Monthly Archives: June 2011

Oh, The People You’ll Meet!

As promised, I’m going to tell you about the cast of characters we met along our trip. This is one of our favorite parts of vacation. You never know who you’ll come across. Often it’s in the campgrounds, but sometimes it’s on a train. And sometimes you don’t actually meet the person at all, but they leave their mark just the same.

Here we go.

Ouray, Colorado:

Our camping neighbors were Santa and Mrs. Claus. Greg had a big conversation with them while fixing breakfast one morning. At some point I peered out of the camper (I was working on inside parts of breakfast) and saw him chatting with a fellow who looked precisely like Santa, and whose wife looked just like Mrs. Claus. I wasn’t feeling very conversational, so after smiling (as much at the situation as at Santa), I popped right back inside. Greg gave me the rundown later. Mr. and Mrs. Claus used to run a car wash, but Mr. Claus had contracted pneumonia twice during the winter, so they gave it all up and enrolled in Santa School. What a marvel, that such a thing even exists! They adore gospel music and this trip was their maiden voyage in their current RV. They got their passports specifically so that if they were needed to play Santa and Mrs. Claus overseas, they could leave on a moment’s notice. Fascinating.

 

Ouray, Colorado:

We had a trying day, one of our days in Ouray. We had Jeeped all day long, if I remember correctly, and had been somewhat disappointed because so many passes were still closed thanks to record snow in the area. It took about forever to work our way back to camp. To alleviate our disappointment and please our all-pizza-all-the-time son, we walked from camp up to the local pizza parlor. Each of the kids brought a DS along because while we don’t usually allow them to play DS outside of the truck, we desperately needed some respite. But respite was not to be had, because some lady allowed her kids to hang around our table the entire time we were there, looking over our kids’ shoulders as they played their video games. So I’m really glad she enjoyed her kid-free meal on our behalf. Grr.

 

Durango, Colorado:

Oklahoma Okies – These were really nice people, honestly. Like the Clauses, they loved gospel music and had gone to Lebanon, MO to listen to it. They had left their RV in Marshfield in order to do so (connection!). While in Marshfield, they attended the Freewill Baptist church. They both taught school for years. He taught business and computers. I don’t remember what she taught, but they also “ran cattle” for 40 years. They had 550 head of cattle on 330 acres. They couldn’t “run around” while farming though, so they sold out four years ago. He wore standard-issue white velcro sneakers in lieu of cowboy boots and the also-standard-issue dark wash Wranglers. They had attended a chuckwagon dinner the night before and thought it was better than a lot of them, so I guess chuckwagon dinners are regular nights out for them. They talked about how alcohol makes people do stupid things, and then Greg went to the concession car and got beers for us. I’m sure they were impressed.

 

Durango, Colorado:

Galloping Granny – This lady may just take the cake. I’m not sure, it’s between her and the final entry below. She is married but miserable, so she travels with her boyfriend from 48 years ago. He’s also married and miserable and likes to purchase guidebooks and give a mile-by-mile tour update along the railroad line (for 3.5 hours). They met up again on Facebook a couple of years ago. She finds him to be an obnoxious East Coaster (as did we, notes Greg), and he doesn’t like the fact that in her Jeep it’s her rules and he’s not allowed to touch anything, but he’s a companion at least. Granny has 3 kids, all of whom are doctors. She travels everywhere on her own at 78 years old (except for when she is traveling with the obnoxious East Coaster). She Jeeps into the backcountry and backpacks, though her hips aren’t what they used to be. She raises thoroughbreds. She has an iPhone with more than 1000 photos on it (shitty photos, notes Greg). She takes great pride in building fences on her son-in-law’s farm because he’s too worthless to know how to do it himself. Her husband, equally worthless, has diabetes and despite the fact that their daughter is an endocrinologist, he refuses to take care of himself and expects her to stay home and take care of him. Well, she is not about to do that. To give you some idea of what the Galloping Granny looks like, think Minnie Pearl with wire-rim glasses.

