A Colorado Road Trip: Part 5 ~ The Ultimate Destination

Since I lived through the Eisenhower tunnel experience I knew I was in store for a very smooth third leg of the trip. We had finally arrived at our ultimate destination: Firestone, Colorado. Our friends were waiting to welcome us (all 13 of us) at their beautiful home located in this developing community located a hop, skip and a jump outside of Denver.

The very first thing I noticed about the area was their vast and growing collection of oil rigs. Big ones. Medium ones. Little ones. All creepy. All unnatural. All pumping oil out of depths of the earth I personally feel should not be reached. And while I am fully willing to admit that I do have fears of a certain irrationality, I stand behind my disdain for giant grasshoppers attacking the earth around me.

Oil rigs aside (and the occasional windmill which I equally despise) we thoroughly enjoyed our visit in Firestone. Our friends were the definition of hospitable and somehow managed to turn a blind eye to the fact that we had assaulted their home with 8 rambunctious and travel-weary children. They opened their basement door, we shoved the kids down the stairs, and barely heard from them for three blessed days. I want a basement. I believe in basements. I have mad love for basements. I can’t have a basement, and somehow shoving the kids into the crawl space underneath the house doesn’t have the same effect. In fact, I’m quite sure the State would frown upon that.

The kids took no time at all "making themselves at home"

Our time in Firestone was the perfect blend of busy and restful. We took full advantage of much that the area had to offer, including a perfectly terrifying Alpine Slide down the side of a mountainand bearing witness to Jack’s very first roller coaster ride at Heritage Square amusement park in Golden, Colorado. Avery braved the slide and loved every minute of it. Jack’s roller coaster situation rode a fine line between enriching experience and child abuse. That kid screamed in octaves I’m sure have been previously unrealized.

There was one stop during our day in Golden that turned the men in our group into giggling little school girls. Drunk school girls.

This big tower was calling to our men like sirens of the sea...

The Miller Coors Brewery.

Mmm...free beer.

We took the tour which proved to be an enlightening experience.

My little man getting inducted to "Beer Academy" a little early...

Sure, the brewing process is intriguing and the audio-guided tour was certainly informational. But the enlightenment surfaced at each “free beer stop” where our men turned into fraternity-inspired versions of themselves. Providing men with free beer instills much the same fervor as a good “gift with purchase” does for women.

Jer would like to mount this sign on the front of the house...

They were giddy with excitement and in awe of what quickly became their favorite beer. I’m guessing the beer gained their undying devotion not because of its smooth, crisp finish but because it was free. And available.

Jer's favorite picture...

And beer.

We had an amazing time in Colorado and were definitely saddened to leave. The weather was great, the sights scenic and the company splendid. Anticipating the long drive back to Oregon, our butt cheeks began screaming in protest before we even sat them down into the car seats. We had decided to wizen up a bit and section off the drive home into two days. That very first leg of the trip took us a little closer to crazy than any of us were comfortable with and my nether regions refused to come home without a planned stop in the middle.

Goodbye Firestone, next stop Boise, Idaho.

Mindy

A Colorado Road Trip: Part 4 ~ Now We’re Talkin’

We pulled into the driveway of our gem of a rental home at approximately 12:25a.m., 21 1/2 hours after we left our own driveway. We stumbled into the house, quickly located our beds and hit the sack with visions of a sound sleep and a leisurely breakfast complete with steaming cups of coffee dancing in our heads.

We had officially made it through the first leg of our trip. And, if judging by the events of the first 24 hours, it was going to be one heck of an experience.

Considering the first leg of our trip warranted three individual posts, it stands to reason that I feel compelled to quickly assure you that the second leg of our trip was virtually painless. We were safely ensconced in Utah, nestled within these extremely picturesque canyon walls, staying in a beautiful rental home, where the kids were enjoying the neighborhood pool and I was enjoying the frizz-free aspect of the dry Utah air and the slumber-supporting aspect of the prescription drug Xanax. Life was good.

Kicking back in the neighborhood pool

We also played “crazy tourists” and drove through Arches National Park, an amazing sight to be seen. Truly.

