United States: St Louis, Missouri

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Last night, we spent the night at my Aunt Chris and Uncle Walter’s beautiful house.  Their guest room has a king-sized bed, which is SUCH a treat.  If you’ll recall, we’ve been sleeping in twin and double beds for most of the trip.  So anyway, I woke up at one point in the middle of the night and felt completely disoriented because I couldn’t immediately find Jon.  It took me a few seconds, but I soon realized it was because he was waaaaaaay over on the other side of the massive bed!  Whew.

Run Along Deserted Road

We got dressed for our run and went outside.  Uncle Walter had taken a rare vacation day and was working on his yard and flowers.  He told us about an old road that runs next to a nearby elementary school and goes on for quite a few miles.  He said that it’s been closed off for years and would be a great place to run.  So we took off for the deserted road and ran down it.  It was a very gradual slope down and along a small stream.  The road was so old that most of it was completely crumbling in places.  In others, there were trees and branches laying across the way.  And in still others, the road was barely discernable.  So our run turned out to be a bit of an obstacle course.  But it made the whole trip very interesting!

Taking Care of Business….

Jon spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon washing and waxing the car, which definitely looks like it’s been driven across country.  Unfortunately, there are some new chips in the paint on the hood where rocks have flown off trucks and hit the car.  But that’s the price we have to pay, and Jon thinks that if we plan to keep the car in NYC then we should get it repainted.

I spent the morning and afternoon putzing around Aunt Chris’ glorious kitchen.  We’re going to my Aunt Ann and Uncle Roy’s lakehouse tomorrow, and I’ve been tasked with bringing a potato dish.  (Actually, I’m supposed to bring vegetables, but Jon is insisting that I make the garlic mashed potatoes because they ARE vegetables.)  So I spent  the morning chopping garlic and potatoes and grating cheese.  Not long after I’d started, I found my way to Aunt Chris’ Pampered Chef drawer.  And I have no idea how I’ve survived so long without the Pampered Chef.  There’s a cheese grater that I MUST have, not to mention the slicer (Uncle Walter’s favorite item) and a few other items.  All in all, the Pampered Chef and Aunt Chris’ fully stocked kitchen made the whole cooking process a wholly enjoyable experience.  Our kitchen in NY is the size of a closet, so I have neither the room nor the gadgets to enjoy cooking.  But this… this is heaven.

I loved it so much that I made lunch for “the boys”.  Nothing terribly complex, just hot ham and cheese sandwiches.  But it prolonged my kitchen experience.

Nana

After Jon had showered up, we left at 1:30 to go see my Nana – my mother’s mother.  We had seen her last night at dinner, but hadn’t had a lot of time to talk to just her.  So we took a few hours today and went out to her Assisted Living home.

We got a bit lost on the way out there because we were looking for 6033 Laclede Station Road.  Soon we realized we were going the wrong way and called Nana, only to learn that the address was 1633.  So we made our way back, but first stopped at a grocery store for flowers.  All in all, we were 45 minutes late but I don’t think Nana cared at all.

Nana and Heidi

We spent the next few hours sitting around and talking and sharing stories.  Nana sometimes has a hard time recalling recent conversations, so we had a few repeats while we were there but Jon and I didn’t mind.  Jon – bless his heart – sat there for hours with us despite the fact that he was probably bored nutty.  We showed Nana the Mel and Ken China slide show, which she seemed to enjoy very much.  Jon and I will have to make one of these for our own trip.  After a few hours, we kissed Nana goodbye and she walked us to the door.

Dinner with Marci and Jeff

We met my cousin Marci (daughter of Chris and Walter and sister of Bridget) and her new guy Jeff, at a bar called OB Clark’s for dinner.  Marci is almost 21 and a riot.  She said she had 150 questions for us about the trip, but could only think of three to ask us.  Jon told her he was disappointed because he’d been practicing his answers all day… “Yes… No… Maybe… Sometimes…”.  We had a good time hanging out and eating chicken fingers together.

Busch Stadium – Cardinals vs. KC Royals

We followed Marci and Jeff to Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play.  Uncle Walter had pulled some strings and secured two tickets to this evening’s game.  Marci gave us the tickets and said she and Jeff would buy some tickets for the bleacher seats.  We were floored that she would do this for us, especially because today was Jeff’s birthday!  But they didn’t seem to care and told us to have a good time.

Jeff, Heidi, and Marci at Busch Stadium

Our seats were absolutely incredible!!!  They were “dugout” seats, about 30 feet to the right of the the Cardinal’s dugout and three rows back.

Our View of Busch Stadium

I told Jon that I could become a serious Cardinals fans for these seats alone!  We had such a great time at the game.  The fans were terrific and nutty and zealous and wonderful.  The Cardinals won (of course) and that made the game even better.  The Cardinals’ pitcher, Morris, went eight innings and threw a two-hitter, so of course the fans went crazy.  Baseball is such a terrific way to spend an evening!  