 

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado:

Remember way up in the very beginning of this post where I mentioned that sometimes people leave their marks even though you didn’t meet them personally? That’s what happened at Mesa Verde. While dining on our lovely Navajo Tacos, someone paid a visit to our truck. Some of you may recognize this as our rear license plate:

license plate

I would never have noticed, but when we returned to the truck from lunch, Greg spied a folded piece of paper stuck into our plate. He picked it up and this is what was on it:

diesel structure

Someone had taken the time to sit down and plot out the chemical structure of diesel fuel and leave it there for us. We thought that was just about the coolest thing ever.

 

Wilson Lake, Kansas:

Ivan. What can I say about Ivan? Ivan is Mexican, but Ivan is not just any Mexican. He revels in being the stereotypical Cheech and Chong style Mexican. As soon as he got to his campsite (we were already set up), he strutted over to offer me what he referred to as ‘Mexican-style beer.’ Around here we refer to it as Bud Light Lime. He also offered me some beef jerky, though he was evasive about its origins. I think at some point he told me he thought it was beef. I didn’t want to be rude, so I accepted his offerings, and the jerky was crunchy. Crunchy jerky. YUM. Visiting with Ivan is an experience in and of itself. When he found we had detoured into Kansas to avoid flooding in Nebraska he laughed, “Oh, white people freak out about that sheet, man. Not us Messicans. That sheet don’t bother us at all, man. We go through rivers with babies strapped to our backs, you know? You know, buddy?” Ivan was hilarious and Greg and I did everything within our power to encourage him. Pretty soon he was on the subject of Mexico itself. “Hell, no, you won’t get me back to Messico, man, I went there once, and I got family there, yo, but I was scared to def, man.  I was born in Texas but I was raised in Chihuahua and I ain’t goin’ back.  Messican gover’ment, they cut off your heads there, buddy. Nooooo, I don’t want
to go there. And Juarez? Sheet, dat’s the MOS’ dangerous place, buddy. I won’t even walk across at El Paso. You know, one time I walked across but we lef’ our car there on the other side and when we came back the car wasn’t even there, man.”

Ivan was in construction. He was a iron worker, working on refineries in Texas, but now he is unemployed and he just LOVES it. “Man, thees is the life! $450 a week! And all I got to do is travel around and sheet, man. And I can just keep getting this every week.”

(I suspect he doesn’t really feel that way, but he has to make it sound like he does in order to make himself feel better. Whatever, I guess.)

The next morning, we discovered Laurel had left her soap in the shower and of course Ivan was outside his camper and heard the whole thing. “What?!” he said, “Someone stoled your soap? Sheet, that’s crazy, man. That’s not right. I mean, if you’re gonna steal something, steal something WORTH something, you know what I mean?”

So yeah, Ivan might just take the cake.

 

As you can see, you can meet all kinds of characters in a two-week jaunt. I didn’t list every interesting soul we met, but I have listed the most peculiar. Can’t wait to see who turns up next year.

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Fourteen.

JOHNSON LAKE, NEBRASKA WILSON LAKE, KANSAS – We hopped out of bed this morning to get an early start on our way to our destination in Johnson Lake, Nebraska. Way back (wayyyyyyyyy back) when I was planning this vacation I knew I’d just as soon not see all the same scenery on I-70 through Kansas as we saw on the way out to Colorado, so I planned to head north through Nebraska to get back into Missouri.

That was before Mother Nature and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to fuck with me.

So as we were driving through Denver we were trying to figure out whether we had any hope of crossing the Missouri River from Nebraska into Iowa or Missouri.

Turns out the answer was pretty much ‘NO, STUPID, YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE.’

The most favored detour would have required us to drive through Nebraska and then take a highway south to I-70 in Kansas anyway, putting us about an hour behind schedule, plus the other hour that we’d be behind by virtue of detouring through Nebraska anyway.

