summer in the mountains? what is there to do?

2012 Summer Vacation Report: Colorado after Santa Fe

Summer in Colorado?
So often Colorado is thought of as a winter vacation destination!

as it turns out Colorado is not only a winter ski destination
Colorado is an amazing place for a summer vacation
mild temperatures...  no humidity... and I am not sure if I saw a single mosquito... and so much to do!

(and that single statement is not a joke meaning that all the mosquitoes were happily married)

which makes Colorado a great escape from Washington DC!
Washington DC being the hot, humid, mosquito capitol of the world

Colorado a great summer vacation opportunity? 
I already knew this...
as I spent two years in Colorado in my early 20's
where I experienced Colorado and its summer splendor
along with Colorado and its winter wonderland!

this summer we took another family trip to Santa Fe New Mexico
instead of us all heading back as a group
my wife Lisa went back to DC and I took the boys to Colorado to visit some friends

mistakenly we flew from New Mexico to Colorado
the drive from Santa Fe to Boulder would have not been long
the drive would have been short and scenic
and it could have saved us some money and some hassle
the car rental price in Colorado was absurd... and the plane tickets
well we all know... plane tickets are not as cheap as they once were
and rental cars are never cheap

ah... lessons learned

so, we flew from Albuquerque to Denver for the Colorado leg of our trip
that day was uneventful... travel days do not really count as vacation days

we landed in Denver
on the shuttle ride from the airport to the rental car I called a friend who lives in Denver
there was some forewarning of this trip
but I had not made any plans to see my friend Scott and his family
there had been some electronic communication making mention of our headed that way... but no plans

yet I made a call
I called and Scott answered
well... Scott's lawyer work load was light
he invited us to stop by... I accepted the invite and then extended the invite
I invited us to stay for dinner and the night

visiting Scott and his family was a pleasure
we had carry out pizza and went for a swim in the neighborhood pool
at the pool my boys enjoyed the diving board and I enjoyed relaxing
it was a nice window into his world

my boys meshed well with their slightly younger son Jackson
it is an interesting dynamic that my boys seem to adapt pretty well to
meeting some random kid of my friends and starting to play with them
especially in these odd sleep over with virtual strangers situations

after an early evening session at the pool we returned to Scott's place
my boys played with their son Jackson
then they watched a movie together
Scott, Iris, and I sipped wine and watched the Olympics as we caught up
it was a mellow good time
a nice introduction to Denver
a city and its suburbs... something I really know nothing about
and as said...
it was a nice little window into their world

the next morning we left Scott and Iris' house just as I felt that morning Rush Hour had passed
seat belts on and the car all loaded up we pointed for Boulder
a day late we went to meet up with some friends who recently had relocated from DC to Boulder

ah... we pulled up in Boulder... a day late... but we arrived
we had invited ourselves to come and visit some friends who recently relocated to Boulder
again we were welcomed in with open arms and the "make yourself at home" mantra
it was nice to be invited into our DC friend's Colorado world

the boys did not waste any time catching up
the Colorado kids had tales to tell about their adventures in their new home
while my boys had stories to tell about their recent vacation in New Mexico
and how nothing had changed in DC since they left just a month and half earlier

with no real plan we played it loose
I had thoughts of hikes, hikes, and more hikes
but it turned out to be bikes, bikes, and more bikes
as Valmont Park is under two miles away from our friend's Boulder house

once settled in we rented bikes
ill fitting bikes... but bikes
tried to find one stop shopping
no dice rock slice
one shop had bikes for two... another claimed to have bikes for three

we ended up getting a bike too small for me, a bike too big for dean, and a bike for grant that was nothing special but fit him well enough
that is why people travel with their own bicyce

no matter... we had bikes and we went to the bike park
Valmont Bike Park was just a bike path away
we rode up and spent the majority of the day there on our first day
then again on our second

in addition to our Valmont Bike Park Experience we experienced Boulder with lunch on Pearl Street
some take and bake pizza from Nick and Willies'
and some soft serve ice cream with my cousin who also lives in Boulder

we got a walking tour of where our friends shop
I took advantage of the nearby liquor store on several occasions
it was nice to see the long lines of kids on bikes 
both in the bike lanes and at the bike park

I got to have one night out on the town
met another DC transplant and got beers
good to see Rocco and catch up with his world
his world is very different than mine

my life is all about PTA meetings, homework, and soccer practices
oh and some work... not enough
but some work

Boulder is not DC

there was all sorts of fun had with the boys before and after the bike park
air soft target practice in the backyard
fun with the bow and arrow that was bought at the Taos pueblo
and then the basic nothingness that is kid hanging out

lots of giggling and screaming

we spent a few days in Boulder
but as the weekend approach I had plans to hit the high country and so did our hosts
so... again...
with the car loaded up and our seat belts strapped we took the northern route from Boulder to Breckenridge with its scenic pass through Rocky Mountain National Park

we tried to lure our Boulder hosts on our scenic drive
they were excited about sharing the drive and having the kids share a little fun in the high country
I had invisioned the boys bouldering on the top of Ridge Road together
followed by lunch and then a hike at Grand Lake before we split off our separate ways
them driving to Steamboat Springs while we continued on to Breckenridge

well... things do not always go as planned
the condo that they were renting for the weekend was still occupied
the people needed to check out before they could check in
they were not sure if their mountain rental would be vacant for their weekend adventure
so they waited... and we waited
we all waited
until finally they said... go on without us... so we did

