Rocky Mountain High

A few months ago I was bellyaching via text with my friend Rachel about how I felt like I had nothing to look forward to (my general go-to complaint since the pandemic hit). Rachel and I met when I was a photographer and she was a reporter for The Palm Beach Post in the early 2000s.

We became friends while watching So You Think You Can Dance and making snarky remarks like the robots from MST3000 or maybe the old men in The Muppets balcony. It was delightful fun. Also a delight? The game board group we joined and named “Monkey’s Delight”. I don’t remember how the name came about but I’m fairly certain the “monkey” part was my doing.

We also enjoyed going to the Cheesecake Factory and calling their complimentary bread followed by a sundae a perfectly acceptable dinner. When Rachel came over to my place my pup Oliver would hop up onto the couch next to her, sit bolt upright facing forward while settling in very closer to her, then turn his head to stare at the side of her face. Maybe you had to be there but it was hilarious, and this weird habit of his earned him the title “Rachel’s boyfriend” forever more.

Here they are, making me a third wheel in 2008

Oh and also, Rachel and I did actually work together. Among others, we did this story which now lives on on her website. The original doesn’t exist online, I don’t think. ‘Cause we’re old. – Mighty Cobra Step Crew Explore her work. She’s excellent.

Here are two of my favorite dances of all time from So You Think You Can Dance, btw; Gravity and If It Kills Me

I digress.

In response to my malaise, Rachel texted back, “Come visit me in Colorado!”

It could have been a courtesy invite but I exited my texting app, went to a travel app, bought tickets and a few months later in early October I showed up in her state.

To say we had a good time after not seeing each other in over 12 years was an understatement. Rachel is even smarter and funnier than I remember, and the advantage of not catching up in so long is you really never run out of stuff to talk about!

She was a wonderful host from Thursday to Tuesday, and when she brought me to the airport to send me back home, there was a crowd at the curb and in an effort to be helpful I said “I can hop out here rather than make you wait.”

“I’M NOT READY!” she blurted out with a bit of despair in her voice. It was comical and a bit sad all at once, and while I don’t want anyone I care about to feel sad, I was flattered (even if she was likely playing it up a bit). Also I felt the same way.

The pandemic has likely changed us all in a variety of ways. I have definitely become more insular and am convinced that I don’t carry conversations as well as I used to. I don’t feel I am as sharp as I was pre-pandemic. It takes me longer to process thoughts and get my words out. Word-retrieval is shockingly hard. Thinking straight escaped me over the last two years. And as I mentioned I felt like there wasn’t much to look forward to. Trips were on hold for so long, and motivation went with it I think.

Spending time with Rachel was such a breath of fresh air. I was reminded that there are new places to explore and see, and new conversations to be had. I am so grateful for it and her.

Here are photos to walk you through my awesome trip (you can click to enlarge and read the captions with this chunk below);

Down the street from Rachel’s house was a prairie. I’m guessing it was a prairie because prairie dogs live there and I’m not sure prairie dogs are are allowed to live in plain old fields. Or maybe fields become prairies once the dogs move in? I’m unclear about those details, but play the video below with the sound on to hear their delightful little barks (which they belted out by getting their whole body into it);

Below from left, beautiful skies! Rachel would joke that when people visit her she has to constantly point out the mountains so they are properly appreciated, “Look! Look at them!” That second photo was taken on a bridge leading into a small town called Redstone. It’s the kind of town you would miss if you sneezed while driving through it.

It had a lovely little general store (bottom left) appropriately named Redstone General Store. It sold staple foods, art and crafts by local artists, one block of chocolate made fifteen minutes from where I live in the Boston area, and candy cigarettes, which we thought were banned in the US but I just looked it up and basically everywhere but here bans it. We just can’t call them cigarettes. And now you know that dumb fact. You’re welcome. I was charmed by the sign, especially the part about carrying “sometimes more”. Good to know since sometimes, I do need more!
I came across Propaganda Pizza, bottom right, when I was looking around online for places to eat earlier in the day. We stumbled on it and gave it a try in Redstone. Really fun atmosphere, excellent pizza and very enjoyable moscow mule.

I swiped this from the website because obviously you can’t take photos in there. This shot is brighter than it was in real life.

We’d seen very cool caves in Glenwood Springs Saturday, went to the wrong movie Friday night at the theater (no photo for that adventure), and Sunday we decided to check out some hot springs. Here’s a description from the spa’s webpage with bold print added by me for clarification; The Yampah Spa Vapor Caves are natural underground (wicked) hot mineral water steam baths. Hot mineral waters flow through the cave floors at 125 degrees F. to create our natural geothermal steam baths. Visitors descend a (narrow and shallow-stepped, non-ADA compliant) stairway inside the main building and pass through a stone corridor into the caves. An atmosphere of well-being (but also trepidation because you really can’t see where you’re going and you feel drips coming down from the ceiling and struggle to see where the openings to all the cave rooms are) pervades throughout the soothing stillness of the caves. Relax on slab marble benches in the rocky alcoves, and inhale the natural steam vapor in the warm, dimly lit cave chambers.

OK so my above silliness aside, it was a very very cool experience, and we were really glad we did it. Once we found an available bench we only lasted about ten minutes. It truly was incredibly hot. We found it a marvel that just one floor underground in the earth could create this remarkable natural phenomenon.

I’d found a local donut shop called Sweet Coloradough (clever!), which locals were obsessed with so after our soothing, healthy experience in the underground of earth we headed over there. The line was super long, and I noted how most of the customers looked like they both just got out of bed and are also about to go on a long hike. Rachel told me that locals are very serious about showing off how they love Colorado more than the next person. I am the MOST outdoorsy of all the outdoorsy people! It was a super interesting regional fact which I could see with my own eyes throughout my visit.

There was a man in line ahead of us with a mountain tattoo on his calf which incorporated the state flag. “Yeah that’s pretty typical” Rachel told me quietly after I pointed and yelled “Look at that tattoo on that man!” (No of course I didn’t)

I only took a few bites of my chocolate cronut (donut-croissant crossover – try it, you won’t be sorry) and my maple bacon cronut, but it was definitely worth the wait!

The mountain pic below was of the beautiful Vail, CO area as we passed through, and the cat is Hobbes, a sweet boy back at Rachel’s house.

Sunday night was just like old times, snarky commentary while watching The Floor is Lava! It’s a game show which is exactly how you imagine it is.

On Monday we ventured out to downtown Denver to check out the public art on the buildings. I love that stuff!

From there we met up with a fellow Monkey’s Delight member named Stacey who we knew from our Palm Beach Post days. Coincidentally, we ate at a restaurant called The Post. After a wonderful time catching up, Rachel and I headed out for a hike from Chautauqua Park in Boulder. Within view of the Flat Iron Mountains, the hike was really beautiful. We had hoped to make it to the top where the Royal Arch is. I really wanted to see it, but the hike was pretty rigorous and once we came up on two hours and hadn’t gotten to it yet, I had to call it. I burned off a lot of sugar with the hike, and watched as my glucose levels dropped in my pump. Was I prepared if it got bad? Sure, but I didn’t want to test it and I was also pretty tired and knew that the return trip down would be work too and also DON’T JUDGE ME I’M NOT A MOUNTAIN GOAT!

These photos truly don’t so this park justice (the picnic table? I just thought it was cool), and yes we were holding up that boulder!

So anyway, if you ever have the opportunity to visit Colorado, I highly recommend it. But you can’t have Rachel. She’s a national treasure who I will not share.

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