So somewhere on a strip mall parking lot off I-76 in Denver, we pulled off and made a decision to go back through Kansas and…

…get this…

…try to find a campsite somewhere in Kansas without a reservation, even though it meant losing a night’s camping fees in Nebraska.

I know all of you who know me and my penchant for planning just uttered a collective gasp. Don’t lie. I could hear it.

I was feeling reckless, though, and so I was surprisingly okay with it. Away we rolled toward Kansas.

And we rolled. And we rolled. For about 400 miles we crossed beautiful eastern Colorado and western Kansas until we ended up at Wilson Lake.

I couldn’t just let fate take over completely so of course I was on my phone and the computer as we traveled looking for a federal campground or, in lieu thereof, a state campground. We like those the best. RV Parks are out of necessity only. It was too late to reserve anywhere but it was a Thursday night so we hoped we’d find something. I had my eye on the campgrounds at Wilson Lake. There are about four or five big campgrounds there. Surely, we thought, surely one of them will have a space.

Not only did I have a particular campground in mind. I had also scoped out a particular site with a couple of alternates if it was taken. Old habits die hard.

The one I wanted had a playground RIGHT NEXT DOOR.

You understand why I did this, right?

Sure enough, we got to the campground and almost had our pick of sites. I got my second-favorite one so I was happy enough, and as you can see it was still just a stone’s throw from the playground.

campsite day fourteen

I reminded Greg how lucky he is to have a wife so adept at finding good campsites. I mean, look at it. It’s the middle of Kansas and it’s a beautiful, gorgeous campground. Will we be back there? Hell yes, the next time we’re going through there and need a place to rest our bones, we will not hesitate to stop there. It’s about 8 hours from home, and that’s always a good time to stop.

Ethan got his bike out and entertained himself.

Laurel took a shower and left our soap and her shampoo in there, and it got stolen.

Oh, well.

We met a fellow who was quite possibly the most interesting of the trip. More on him later.

That’s campin’.

01 - off-roading

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Thirteen.

FRISCO, COLORADO – We awoke in Moab with a long way to go and a short time to get there. First we drove all the way back into Moab proper from Dead Horse Point State Park to return the Jeep.

Let me point out, that the Jeeping experience is an interesting one, in no small part because the big knobby tires are ‘aired down’ to better handle the terrain. That makes the whole thing squirrelly to operate. It took some getting used to, but I got it there, got it cleaned, and the owner of the shop where we rented it was really cool. He saw me at the car wash and just pulled in, told me to park it and leave the keys in it and we were done. So we got a much faster start than I thought we would.

Then we climbed. And we climbed, and we climbed on I-70 east through Colorado through some beautiful scenery, tunnels, tight curves, and two-lane construction (ugh) which set us back some, but it all worked out in the end.

It all worked out, that is, until we were about 20 minutes from our destination, and all holy hell of construction broke loose. They had us down to one lane going uphill. Naturally, all the big trucks were struggling to pull their loads, and we couldn’t get around them.

So we sat. And 20 minutes turned into 45 minutes which felt like at least 90 minutes because we just wanted to GET THERE. Then when we got to our campground we found that whoever designed the campsites was dyslexic. Not only were our hookups on the wrong side, but the whole driveway was canted the wrong way. See, most campgrounds are set up on a one-way loop, and the campsites are slanted so as you travel around that loop the site is easy for you to pull past and back into with a trailer.

Not this one.

It was slanted the wrong way.

So after much tongue-biting and tooth-gnashing, we decided we’d just drive in the wrong way with our fingers crossed, hoping not to meet someone coming the other direction.

We didn’t.

We got hooked in, mostly, though the water pressure was too damn high (just like the rent!) and it wasn’t working for us.

We were at about 10,500 feet and I wasn’t feeling well, but gosh, the view from camp was something to behold.

campsite day thirteen

While resting up after our long journey, Laurel and Ethan got their bikes out. Ethan built a ramp on the slope up into the campsite and took off like a shot, having a great time. Laurel took off, too, but she was not long for it. She fell and suffered a little road rash.