Chillin' at Arches National Park

Arches National Park

We lazed about in Utah for two fun-filled days and then hit the road, taking a very scenic Highway 128 which travels alongside the Colorado River. Which meant “picture opportunity.” Which meant Jer risked life and liberty to hang his head out the window, camera perched at precarious angles while I sat beside, wishing my Xanax hadn’t been packed away in my overnight bag.

I'm sure this isn't safe...potentially even illegal. I mean, someone even hit a cone.

After I realized that I would live through the experience, I began to enjoy the beauty around me. There is some serious nature out there folks. Just when you think you’ve seen something amazing, the next corner brings you pure majesty. And I’m not really a “scenic tour” kind of gal. I’m more of a “take me to the next air-conditioned building” kind of gal and even I was able to appreciate the splendor of this particular countryside.

Breathtaking Colorado...

Our next stop on the trip was Silverthorne, Colorado, a gorgeous mountain town perched at 8700 feet elevation and a virtual hot-bed of outdoor activities. Okay. Again. Not so much of an “outdoor activities” kind of gal and I recently discovered I really value oxygen-enriched air. Silverthorne is lacking in that department a bit and being the little researcher I am I learned that it’s not uncommon for people to suffer “altitude sickness” at such high elevations. So, of course, I was fully expecting to get out of the car, take one highly unsatisfying huge gulp of thin air and pass out on the spot. In all actuality, the whole scenario was pretty underwhelming. My breathing was fine, I stayed upright and all was well, although I did notice some extra ‘huffing and puffing’ climbing up hills and stairs and in light of all my time spent lately practicing my mad water aerobics skills, I didn’t appreciate the feeling.

(One of MANY) potty stops along the river

We spent a very entertaining afternoon in Silverthorne and after eating a satisfying meal of burritos, rice and the like supplied by some very hospitable friends of ours, we got back into our cars and headed back down the mountain toward Denver.

Ah, if only it had been that simple. You see, in order to get to Denver we were required to complete a very unnatural task. A task with potentially hazardous results. A task which gives the “middle-finger” to safety and sanity. A task I had been dreading since the inception of this road trip.

An abomination of God - the Eisenhower Tunnel (pardon the focus...I was concentrating on staying alive.)

A task which would require us to drive through this: One freaking long tunnel through the bottom of a freaking huge mountain.

Have I mentioned that I HATE tunnels? If you need a reminder of things that make my skin crawl, go here…although somehow tunnels never made it on the list. My best guess is that tunnels are so terrifying I managed to block it out from my memory. I also hate water dams, oil derricks and windmills. Weird. I know.

Upon my first glimpse of this monstrosity in the mountain I said, “Uh, Jer. There is no freaking way in hell that I am going through that tunnel.”

Jer responded, “Actually, you are. Because we are about to get to the mouth of it.”

“See? The freaking thing has a mouth…that’s not natural. It’s not natural to blow up holes in huge mountains and then drive through them. For a mile-and-a-half. At 11,000 feet elevation. We’re asking for it,” I warned.

“Asking for what?”

“Asking for that mountain to come crashing down on top of us.”

“Mindy, do you know how long that tunnel has been there?”

“No, and I really don’t see how that’s relevant.”

“It is relevant because it’s been there since the late seventies and hasn’t crashed in yet. We should be fine.”

And with that little bit of reassurance we drove into the Eisenhower tunnel, where I came very close to a nervous breakdown.

The point I began hyperventilating...

And then we were out. Alive. Not a crushed body part in sight. Lungs still in tact.

We pulled into Firestone, Colorado (just outside of Denver) at around 10 o’clock that night after a full day of successful travel.

Leg two of this Colorado Road Trip was complete.

Mindy

A Friday Photo

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming of recounting my incredibly bad vacation luck (which, quite frankly, was beginning to depress me) to feature the following photograph.

What you are witnessing here is primal, animalistic, fierce. In this Ultimate Showdown of “Man vs. Goose” you can see Man (a.k.a. my twin brother) unleashing on this unsuspecting Goose an intimidating amount of testosterone and raw verve via “staring contest.” Who would claim victory in this compelling display of survival of the fittest?