leaving much later than planned pushed lunch from the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park to the east side
we ate lunch in Estes Park rather than Grand Lake
our timing was such that we did not have time for knife shopping, mini golf, or the Adams Falls hike in Grand Lake
no... there was just enough time to get some burgers in Estes Park and then zip across Rocky Mountain National Park

the drive through the park is amazing
Dorothy we are not in Kansas any more!
stellar views in all directions
such fantastic views that the boys put down their Nintendo DS game systems to look out the window from time to time

it is rare for children of this era to look out the window while in the car

at the top of Ridge Road we stopped the car
not just to stretch our legs or take in the views
but so the boys could climb the rocks... an intended highlight of this drive
at the top of Ridge Road just on the road side there are a series of small rock formations that are great for climbing on
all that climbing with amazing mountain peaks in the distance in all directions

the wind was blowing... there were high altitude animals darting around
various birds and interesting ground mammals
it is really quite interesting in all regards
including the dark clouds in the distance that quickly became dark clouds over head

we were back in the car and driving by the time it started to rain

a glance at the clock and an estimate of our distance and duration before meeting Tim and Shaubie for dinner in Breckenridge

the rain was a good buffer
the rain made me miss the notion of ice cream, hikes, and mini golf in Grand Lake
it was a less than dynamic photo opportunity with all the rain 
the storm over the lake had us laughing about "the grand lake monster"

I slowed and picked up a hitch hiker
he was nice enough
when he got out of the car I said... "he did not smell so bad?"
to which the boys exclaimed... "what was that smell?"

on the road between Grand Lake and Gramby I got a call from Tim
Tim just wanted an estimate of our arrival time
hearing where we were Tim recommended a short cut
Colorado 3... Tim suggested that it would be a special drive unlike the standard highway route

sure enough... Colorado 3 delivered...
painted horses in the wide open spaces with mountains in the backdrop
red tail hawks swooping overhead
a several engine train longer than I could count raced on the tracks that paralleled the road beside us
and vast open space

it was a nice drive... we were essentially alone

we arrived in Breckenridge Colorado in time for dinner
my kids got along with their kids without hesitation
which was a good start to the trip

there was not much more than dinner and a glass of wine while we caught up
then the adventures began the next day
the next day was so good that I extended our stay with a phone call to adjust our flight and our car rental

in the days that would follow we would had adventure filled days with morning and afternoon activities
a trip to the Country Boy Mine... hikes on both the Mohawk Lakes trail and the Blue Lakes trail... downhill mountainbiking at Keystone Resort
multiple trips to the Breckenridge Rec Center for swimming, hot tubs, and climbing wall... then outdoor bouldering on some rocks near Swan Mountain Road and Lake Dillon
it was a serious adventure... 

early in the week our plane ride home seemed too close
we had not done much of what we wanted to do
we wanted some adventures in the high country
we wanted to reconnect with our friends who had just moved from DC

so I extended my vacation for another seven days

this would not have been possible if it were not for the generosity of my friends Tim and Shaubie
I had taken that "make yourself at home" to a literal level
there food was my food... which meant they no longer had food
and of course... I had dirty socks in every room in their house
they were good sports and pushed for the extension of our stay

after all... we could have not have done all that was mentioned in the previously alloted time

when it was time to leave I was ready to leave
I needed a vacation from my vacation
one parent traveling with two kids is a 24-7 proposition
motivating them and entertaining them
breaking up the fights and breaking up the fights
feeding and entertaining my boys along with my friends kids had me wrecked

I was tired of fixing goggles and putting on sun screen
getting kids to eat when they said they were not hungry is as much fun as listening to a kid complaining that they are hungry when it is no where near meal time
but really... we had a blast
sure I missed my bike and my dog
but were having the vacation adventure of the lifetime

on the final evening I sipped Tequila under the stars and chatted with Tim in his backyard
the Colorado sky was blowing my mind
the lack of light pollution displayed far more stars than I could ever see in Washington DC
on top of that there was some sort of meteor activity that gave me a few shooting stars to wish upon

I left Tim and Shaubie's house at 2AM
the boys were tough to get out of bed
and even tougher to get dressed
both the boys were asleep in the back seat of the rental before I had the car in reverse

we got to the airport with plenty of time
the drive was painful
I felt like I was doing that 3am lap in a 24 hour mountain bike relay race
my stomach was churning
the coffee caused more anxiety than anything else

there was no pleasure to the final drive from the mountains to the airport
but we made it
we were just a plane ride from home

on the plane ride I played with images
throwing away total crap images
and resizing images so they would be suitable for emails or FACEBOOK
playing with the images allowed the memories to swirl in my head

it was an awesome good time
the Santa Fe leg of the vacation was fantastic
then this Colorado Adventure
well... hopefully that is a life long collection of memories
maybe the things that they were introduced to will help to mold them into the strong individuals I hope them to become

seeds planted for future adventurers
mountain bikers
there was talk of camping
and owning their own dogs

but now...
we are back in DC
Dean's bike needs a new derailer hanger
which is no issue
it is the eve before school starts

back packs are packed with "back to school" gear
my older son Dean is off to Middle School
while Grant is moving on to the 3rd grade

I have spend sizable fractions of each day trying to coordinate the approaching rec soccer season

the vacation has started
real life is back in full swing

that said...

I best get up stairs and push the momentum closer to getting the boys in bed

lord knows they would stay up all night if I did not threaten them a thousand times about this and that


The Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge Colorado


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