Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rocky Mountain High

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear as Bill and Siobhan explore the wilds of Colorado in a blast from the past.  The Daring Duo is currently wandering through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in search of enlightenment and a few good photos.  We’ll be back next week with all the results of this mystical journey.  We hope.

Colorado  (Merle Haggard)

There’s a place where Mother Nature’s got it all together,

She knows just when to let wild flowers bloom.

Somehow she always seems to know exactly what she’s doin’

And the Lord saw fit to furnish elbow room.

Have you ever been down to Colorado?

I spend a lot of time there in my mind.

And if God doesn’t live in Colorado,

I’ll bet that’s where He spends most of His time.

I’d love to be there watching  early in the morning:

The sun comes up and crowns the mountains king.

If by chance you dare to be there high upon the mountain,

I swear that you can hear the angels sing.

Have you ever been down to Colorado?

I spend a lot of time there in my mind.

And if God doesn’t live in Colorado,

I’ll bet that’s where He spends most of His time.

We’re Leavin’ On A Jet Plane, Don’t Know When We’ll Be Back Again  (Of course we do.  The ticket says Sunday.)

If God spends most of His time there, it’s good enough for us.  So, on Saturday, August 3rd, in the early Orlando afternoon, Siobhan and Bill climbed into the nice Frontier Airlines buggy and lifted off.  Tell you the truth, we weren’t so sure about old Frontier Airlines.  I mean “Frontier” and “Airlines”  seem like two words that might not get along too well.  But once we looked out the airport window and saw that the vehicle was not a Conestoga Wagon with wings, we were okay.  And, as a matter of record, the flight went swimmingly, arriving twenty minutes early, at 2:45 Mountain Time, thanks to the two-hour time zone advantage.  So far, so good.  And, after all, we had rented our car from Hertz, what could go wrong there?  Well, plenty.

It Only Hertz When I Laugh

First of all, it took forever to get to the counter, despite the fact there were only three people ahead of us.  The quartet of clerks was having some terrible problem with one particular guy and every time they seemed on the verge of having it solved, back he came with more issues.  Instead of having one person handle it, they all decided to pitch in, rambling hastily back and forth in their limited space behind the counter, bumping into one another like those wacky wind-up dolls that inevitably crash.  It was better than The Three Stooges if you had all day to wait.  Ultimately, I got a middle-aged overweight woman with floozy-blonde hair.

“GoodafternoonwelcometoHertz,”  she said, just like that.

“Iseeyou’reallpaidthroughCapitalOnerewardsandI’msure you’llbewantingourfullprotectionpackageand….”

“WHOA!” I intervened.  “I’ve got my own insurance that takes care of me in any vehicle I drive.  Don’t need anything but a map and the keys.”  This is when she told me that all of the mid-sized cars—such as I ordered—were four-cylinder jobs, not a happy choice for mountain driving.


“I feel like this is a giant scam,” I told her.  “Did you ever work at a carnival?”  She went on with additional stream-of-consciousness blather and I ended up with the larger option, a Chevy Impala, not content to negotiate the Rocky Goddam Mountains in a pipsqueak clown car.  We left irritated but determined not to let the experience tar our merry trip.  Onward to Estes Park!