The Goose Won. And Man ran away.

Happy Friday!

Mindy

A Colorado Road Trip: Part Three ~ Finally

Feeling better, I joked, “Hope it’s not the Universe trying to tell us something.” Ha. Ha.

Jer looked over at me, shot me his best reassuring smile and turned his eyes back on to the road ahead…

Where a deer was standing, illuminated by our headlights and staring right at us in what appeared to be a very real invitation for the age-old game of chicken.

“Are you frickin’ kidding me?!” Jer yelled, so terrified he was unable to even swear properly. He carefully swerved the car away from the buck (yep, I was able to determine its gender, that’s how close we were to this dude) and there I sat, my hand still propping up the the vomit-catcher behind me and suddenly realizing the potential for roadkill ahead of me.

Wow. This day was already eating up most of my mental capacity and it was only about three in the morning.

So once we were righted back on our original path it was smooth sailing from there. We had about two hours down and only sixteen more to go. By the time we hit our first pit-stop Jack had stopped his random spewing (which also meant I was able to actually sit forward-facing eliminating my own frequent bouts of dry heaving), both kids had gotten a bit of a nap, Jer and I were still on speaking terms and we had no further contact with wild game. It was going to be a good day.

And it was. Until about forty-five minutes after the first pit-stop when one of the eight children in our group decided that they had to go to the bathroom. Again. Which prompted the other seven kids to have to go. And about four out of the five adults. Now, granted, traveling in a group with eight kids and five adults with varying bladder capacities and personal stamina is a recipe for multiple potty-stopping. But. Our kids were out of control. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn they were actually getting paid some sort of stipend for each time we had to stop the progress.

And stop we did. Many, many times. We had more urine coming out of those cars than a lineup of portable toilets at the state fair. But, yet, we continued on. Our trusty GPS, “Wendi”, guiding our path, counting down our hours until we arrived at our beautiful Moab, Utah rental home where we would rest for two whole days amidst some truly breathtaking scenery.

I started noticing things were slightly awry about fifteen hours into the trip. “Wendi” kept changing her ETA on us.

“What’s up Wendi?” I asked, when I noticed that we had gained about four hours on our arrival time. “Jer, did you do something to Wendi?”

“No…why?”

“Didn’t she estimate our arrival time in Moab at somewhere around 9:00p.m.?”

“Yep,” he answered, my man of many words.

“Okay, well now she’s showing after midnight,” I said, slightly panicked.

“Seriously?” he asked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Um, seriously. Jer. I can’t do another five hours. I think I’ll die. Or I’ll kill someone. This isn’t good,” I pleaded. “Why would Wendi do this to us?”

“Okay, wait. It’s not five more hours. Seriously. What time is it? And did you factor in Mountain time?”

“Jer, it’s seven o’clock. Mountain time. And Wendi, the little twit, has our ETA at 12:05a.m. Mountain time. Now, I’m no math whiz but I’m pretty sure that adds up to FIVE FREAKING MORE HOURS!” I may have teared up a bit here. Anger does that to me.

Jer quickly got on his radio and informed our fellow travelers of this newest development. I’ve always heard the expression, “You could cut the tension with a knife” but now was actually experiencing it.

My sister-in-law, who took on the monumental task of planning the trip, came on the radio and asked, “Are you sure? Because that means I was off by like almost four hours. I don’t get it.”

“Well, did you take into account all the potty stops? Or the Mountain time difference?” I asked.

“Um…I…I don’t think I was really anticipating having to stop every fifteen minutes for bathroom breaks. And I completely forgot about Mountain Time,” Sara admitted.

“Well, next road trip we’re hooking the kids up to catheters and only traveling within the Pacific Time Zone,” I suggested.

“Great idea,” Sara said, and we all buckled down for what was beginning to feel like the drive that would ultimately end us all. There is no more defeating feeling than complete exhaustion. We were willing each other on over the radio with ridiculous positive affirmations and words of encouragement like, “Seriously, what’s another like four hours anyway?”, and “Truck drivers do this kind of stuff all the time, I mean, haven’t you seen Ice Road Truckers?”

