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Excerpts of Colorado Travel Diary
State 27 - COLORADO 07 AUG 99 - 20 AUG 99


Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

This campground is burdened by rules. Everywhere signs warn "don't do this, don't do that". . . in the laundry room, in the bathrooms, in the club house, on trash bins. Signs everywhere. Today we walk around the grounds and see a sign that reads "DON'T." The rest of the wording is missing, having been washed or worn away, only one word remains, "DON'T." Ken says, "Well that about sums up this place. Whatever you're thinking of doing . . . Don't."


Back in Virginia City while living in that dry, sun-bleached, treeless area of scorched brownness, I purchased an umbrella to act as a parasol so I could have my own personal, portable shade. Never before had I felt such a hot sun as that in Nevada, its rays so intense, so penetrating, so persistent. For a while, I wore a straw hat, but it made my head too hot and dented my hair and forehead unforgivably. So one day while grocery shopping in a Super K-mart (new to me . . . a K-mart and food store in one . . . do all your shopping at once. Pick up Martha Stewart bedsheets and a grab head of lettuce), anyway, I saw an umbrella with periwinkle flowers, daisies, and bees on it. A perfect parasol! I love it to pieces. A parasol is so much better than a hat which sweats the head and wets the hairdo. At first I felt awkward walking around with an opened umbrella under a cloudless blue sky. Admittedly, I did get stares. Lots of 'em. But now the awkwardness is gone. Self-comfort won the battle over self-pride. In the next state we visited, Wyoming, we had unpredictable weather: the sunshine in the morning, hot as blazes, and suddenly clouds would roll in, dumping sheets of rain on unprepared heads. But I was always prepared cuz my parasol also doubles as a rain umbrella. And it folds up nice and neat, too, for those times when entering restaurants, cinemas, and other indoor recreational places that forbid open umbrellas. So my wonderful experiences in the past two states have made me doubly committed to starting a parasol trend. One must dare to take extreme measures against the sun, arch enemy to every aging woman. Carrying a parasol is the ultimate weapon. No more halfhearted measures of meek straw hats. No sir. This is war. And, as more and more people find themselves with skin cancer, as I did, I'm sure the parasol will become a fashion trend sooner or later. Today, Ken improved upon its design even further by making a shoulder strap. Now I sling my parasol over my shoulder, along with my purse, and forget about it until the sun starts heckling me. It's nothing at all to carry it around, yet it's always there when I need it -- quick as a snap. Take today, for example. Today the parasol came in real handy. We had to take Ruby in to the shop for her 30,000 mile check-up. The big one: a six-hour, $500 job. We had no choice but to wait for it. So to kill time, we went out and explored the town. Must have walked 12 miles in the heat of the day. Poor Ken was sweaty, hot and tired. But not me! My parasol made the trip enjoyable. I asked Ken if he was embarrassed to be seen with me and he unhesitatingly declared, "No. Not a all." (God love him.) And it's funny, but now I don't notice people staring anymore. We stopped in an RV center to get some supplies and an old man had been watching us approach. He said to me, as he wiped his sweaty brow, 'Hey, you're a smart one for carrying that umbrella on a day like this." He's right. It is smart. Parasols make sense. Why did they ever fall out of fashion? A book I'm reading, "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" is an autobiographical account of a 42-year-old "spinster" who, in 1873, traveled alone for four months through the unpopulated Rocky Mountains, and she out-mountaineered many well-known mountain men. Yet, she always carried her white ruffled parasol along with her rifle.

Rocky Mountain Trout

Can't wait to try fresh Rocky Mountain Trout. It's supposed to be the best in the world. (Ken can't believe I've never had fresh-caught fish.) There are tons of restaurants to choose from, all proclaiming "fresh -- never frozen -- Rocky Mountain Trout." We've got some extra spending money from birthday dollars generously tucked in my birthday cards from a good friend and some relatives. The money had a condition attached: "To be spent on a dinner out." So we are fulfilling that condition tonight. The first restaurant we go to is very crowded.(That's a good sign; the restaurant must be good.) Inside we see a train of people with growling stomachs and hungry eyes waiting for tables. (Another good sign.) We go to the hostess and ask how long of a wait. She volunteers some very disturbing information: guests cook their meals themselves! I guess this is supposed to be interpreted as fun or entertainment, but the prospect looks repulsive to us. Apparently, all diners leave their tables and go up to this big, communal grill, elbow their way in and toss their meat or fish into the flames. Sorry. No way am I cooking my own birthday dinner. I want to be served. We try another place. Oh, this is lovely. Kinda like a Swiss chalet. Beautiful views, romantic atmosphere, foreign tongues all around us. We hear German at one table, French at another, and Japanese at another. We happily order our fish, and while waiting for it to arrive, I notice at the next table that the fish is served intact: head, skin and bones, just like in the stream, only cooked. Now I regret my decision. But I see the waitress will skin and decapitate the fish for squeamish customers so I relax a bit, but still am somewhat uneasy. Fish arrives. I ask for assistance, and feel a bit embarrassed while this young, eighteen-year-old waitress skins, decapitates and debones my fish for me. Ken declines her help. He knows how to do his own fish, thank you. I watch Ken and discover that he does it differently, and much more efficiently. But all in all, the fish was scrumptious: white, moist, tender meat with a very light flavor, almost sweet. It was gone too fast. Could have eaten at least two of 'em, if not more.

