So, I just spent an hour here in the Miami airport writing a blog entry in response to the vitriolic rhetoric on both sides of the CEO of Chick-Fil-A Dan Cathy’s remarks regarding marriage. I worked on it, labored over its message, and finally felt good about what I had to say when the app crashed without saving my work. So bummed. But it happens. As I’m getting ready to board our flight to Ecuador, I am going to assume that I was not meant to deliver that message today.
So instead I will leave you (and this country) with a couple quick thoughts. As we were flying over the Gulf of Mexico, I stared down into the sea. Perpetually a landlocked land lover, I am fascinated by the vast seas on this planet that I rarely see. The view from my airplane window of the gulf, the white sand beaches of Florida, and the clouds flashing lightning reminded me how small and insignificant I am. I think more people need to consider their transience and relative unimportance on this rotating rock. No person here is in exclusive possession of Divine Wisdom. We all struggle. We all love. We all want to be happy. We spend too much time absorbed with things that are not our problem and none of our business. Not one of us has the answer for another person. If we could just shut our mouths, open our minds, and accept that we don’t all the answers, we might be a lot better off.
Heading off now to grow my world view with my children. More from the Galapagos!
So, we’re leaving on this big expedition to the Galapagos tomorrow, right? I’ve spent my day packing and cleaning and writing out luggage tags and running errands. I have to get up at 4 a.m. to start this journey, but I have so much to do to finish getting ready that I am already acknowledging that tomorrow is going to be a triple shot latte followed by two Cokes kind of day. Still, I am excited. I love travel. Love it. Once we get to the airport, I will be in my happy place.
Anyway, yesterday I was at a party for a friend and someone asked me if I was excited about our upcoming vacation. Clearly this particular friend hasn’t known me for very long.
“It’s a trip,” I corrected him.
He stared at me blankly.
“Oh. Steve said you guys were going on a family vacation,” he said, puzzled by my distinction.
“Oh. It’s a family vacation for Steve. For me, it’s a family trip.”
He furrowed his eyebrows.
“You see, my kids are coming with me. Since my career is as a full-time, stay-at-home parent, any traveling I do with my children is not technically a vacation for me. According to the dictionary definition, a vacation is a freedom or release from work. If my work is there, it’s a trip. You know, just like if you traveled for your job it would be a trip and not a vacation,” I explained.
“But, you’re going to the Galapagos Islands,” he said. “I think most people would call that a vacation.”
“I’m sure most people would. I would not. If you went to London for work, would you call it a vacation?” I asked.
“If you went to London to see the Olympics, would you have to file for vacation time from work?”
“Of course,” he replied.
“See….that’s just it. I don’t file for vacation time because it’s not a vacation,” I continued. “It’s a trip. I’m bringing my work along.”
“But it’s the same thing,” he said.
“It’s not the same thing. For me, a vacation is when I’m away from my children. For you, a vacation is when you’re away from work,” I tried again.
“But, when you’re away from home doesn’t it feel like vacation?” he pressed.
“Not really because it’s actually easier to parent my kids at home than it is when we travel. When we travel there are all sorts of distractions and new issues. There’s no routine. Things are more chaotic, which sometimes makes work more difficult.”
At this point, I sensed his eyes starting to roll to the back of his head, so I dropped the subject and moved on. Clearly, he was not going to understand where I was coming from. I’m not entirely sure, in fact, that anyone but a fellow stay-at-home parent could understand my distinction between the two words at this point in my life. It’s an issue of semantics. I get that. Someday, when my boys are grown and I am without them more than with them, I’m sure my terminology will go back to the more standard and readily acceptable. Someday, when I vacation with my sons (and maybe even their families), the journeys will truly be vacations because I will have more freedom to enjoy myself and fewer responsibilities. For now, though, I’m sticking with calling this a “trip.” Don’t misunderstand me. It’s going to be an amazing, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip, but it’s still a trip…even if my work doesn’t fit into my laptop case.
