Vacation Chronicles

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I highly recommend vacations. They are cathartic, rejuvenating and fun. My dear friend of 25 years and I went to a dude ranch in Colorado and we journaled our adventures. Feel free to read... or just browse ;-)

Vacation Day 1 – Road Trip

Friday at 11 I began my road trip to Chicago.  Nice day, uneventful.  Drove over the Chicago Skyway for the first time.  The trip went very fast until I reached the northwestern part of Chicago on I-90.  Traffic stopped dead at about Kimball and didn’t loosen up until I was past O’Hare.  I love driving across country by myself listening to country and western music (“Don’t Blink”) is my current favorite.  Got to Lauri’s about 7:30 where Joe had snacks ready.  Their house is lovely with a huge atrium in the middle, big rooms on 5 acres out in Barrington Hills, a very, very nice suburb of Chicago.  The neighborhood has polo fields.  Need I say more?  We had a fun evening of talking about our jobs and down logistics for the morning. 

Vacation Day 2 – We’re off

We left the house about ten in the morning very well provisioned for our trip.  After having a lovely lunch at the Greek Isles restaurant, Joe dropped us at the train station.  We hoped it wasn’t an indicator of things to come when a woman started screaming at us for scratching her van with our Dodge Durango doors (which we didn’t do, by the way.) I decided that I’d bet money on Joe and Greg if they were in a shouting match. We didn’t see that woman again; hopefully she got on a different train.  We were led to our sleeper car.  If you do train travel, getting a sleeper is definitely the way to go.  We sat and polished off a bottle of wine while playing gin rummy and watching the towns of Illinois and Iowa go by. As we got closer to the Mississippi, we could see the devastation that the flooded waters brought to this area.  Houses, garages, crops, all under water.  We had dinner of trout and Cornish hens in the middle of Iowa and sat with a very nice couple from New Jersey who were taking the train from New York to San Francisco.  We modified our gin rummy rules and continued to play through the evening.  About 10pm we got ready for bed, called the porter to turn down our beds, and attempted to sleep.  Despite this being a relatively luxurious way to travel, the beds were really hard and the horn was constant through the night.  I think I rested more than slept and it was a relief to see the sun come up. 

Vacation Day 3 – Granby

We awoke about 6 Mountain Time to the sun coming up on the prairies of Nebraska.  Out the window of the train, we saw cattle and more cattle, and big circular fields of corn.   The irrigation systems rotate around in the circle.  We passed places such as the Yuma Feed Lot.  Cow (probably not the right term) after cow were lying in the mud, waiting to be someone’s dinner.  I’ll have to Google it when I get back.  Our big stop of the morning was in Denver – we were about 1.5 hours behind schedule due to track repairs.  Out of Denver, we snaked through the mountains, ultimately going through 24 tunnels on our way to Granby. We saw mountain climbers repelling down the side of the cliff in the mountains between Denver and Winter Park.  When we got to Granby, Sue Suskin was there from the Bar Lazy J to greet us (along with her 5 year old granddaughter who is staying with her for a month.)  Sue and her husband Dale came up here from Miami several years ago after vacationing several times at the ranch.  They decided they liked it so much that they wanted to work here.

A lovely lunch was waiting for us consisting of bacon and salmon quesadillas and fruit.  It was marvelous and way too filling – Lauri and I each only ate half. We spent the afternoon unpacking, and lounging and reading in the chairs overlooking the Colorado River.  Lauri doesn’t get cell phone connectivity here but I do (yeah Verizon) so we walked up the hill to the tiny (50 people?) town of Parshall.  At the top of the hill, T Mobile would work.  We met Miss Dorothy, owner of the store and the liquor store.  She’s 84 years old and has owned the store for 28 years.  She sits and watches TV and helps the occasional person that wanders by.  Since it’s only 1000 feet or so off US40, I imagine she gets a fair number of wanderers.

Dinner was tremendous.  We sat with a couple, Angela and Martin, from England, a man named Mike from near White Plains, NY and “Moose” one of the wranglers.  The discussion devolved into politics which I kept out of because this is my vacation and I don’t want to get into political arguments.  If Lauri and I can be best friends and be on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, why can’t everyone else?  After which (that was again wonderful -- Eddy the chef is our favorite guy), we met our horses.  Lauri’s horse is Gillie and mine is Cow Girl.  I saw the helper steps and was relieved.  Tomorrow is our first horse ride!

