We Went Off: It’s Fun To Stay at the Y-M-C-A (#7)

See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6 of this tale for what happened first. :)

IMG_8215IMG_8206IMG_8208When he was a child, LCB and his family stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park while attending a conference. LCB had come away with fond memories, so when we decided we’d be traveling through Estes Park on this trip, he was determined to take us back there.

I was mostly fine with this; the campus seemed large and filled with many amenities and activities. I said mostly, however; secretly, I was hoping it wouldn’t be like one of those spa “vacations” where they actually make you do stuff, like waking you up at the crack of dawn to do a few rounds of downward-facing dog and the plow pose by the side of the mountain, all in the name of relaxation. Because you know what relaxes me? Not being woken up at the crack of dawn when there’s perfectly good sleep to be had. Also, I’m now at the age where it’s possible to get stuck doing those sorts of things.

It’s true. I had visions of college students dressed like park rangers dragging me from bed or from perfectly good meals that involved chocolate to go explore “healthy living and social responsibility” (part of YMCA’s tag line) with activities like hiking while trash collecting (“Lunge and grab the unidentified waste, campers, and then pop back up and smile at the bear!”) and rock climbing with recycled gear.

These are just not things I do when I’m on vacation with a chance at sleep and/or chocolate.

But as happens from time to time, I was wrong. They do have a smorgasbord of activities (although no bear smiling or recycled gear as far as I know), but they are all completely voluntary and really, none of the college students looked like park rangers. Pretty much, they just looked young and more prone toward five a.m. adventures than I’ll ever be, but they weren’t overly in-your-face about their exuberance.

Some activities and amenities are included with your room rate, like mini-golf, the pool, the game room, certain sporting activities, the playground, campfires, and so forth. Others are offered for an extra fee.

IMG_8212One of Baby-girl’s favorite places, for instance, was the craft center, where you could choose from any number of different types of crafts.
IMG_8219The first day she chose to paint a ceramic horse.
IMG_8321The second day she made a small jewelry box with a mosaic top.

IMG_8263On the second day, LCB and the small people decided to try rock climbing. They began with a short lesson and then gave participants an hour or so to try out three different walls.
IMG_8279IMG_8312Naturally, my people all insisted on trying the hardest of the three walls for their climbs,
IMG_8286with only one climbing exception. The rain made the walls slippery, but everyone embraced the challenge.

Later that day, we all went horseback riding, along with maybe a dozen other riders. Not including pony rides and such, it was the first time riding for the small people, so there was a little learning that took place the first few minutes of the ride for them. LCB and I had the great good fortune, however, of riding right in front of a know-it-all kid who liked to verbalize his knowledge. The lad, eager to share his inner thought life with the entire group, kept saying things like “I’m really good at this,” and “This is only my second time riding and I can totally control my horse.” Is it bad to mention that oblivion was clearly his natural state, just as docile was clearly his horse’s?


I debated about whether or not to say this next part. First, I’d like to point out that generally I avoid negative reviews. But I do love y’all and care about your well-being. Second, it’s important to note that I loved staying at the YMCA and I loved all their activities. I would highly recommend it to everyone. But for the love of all that is good and decent and if you hold your taste buds and your digestive system in any sort of regard at all, do not order pizza through their cafe. Seriously. As a former Chicagoan, I’m particular about my pizza, but this is not what this is about. This is about that pizza not being food. Seriously, we’re a “clean your plate” type of family, so ordering a large put us in a serious quandary until I offered a quasi-solution: Gag down the pieces we’d already “committed to” and then ditch the rest in the community fridge at our lodging in hopes some of the always-hungry teenagers staying there might have at it.

My apologies to the teenagers and to the community.

The morning we left, LCB and I decided to try our hands at archery. It’d been many a year since I’d roamed my high school campus the lands with bow and arrow at the ready, so I was eager to try again.

IMG_8334Despite what I looked like, I felt much like Katniss that morning.

IMG_8326Legolas here had better aim on the range, but I feel that in a battle situation I would have proved the greater victor. (I find hubris is best in hypothetical situations that will probably never happen – what are the odds that, in today’s day and age, I’ll ever be in a battle situation alongside LCB where bow and arrows will be the weapons of choice?)

After our lesson, we were ready to hit the road again, headed this time for South Dakota, home of the wonders of Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, Wall Drugs, and the Badlands (as well as one more chance to face my fears).

