turn back the way we drove in,
and venture up into The Rockies.
Estes Park is, well, just like the pictures only better. Exponentially better. We take Trail Ridge Road which follows a decent-sized creek part way up the mountain. I suspect it’s very picturesque most of the time, but heavy rains now have it looking like if you just stuck your toes in the roiling water your next stop would be the Pacific Ocean. Part of The Plan had been to do a whitewater rafting (day) trip while in Colorado, but I’m thinking maybe a rattlesnake roundup would be safer and less risky. Abbe gets the $.25 cents for the day, being first to spot elk. Eventually, a whole lot of elk, including some calves and one nice bull. We rolled the windows down for a photo opp (a long line of like-minded tourists had brought all vehicles to a standstill) and we could hear elk cows ‘whistling’ to each other! No doubt they were making rude comments about these idiot tourists, as well they should; ‘elk watching’ out the window of a BMW seems a bit lame in retrospect. Through Iceberg Pass, Lava Cliffs, up to where the road snakes through six-foot walls of snow; temperature was in the nineties when we began our ascent. We stop at Gore Range (elevation 12183 ft.) to play in the SNOW! a bit, but scramble back to the BMW when the cold rain and hail start. Looking down the valley, with the Poudre River and Continental Divide (far) below, nasty black clouds are tearing away at the sides of mountains that look more than durable enough to shrug it off. Just imagining how life here must have been
for the ‘mountain men’ who lived here is tremendously humbling. I was thinking we were pretty brave to sprint through the hail in the parking lot at Alpine Pass to buy post cards and coffee. With hazelnut-flavored cream, just like the mountain men.
For dinner that night we meet Jodi’s friend April and her two kids in Old Town Fort Collins. Jodi and April had their own adventure driving out here together (in a fire engine red RX-7- July and no a/c!) back when gasoline was $1.25 for a gallon. Dinner was great, the company outstanding (April’s son Caleb had brought along a copy of “Calvin and Hobbes” so I at least was able to converse with someone at my own intelligence level) and plenty of people watching in a college town aptly nicknamed “Fort Fun.” And, just for fun, on the way home we made an emergency stop at a pharmacy as Jodi’s dinner had included some kind of cheese she turns out to be allergic to which put her in mild respiratory distress.
Monday – Day Three. Pike’s Peak or Bust! Second most visited mountain in the world, likely because it is the ONLY one with a road to the top. “Monster” Tajima became the first person to make it to the top in less than ten minutes the week before we arrived, which was an enormous relief for me as it took the pressure off me to do it. His 910 hp / 150 mph Suzuki wasn’t
available today, so we took Abbe’s son Talon’s C43 Benz. Eight cylinders and we used ‘em all. We got just past the dam over the reservoir at the bottom of the mountain and the rain started. Not a problem until the Traction Control light on the
dashboard started flashing. And the balls of hail started pounding the car. We’re driving on icy marbles in the pride-and-joy car of a guy who has more guns than I do pairs of socks! You think “Monster” had pressure here at 150 mph? Fearing for the Benz’s sheet metal and glass (and hence my life) we do an about-face and park along the reservoir where it’s only raining. I weigh our
options, thinking we may never get this chance again and we’ll be safely back in Jersey before Talon sees the hail damage to his car. Up we go, all the way to Glen Cove before we are OFFICIALLY turned back due to severe weather. One hour drive uphill to see “Road Closed” sign due to inclement weather.
Temperature is 41 degrees with a stiff wind blowing, so Jodi and I hole-up in what must be the tackiest (but
warm) gift shop in America at (the almost top of) Pike’s Peak. For an hour we get updates on the weather at the top, the plows trying to keep the road clear enough for traffic, and commiserate with the (few) other foolhardy souls waiting for a chance to perish far, far, from home. Outside, the ranger is using an infrared detector to check the temperature of brake rotors on cars coming down the mountain and detaining the ones that are overheated. I debate asking him how severe the penalty would
be if ‘somebody’ just drove past the roadblock and on up the mountain. Eventually the weather report calls for no break in the storm, so all the cars are chased off the mountain. All but one, as I discover when I stop back at the toll gate for a rain check. One car remained at the summit having been struck completely dead by lightening! I talked to the driver, who said the lightening came through the open passenger side window, gave him and his wife next to him a severe jolt, and rendered the car a complete write-off! And I turned around just because of hail?! Disappointed though we are, there is a bright side: I have a plan. The Plan in fact, which dictates: ‘Let’s Do Something.’
We passed the Air Force Academy on our way in, which I was sure would have some cool airplanes on display. We like cool
airplanes, don’t we honey? OK then, there was a sign back there for Wind Cave National Park. Yeah, there’s that claustrophobia thing isn’t there honey. OK, Garden of the Gods it is! Right off the main highway, and no admission fee.
Just like I planned.
We glide the Benz past a handful of house-sized boulders which are anchored to the ground by nothing more than substantial than a Dairy Queen sugar cone.
Kids are swarming all over the rocks, parents are dutifully recording it on video, and I wonder if we are the only ones who actually saw the “Climbing on Rock Formations Forbidden by Law” sign.
We take a quick snapshot and venture further into the park, where there are now apartment building-size rock formations in shapes only Nature could conceive. We stumble past the “Beware of Rattlesnakes” signs – lots of them – and are fascinated with what we see. There are also nice brick walkways around the park for those with a fear of heights and /or rattlesnakes.
I’m pleased to report that you can tour the park quite nicely from these walkways. Just like apartment buildings the formations come in all shapes and made from all manner of material. Solidified lava fields giving way to chalky-white limestone monoliths, shoulder to shoulder. Didn’t they have zoning laws three hunderd million years ago? We explore until out legs can’t explore no mo’ and the Benz glides us back to Fort Collins.