And, oddly enough, it worked.

We pulled into the driveway of our gem of a rental home at approximately 12:25a.m., 21 1/2 hours after we left our own driveway. We stumbled into the house, quickly located our beds and hit the sack with visions of a sound sleep and a leisurely breakfast complete with steaming cups of coffee dancing in our heads.

We had officially made it through the first leg of our trip. And, if judging by the events of the first 24 hours, it was going to be one heck of an experience.

Mindy

A Colorado Road Trip: Part Two ~ Uh, oh…

Worried over my sanity and the kids’ overall safety (you know, from me and my questionable sanity) I told them to turn the movie off and try to get some sleep. As soon as Buzz Lightyear faded into obscurity the kids’ eyelids were fluttering shut. I turned and looked at Jeremy with a smile on my face, anticipating the sunrise we were sure to be seeing in a few short hours.

And that’s where we were…in peaceful vehicular coexistance…when the puking started.

There is not a parent alive who can mistake that sound. It starts in the gut and resonates with a wrenching familiarity right before you figure out who it’s coming from.

With (I’d say) some pretty impressive speed I whipped around, grabbed a paper cup from the “snack bag” and threw it in front of the mouth of my youngest, the only one in the back seat with saucer-like eyes and suddenly green moonlit skin, and prayed that the disposable cup would hold.

“Why’s he puking?” Jer asked.

“I have no idea!” I answered, albeit a bit snippily. Although, in my defense, it was about 2:30 in the morning and I am neither a medical professional nor psychic. Dur. “Pull over!” I yelled.

Jer pulled off to the side of the road with the skill of a Nascar driver (as did our co-caravanners) and I ripped out of the car prepared to pull the whole blasted booster seat out the back if necessary.

Fortunately, there was a lot more dry-heaving involved than actual vomit so my little cup was going to work just fine. For now.

“Is he okay?” I heard from a car or two back. Jer must have already informed our fellow travelers of the potential precarious situation via radio. Our hubbies are “Ham-sters” (Ham radio operators) and take their radio licenses pretty seriously, which we wives do our darndest to sabotage. In this particular situation, however, I have to admit the radio came in pretty handy. But don’t tell my husband that.

Because we’re parents and like to have an answer for every ailment, Jer offered, “Maybe he’s throwing up because it’s so early. My stomach gets upset when I get up early to go hunting.”

“Yep, that’s probably it,” I answered, willing it to be so. I really didn’t want to start our trip out with a bout of the stomach flu. Although, losing a quick 5-10 pounds is always ever so tempting.

After a little more heaving and some very tender smiles at his momma, Jack seemed to be a-okay. We got back in the car and hit the road. And everything seemed fine. Avery fell back asleep. Jack was nodding on and off. Jer and I started holding hands again, albeit a little more timidly.

And then Jack started puking…again. I spent the next hour turned half-around in my seat supporting a tiny little Dixie cup perched below Jack’s chin.

I’ll be a little honest here. I started feeling really sorry for myself. Here was my little man, heaving his tiny little 34-pound self into a little water cup, and my daughter seated next to him, jerked awake with each sound, and I was pitying myself. Why? Because kids are very resilient and me I discovered, not so much. Jack bounced right back to his happy self and Avery fell right back asleep after each and every heave. And I sat there, two hours into an 18-hour drive, oddly seated facing the passenger window, my right hand lodged under my son’s face wondering if his sister would be next.

“Jer, I’m freaking out here,” I admitted.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because Jack’s puking and I’m worried that he’s getting really sick or something,” I answered.

“Mindy, he’s probably got a little car sickness, or sour stomach because it’s so freakin’ early. He’ll be fine,” Jer promised. Ah, my voice of reason. The calming effect to my downward spiral.

Feeling better, I joked, “Hope it’s not the Universe trying to tell us something.” Ha. Ha.

Jer looked over at me, shot me his best reassuring smile and turned his eyes back on to the road ahead…

Where a deer was standing, illuminated by our headlights and staring right at us in what appeared to be a very real invitation for the age-old game of chicken.

Mindy