01 - road rash

Clearly it was time for dinner.

We crossed the dam into Dillon which was an interesting experience. It appears Frisco and Dillon are very concerned about that dam because they don’t allow trailers, they don’t allow big trucks, they don’t allow anybody to travel over the dam overnight, they have security patrolling the area, and they have physical barriers installed to block you if you’re naughty.

Whoa.

But we went across anyway. I was so out of it from altitude sickness I couldn’t focus, but that didn’t stop me from eating a gigantic salad at Dillon Dam Brewery and enjoying one (yes, only one) beer. I have to say I was just about beered out by this point.

There really isn’t much more to tell. We paid our bill, got out, went back to camp, and went back to sleep, knowing we had another hard day of driving ahead.

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Twelve.

MOAB, UTAH – Dude. This day was so awesome in so many ways.

We awoke bright and early and took off in the Jeep determined to try a trail rated ‘difficult.’ First, though, at my insistence, we stopped by some petroglyphs.

01 - petroglyphs02 - petroglyphs

Those were really easy to see, considering they were right next to Potash Road. But then we (ad)ventured on down to see these dinosaur tracks:

03 - dinosaur tracks

Those too were have been easily found, but for the fact that in the rush to get out the camper door this morning, I completely forgot to change from my flip flops into my sneakers. I really wanted a close-up photo like you see above. So, undaunted by my lack of proper footwear, I climbed over the slickrock and through the cacti anyway, much to Greg’s chagrin. Those of you familiar with this blog are likely to suspect, as I did, that he was just waiting to have to carry me out with a sprained or broken appendage. But I made it! I credit our previous Fiery Furnace experience for my good fortune. We totally rocked the FF.

We didn’t linger long, seeing as how we wanted to get up to Fins & Things (that difficult trail I mentioned) as soon as possible. So that’s what we did…after filling ourselves with a barbecue luncheon at the Blu Pig. That was not the best idea – the restaurant was fine, no problems there, it was just following a full belly with F&T. Well, I mean, the restaurant did have an appetizer called The Big Nasty which we just had to have. So there you go. Here are a few photos, followed by video. None of which do it justice. Seriously.

04 - just off a very steep hill on Fins & Things05 - more crazy steepness on F&T06 - dinosaur rock formation along F&T07 - going up

Talk about foreign terrain. This is a hell of a way to see the desert, folks. It sure is beautiful, though.

So naturally, Ethan wants to know when we’re buying a Jeep. Greg may or may not admit it if you ask, but I’m pretty sure if you check his browser history here or there you might find he’s been visiting Craigslist looking at Jeeps. It’s kinda like porn but it doesn’t get caught in the web filtering.

*****

Admittedly, it’s hard to top that whole Jeeping thing. However, we had big plans in store. By the time we got back to camp it was but a short wait before our good friends Brian and Erin showed up. They live in Seattle, and we’ve had the good fortune to meet up with them ‘abroad’ twice now.

We had a great time. Good food, good drink, and particularly good companionship. I wish we had more than one night to visit. We really must do this more often!

And so I say that as much fun as we had running Fins & Things, this photo tops it all:

09 - great friends and great times

Eventually the night had to end – in fact, I gave it up earlier than the others. Let’s say it might have had something to do with filling myself chock full of BBQ for lunch plus running over Fins & Things for hours. Ugh. And then some beer.

I slept well that night.

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Eleven.

MOAB, UTAH – Whoops. I forgot to throw in a photo of last night’s campsite.

01 - Day ten's campsite

This was a superfun day. We started with a hike through the Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park. Our tour guide was a real trip. He wanted to play Quiz Show and ask questions the entire time.

Then he asked how sandstone was formed.

Laurel answered him.

She was correct, but he told her she was wrong.

Sigh.