Why is relaxing such hard work? We’re meeting some wonderful, lifelong friends arriving from Minnesota at the airport tomorrow morning before heading up to our home-away-from-home in Steamboat Springs. To get ready for five days in the mountains, I spent the majority of my day preparing for our trip. I was trapped in the hot, upper floor of our home, peering into closets, ironing clothes, folding laundry, and laying out outfits.
While packing, I spent a lot of time watching HGTV. This is one of my husband’s favorite channels. It is not mine. I hate the House Hunters who think they’re going to get granite counter tops and hardwood floors in 2800 square feet in an old but totally updated house in the big city for under $200k. The Million Dollar Rooms show makes me physically ill. Today I saw one house where the gentleman spent $7 million dollars on his swimming pool area, including a champagne-filled hot tub. Seriously? A hot tub of champagne? I don’t care how much money you’ve earned and saved. That kind of extravagance is unconscionable. My favorite (and I mean that in a tone dripping with sarcasm) is the overseas House Hunter editions where you get to see some spoiled Americans searching for their dream space in a foreign country and then being put out because most people in the world don’t have homes like we do in the United States. You know, they wanted a home in Colombia but why do all the homes in Colombia have to be so, well, Colombian? About the only good thing I can say about HGTV is that it’s nice to have on when you’re doing something else. What really sucks about HGTV, though, is when an episode I’ve already seen today re-airs after 5 hours. That means I’ve spent way too much time watching HGTV today.
Still…once I get beyond the mind-numbing television and the dreams I’ll be having tonight during my five hours of sleep about not forgetting Joe’s retainer in the packing process tomorrow morning (oh…and did I remember to feed the frogs?), I realize that none of what happened today or tonight or even in the morning on our way out of town will matter. By the time we’re on our deck tomorrow afternoon with Jeff and Jessie, having drinks and enjoying the view of Steamboat Springs while our four boys play together, it will all have been worth it. Even the time spent watching HGTV.
Thus began my day. Curled up in my sleeping bag, one eye open to the encroaching daylight, I wished for the first time in my life that I was in possession of a loaded pellet gun. I started to wonder what I was thinking when I suggested and arranged this last-minute camping trip.
Despite its unpleasant and abrupt beginning, the rest of the day unfolded into one well worth waking up for. After packing lunch and loading the FJ, we headed out of Marble up Colorado 133 toward Paonia, searching for adventure. We had done a little research and discovered we were just 30 miles from a dirt road that would take us over Kebler Pass and down into Crested Butte. Couldn’t pass it up. And, at the very least, it would get me away from the thieving crow that had robbed me of my peaceful mountain slumber.
We knew from our research that we would get a view of the world’s largest aspen forest. What we didn’t know was that our simple trek to Crested Butte would be delayed by free-range livestock. Our first meeting was with a rancher and his cattle. With the bovines marching down the center of the dirt road in front of our SUV, I could imagine the tourist postcard opportunity: “Colorado Rush Hour.” (Of course, as any Denver resident knows, our rush hours involve a lot fewer cows and a lot more stubborn mules and other assorted asses.)
Once we had safely bypassed the miniature cattle drive, Steve pulled off onto a small shoulder where we decided to picnic before the rain set in. While eating my sandwich I noticed a few sheep nestled into a meadow at the edge of a grove of aspen. I walked closer to investigate. There were easily 60 sheep resting there in among the trees. When they noticed me, they began bleating to one another. From across the road, more sheep called out to the larger flock. We had stopped for lunch unaware that we were in the midst of a sizable herd of free-range sheep. We finished our food, took some photos and video, and started down the other side of Kebler Pass on our way to Crested Butte, all the while rambling on about seeing those dang sheep.
