I am not a well-traveled man. Or, maybe I should say that I am not a man driven to travel to other places beyond the place where I lay my head. I have traveled out of the US to three different countries in my lifetime. And two of them are attached to our own border. But the truth be told, I prefer my little spot of ground right here in Harris County, GA.
My sister, on the other hand, is a world traveler. She has been to more places on native and foreign soils that you can shake a stick at. Once upon a time she invited my Mom and Dad to take a trip to Japan with her. She wanted to see Tokyo. Dad’s reply. “I’ve seen a city before. Don’t think I really need to see another one.”
I remember digging through his stuff after he passed and coming across a program from a foundry symposium in New York City. A conference with workshops on topics such as, “Latest Techniques in Molding Machines”, or “New Additives for more Fluid and Stronger Pours”. I can only assume that he attended the conference, and it makes me chuckle a bit to imagine my Dad in New York City. I’m guessing that trip was behind his response to making the trip to Tokyo.
I find myself torn considering the prospect that I am becoming like my Dad. I am both proud and conflicted to emulate the man that raised me. My wife has been saying for years that I am like him in more ways than I am willing to admit.
“Hey, honey. The broom handle is broken. I’m going down in the shop to see if I can fix it.”
“Sure, John. Go right ahead.” She calls me by my Dad’s name. And what she is saying is that a new broom at the Dollar Store is probably only a few bucks. Why in the world would you fix the broom that we’ve had for 5 years when the bristles are about half worn out anyway? Just go and buy a new broom. John would not do that.
The last time we really traveled anywhere was three years ago. Beth and I ventured out to Colorado. We went with our friends from here who are from there, and who were excited to show us their home state. It was the first time I had ever taken two consecutive weeks off work for a trip like this. It felt extravagant. My Dad was whispering to me from the other side. “Who’s going to take care of the farm?”
“Come on John”, my wife said. “Get your bag. I’m headed to the airport with or without you.”
When we landed in Denver and I saw snow covered mountain tops in the distant west, I knew this was going to be one heck of a trip. We drove up to Estes Park that same evening. The air was cool. The scenery was overwhelming. The motel was nestled against a backdrop that would take your breath away. Pine Mountain back home felt tiny and like it was almost silly to call it a mountain.
The plan was to take in as much of Colorado as we possibly could in about 8 days. From Rocky Mountain National Park in the north to Mesa Verde in the southwest corner, and everything in between. The last 6 days, Beth and I would be on our own in an Air B&B near the foot of Pikes Peak.
Our hostess and lead travel advisor is a very meticulous person. Prior to leaving home, we sat together around their kitchen table going over potential destinations and possible routes that would give us a chance to see the most that makes Colorado the best placed on earth this side of God’s country. The schedule was not designed to make things rigged, mind you. The idea was simply to have a plan so that we could maximize our time.
Day 1. The Short Day. Each day on the itinerary was categorized as long, medium, or short. In part, this was a reference to how much driving we would be doing between destinations. It had very little to do with how much time we would spend gawking at stuff like Moose.
So, on the short day, I was up walking to the sunrise with a fleece on against the chill in the air. I kept thinking, “This is August.” We spent the day hiking and taking a bazillion pictures. Our friends knew the names of almost every mountain peak on the horizon. Scratched out of the earth and cut deep by glacier movements, these mountains stood at over 12,000 feet in elevation. Barren rock above the tree line that still held snow in the crevices. It was majestic to say the least.
By 5:30 we were still hunting Moose when we finally got on the road south. We ate something with Green Chili on it in some restaurant by some lake around 8:30 that evening. And by 11:30 we rolled into Breckenridge and climbed six flights of stairs to our condo, managed to lock ourselves out before we got the suitcases inside, and waited about an hour for someone to let us in.
I told our friends, “If this was the short day, I can’t wait to see the long one.”
We were all dead tired, but felt like a little coffee and conversation before turning in. We had stopped at a store a while back to buy a few things, coffee being one of them. The only thing available was the little Keurig cups. Take note that the store was at about 5,000 ft elevation.
Once we got bags put away, we drug ourselves to the kitchen to make coffee only to discover that all we had was a conventional coffee maker. No problem. We’ll open the Keurig cups and pour them into a filter.
Our room was at around 10,000 ft. elevation. Now, when you buy little coffee cups at one elevation and within the hour take them to a significantly higher elevation, they swell up. And since there is no edge to the top for peeling off the foil, the only way to open one up was to poke it with a fork. The result was a coffee grounds explosion.
This was the standard for the rest of the trip, and it was terrific. We saw the National Mining Museum, had a picnic by the gorgeous Twin Lakes. We got sleet one day watching Elk. I wore John Wayne’s hat from True Grit at the Outlaw Steakhouse in Ouray. We climbed through the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, and we missed the train that wasn’t at Cimarron. We stayed in an 1800s hotel in Durango, and we climbed the Sand Dunes on the leeward side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. And that was in just the first 6 days.
The trip to Colorado was probably the best trip we have ever taken. While we were on our own in Colorado Springs the second week, the total eclipse passed overhead. We took in the Air Force Academy and everything else within a short driving distance. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
But the truth is, by the time we got to the end, my own bed was calling my name. In that moment, I thought that I had probably done enough traveling to last me for the rest of my life. Just get me home and I’ll be fine.
I like the small life. Work, home, church, friends. Familiar folks and conversations out front of the post office. Stopping in the middle of a small county road to talk through the truck window to a neighbor. Catching up on what his kids are doing these days. Knowing my buddy and his wife have gotten the last one off to college and moved into the dorm. This is the stuff of life. It may not be the Rocky Mountains, but it’s rich enough for me.
Except after this pandemic settles down, I just might get an itch to take another trip. Not sure where to, but I can tell you it won’t be New York City. I’ve seen a city before.
Good night John.