On The Road Again

The Rocky Mountain Airport outside Denver is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by vast open spaces and the occasional pod of hotels.  In the afternoons, you can see scattered thunderstorms gathering in the distance while surrounding skies may be blue and sunny.  The air was very hazy as we departed the airport—might be called smoggy if it wasn’t Colorado—a lot of particulates in the air.  It looked like a settling dust storm.  The winds were fierce and roadside signs advised of this just in case you couldn’t tell your car was being slowly blown off the highway.  We negotiated this travail without incident and headed northwest for Boulder and on to Estes Park, bedroom community for Rocky Mountain National Park.  The rains hit about 20 miles from our destination, lending adventure to our winding climb through the mountains.  Siobhan, of course, just loves this sort of thing—scary driving in the rain—but she is less terrified if she is doing the driving, very slow driving, I might add, so she had the wheel.  I’m not absolutely sure, but I can’t seem to recall Siobhan ever exceeding a posted speed limit, as if the signs were writ by God, Himself.  Eventually, we made it to Estes Park, a cheerful little hamlet of about 6000, all of whom seemed to be marching through the streets, eating ice cream.  There are at least four ice cream shops on the main street in Estes Park and God knows how many others hidden down the side streets and back alleys.  Not to mention a large number of candy stores, taffy shops and the like.  I thought all of my friends in Colorado were leading the healthful life.  Again, me golden idol is tarnished.  Will it never end?

Anyway, the town sits in a bowl, surrounded by the Rockies, at an elevation of 7522 feet, up from Denver’s mile-high 5280.  Rocky Mountain National Park is less than five miles in the distance, a mere three miles from the Stonebrook Resort where we would be staying.  If “resort” seems a little hoity-toity to you, well, think again.  This particular resort had no air-conditioning, phone service was often achieved by walking around in the parking lot until you found just the right spot and the wifi antenna was out.  There was no laundry facility and you maintained your own room, which included hauling the garbage to the dumpster every day.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’m just sayin’.  Why did we choose this place, you might ask?  Well, that’s easy—Stonebrook offered Mike.  Mike Morris, affability personified, is the co-proprietor, concierge, life coach-in-residence and expert at all things Colorado.  He knows what you want before you do and he knows how to get it.  He knows a better way to get there.  He is not pushy, only helpful.  “May I suggest an alternative?” is his favorite sentence.  You will not wind up at a crappy restaurant, a boring hiking trail or an inept massage therapist if you heed Mike’s advice.  Mike loves everybody.  He claims to have been an orphan and considers Stonebrook’s vast guest list “my family.”  We discovered Mike when reading resort reviews on Tripadvisor and the like.  The reviewers looked ready to saint the guy.  Even though we are not the most trusting sorts where these types of things are concerned—after all, anyone can write them, including the reviewee—we were convinced and properly so.  Mike lived up to all expectations.  Our co-host was the renowned Bella Barker, Mike’s charming black mutt, who only once or twice made her presence known a little too early in the morning.

Stonebrook was a quiet place, partly due to a policy of No Kids Allowed.  The resort sits on the Fall River, visible and audible from your back balcony.  Our room was expansive and included a giant jacuzzi, which we used liberally.  It was easily cooled with a large ceiling fan and open sliding glass windows.  As an alternative to the main building in which we were located, Stonebrook also offered attractive cabins.  The  whole place was filled with happy campers, as were the resorts surrounding.  The most prevalent sign in Estes Park was “No Vacancy.”

It Must Be The Altitude

During last year’s vacation in Glacier National Park, I was free of the stomach doldrums that have dogged me for the past few years.  After a fast-food dinner the first night in Colorado—and feeling vacation-invulnerable—I joined the rest of the town in ice-cream-cone eating.  This turned out to be a bad idea, leaving me miserable through the night.  Next day, at the start of our first planned hike, I still felt lousy.  Halfway up the first steep hill, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere today.  Eventually, I figured out it was not just the ice-cream but also a lack of acclimatization that was causing the problem.  We went home, came back the next day and pushed on through it, visiting Nymph Lake and her sisters, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake in the Bear Lake Trailhead area of the park.  Siobhan had devised a new diet, in which she joined me for moral support.  For the next couple days, we would stick to eggs and toast in the morning, soup at lunch and boiled fish at night.  We became regulars at one of the town’s more popular restaurants, The Egg And I.  The plan seemed to work.