A Blurry Picture, Courtesy of the Man Behind Us (too many beers perhaps?)

We didn’t see Marci and Jeff at all until after the game was over and we went to the parking garage.  They were getting back to their car as well so we shared stories and teased them about their parking place (which Marci decided was the worse spot in the garage) before getting in the car and leaving.

United States: St Louis, Missouri

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

A Morning With the Grandparents

We woke up early, intending to get to the St Louis Arch before 10:00.  But, as it happens, one thing led to another and we didn’t leave until lunch time.  We had some postcards to address, a package to wrap up, and a few other minor things to do before we left.  Next thing we knew, we were late.

Bigfoot 4×4

So we hit the road but had to make a quick stop.  Yesterday, we’d passed the Bigfoot 4×4, Inc building – home of the original Big Foot Monster Truck.  And Jon was determined to get pictures since we had missed the world’s largest prairie dog and the five and six legged livestock in Kansas.  So there we were, on the side of the highway with this huge truck.  These wheels were larger than life – I’m not kidding!

Jon and the Original Bigfoot Monster Truck

The St Louis Arch

Next we went down to the St Louis Arch: the Gateway to the West.  Parking was, of course, a mess.  But we found a place in a private lot under the freeway with some shade.  Then we walked through the park until we came to the arch.  Jon – who has never been here – said, “Hmmmm… I thought it was made of concrete!”  Well, I’d never thought about it, but it’s made of stainless steel.  It’s 630 feet high and 630 feet wide.  That’s a big arch.

The Saint Louis Arch

We went inside and stood in a massive line for entry to the arch.  There are timed “pods” that are part of the elevator system up to the Arch, so you have to buy a ticket for a particular time.  We also bought a ticket for the movie “Monument to a Dream”, which we would see before heading to the top.

The movie was about the building of the arch and the men who were involved in it.  So many of the shots were of the construction crew prancing around scaffolding 400 feet above ground.  Since the movie itself was made in the 1960s or 1970s, the soundtrack sounded like something out of Star Trek.  (picture Kirk circling Spock in a fighting ring).  But it was interesting to see it again, and Jon seemed to enjoy it.  

Then we headed to the North Tram and waited for our little pod thing to leave for the top of the arch.  The line took a little while, but the actual ride to the top lasted only four minutes.  There were quite a few people up there, squeezing into the little windows for the view of either downtown St Louis or the mighty Mississippi River. 

Downtown St Louis – View from The Arch

The Mississippi River – View from The Arch

After about 20 minutes, we waited in a small line to get into the pods for the descent from the top.  It was much later than we’d planned to be downtown, so we went back to the car and headed to Grandma and Grandpa’s.

There, we showered and packed up because we were having dinner with one set of relatives and staying at my Aunt Chris’s for the next two nights.  Grandma and Grandpa were at a doctor’s appointment and returned around 5:00 as we were loading the car.  We hung out with them for a while, and left their house at 5:30 to drive to a restaurant called Patrick’s.

Dinner at Patrick’s With The Kaimans

Dinner was with my mother’s family – her sister Mary and her husband, Pete.  Also Mom’s brother Vince and his wife Karen.  And my grandmother, my Nana, was there.  I haven’t seen any of them since our wedding in 1998, so this was a nice reunion.  Patrick’s was in a lovely office area with a very active happy hour scene.  The food was delicious and we had a very nice time catching up and sharing stories.  Mary is a grandmother of her own now, and so we heard all about her children and their children.  Vince’s twins are around seven and he has some really funny stories about them.  Mary had been keeping up with the journal, but every one else wanted to know the “favorite place”, “least favorite place”, “funniest memory”, “most dangerous moment”, among other superlatives.  And, of course, Jon and I just love talking about the trip so it wasn’t a problem at all.

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take my camera out of my purse until we were in the car and on the way out of town.  I hate it when I do that.  (Sorry Mom!)  

After dinner, we headed out to my Aunt Chris and Uncle Walter’s house.  Chris is my Dad’s sister, and she and Walter are the parents of Bridget, with whom we stayed in Kansas City.  (Got it?).  They have two other daughters, Sara and Marci, who live here in St Louis.  Chris and Walter have a large, gorgeous home out in the suburbs of St Louis.  We arrived around 9:00PM and sat and talked to the two of them for a while.  They showed us to our room, which has a king sized bed!  Oh the luxury!!!

United States: St Louis, Missouri

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

First and foremost: I stand corrected regarding the roads and infrastructure here in St. Louis.  My Aunt Ann astutely pointed out that – for the record – I-70 is the oldest highway in America.  And boy does it look like it!  But they are doing a great deal of work on it, and that apparently means that they’re not preserving it for historical significance. (Thank goodness!)