On the way back up the pass heading back toward camp, the mountains offered us a different and even prettier view than before. We marveled at the immensity of the aspen forest which, in the intermittent rain showers, oddly resembled a rain forest. We began to look for the sheep again. Near where we had seen them before we saw a rancher in a bright yellow rain slicker walking with two large, white dogs. Simultaneously, using our vast and largely worthless knowledge of dog breeds, Steve and I both blurted out “Anatolian shepherds!” Anatolian shepherds are Turkish sheep dogs that live out with the flock full-time and serve as protectors. They are known to be incredibly independent and fearless. We used to joke that we needed an Anatolian shepherd to protect our wimpy Labrador retriever.
We drove beyond the dogs and rancher looking for the sheep. That’s when we realized that the large herd we had seen earlier was roughly one-quarter of the size of the entire herd now gathered at the top of the pass. I’ve never seen so many sheep in my life. We might as well have been in New Zealand. We stopped to stare at massive flock because we were suddenly feeling small and outnumbered. Steve grabbed his fancy camera, got out of the car, and headed back up the hill on foot for some sheep photos. Suddenly, his car door reopened and he jumped in.
“There’s an Anatolian shepherd running toward the car,” he huffed once safely inside.
Sure enough. Standing right there next to Steve’s car door was one of the large shepherds we had seen. He eyed Steve cautiously and then walked around to insinuate himself between the car and the sheep. I unrolled my car window to get a photo of him. He looked at me cautiously but without ill intent. He was doing his job, protecting his flock. As the hundreds of sheep moved through the ferns and underbrush beneath the towering aspens bleating calls to each other, I was in awe. It was odd and pastoral and yet perfectly Colorado.
Sometimes, the adventure you set out on is quite different than the one that opens before you. We had planned nothing more than a pleasant afternoon drive to Crested Butte. Instead, we ended up in the middle of one of the coolest things we’d ever seen in the Colorado high country. Colorado is consistently breathtaking, but it’s the unexpected treasures that make living here a privilege.
As I was writing my blog yesterday, I forgot one important component of the planning, packing, and loading aspect of camping. I am not the only adult in our house participating in these activities the day we leave. This morning as we were preparing to head out, I quickly remembered how having a second set of hands is both a blessing and a curse.
As the clock ticked ever closer to our prospective departure time, it seemed we (and by “we” I mean Steve) kept finding more stuff we needed to bring with us. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my husband. He is probably the most honest and genuine person I have ever known. But, he is cautious and protective. He loves gear and gadgets meant to make life easier and more enjoyable, but when it comes time to leave he can’t necessarily recall what he has or where it is. Consequently we have approximately 5,000 bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant…all of which I’m sure are in either the car or the camper right now.
In the chaos of trying to get out of the house, with two people trying to collect necessities, we’ve in the past forgotten important items. I’m currently wondering if this will be the case today because as we’re in the car and driving now, we just had this conversation.
“Do we have enough propane canisters?” Hubby inquires.
“I believe we have about six canisters in various stages of emptiness. That should be plenty,” I reply. Then a thought occurs to me. “Did you pack the camp stove?”
His vacant stare is my answer.
“Isn’t it in the camper?” he asks, his tone dripping with desperation.
“I don’t know. Since we didn’t open it, I am not sure. It wasn’t in the garage?”
“I didn’t look for it,” came the answer.
In trying to keep with my “what’s the worst that can happen” mindset, I made the conscious decision not to fret about it. We may or may not have the camp stove, which we will need to heat the foods I prepared in advance because of the fire ban and the fact that the propane canister on our camper has been empty for years. (Do not get me started on that topic.) Either way, I am sure that our weekend will be fine. We will merely be eating a lot of cold sandwiches rather than hot food. We’re not going to starve. It’s just a small hiccup in what will otherwise be a great weekend. At least, that’s what I am telling myself as I recall the large bottle of sweet tea vodka I do remember packing before we left.
On the ride home from Moab today, we made the boys turn off their DVD player for a few minutes so we could recap our weekend’s adventures, the good and bad parts, the things that will stick with us in our memories.