He also told me I was wrong when I answered that plants need air because he equates air with oxygen. I just rolled my eyes. Pretty soon he started talking about how plants need fixed nitrogen and I turned to Greg and stage-whispered, “which comes from WHERE? The AIR! duh, duh, duhduhduh”

Again, so many photos, just mouse over the ones you want to know about for the caption.

02 - Arches sign02 - moon over formations in Arches NP03 - petrified sand dunes, Arches NP04 - most of the family at balanced rock, Arches NP05 - mama fox at Delicate Arch trailhead, Arches NP06 - delicate arch, Arches NP07 - fiery furnace walk, Arches NP08 - Laurel attacking crawl-through arch in the fiery furnace, Arches NP09 - Ethan's turn at crawl-through arch in the fiery furnace, Arches NP10 - Ethan emerging from crawl-through arch, fiery furnace, Arches NP11 - Even I went for the crawl-through arch, fiery furnace, Arches NP12 - made it!13 - skull arch14 - Greg calls this butt rock15 - crossing over16 - waiting for others to catch up17 - still waiting18 - more from the fiery furnace19 - fun in a very narrow canyon21 - more of the view22 - a little perspective23 - contrary tour guide Dick24 - we like to call this Penis Rock

We made it through the Fiery Furnace just fine. Even the kids loved it. Not twenty minutes after we had left (this was a three-hour tour, by the way, just like Gilligan’s), Ethan asked, “When can we do this again?”

Success!

But we had other things in mind, like renting another Jeep. We enjoyed it so much in Colorado we felt like we just HAD to do it again, this time in the desert terrain surrounding Moab. We picked up the Jeep that afternoon before pulling our trailer out to Dead Horse Point State Park. The moment we unhooked our trailer we clambered into the Jeep and took off down Long Canyon and Potash Roads, ending with Shafer Switchbacks.

25 - long canyon rd26 - long canyon rd

Paul and Cynthia, this one is for you:

27 - really, an Element on a 4WD high clearance road with a bike and basket on the back28 - view from either long canyon or potash rd29 - balanced rock on potash road

Salt:

30 - evaporation ponds along potash road

Thelma and Louise Point, where the movie filmed its climactic scene:31 - thelma and louise point32 - thelma and louise point33 - Jeep at thelma & louise point34 - gooseneck on potash road

You may have noticed we take photos of the entrance signs for all (almost) of the National Parks we enter while on vacation. Well, we entered Canyonlands the back way, which Greg found especially fun.

35 - entering Canyonlands, the back way36 - funny sign for Shafer Switchbacks37 - view from Shafer Switchbacks

We didn’t get back to camp until after 7 that evening. We had been up since, oh, around 5 or 6 that morning. As you may have guessed, we were all tired and dusty. We weren’t hot, though, because Mother Nature had blessed us with a super cool 81 degrees for a high that day.

And as they say, it was a dry heat.

Our campsite:

campsite, Dead Horse Point State Parkview from campsite at Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Ten.

MOAB, UTAH – We packed up bright and early this morning to hit the road for Moab.

We left so early, in fact, we didn’t bother to make coffee ourselves, but rather chose to buy it from Durango Joe’s, which I thought was just outrageous, seeing as how Greg and his coworkers are/were frequenters of Amigo Joe’s in St. Louis.

durango joe's

As I understand it, Amigo Joe’s is most assuredly not a coffee joint, but it’s the second interesting coincidence of the trip, the first being that postcards we purchased back in Ouray were photographed by someone who shares our last name. Our last name, for those of you not in the know, is not a common one. At all.

Along the way we stopped at Mesa Verde. I have wanted to go there for years so to my credit I only had a mini-meltdown when the kids didn’t meet my behavior expectations. Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask. Greg and the kids might disagree about the degree of my explosion.

But damn it all, this was on Father’s Day and they were really pissing me off.