Run Through Florissant

Jon and I woke up and hung out with Grandma and Grandpa over coffee and danishes.  Then we went for our runs through the neighborhood.  Jon ran ahead, and I went on my own through some streets with massive trees arched over the road.  Very nice run, although terribly humid.  So much for the dry heat of the west!

Anheuser Busch Brewery

Then we headed downtown to hit the Budweiser Brewery.  This is, of course, a major piece of St Louis culture as the Busch family has lived in St Louis for generations.  So we found our way to the brewery and walked into a massive reception hall/museum/gift shop.  The tours are all free, and start once every fifteen minutes or so.  Our tour had about 30 people, and was led by two college-aged girls named Lori and Allison.  The tour would walk seven downhill blocks and would end with a trolley ride back to the tasting room.

Our first stop: the famous Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales.

The Anheuser Busch Clydesdales

These horses are absolutely huge and beautiful.  And they’re treated with kid gloves.  Their homes and transportation vehicles are cleaner than the most obsessive clean freak’s house.  It seems that Anheuser-Busch probably spends millions of dollars on their upkeep, which I imagine can’t contribute much to the profit of the company.  But if they were ever to get rid of them, they would face some serious public opposition.  When they travel, they ride in an air-conditioned truck.  Every 200 miles, they get an hour-long grazing break, and they never drive more than 500 miles per day.

We should all treat ourselves so well.

They are available for private and corporate events – absolutely free.  If you book over six months in advance, Anheuser-Busch will bring out a team of horses with an old red delivery truck.  Very cool stuff.

At The Brewery

The rest of the tour took us through the brewery and the different areas of production.  Jon, of course, was totally interested in the process and the different elements of the beer-making, and was full of questions for our tour guides.  He snapped pictures whenever and wherever he could.

The Anheuser-Busch Brewery

The Anheuser-Busch complex is a huge area with beautiful buildings and manicured gardens.  It reminded me of a college campus, actually.  There were a lot of historical parts of the complex as well, including the old one-room schoolhouse where the first set of Busch children once went to school.  The Busch family themselves used to live on the grounds until the 70s-ish.  So they’re still very active in the running of the company.

Tasting Time!

At the end of the tour, we went back to the main building and into the tasting room.  There, Jon tried two different beers and I had one, and we hung out sipping them while the afternoon passed away.  All in all, it was a great day and a very interesting tour.  After we’d finished our beers, Jon stopped by the gift shop for a t-shirt and some Bud Light darts (he plays darts with our friend Fred in NYC).

Dinner with Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma, who is well aware of our non-scheduled life, asked if we could bring ourselves to be home by 6:00 tonight.  I teased her that she might lock the doors if we didn’t show up in time.  This is notable because Grandma and Grandpa never lock their doors except at night.  Anyway, we showed up at 4:00 so there was plenty of time.

I’d had a headache because I hadn’t drunk enough water after this morning’s run.  Jon, the Water Nazi, didn’t let this go unpunished without a severe talking-to before I lay down for a nap.  I woke up at 5:30, feeling much better and ready to hang out.

Dinner was a delicious pork roast that no one but a Grandma can perfect like this.  We spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the two of them and watching the ball game.  At 8:00, the Lakers game was on, so we settled in and watched the Lakers win the NBA championship.

United States: St Louis, Missouri

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

We hung out with Bridget for a while this morning before we left for St Louis.  And before leaving Kansas City, we had to stop by Wal-Mart to pick up a few things.  This is becoming a joke, actually.  It would seem that we have some compulsion to visit the Wal-Mart in every place we drive through.  It’s pretty funny by this point.

The drive to St Louis was unexciting, except for the ominous-looking clouds over the city.  The radio was talking about flash flood warnings, and traffic was really heavy.  So I called up my Grandmother to let her know we were going to be late for dinner.

St Louis

Both of my parents were born and raised in St Louis, and this is where my grandparents and most of my relatives live.  I was actually born here, but that’s because Mom came back here for a while when Dad was in Vietnam.  Other than that, I’ve only been to St Louis a handful of times for reunions, anniversaries, or family vacations.  Jon and I decided that this drive across country would be the perfect opportunity to stop by and see the family again.

The roads were terrible.  And although the storm was moving away from us, the traffic was incredibly heavy.  I have to attribute part of that to the fact that the infrastructure in this town is atrociously old.  The highways are patched concrete and most of the freeways are only four lanes wide.  There appears to be some construction going on, but they have a lot of work to do if they want to advance this road system into the 21st century.  Actually, they have a lot of work if they want to advance it beyond the 1960s.