The second night in Estes Park, we had dinner in the Cascade Room of the famous Stanley Hotel, which sits on a high rise overlooking the town.  The Stanley is a 140-room neo-Georgian edifice first opened on July 4, 1909 to cater to the rich and famous.  The hotel and its surrounding lands are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley , the man who developed the Stanley Steamer, a reproduction of which sits in the ample hotel lobby.  Under the strict gustatory compact, I had trout.

Break On Through To The Other Side

On Tuesday, we had reservations to see A Chorus Line at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater in Grand Lake, on the western side of the park.  This required a drive of about an hour and fifteen minutes (assuming no stopping) from the northwest entrance at Fall River, through the forests, up to and over the tree line along Trail Ridge Road, past the famous Lava Cliffs and across the Continental Divide at Milner Pass, ascending to heights of 12,183 feet along the way.  The vistas were impressive and the road was good.  We exited the park in mid-morning and shuffled on down to Grand Lake to pick up our tickets for the theater, stopping to grab a pastry at the small and jam-packed coffee-shop/bakery which all these towns seem to feature.  I know what you’re going to say—“Bill, you’re breaking your DIET!”—and you would be correct in your warning.  We travelled further south to the big ski mecca, Winter Park, had lunch (eggy crepes) and headed back toward Grand Lake, me feeling less than spiffy thanks to the wonderful pastry.  A short distance from Winter Park, while passing through the tiny town of Fraser, we spotted an interesting-looking place called the Sunshine Herb Market.  Siobhan will not willingly pass ANY herb markets so we were going in.  Good thing, too.  Because this small, inauspicious retail shop in the middle of Nowhere, Colorado proved to be the home of a rare but life-altering phenomenon known as:

The AHA! Moment

The Sunshine Herb Market turned out to be a small herb and supplement store, flush with inventory, and customerless except for us.  Steering the ship was a twentyfiveish kid named Parker (Parks) Thompson.  He and an antsy male friend/hanger-out were delighted to deluge me with cures for my problem, they having had similar bouts of stomach nastiness despite their young years.  I would like to say, at this time, that since I first brought up these stomach issues a short time ago, I have received a TON of advice from readers, quite a bit of which I have taken (to no avail, but thanks for offering).  It seems like half the world is suffering, so any clues to a solution which I discover will be forthcoming.

Anyway, while Siobhan prowled the store aisles, Parker (Parks) Thompson paged through his book of cures and advised that if worse came to worse, his mother, Jeannette, might be available to offer up her “27 years of experience” in these matters.  “She’s practically a shaman!” said Parker (Parks) Thompson.  I probably needed a shaman.  Before that could occur, however, Parker (Parks) brought out a wonderful and amazing invention which caused us to fall back in wonder.

“This,” he announced is the ZYTO Machine!  We can hook you up to this and it will tell us which nutrients you are deficient in.  Then, we look through our stock, find those supplements and you’re all fixed.”

OF COURSE I am!  This is the greatest thing ever!  Where have you been all my life, Parker (Parks) Thompson?  I could hardly wait.  Parker (Parks) sprayed off the Zyto Machine with some sort of silver spray to divest it of vestiges of the previous analyzee.  Then, I was to place my fingers and the bottom of my hand over the designated area and wait while Parker (Parks) connected the Zyto Machine to the computer.  The machine, itself, was a shiny silver, about the size and shape of an extra extra-large egg.  It had little black lines which you covered with your fingers.  Siobhan looked at me with a delighted smile.  “Oh, this is going to be fun!” she said.  I’m not sure, but I think Siobhan might have been being sarcastic.  At the last minute, she asked Parker (Parks) if there were any safety concerns, any side effects of using the unit.  “Gee, I don’t think so,” he said, “but I can ask.”  Siobhan waited while he called, anxious to speak to the manufacturer to extract further information about the device.

“Hello, Mom?” inquired Parker (Parks) of the person on the other end of the line.  Siobhan broke down in laughter.  Siobhan has a funny sense of humor.