I loved how when got to the Comfort Suites in Moab and checked into our room, Joe’s exact comment was “Whoa! This is the nicest hotel room we’ve ever stayed in!” Keep in mind that our son has stayed at both The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and The Hotel Jerome in Aspen, not to mention a 4-star resort on Captiva Island in Florida and several top-tier hotels in Norway. Apparently, those places have nothing on the Moab Comfort Suites. Good to know he’s not been spoiled by his travels. Joe’s favorite part was the hike to Delicate Arch (even though we scared him by taking a slightly off-track route along a seemingly perilous edge). He complained, however, that the traffic in Moab was “the worst,” a fairly amusing comment from a kid from Denver who sits in traffic all the time. Even with the April Action Car Show there this weekend, Moab could not possibly rival Denver’s traffic. Besides, we got to see all those cool, classic cars.
Both boys agreed that the most fun arch in the park was Sand Dune arch. (Gee. I wonder why.) They also thought the hike to Broken Arch was the best, and that Double Arch wins the award for being the coolest arch. Luke’s only major disappointment was that the Moab Brewery did not have any plain vanilla ice cream and so he had to go without dessert last night.
Steve and I both thought the hike we did with the boys last night in the Park Avenue section of Arches was the best part. We were there on the desert floor, surrounded by these massive rock “fins.” It was sunset, and it felt like we were the only people in the world. (Although as Joe, Master of The Obvious, pointed out, we really weren’t the only people in the world because someone else had made that trail.) Still, it’s rare to have a trail to yourself and it’s even rarer when that trail is in a national park. If Steve and I had a complaint, it was only that our hotel room appeared to be located underneath that of a family of four large elephants with very heavy feet who, oddly enough, decided to walk the stairs next to our room repeatedly rather than taking the elevator. Aside from the somewhat noisy hotel room, we thought the entire trip was a success.
We all agreed, though, as we pulled off C-470 and began heading south on Wadsworth toward our home with the sunset illuminating the sky, no matter how much fun we have on any trip we are always happy to pull into our neighborhood. Traveling is something we all love to do, but Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home.
Steve and I like to hike. It’s been something we’ve done together since the very beginning of our relationship. When our boys were small, we took them along in Baby Bjorn carriers and then eventually the toddler carrier backpacks. It was brutal, but we refused to give up on hiking. When they were between 2 and 5, I would take the double jogger stroller to Roxborough or Waterton Canyon and push them through the hike so I didn’t have to carry them. Eventually, we accepted that they needed to be walking the entire time, so we slowed our pace, knowing that if we wanted them to become good hikers we would actually have to let them hike. Gradually their skills improved, and the distances they were able to travel increased.
Last year was a watershed year. They were finally able to do 7 mile hikes without getting too tired. We were thrilled. On our hike up Carpenter Peak, we’d have to play crazy games to keep them motivated (the boys yelling, “Stop…you separatist dogs” the entire time) but they were doing it. Although we were happy with the distances they could go, we weren’t pleased with the bribery that would have to take place to keep them moving occasionally. One day I promised them Sonic for lunch if we could get through a three-mile hike with a moderate climb in just an hour. We made it in an hour and two minutes; I had a cheeseburger and a strawberry slush that day for lunch.
Today, we hiked about 8 miles through Arches National Park with them. We never once had to beg them to keep going. In fact, we couldn’t get close enough to them to talk to them. We had to keep yelling ahead telling them not to run out of our field of view. You know what that means? It means THAT day has come…the dreaded day when you realize the torch has been passed and you can no longer keep up with your kids. This notion is especially depressing when you stop to consider the fact that you’re in the best shape you’ve been in for years. How can we be so good and yet not good enough? I’ll tell you how. We’re old. It’s official.
I guess my point is be careful what you wish for. We were so excited to have kids who could keep up with us. Last year they did. This year they’ve surpassed us. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, however, it’s that in a couple years they’ll hit that sullen, resentful, grumpy teenage phase where they come along and begrudgingly shuffle their feet and complain the entire way. I’m thinking when they get to that phase, we just might be able to out-hike them again. That’s something, right?