We made it to Grandma and Grandpa’s about an hour later than we’d planned, but we were happy to be there.  I haven’t seen my grandparents since our wedding three and a half years ago, so it was a nice reunion for us.  We got settled into our room and Grandma served dinner, which was a casserole she’d made.  Their power was out because of the storms, so we ate by candlelight until the power came back on again.

Later in the evening, we showed them the China slide show that Mel and Ken had given us.  They really enjoyed it and we enjoyed seeing it again.  We want to put one of these slide shows together for our year-on-the-road, but we just need the time to do it.

We all went to bed around 10:30 or so, and fell asleep to some really powerful thunderstorms.

United States: Kansas City, Missouri

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

We slept in so late this morning!  I’m not sure we even moved until about 9:00.  Jon motivated and went for a run, despite the rainy weather.  Bridget and I spent the time hanging out.  I looked through one of her books of baby names, and have decided that the authors should also include the list of “100 names least chosen” in addition the the “100 names most chosen”.  Because if I were naming a child, I would want to name him/her something that isn’t common.  I went to school with entirely too many Jennifers and Michaels.

After Jon returned and showered, we made some soup and then headed out.

The Plaza

In the really nice part of Kansas City is a swanky mall called “The Plaza”.  Bridget suggested we go there just to walk around and take in the sights.  So we parked and the first thing I saw was a Sale sign at Victoria’s Secret.  That’s funny, because I’d just finished telling Jon that my underwear population has somehow dwindled down to half of what it was a year ago.  So this massive sale, with bins and bins of underwear and bras, was just what I needed.  Jon took one look at the bins of clothes and said, “I’ll be in the Irish Pub.  Come get me when you’re ready.”  No problem!

We spent a little more time walking around The Plaza, but we were pretty anxious to move on to our next destination: Gate’s Bar-B-Que.

Gate’s Bar-B-Que

Kansas City is well known for its Bar-B-Que.  In fact, Jon used to mail-order this particular sauce from Gates after he’d visited Kansas City many years ago.  The Gates restaurant we went to was on Main Street, in an area that was less than gorgeous.  To us, of course, means that the potential for delicious restaurants abounds.  Jon had the ribs and I had the beef sandwich, and it truly was delicious.  Since we had extra time, we hung out and watched Sports Center before leaving for the KC Royals Game.

Kauffman Stadium – Kansas City Royals vs. Florida Marlins 

We got to the stadium at around 6:15 for the 7:05 game between the KC Royals and the Florida Marlins.

Kauffman Stadium

We didn’t really care about either team, but neither did we want to turn down the opportunity to watch a baseball game – even in the cheap seats!  We were in the bleacher seats, way out in left field.  And although they were far away, bleacher seats are traditionally the most fun.  They usually attract the most hard-core fans with the craziest notions of how to express their fanaticism.

The View from Left Field

Of course, that crazy-fan expression is a different thing in New York City than it is in Kansas City.  The mid-west is more conservative (and sane), so the fans are quite as scary.  The worst we saw was a man in front of us who had KC Royals pins all over his baseball hat.  Other than that, it was pretty tame.  There were three skater teenage guys with various piercings who were also deaf.  They spent most of the game silently making fun of the guy with the pins in his hat.

Enjoying the Game

Cleavage Shots

The Jumbo-tron provides me with endless amusement.  I love watching the shots of people that appear on the massive television screen in between innings or during pitcher warm-ups.  These cameramen have two types of people they try to put on the screen: either small children or attractive girls.  The latter shots I call the “Cleavage Shots”, because they usually are.  So every time a young, attractive girl appears on the jumbo-tron I would say, “There’s another cleavage shot!”.

This made it even funnier when, sometime during the seventh inning, I leaned forward to watch some kids play over the railing trying to get a ball from the security guard.  And Jon said, “Hey.  HEY!  You’re on TV!!!!”  Sure enough, there I was on the Jumbo-tron!  My own cleavage shot!!  I smiled and waved and then was abruptly cut off to be replaced by some young kids with sign.  I’m convinced that my fifteen minutes of fame was cut short because the camera operators realized Jon’s blue KC Royals hat was actually a blue LA Dodgers hat.  Foiled!!

It was a fun game, but since we didn’t care about either team we decided to head out in the bottom of the eighth inning.  And we’re glad we did, because we later found out that the game extended to 14 innings.  Whoa.

United States: Kansas City, Missouri

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Jon went out for a run this morning, and I worked on journals while he was gone.  Then we packed up and left Hays, KS.  

And the drive began.  Kansas.  The flattest, plainest state in the country.

Not a whole lot exciting to share about this drive, but we were really excited to reach Kansas City because finally there was something to look at.  And it was raining, which is a weather pattern we haven’t seen in a while.

Kansas City

My cousin Bridget and her husband Terry live in Kansas City, where Terry works for Merck.  Bridget is six months pregnant and confined to bed-rest (with a little leeway here and there).  Terry’s little sister Kelly is staying with them as she finishes up an internship in KC.