02 - mesa verde03 - prickly pear03 - spruce tree house04 0 spruce tree house05 - family inside kiva at spruce tree house06 - climbing out of the kiva07 - soot at spruce tree house08 - grinding stones, spruce tree house09 - pit house10 -camo lizard11 - square tower house, i believe it's called12 - square tower house13 - sun temple14 - sun temple15 - gutter, maybe16 - family at cliff palace17 - cliff palace

By the time we were finished with the sightseeing we were in the mood for some Navajo tacos. What are they, you might ask? They’re basically pizza dough with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream on top. Not the greatest in the world, but not bad either, when you’re hungry.

18 - navajo taco

However, after Greg and I each put one of those away, the belches made the truck some pretty close quarters.

Soon we were in windy and cold Utah. When we took this photo it was windy (obviously, based on my struggle) and about 62 degrees.

19 - entering Utah, so windy

The scenery changed dramatically around every bend.

20 - first crazy rock20 - fog enveloping mountain20 - Utah

We gave Moab Brewery a try, and it was a near disaster. Yes, we found a beer we liked, but they were out (out!) of several we wanted to try. They were out of so many things and the food was so mediocre that by the time the server forgot Greg’s roll with his meal, I’d had it. I asked her, “Doesn’t his meal come with bread, or are you out of THAT, too?!” Seriously, it’s one thing to run out of something, but when you do, take it off the chalkboard. Take it off the table tent thingies.

Good grief.

But we salvaged the outing with ice cream from the local convenience store.
The Brewery had gelato, but we were damned if we were going to give those incompetents any more of our money.

Now we’re here in Moab where it is a beautiful and not-very-desert-in-June-ish 58 degrees. And it’s been raining. Yes, leave it to us to bring rain to the desert. It has its positive side, though. I think they are forecasting a high of only 81 when we’re hiking around Arches, so that should be pretty great.

********

From here on out, our internet service will get sketchy if not completely nonexistent, so don’t expect frequent updates. In fact, we might not even have service until we get back home. That’s what vacation is about I guess.

And by the way, for those of you who noticed the Parenthesis Problem in the first paragraph of the Father’s Day post, I can’t fix it. The blog hiccupped and I can’t retrieve the post to correct it. You win some, you lose some, but I couldn’t let it go without mentioning it. Imagine that.

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Nine.

DURANGO, COLORADO – Today was taken up by riding the Durango-Silverton line.

Completely taken up.

We got down to the train station at around 8 a.m. and piddled around the museum down there for half an hour or so until the train boarded.

01 - durango silverton train car

We were riding an open gondola car. Note, we say “GON-dol-a” but they say “Gon-DOL-a.” Ah, regional differences. Fun.

The brakeman reminded me of Leo DiCaprio in, say, “Catch Me if you Can.”

02 - leo dicaprio perhaps

The train took off and the kids started whining. Ethan wanted the concession car to hurry up and open. Laurel bitched and moaned about having to sit there looking out the window for 3.5 hours.

But there were a few highlights. For example, get a load of this tennis court complete with tennis-playing metal sculptures, a horse, and two llamas:

03 - horse and llamas on a tennis court

Okay, yeah, you might not be able to see them all that well but trust me, each of those things I listed are there.

Beautiful scenery was the phrase o’ the day.

04 - heading around a bend05 - heading around a bend07 - blowing off steam

And when the snack car finally opened, Greg promptly scored us some appropriately-named Steam Engine lager. I think it was about 11 a.m. at this point, but the kids were impatient, the weirdos on the train were yapping at us (more on that in a forthcoming post), and we’d about had it.

06 - Steam Engine Lager08 - laurel09 - ethan

Once in Silverton, though, Greg scored a pork sundae for lunch.

10 - pork sundae

It was downhill from there, both figuratively and literally. We tried to hop over to the Silverton Brewery, and when we sat down we were acknowledged and given menus.

And then that was it. Nobody came back. The lady who was serving told us she was sorry and would be right back, but then delivered food to the table behind us, who complained that a) the burger wasn’t what they ordered, and b) the soup was cold.

Really? Because there were about 8 customers in the whole place. How do you fuck that up so completely?