Long story short, the information imparted by the Zyto Machine advised us of what we already knew and suggested answers we had already tried.  Now, Siobhan wanted her turn.  Parker (Parks) dutifully sprayed the Zyto Machine with silver to return it to a pristine state.  Siobhan placed her hand on the critter.  Shortly, she grimaced.  “This thing hurts!” she exclaimed.  The Zyto machine is not unknowing of nonbelievers, Siobhan.  “Gee!” said Parker (Parks).  “That’s only the second time that’s ever happened!”

Siobhan weathered the storm to the end, brave crusader that she is.  When it was over, Parker (Parks) brought up the results.  Siobhan had absolutely nothing which could be improved by any means, except her circulation was a little slow.  “Wow!” said Parker (Parks) Thompson, “That’s only the second time that’s ever happened!”

After the ball was over, Siobhan purchased a small box of Reed’s Ginger Candy.  She had offered me these things in the past, but I had demurred.  I had tried ginger before.  Siobhan buys tons of the yellow, sugar-covered ginger you see in many health stores.  I have tried it with negligible results.  This stuff was different.  It was very strong, felt like a warm ginger bomb going off in your stomach.  Two minutes later, I felt great.  What the hell was this?  I have been going to doctors for years, having stomach ultrasounds, tubes inserted, x-rays monitoring liquid entering my gullet.  I have taken Omeprazole and Dicyclomine and Rinitidine and Gas-X and Beano and God knows what else, all to no avail.  I have tried abandoning various food groups, dairy, gluten, even herbal teas, all to no good consequence.  And NOW, in Parker (Parks) Thompson’s little herb market in Fraser, Colorado, God has finally seen fit to provide me with The Solution?  It must be an anomaly, a temporary tease.  The proof would be success over time.  Meanwhile, Siobhan, bolstered with this new information, decided to reinforce the ginger intake, buying a container of Nature’s Way Ginger Root, 550 mg, which I take three times a day.  Not to mention the non-ginger Synergy Green Chia (other flavors are also acceptable) and Nature’s Harvest Green Whole-Food And Super-Food Instant Beverage Mix, both of which I take shortly after rising in the morning.  I’m in the process of fine-tuning all this stuff, but so far, so good.

If Add Ginger is the first part of the solution, however, the second part is Subtract Sugar.  I have discovered that not only is sugar a problem for me in its more obvious forms like ice-cream, candy bars and McDonald’s Vanilla Iced Coffee, it’s also an issue in supposedly beneficial things like cantaloupe and cherries and gatorade.  I try to avoid anything with more than six or seven grams of sugar and so far—after eight days—it’s working.  Siobhan has a friend, middle-aged veterinarian, who can tolerate almost no sugar and another who is very limited.  We are beginning to discover more people who are negatively affected by modest amounts of the stuff.  The August issue of National Geographic has a cover story on sugar that’s worth reading.

On our visit to Estes Park and environs, we were constantly surrounded by ice-cream and candy stores, dispensing sugar products of every description.  Previously, I’d go into these lovely emporiums and wish to order one of each.  It’s easy to fall under the sweet spell.  Now, unwilling to trade two minutes of bliss for hours of misery, I resist the demons, the trance is lifted.  And the Rocky Mountain vacation moves on.  In the distance, A Chorus Line beckons and I am a transformed sinner, eager to impart my new wisdom evangelistically.  Or am I?  The next exciting episode tells the tale.


On The Trail To Alberta Falls


Hiker Pondering The Meaning Of Life


Between A Rock And A Hard Place


A View From The Balcony, Stonebrook


Son Of “A View From The Balcony”


The Riverwalk, Estes Park.  Nice, Huh?


Dream Lake


Above The Treeline, West Side Of Park


Extracting Lunch At Nymph Lake


The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park


The Stanley Hotel With Legs


Geezer Gazing In Wonderment


Nature Girl


Evil Bakery, Grand Lake


Schmoozing With The Locals


Go West Young Woman.  Or Maybe East.


In Case You Were Wondering….