We got a little lost trying to find their house, because Mapquest sent us to West 141st Terrace instead of West 141st Place.  A minor mix-up that was fixed with a quick call to Bridget.  Their house is absolutely beautiful and in a lovely neighborhood.  They’ve been here a year and seem pretty happy.  We hung out and chatted for a while, catching up and whatnot and then we went out to dinner.

Dinner was at a brewery restaurant nearby their house.  The restaurant boasts “99 types of beer”, so Jon was in heaven.  The food was good and we had a good time teasing our waiter, who had hurt his arm in a mountain biking accident.

After dinner, they took us to a frozen custard place that had terrific sundaes.  Jon and I have never had frozen custard, and I must say that it was pretty yummy.

We ended the evening hanging out in their basement which is a grown boy’s dream.  There’s a massive television, full stereo system, cushy sofas, a wet bar, and walls filled with sporting paraphernalia.  Jon kept saying to me, “This is what our basement is going to look like!”.  Yeah.  At this rate, we’ll be lucky if we can afford a moldy attic somewhere.  Much less a finished basement!

Bridget, Kelly, Terry, and Jon in the basement

United States: Hays, Kansas

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Finally, another guest appearance by Jon!

So, I’m finally writing another journal entry!  It’s not like we did anything particularly interesting today but I guess I just feel like after driving 500 miles or so I need some sort of creative outlet.

We woke up around 7am and went about taking the tent down.  We’ve pretty much got the whole operation, including packing the car, down to a science.  It’s not that packing things up is difficult, it’s just that the roof rack (aptly named “the coffin” by my sister before I left DC) is packed so full that it takes at least 10 minutes of work for the two of us to get the coffin to close and lock.

With the car packed we headed into Estes Park for breakfast at Ed’s Cantina then went to see the Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel–REDRUM…REDRUM!

Does the Stanley Hotel look familiar?  It has a rather storied history and was built about a century ago (I’ll spare you, the reader, the tedious history).  The interesting part of the hotel’s history is that this is where Stephen King stayed when he wrote The Shining.  Walking around the hotel you can definitely see where King’s inspiration came from – it must have been so easy for him to write the book that it practically wrote itself.  Anyway, Stanley Kubrick directed the movie and decided to use another hotel in the movie instead of the Stanley but King got his way when a TV version of The Shining was filmed for ABC in 1997 and the Stanley was used as the hotel in the movie.  And for those of you that are fans of the excellent (my opinion!) movie Dumb and Dumber, with Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels, the Stanley was also used as a location for this movie.  How’s that for a few stories on the hotel?

After leaving the Stanley we took the scenic route back to Boulder where we were planning on having lunch.  Heidi checked out Lonely Planet and found a nice sounding Asian place then worked out directions with the huge Colorado map we got from one the National Park information centers.  We wound around Boulder and eventually were on the right road when I said to Heidi, “This must be the first time that Lonely Planet’s sent us out of town for a restaurant”.  We quickly figured out that I needed to turn around but then the road ended as it wound through a mall parking lot.  We found Walnut St. again and then it ended again…it did this once more and we still looked to be at least 5 blocks away!  Heidi found an Illegal Pete’s in a nice pedestrian mall area in downtown Boulder and I happily parked the car, eager to bail out on the Asian place.

Our after lunch entertainment:  a street performer

After lunch we decided to walk off a bit of the burritos we had eaten and came across a street performer doing his show.  By NY standards he was alright but he would have a few things to learn if he wanted to compete in the City!  I mean, yeah, we have high standards for our street performers, you know?  We’ve seen some great shows in Washington Square and most anything else pales.  Anyway, this guy was fun.  For his finale he actually threw a regular playing card from where he was standing up to the roof of the building across the street and to his right.  Have you ever tried to throw a playing card across the room?  Now try getting it to go two stories high and at least 75 feet away!

After the show broke up we realized that we really needed to get going since it was after 1pm and we had driven less than 100 of the close to 500 miles we hoped to cover today!

I didn’t know that the rest of Colorado, east of Denver, was totally flat!

After getting gas in Denver we finally headed east.  After Denver the landscape quickly became flat with lots of farming going on.  Hundreds of miles passed and still it was just flat and brown.  Sometimes we saw a bit of wheat growing or maybe some recently cleared fields or if we were lucky we saw cattle grazing!  Fun.