A car was stalled, the engine was dead

Take the long drive up Fall River Road, and just as we're approaching the 12,000 foot peak of this extremely narrow, winding, potholed, dirt road that clings to the mountainside's thin rim, we see a car stalled on the "side" of the road. Truly, there is no "side"of the road as this road is so skinny it barely allows the width of one car. The people in the broken down car wave us to "pass" them. Pass? Are they nuts! The guy is standing in the road at the top of a mountain, 12,000 feet in the air, waving us to come along. As he's standing there waving us on, all I see behind him is a drop into a valley of elk. No way! We're not moving. But we can't turn around.The only way is up. I look at the spot he's waving us to move into, it doesn't even look like a Volkswagen bug would fit. But the man keeps waving us frantically to come on. Ken says, "I think Ruby can make it." (You "Think" Ruby can make it? I want you to "Know" Ruby can make it.) I'm sick with fear. The entire ride up was frightful enough, but now as we are nearing the top and the highest drop down, we are asked to pass another vehicle. (All I can think of is that song, "A car was stalled the engine was dead. I couldn't stop so I swerved to the right, I'll never forget the sounds that night. The screeching tires, the busted glass, the painful scream that I heard last." Kens says we're gonna "try" to do it. Okay. But if I'm going to tumble off a mountain, I don't want to see the rapidly moving scenery on the way down, so I tightly close my eyes, and just in case I'm tempted to peek, I put my hands over them as double insurance. Ken makes the attempt. Starts Ruby up again. Even with my eyes closed I can feel Ken stop breathing. Bump! Dip! Tip. The truck feels like it's tipped about 90 degrees toward the bottom of the mountain. This is it. It's over. Death awaits. Its mouth wide open to swallow this red truck and two travelers. "Can I open my eyes now?" Ken says no, keep 'em closed. Time is moving in slow motion. "Now can I open my eyes?" Driver says tensely, "Not yet." More bumps, more dips. "Okay. Open your eyes!" Ken says cheerily. Our lives have been spared the jaws of death. My love for life is renewed with gusto. I can't wait to be home and have a humdrum life again.

Random Notes

* Stained glass suits . . . Some of the stained glass windows in the state capitol are of modern men and women in modern attire. It's so weird to see a stained glass window of a man in a modern business suit and tie, looking like an accountant.

*The Deer Slayer . . .Took a hike up to Bear Lake. Saw a sign with a picture of a two-pound wad of trash. The sign said, TRASH KILLS. Seems this wad of trash was found inside the stomach of a dead deer. Death by debris. What's wrong with people who still persist in littering?

*A self-reproachful cyclist . . . while driving the glorious mountaintop Trail Ridge Road, that wonderful alpine driving tour of the Rocky Mountains, we saw many cyclists risking their lives on thin, two-wheeled bicycles squeezed between iron-clad, four-wheeled motorcars along this narrow road where drivers pay more attention to the scenery than to each other. A young, wiry man whirls by on his bicycle, easily climbing this almost perpendicular mountain road, not a care in the world. Shortly later a friend of his appears, not as young, and not as fit. He seems to be making the climb with a bit more effort. The first cyclist looked like he was having fun. The second cyclist reminded me of the realities. But the third cyclist, trailing a lot farther behind them, made me really realize the true pain of it all. I only caught a glimpse of his 40-year-old face, but the expression was as easy to read as if he had a cartoon balloon-bubble over his head with his thoughts clearly legible, "Oh, why did I ever agree to do this!" Regret was written all over his face as clearly as if written in bold letters. He hated every minute of this climb. I ache for him as I watch him gripping the bicycle handles too tightly, gritting his teeth tensely, huffing and puffing painfully up the road -- making very little progress -- and so far behind his younger friends. Oh, and so far from completing his ride and ending the agony. But it's too late to turn back now. He's gotta finish the dare.

*More Power . . .It's funny but throughout this whole trip I couldn't wait to see the Rocky Mountains. All the stories I had read of explorers and pioneers crossing the mighty Rockies. The Formidable Rockies. The indomitable Rockies. Obstinate barriers to western expansion. The powerful backbone of North America. These towering sentries I couldn't wait to see up close and be awed and humbled by their majesty. And yet, ironically, it's the Aspens that most impress me. One day I sat on our picnic table at the campground and watched these trees for an hour, their trembling, delicate leaves, dancing like a thousand ballerinas in Swan Lake, limbs fluttering in a performance of gentle unison. These little trees and their tiny leaves had a more powerful affect on me than the jagged, stony, skyscraping Rockies.

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