The waitress took their food back to the kitchen and then, rather than coming out to find out what beer we wa
nted, just stayed in there, presumably waiting for the other table’s food.

We grew more and more impatient, and you could tell the bartender KNEW we were getting annoyed, but he didn’t bother to do anything about it.

So we got up and left.

And went to have ice cream instead. Oh, then found another restaurant where we managed another craft beer even though the waitress didn’t have ANY IDEA what kind of craft beers they had and left about half of them off the list she gave us.

What a miserable experience. Folks, aside from eating BBQ there isn’t much to do in Silverton unless you’re interested in crappy tourist shops and the like. It’s worth a drive through but not a drive to, savvy?

THANK GOODNESS, we’d had the foresight not to take the return trip on the train, but to ride the coach bus back instead. 1.5 hours is much better than 3.5 hours, even when the driver-slash-tour guide does this weird smacking thing with his mouth every time he finishes a sentence.

Even that didn’t keep me from napping after the couple of beers we did manage to score.

We laid low the rest of the night. We found a park because our RV park didn’t have a playground. We grilled up some sausages, ate some good junky Fritos, and retired early.

That was enough Durango and Silverton for us. We’ve done it once and I can almost guarantee you we will never do it again…but I’m cautious about these things. We’ll probably have grandkids who want nothing more than to ride that damn train and we’ll end up enduring it all over again.

Fathers / Father’s / Fathers’ Day, depending on who you ask, 2011.

This vacation (and vacation story is interrupted each year by Father’s Day.

This year was interesting because a few weeks ago, Laurel had an appointment with her orthodontist.

??

Just stay with me here, Gentle Reader.

Her orthodontist is pretty cool and is always holding contests for this, that, and the other, and this year they had a writing contest. To win, you had to write “My dad is the best because…” and complete the thought.

So Laurel did.

fathersday

And Laurel won.

I kind of figured she would. It’s a compelling argument.

So there awaits at her orthodontist’s office a gift card to Lowe’s, a barbecue set, and a barbecue apron with the orthodontist’s logo on it.

Well-deserved, I believe.

Happy Father’s Day, Greg! We all love you very much.

The Great Colorado-Utah Vacation 2011, Day Eight.

DURANGO, COLORADO – We just won a case of beer, yo!

Okay, first things first. We left Ouray this morning for the 1.5-hour drive to Durango.

As an aside, I just want to point out (at our own risk) that the weather has been soooooo cooperative. For those of you who follow our camping adventures, you know that is not typically the case, at least not with local Missouri camping. So I’d like to take this moment to thank Mother Nature for that. And the Academy. But mostly Mother Nature.

We got to Durango, got unhooked, and sat around for an hour or so debating how to rent another Jeep for Moab.

Yeah, you read that right. We want to do more Jeeping in and around Canyonlands National Park. We had such a good time around Ouray that we thought we should take the opportunity to do more. Greg, especially, loved it, and if Mr. Cold-and-Blackened Heart can find enjoyment in something, I am all about it.

Ha!

The first order of business after resting up was to ride the free trolley into Durango proper.

01 - Durango transit02 - trolley

It was early for dinner so we walked around a little, and discovered the train depot and museum.

watching the model train at the museum

Well, it just so happened we stumbled upon one of those “Thomas Day Out” thingies. And yes, Thomas himself was there. We were total party crashers and didn’t pay a damn dime but hey, nobody asked us for tickets or ID or anything else and that is how we roll, so Ethan jumped in a bouncy house and the kids petted some animals which were WAY better than the other ones at Royal Gorge. Seriously, the Durango FFA knows how to put on a show. They had show-quality hogs (complete with Purina’s Show Chow – Mom, I know you’ll get a kick out of that), as well as the biggest Holstein I’ve ever seen, which made me nostalgic for the cows of yore. I absolutely fell in love with her. If I could wrap her up and take her home with me I would. I heard the FFA girls daring each other to get on the poor Holstein’s back just to see what she’d do. One of them predicted she would stand up. I concur. I inched over as quietly and innocuously as I could, hoping to enjoy the show before we left, but alas, the FFA girls chickened out. Or maybe they didn’t but we just left before I could see the performance. Sigh.