An ocean of wheat waving in the wind

Once in Kansas we passed through Goodland, Kansas.  We must finally be getting to some of those boring places in the US where the town decides that they have nothing to entice travelers to stop so they build something to get people to get off the highway.  Apparently Goodland, KS decided to build a 50 foot high artists’ easel with a giant painting of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on the easel.  There weren’t any signs or anything letting us know that this would be in town if we got off of the highway but there it was…unfortunately we didn’t get a picture but it was pretty odd looking in a small town set in the middle of fields of wheat.  It took us quite a while but we did finally figure out that Kansas’ other main crop is sunflowers, and suddenly the giant easel with the painting made sense…as much as a giant easel with a famous painting beside the highway can make sense, that is.

We also passed a sign that proudly boasted that it was “Nebraska’s #1 Attraction:  the Pioneer Village”.  We passed this one up too but did think of our friend Vinny that also lives in New York and went to school at the University of Nebraska.  I’m hoping that by writing this down we’ll actually remember to give him a hard time for Nebraska’s having such a pathetic “#1 Attraction”.

Sunset over Hays, KS

We finally got to our goal for the night, Hays, KS and decided to look for a hotel.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, the Kansas State High School Track championships are in town this weekend and nearly everything was booked!  We managed to find something and called it a night.  Sadly we missed Game 2 of the NBA Finals last night…I was really hoping that was on tonight.  Oh well…

United States: Estes Park, Colorado

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Run Around Estes Lake

At the Visitor’s Center yesterday, the Estes “Ambassadors” told us that there’s a lovely 3.5mi path around Estes Lake.  So that’s where we headed for our morning run today.  And it really was lovely.  Lots of friendly runners and walkers, some intense fishermen, a few swarms of gnats, and quite a few curious elk.  But it was a great run and the weather was perfect for it.  One of the most beautiful runs I’ve had in a long time, actually.

Estes Lake

Estes Park

Back at the campsite, we showered and finished off our very stale bagels for breakfast.  Then we went into Estes Park to check out the “Main Street” of precious little shops.  The funny thing about Estes Park are the pedestrian patrols stationed at the various corners.  Jon called them “Dudley-Do-Rights” because their only job was to make sure that no pedestrians crossed the streets against the light.  This sounds pretty straight-forward, except that the crosswalk signals don’t change when one traffic light turns.  Nope.  The crosswalks only light up when ALL the traffic lights are red.  So when it would seem perfectly natural to an urbanite like ourselves to cross when the parallel traffic is moving, Dudley informed us that we needed to wait until ALL the lights had turned red.  Thanks, Dudley from saving us from the heavy traffic in this two-lane, three-traffic-light town.

Estes Park Shops

We wandered around for a while, taking in the little Indian shops, arts-and-crafts stores, taffy shoppe, and other yummy places.  Next thing we knew, it was around 1:30 and we had yet to see the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

So, into the park we went.  We stopped at a place called Sheeps Lake to see the big horn sheep for which there were signs everywhere.  Of course, there were no big horned sheep to be found.  Just our luck!  Since we were starving for lunch, we found a little picnic area where we could set up the campstove and cook up some soup for our growling stomachs.

Jon – Playing With Fire

After lunch, we headed up Trail Ridge Road.  And up.  And up.  And up!  We finally ended up near 12,000 feet and took in quite a few nice stops with great views of the tundra.  Tundra, since you were wondering, is Russian for “land with no trees”.  It’s really interesting to see how the vegetation suddenly changes when we reached an altitude of about 11,000 feet.  The tall huge trees suddenly gave way to green moss and small flowers.  It was so much like Tibet!  We stopped at one point at a place called “Rock Cut – Tundra Communities Trailhead”, where we  fought our way through huge wind gusts to briefly hike a trail.  The views were great, and really reminded us of a stop we did in Tibet at the Kamba-la Pass.  (See Aug 22, 2001)

Pictures of the Tundra 

Back at the campsite, we made pasta (again) for dinner and chatted with our campsite neighbors who were from Colorado.  Then – because it was still light out – Jon settled into the hammock to read and I hit the shower.

“You’re F^#%ing Pathetic!”

I’m going to tell this story exactly as I later told it to Deputy Travis Matkin.

I went into one of the two shower stalls and put my stuff down on the bench.  When I looked up to the window in the shower (which very high – at eye level), I saw someone move outside of it.  Assuming there was a sink behind the little bathroom building, I simply slid the window shut and started to set up my shower stuff.  That’s when I remembered than I’d forgotten something and went back out to the car.  As I walked back to the bathroom – which was right across from our campsite – I decided to have a quick look behind the building.  There was no sink or any reason for anyone to be back there.  But neither was there anyone there.  So I went back into the shower.

In the few minutes I’d been gone, the window had been opened an inch.  These little sliding windows had no locks on them, so maybe it slid open on its own.  Or maybe someone had slid it open from the outside.  The urbanite in me kicked in, and I became very suspicious.  Instead of using the shower caddy provided in the shower, I set my shower stuff up on the windowsill and against the window.  So if it “mysteriously” opened again, there would be a lot of racket.  Then I turned on the shower and stepped under the water.