Vacation Day 4 – July 28, 2008 We become friends with our horses

Well I lost day 4 so I’ll try and reconstruct.  We had a great day yesterday.  We spent the morning in orientation and I got to know Cowgirl.  After orientation, we had lunch and then we had trotting class.  It was a really good class where we learned how to trot and give the horse the commands they expect.  We would have taken a ride after class but it started to pour.  Lauri and I read our books on the porch and watched the rain.  Then we each took showers before the cocktail party.  It was fun talking with the owners, Jerry and Cheri.  After cocktails, we had swordfish or steak (I had fish, Lauri had steak) and then we took a walk up to Parshall.  I called Sarah and heard about her trip to Florida and Lauri called Joe.  We headed to bed about 9:30 because we were pooped.


Vacation Day 5 – July 29, 2008 PAIN

I got up really early today – wanted to watch the sun come up but it was overcast.  We had a great breakfast and then went out riding with Cheri to finish up our lesson from yesterday.  It was a lovely ride. We learned that the yellow flowers are yarrow and the blue are lupine.  Angela’s horse wanted to eat all the time so in the afternoon, it had a muzzle on.  After a two hour ride, we came back and had bbq beef for lunch.  After lunch, we had a loping lesson.  I had a hard time with that (Lauri is a natural athlete and did well.  My back started to spasm, so I decided enough was enough, got down, and went and sat in the hot tub and took a couple of pain killers.  It felt better at dinner (elk bucco, like osso bucco) and everyone wanted to hear about my back.  It seems that there are two anesthesiologists, two sports medicine physicians, an ophthalmologist, an optician, a nephrologist, and a cardiologist here this week.  So if my kidneys shut down and I have a heart attack, we’re in great shape.  After dinner, we each bought a piece of jewelry, and then came back to the room because we’re pooped.  Tomorrow is an all day ride.

Vacation Day 6 – July 30, 2008 WE ARE

The day started for me about 5am; for Lauri, a bit later.  I walked up to the lodge, got a cup of coffee, and watched the sun get higher in the sky as I knit.  Lauri, Angela and Martin and Mike joined me about 7:30 as today was our all day ride.  Everyone including children (about 40 people) headed out for a breakfast ride.  We went about three miles and stopped for breakfast.  We were all hungry and the crew met us with pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and sausage.  And, very importantly, a portapotty.  Most everyone took a ride back, but Lauri, Angela, Martin and I went with Cheri, one of the owners, on an all day 14 mile ride.  We went up into the Rockies on a trail that afforded us beautiful views of the mountains and of foliage.  We saw groves of aspen and wildflowers such as Giant Angelica, Fireweed, Rosy Pussytoes, and Aster.  We saw a lot more, but some of their names escape me now.  We stopped about 2pm and had a bite to eat.  Eddy, the chef, sent us with sandwiches, cheetos (or fritos), cookies, and Gatorade.   I’ve never had Gatorade and I was thrilled to have it today.  I was really afraid that I couldn’t mount the horse, but each time we stopped, we found logs that gave me just enough of a boost.  After lunch, we road about what seemed like another 2.5 hours (Cheri kept saying, it’s just another 10 minutes!)  I rode in back of Cherie because my horse seemed to like that position best and I kept asking her question after question.  Thankfully, she used to teach high school PE and sex education so she’s used to a lot of questions.  Finally, at the end, Scott met us with the pickup, the horse trailer, and a round of beers.  We drove back to the ranch and all of us were pooped.  After showers and phone calls, we had a wonderful hamburger bbq with cole slaw that was nice and spicy, and blueberry cobbler. Unfortunately we dawdled and the ice cream ran out.  All of us were less talkative tonight.  Oh, I forgot to mention the pain killers and gin….definitely glad we brought both of those.  Tomorrow we’re supposed to have another all day ride.  I’ll see how my back is doing.

Finally, Beth, the children’s program counselor graduated from Penn State in 2003.  Since she had on her Penn State t-shirt tonight and I had on my Penn State sweatshirt, I yelled out, “We are” and she knew exactly what to do.

