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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We Went Off: Cold Campsites and Raging Rivers (#5)

If you missed the beginning of this tale, you may want to start with part one, part two, part three, and part four.

IMG_7973Standing in the nearby trees was an elk, watching us while he grazed.

The small people watched back for a while, and then my younger son announced, “I want to ride him.”

IMG_7978IMG_7980Presumably because he overheard my son, the elk moved on through the campsite away from us. With the show now over, we made our fire, cooked our dinner, and told campfire stories until dark.

IMG_7986Y’all, it was really, really cold up there. I was ready to go inside the Winnie long before dark; even the small people quickly donned layers and huddled near the fire. Next to us were two young women camping in a pup tent. “Why, why?” I kept asking them in my head as I saw them setting up camp. Honestly, I just don’t have many women in my repertoire of friends who are up for living on the edge of hypothermia just so they can go camping. It’s just not what we do.

Now that I think about it, I tend to surround myself with people who are much more into activities like glamping and not freezing to death. I’m not really sure what that says about me.

Or them.

Then there was the guy a few sites over dressed in a cowboy hat and a ribbed tank, clearly trying to impress the surrounding ladies with his many hours spent at CrossFit. I had to turn my chair away so I could stop fighting the urge to run over there and throw a coat on him. Although it’s almost too bad; if I had run over there and interrupted a large group of partying twenty-somethings to offer outerwear to a gym-crazed cowboy looking for love, I imagine I’d have walked away with a great story to tell.

IMG_8010IMG_8019The next day, we drove through more of Yellowstone and exited through the south entrance, driving through or by various landmarks like the Grand Tetons and Jackson Lake on our way back down to Colorado.

IMG_8026IMG_8027The drive, while long, was beautiful.

We had one night left in the Winnie, so I suppose our hopes were unfairly high as we pulled into our campground in Colorado on the Big Thompson River that evening. I was a little surprised, however, as we approached our site. LCB had shown me pictures with, well, lots of trees and greenery and private decks overlooking the river. When we got there, however, all the riverfront sites, at least in that part of the campground, were more brown than green and, well, deckless. The sites consisted of picnic tables, hook-ups, a fire pit, a few trees right at the river’s edge, and lots and lots and lots of dirt.

IMG_8035In fact, it felt like we were camped on a giant dirt lot; there was no ground vegetation anywhere in our section.

IMG_8030In order to reach our hook-ups, LCB had to back the Winnie pretty close to the river’s edge. When I stepped out, I noticed it appeared as if part of the river bank had been washed away, taking sections of vegetation with it.

IMG_8034The river was so loud, y’all. And I knew that river levels were high at that point in the year, so the raging waters just beyond the Winnie were unsettling. I found out later the campground had unfortunately been flooded the previous fall, flooding they were still trying to recover from. Knowing what I know now, it seems they were doing their best to rebuild the area; in fact, in the morning as we left, bulldozers began work around us.

But I didn’t know about the flooding that night; the management had already left before we arrived and there were no campers near us, so all I had to go on was what I could see and my river expertise, which doesn’t exist. I wondered if the riverbank had just recently given way due to the high water levels and if more land could be in jeopardy as water levels were expected to continue to rise. LCB was mildly concerned, and disappointed that the site didn’t look like what he had thought it would when he booked it, but in typical man-like fashion, he busied himself with the grill and the bounty it would soon hold.

For a while, I distracted myself with the evening activities, but as we got ready for bed, I started thinking about the river again. And when I sat down on our bed, at the back of the Winnie and thus in the closest part of the Winnie to the river, it got worse. I sat there and pictured the riverbank giving way, sending the back wheels of the RV plunging into the river. No matter what else I tried to concentrate on, the sound of the river kept reminding me of our position.

I could just see the next day’s headlines in my mind: “Riverbank Collapses, Sending Dumb Carolina Family Plunging into the Thompson.” They’d interview other campers wise enough to have chosen sites away from the river who say things like, “We tried to figure out why they parked their Winnie on that side of the campground when the rest of us knew enough to play it safe. Earl almost went over there to see if they were all right in the head, but then his gout started acting up again and he figured he’d wait ‘til morning.”

I couldn’t do it. I had to get as far away from the sound as possible. I got up and moved my pillow to the kitchen table near the front of the Winnie. Baby-girl, while talking to the boys, had crashed out in a corner of the bed over the cab, so I spread out on one side of the table and hunkered down for the night.

It was a long night listening to the river and the snores of LCB other people. LCB even awoke at one point long enough to ask what I was doing, but promptly fell asleep again as I began answering.

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Water’s Edge

100_8280There’s a whole world waiting at the water’s edge.

It’s a world of in-betweens,
a world where all seems possible,

100_8467a world of suspension.

It’s a world where you don’t have to be girl

100_8421to have a whole world waiting.

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