Not even two minutes later, I saw the silhouette of a hand reach up from the outside and the window slid a little open.  Immediately, I slammed it shut and watched the hand shadow jerk away.  Then I opened it up again and yelled, “What?  You can’t get a woman of your own to look at?  You’re f***ing pathetic!!”.  I slammed the window shut and applauded myself for my reaction and my resolve.

And I spent the rest of the shower completely paranoid.

The window was too high for me to have looked out and seen anyone, and I was alone in the bathroom.  Someone could easily sneak in and I would never know.  The door to the shower stall was a wooden door with no lock, and I couldn’t look out and see the bathroom area.  There was a break of about two feet above the shower walls to the ceiling, so a person could get into the other shower stall and look over.  Fortunately, there were campsites only a few feet away, and so if something happened and I needed help everyone would hear me scream.  But that didn’t help my feeling of paranoia that someone could come in and spy on me.  I raced through my shower and cut myself shaving three times because I was shaking so badly.  Now I understand how women feel who’ve been videotaped against their knowledge.  Before, I never quite understood what the big deal is.  But now I do.  It’s not the fact that someone’s seen me naked (or almost).  My body is just like any other woman’s body, so the naked thing isn’t the problem.  It’s the fact that it was done in such a perverted and malicious way and without my consent.  And the guy probably got off on it.  That’s what’s so disturbing.  I really did feel violated and a bit victimized, much more than I thought I would.  And this really pissed me off.  He freaked me out, and that made me mad.

I went out and told Jon that I’d just caught a peeping tom in my shower, and his reaction was priceless.  His face became furious and he immediately hopped up from the hammock, ready to kick someone’s ass.  He’s sooo my hero.  I can always, ALWAYS count on Jon to stand up for me.  My own knight in shining armor.  So he was naturally pissed that it happened 15 minutes before and the guy was long gone.  But he went to check out the bathroom just in case.  And it was at Jon’s insistence that I called the local Sheriff’s department.

I didn’t want to call.  It seemed a little silly to bring the police out just because some guy wanted to look at naked women.  But Jon pointed out a few good reasons for the police to come out.  First of all, Jon thought it could very well be someone who works here.  Jon says that the men’s room has locks on the windows.  Somehow, this guy knew that the windows in the women’s room didn’t lock.  That means that just reporting it to the office won’t stop him.  Secondly, if this has happened before or will happen again, the police need the paper trail.  Thirdly, the presence of a police cruiser at the campsite will deter this guy from doing it again while we’re here.  So I called the local Sheriff’s office (www.co.larimer.co.us/sheriff) and spoke to a really nice man who sent one of the Deputies out.

Deputy Travis Matkin arrived about ten minutes later and was just as nice as can be.  He took down all the pertinent information and – when he found out we were from New York – told us about when he and his wife were in Orlando on Sept 11 and how they had to drive home instead of flying.  (Everyone likes to bond with New Yorkers about Sept 11.  It’s very touching.)  Then he drove around the campground asking people if they’d seen anything unusual.  He stopped by our site on the way out and said that he’d spoken to the college kids from Arkansas and told them that, in Colorado, peeping toms get branded as sexual offenders.  I don’t think it was these kids, but I appreciated his presence in the campground anyway.  At least I can go to the bathroom without feeling like someone might try to open the window.

Jon, bless his heart, offered that we get a hotel room.  I told him that wasn’t necessary.  That I wanted to stay but probably wouldn’t go to the bathroom during the night unless he went too.  No big deal, since it’s usually too cold for me to talk myself into getting out of my sleeping bag anyway.

It took me a while to fall asleep, because I kept imagining someone walking around our tent.  But I finally drifted off.  Jon and I both woke up around 4:00AM when he got up to go to the bathroom and so I went too.  All was well.  The only noises were the river down the hill and the owl hooting in the tree.  I crawled back into my sleeping bag and finally fell asleep again.  What an experience.

United States: Estes Park, Colorado

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Run through Denver Neighborhood

This morning, we got out of bed and ran through the neighborhood behind the Motel 6.  Since we were right next to the freeway, it wasn’t a particularly nice neighborhood, but it wasn’t bad either.  It had hills.  I hate hills.  The run took us through this neighborhood and near John Elway Chevrolet.

Then, after showering and checking out of the Motel 6, we went to a nearby Wal-Mart to have the oil changed.  Again.  This is oil change #3 for us on this trip, and is completely understandable because we’ve put about 10,000 miles on the car.  Because we had an hour wait for the oil change, we wandered through Wal-Mart and into Best Buy, where Jon drooled over all the electronic toys.