They also had a mule, some goats, and a horse. Yes, all the typical animals, but HIGH QUALITY creatures. I can appreciate that.

Oh yeah, and Thomas:

03 - Thomas surprise

Next we visited Steamworks Brewing Company for dinner. First of all, yum. We had the Cajun Boil, which is that typical fat mess of crab, shrimp, ‘taters, and corn all dumped out on butcher paper in front of you, but they did a good job with the crab which as any self-described sorta-kinda-foodie knows is a Very Big Deal. But wait! The highlight was that we were buying 20 oz. glasses of quality craft beer for TWO BUCKS. Yes. You read that correctly. Even better was that with each order the waiter brought us raffle tickets to win a prize, with the drawing to be at six p.m. I had a good feeling about this, so we sent Laurel up front with our tickets to listen for our number, with stern orders to run back to us immediately if our number was called because they were likely to be reluctant to give a prize to an eleven-year-old.

And we won two pitchers of beer! See?

04 - winner of two pitchers!

Of course, by this time we’d imbibed enough beer so that two pitchers was really pushing it, and we are from out of town so we schemed together and decided to ask our super-awesome waiter Brian if there were any way we could trade and they could fill our two growlers instead? Well, he thought so and went to ask the manager.

The manager said no, because “the law” required them to have a growler under the Steamworks name.

Well, we call bullshit on that, because Ouray Brewery filled two growlers from other breweries and Ouray is also in Colorado and that kind of law tends to be state law, but we didn’t raise a big stink because get this – in lieu of the 2 pitchers or 2 growlers, the manager offered a full case of beer.

For those of you unfamiliar with liquid measure, let me spell that out:

2 pitchers: 120 oz.

2 growlers: 128 oz.

1 case: 288 oz.

See why we didn’t bitch?

05 - third eye pa

So we squirreled away 12 cans in each of our backpacks and we slinked out, silently and qu
ickly before the manager could figure out he’d made a gross mathematical error. Our waiter, however, was on top of it all, as he referred to us multiple times as “The Family of Bootleggers.” We surreptitiously rode the trolley back without mentioning the beer so as to avoid a mugging. I’m sure you can picture it; one needn’t be painted for you. Let’s just say we’d be damn good smugglers.

Speaking of the trolley, holy cow, there are some whackjob townies in Durango. Just my kind of people. And guess what? We got the whackjobbiest of the whackjob townies on both our inbound and outbound trips. She knew every one of the other townies and had the following conversation on the inbound trip:

Whackjob Townie: “Hey, does your brother have ‘Lazarro’ tattooed on his neck?”

Other Townie: “Yeah.”

Whackjob Townie: (stage whispering) “Is he the one who got in trouble?”

Other Townie: “What?”

Whackjob Townie: (louder stage whisper) “Is. He. The. One. Who. Got. In. Trouble?!”

Other Townie: “Oh, yeah.”

Whackjob Townie: “Is he still in (stage whisper) trouble?”

Other Townie: “Yeah.”

I love me some ‘Merica.

Oh, I wanted so badly to give Greg a knowing look about her but I refrained, waiting until we were off the trolley to do so. Don’t you admire my restraint?

And that, folks, is what makes awesome memories.

By the way, guess who just sweet-talked the Moab Jeep people into bending their rental hours for us? Greg did! So look for more Jeeping adventures in the near future.

By the way, here is the Whackjob Townie:

06 - whackjob townie

And here is our campsite:

campsite

Video from Day Seven.

Near the end of yesterday’s adventures, I finally had the wherewithal to pull out our video-capable camera to capture some of our Jeeping adventures.

This is Corkscrew Gulch. It was not the most difficult run by any means, and what I got on video was probably the tamest part of the whole thing, but it will at least give you a general idea of what we did.