Vacation Day 7 July 31 2008 – And then there were cows

My back felt better today.  Perhaps it was because I dreamt about riding my horse.  We had a great breakfast of blueberry pancakes, egg, and bacon and then headed out on another all day ride.  It was so different than yesterday.  For one thing, there were eight of us.  Joining Martin, Angela, Lauri and me were Angie, Steve, Telis and Leann.  Angie and Steve live on a farm south of Indianapolis. Leann, Angie’s sister, and Telis live in Palm Springs, CA. We rode up through the mountains and it was really difficult to find the trail because so much logging had been done and new roads from the tractors were there and it looked different to Jerry than it usually does.  We ran into a rancher who had about 400 head of cattle up on the mountain.  It’s federal land but ranchers can get permits to graze their cows, recreational ranch owners get permits to ride horses through the lands, and logging companies get permits to log. We road for awhile and ran into about 150 head of cattle that were grazing.  King and Queen, the dogs, decided to bark and chase the cows.  Then the cows started chasing the dogs!  It was pretty amusing once we knew we could get through the cows.  We had lunch on the side of a hill overlooking beautiful views of Ute Mountain.  We were actually in the Arapaho National Forest and in the Williams Fort section of the Rockies.  After lunch, we turned around and attempted to find our way back.  It really does take a skilled guide to figure out where we were and where we’d been.  On the way back, Angela’s horse decided to jump over the mud puddle.  She did a great job hanging on.  We got back about 4:30, just in time for a nice shower and a beverage before an Italian dinner of eggplant parmesan or chicken parmesan.  After dinner, I decided to do laundry. And now the sun is setting and it’s almost 9pm so time for bed.  We’re having a wonderful time.  I can’t believe how much more comfortable I feel with Cowgirl, my horse.  Another week here and I’d feel great.

Vacation Day 8 – August 1, 2008 Work day

Today I took the day off and worked!  I worked on the encyclopedia article that needs to be finished and out of my face.  However, I did take a rest in the Jacuzzi.  Lauri went on a moderate ride and an adventure ride, but her horse came up lame on the adventure ride so she came back.  After a nice dinner of quail and tenderloin, we watched the staff show.  It featured the BossMan reading a poem, the BossLady leading the human orchestra, Cinderella a la Steven Wright, a doctor skit, a Keys to the Universe rendition, and a funny or really not so funny skit with Moose impersonating a Mexican named Tabasco (the name of Mike’s horse.)  Mike got a bit of ribbing and he didn’t like it.  Then the kids all got awards of some sort and it was really cute.  We said a fond farewell to our British friends Martin and Angela, and psyched ourselves up for the cattle drive.

Vacation Day 9 August 2, 2008  – The Cattle Drive

Today we went out to a range and for $140.00, we pushed, herded and had our horses bite cows.  It was an exhausting day riding out to where the farthest cows were located and then driving them all back towards the ranch.  It was amazing to me that calves can nurse while both they and their mothers walk.  It was awesome….cows, calves, and three very large bulls.  I learned today that girl cows have horns too – I never knew that.  I’m so glad we did it but boy, am I pooped and sore.  It was the hottest and the dirtiest we’ve gotten since we’ve been here.  However, I was able to trot with no problem.  However, the transition from trotting to loping kills my back.  I took several Advil today and I imagine it would hurt even more without them.

We got back, showered for what seemed like hours to get all the dirt off.  Then I did all my laundry and we had an amazing dinner of pork ribs.  Tonight Lauri and I are going to the local bar to check it out.  Then tomorrow, we head back to Chicago after one very special week.  I can definitely cross something off my Bucket List.

Vacation Day 10 – August 3, 2008 – Chicago Bound

Woke up this morning and said goodbye to a lot of the folks here;  Sisi, the very precocious 12 year old, Karen, the ophthalmologist, Leeann, Angie, and Telis, and the grandparents from Virginia whose son-in-law is named Lincoln German.  This has been a wonderful trip to the Bar Lazy J.  Nice people, good food, beautiful scenery and it’s been great having this time with Lauri.  Close family and friends are what makes a wonderful life and I’m very blessed and thankful for my family and my friends.  I’m also thankful to live in such a magnificent country.  We saw views on this trip that I’ve never seen before. I’ll remember the sound of the Colorado River forever, and the sound of the train going up the hill and into the tunnel. Vacations are important, and I did exactly what I wanted on mine.  I’m thankful that I was able to do it, both physically and financially. And now, it’s on to leg 2 – conference in Chicago, then down to Champaign, then off to Dwight.

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Michael said:

Excellent summation of the week, although I really wasn't that annoyed by the Tbasco skit.

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