Boulder, CO

Not far from Denver is beautiful Boulder, Colorado.  We couldn’t decide which place we loved more.  Boulder is certainly smaller and more quaint, but Denver is more realistic for getting jobs.  At any rate, we played phone tag with our friend Lisa (from our Tibet trip) who lives in Boulder, but she wasn’t in town to meet us for lunch.  So we headed into the university area to have lunch at a place called Illegal Pete’s.

Illegal Pete’s is a noisy little dive with a few tables and a huge counter on which they make made-to-order burritos.  Absolutely delicious, and a great recommendation from Lonely Planet!  After lunch, we walked around the area surrounding Colorado University and then into the campus itself.

The Quad of Colorado University

The campus was beautiful, and very quiet today as summer school is barely in session.  It was a nice place to walk around and to burn off some of the burrito calories.  Afterwards, we drove the last 45 miles to Estes Park, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park

Estes Park is a wonderful, precious little town!  We were completely charmed by the little late, picturesque views, and small hotels and motels perched on the banks of the small river flowing into the lake.  We drove through, checking out the sites and the adorable shops until we came to Garth’s Glassworks.

Garth’s Glassworks

We have a weakness for arts and crafts.  And we have an even bigger weakness for arts and crafts that are demonstrated in front of us.  So as soon as we walked in, we were toast.  A screened area with benches separated the store from the furnace and glassworks area.  A guy named Jerry was working the pontil and the furnaces, and was talking through the process he went through as a glass blower.

I was completely oblivious to the pretty colors and glassworks in the shop, and I sat and watched Jerry for a good hour.

Jerry Creates An Oil Lamp

Who knew?  Who knew that these things required such heat and manipulation and care?  It was amazing to watch.  And – as is the case with any demonstration – we had a much greater appreciation for the work that goes into a glass piece.  So we walked around the store and suddenly found ourselves impressed enough that we wanted to buy everything on display.  But not so impressed that we could bring ourselves to pay $200 for a water pitcher, no matter how gorgeous the pieces were.

After a good two hours in the Glassworks Shop, we drove to the Estes Visitor’s Center.  There, the sweetest old man (an “Estes Ambassador”) gave us a map with all the local campgrounds on it.

National Parks Retreat

We chose the National Parks Retreats campground (www.nationalparkretreats.com) because it was only four miles from Rocky Mountain National Park.  The campgrounds in the park don’t have running water, and we’re quite partial to our showers thankyouverymuch.  So we found a campsite that pleased us and set up the tent, hammock, and campstove.

The Tent and a Lovely View Beyond the Trees

Dinner was pasta, which I’m really getting tired of but we still have it in the trunk and so it must be eaten.  After that, we showered and then settled in to read until it got too cold to be outside anymore.  And I have to say again, thank god we bought those cheapo fleece sleeping bag liners.  They’ve made all the difference in these cold camping trips!

United States: Denver, Colorado

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

As Jon packed up the car this morning, I went to the main office to help myself to their bagel breakfast.  The guy told me that they’d just invested in the toaster and bagel-thing, and they’ve been pleasantly surprised that most people choose the bagels over the doughnuts.  He told me this as I waited for my bagels to toast, and suddenly smelled something burning.  My bagels!!!  So he helped me rescue them, and I thankfully only had one casualty.  The rest of them were saved.

Then we hit the road again, driving to Denver to catch the Colorado Rockies play the LA Dodgers.

Coors Stadium – Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies

We arrived at Coors Stadium (“a Camden Yards knockoff”, says Jon) at 11:30, which was just in time for the end of the Dodgers’ batting practice.

The Dodgers Leave the Field

Immediately after, a bunch of field hands came out and prepped the field for the game.  I was amazed at the number of people that this process required, in addition to the number of gadgets required to do it.  At one point, they had to hose down the dirt and this took one hose and six men.  One to hold the end of the hose, and the other five to hold the hose so it didn’t touch the dirt.

Finally, the game began!  And the stadium got packed – somewhat surprising for a Wednesday afternoon.  But it was a beautiful day and our seats were spectacular!  I think they’re the best seats I’ve ever had, actually.  We were in the shade with a great view.

Game On!

This is the third and final game in the Rockies and the Dodger series here in Denver.  The Dodgers have won both of the last two games, and they started scoring early in this one too.  That was good, because we were in a very small minority.  There were hardly any Dodgers fans here!  It’s not like we felt intimidated, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a stadium where about 99% of the attendees were all rooting for one team.

In the fifth inning, things started to go downhill.  The Rockies scored a home-run with the bases loaded and the Dodgers never seemed to catch up.  So the game ended in the ninth 8-6 for the Rockies.  Jon pointed out that we’ve seen four Dodgers games on this trip, three of which ended in loses.  Looks like we’re bad luck.

We decided to stay the night just outside of Denver before heading to Rocky Mountain National Park tomorrow night.  So we found a little Motel 6 and settled in for the night.