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Thoughts on the Sea #8

100_2247100_0389100_1367Thank God for the food and for the hands that prepared it and also for the ocean.

Bode Dykens, age 2
(Couldn’t resist this one.;))

For other thoughts on the sea, see #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7.

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We Went Off: All Was Well Again (#6)

If you’re new to this tale, you may want to start with part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five first.

You’ve probably figured out we didn’t plunge into the river that night. No, we survived intact and left the next morning to return the Winnie to its owners.

But I feel it’s important to note that we did plunge into the river many, many times that night in my mind. Seriously, y’all, I spent a good amount of time mentally atop the Winnie as it washed down the river, Baby-girl’s braid wound tightly around my left hand, ready to grab the first sturdy-looking tree branch I’d see with my right. In what I now feel could be the workings of a novella, there were never any branches. We just kept going. We were driven on endlessly down the river, praying there were no sudden falls looming ahead. In most versions of the novella, incidentally, LCB rode with the boys on the back end of the Winnie, doing nebulous and ineffectual things with a mysteriously procured lasso. In one version, he continued sleeping.

It’s so much fun to be me.

Switching gears here, you’re probably wondering about the whole transmission thing, right? In this instance, timing was a beautiful thing. They were able to repair the transmission and they had it finished the night before we returned to Denver, so we stopped to pick up the minivan on the way to drop off the Winnie. All was well again in the world of transportation.

After the vehicle swap, we left Denver and headed down to Colorado Springs.
IMG_8114On our way to our hotel, we stopped at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

IMG_8060I love seeing old homes in virtually any form, and these are great because they are very hands-on and kid-friendly.
IMG_8055IMG_8079The ruins, moved from the Four Corners area to the present location over a hundred years ago, have been restored and reinforced for traffic, so you are free to climb through most of the dwellings at your leisure. Plaques located throughout provide plenty of information about the architecture and the lifestyles of the Anasazi people who once inhabited the cliff dwellings.

IMG_8094IMG_8096IMG_8104IMG_8107A large pueblo that functioned as a home until the 1980s now serves as a museum and gift shop filled with all sorts of displays and souvenirs.

Afterward, we headed to our hotel. LCB had booked it and promised a view of Garden of the Gods from our room as well, but given that he’d promised me a peaceful evening spent on our private riverfront deck the night before, I was keeping my expectations low.

This served me well, because when I stepped foot in that room, I was indeed most pleased.

IMG_8115As a further illustration of the difference a day makes, let’s compare water closets.

IMG_7613Exhibit A: The Winnie’s Water Closet

IMG_8136Exhibit B: The Hotel’s Water Closet (No hook-ups or rubber gloves required.)

IMG_8122The balcony was huge,

IMG_8143with expansive views of the mountains,

IMG_8147and as promised, the Garden of the Gods loomed large on the horizon.

They say ignorance is bliss, and boy did we live out that aphorism. After unpacking, we kind of crashed the “adult” infinity pool without realizing it. Later I found a sign saying kids weren’t allowed in the infinity pool, but at the time, in our mad rush toward hedonism, we never saw it and jumped right in. In retrospect, I can imagine what the other guests, all adults of course, were thinking as the small people cannonballed themselves into the pool and spent extensive time rebuilding the nearby flotation devices (presumably used by the adult water aerobics classes I now know they host) into larger flotation devices . But we were unaware of our mistake at the time, so we fully enjoyed ourselves, basking in the warmth of the Colorado sun and inhaling the view before us.

We dined outdoors that night overlooking the Garden, and sat out late on our deck enjoying coffee and wine. That night, I slept the sleep of one who has not slept the night before. All was well again in the world of sleep.

After breakfast the next morning, we loaded up the minivan, ready to hit the trails at the Garden of the Gods. We drove to the park and spent some time walking the trails and exploring various rock formations.

IMG_8155IMG_8158Wanting to overcome my acrophobia once and for all, I decided to hit it full-on by signing up for rock climbing. It took some doing, but here I am summiting one of the rock formations.

IMG_8168I so just lied. That’s just some guy who doesn’t realize that he could fall.

IMG_8174IMG_8190The small people, however, all had great fun scaling the rocks as well as they could without any gear. Then we hoped back in the minivan and headed north.

IMG_8209And this? This, in case any of you recognize it, is where we spent the next two nights. (Any guesses?)

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