Monday, July 20, 2009

Colorado Vacation

I figure I'd better post about our vacation, before it gets to be six weeks from now and I still haven't written anything. That's how I'm operating lately. The kitchen is mostly cleaned (dishwasher loaded, but no hand-washing or counter-wiping done - okay, so it's more like partly cleaned), and I need an excuse to sit down and have a cold drink (water).
Paul worked 5 12-hour nights in a row week before last. He decided it would be easiest to sleep all day Saturday, as if he were going to work on Saturday night, and then we'd drive all night while Nathan slept.
That was the plan, anyways.
We left about 9:40, right about the time we normally put Nathan to bed. He was happy and chattered for about an hour. Then when he started cranking, we put on his bedtime CD, and he calmed down and drifted off. He finally fell asleep about Topeka, and slept until we got to Salina (about an hour and a half). We stopped for gas even though we didn't really need it, but we didn't want to chance not being able to find a place open further down the road (plus - surprise - I already needed to go to the bathroom). Nathan woke up with the bright lights at the gas station. He stayed awake until almost WaKeeney (2 hours further), just sitting quietly looking out the window. We drove into a thunderstorm, and ended up pulling off at a rest area just before WaKeeny to listen to the weather station. Good thing we did, because it unloaded just as we were getting back in the car. We sat for 10 or 15 minutes until the worst of it had blown past. We probably didn't need to have pulled off, but in a strange area, in the dark, with heavy rain, we thought it was best.
Nathan fell back asleep almost as soon as we got back on the road, and I drifted a few times until we got north of Denver (about 5 hours). We stopped for gas, then went to a nearby McDonalds to stretch and waste some time to make sure Grandpa would be awake by the time we got to Fort Collins. Paul drove the entire way on his own - what a champ! I contributed the less-than-an-hour between our breakfast stop and Fort Collins (so generous of me). We pulled in their driveway right about 7:30 Sunday morning (which was Paul's birthday).
We were kind of lazy on Sunday. Nathan had had enough sleep to not really be tired as soon as we got there, but not enough for it to be a "normal" day. Paul crashed about 9:30, Nathan about 10, and me about 10:30. We got a few hours' sleep.
When we got up, we had lunch, then headed over to the City Park which is just a block away from Grandpa and Grandma's house. We turned Nathan loose on the playset, but it was crowded, so we decided to go for a train ride on the miniature train they have there. Since Nathan screamed when we left it (as serious as he looked on the ride, he was really enjoying it!), we went for a walk around the pond/lake they have there to see the ducks and geese, then we headed home (Grandpa and Grandma's house).
We went to see Paul's grandma in the nursing home (where she has to live now) that afternoon. I was kind of worried, because she didn't look as good as I'd hoped. But it was HOT in there! Her bedroom has a big west window that the sun was shining in. They have an a/c unit in there, but the heavy curtain was across it. I'm surprised the nurses hadn't noticed and done something about that. Paul got the curtains adjusted and it immediately started feeling better in there. However - Nathan, still being tired, got really cranky because of the heat, and we couldn't stay that long.
The next day (Monday) we went to see Grandma just before lunch. It was cooler, and she looked and acted so much better! We ate lunch and got the chance for a nice visit. I brought a band to tie back the curtain from her air conditioner. We visited for a while after lunch in her room. She and Nathan played - as much as he'd let her. (He's not very warm with strangers.) But she'd snatch one of his trains and make him come get it. He laughed at her, and he got her to smile and laugh.
We decided to go for a short drive that afternoon. Since we'd been out here every summer and taken the same drive every time we're here, we didn't bother with a map.
And we got lost.
We'd intended to go through Bellvue to Poudre Canyon. Well, we missed our turn, and came into Bellvue from a different way, then missed another turn and ended up in a canyon, but it wasn't the Poudre. We finally figured out that we drove up Rist Canyon to Stove Prarie, then down to the Poudre. We drove on up Poudre Canyon to Red Feather Lakes. We intended to go see the lakes, then head back down, but we turned right instead of left and ended up in Wyoming. Oh well. We got to see some new territory, and the purpose of the drive was to enjoy the scenery, which we did.
I fixed supper for us, and Grandpa actually ate with us. He's very routine-oriented, and doesn't do well with small children - probably partly due to his lack of hearing. Then add to that, Nathan was cranky again, so Grandpa didn't eat with us again for an evening meal. I wasn't upset, I just hope I made myself clear that he was welcome to partake with us. After supper, we had some "porch time" with Grandpa. He sits on the porch every evening and enjoys the weather and watches traffic and chats with neighbors if they walk by. We love sitting out there with him, visiting, and listening to him tell stories.
The next morning (Tuesday), we went to see Grandma and put on a little "concert" for her and about 10 other residents of the nursing home. As a very last-minute thought (I thought of it the night before we left), I realized that Grandma hasn't been to church in many months; she'd probably enjoy some music. So Paul took his violin, and I took piano music in faith that there'd be a piano in the nursing home. We had absolutely no practice, but I think we did well, and I know the residents enjoyed it. Nathan took up screaming as if a switch was flipped, just as we started playing. I left Paul to do a solo and took Nathan outside. Then when nothing would console him (he just wanted attention), I arranged toys and snacks around him, and we just ignored him and went on. He finally quit about the last 3 songs. I don't think his fussing bothered the "audience" one bit.... They thought he was "so darling".
After another round of naps (for everyone), we took off on another drive. I wanted to walk around Estes Park - even though I'm not a shopper, I enjoy all the little shops they have there. We drove up Thompson Canyon. Nathan was happy and chattering. He wanted a drink of my Dr. Pepper, so I put some in on top of his water in his cup. He chugged it and asked for more. So I gave him some more (about a quarter DP to the rest water, in a 4 oz cup), and he chugged it again. He munched some pretzels and drank some more, then started fussing. I turned around just in time to see the eruption. He threw up all over himself and his car seat. I tried to console him while Paul searched for a place to pull over (not easy in a canyon). Finally we found a place and got Nathan out and stripped him down. Then he was happy as a lark. We're still trying to figure out if he'd just ate too much, if it was Paul's driving (my vote), or the altitude. Paul got the car seat cleaned up, and I got Nathan's shorts cleaned up, but the shirt was a lost cause - it was covered inside and out. We put a diaper down on his seat to keep his bottom dry, and headed on up for Estes.
We stopped at the visitors center to see if they had a WalMart or something similar to buy him a cheap shirt. But (good for them), there's no such store there. (Which I totally understand, as the town's livelihood is built on all the small shops there, and we all know what WalMart does to small town shops.) So we headed downtown with a half naked baby, and found the first store advertising t-shirts. The choices for a boy toddler were pretty slim - hippie rainbow tie-dye (with a big peace sign), or scary pirate tie-dye (with a flaming skull and cross bones). We went for hippie. As we continued to walk, we saw a Western clothing store, and decided to just see what they had in the way of toddler cowboy boots. Miraculously, they had some that fit Nathan's fat little (actually big - we ended up with size 9!) feet. Once he put the boots on, he didn't want to take them off. So now the outfit included hippie tie-dye shirt, jean shorts, and cowboy boots with nylon stockings (I didn't have any socks to try the boots on, since he had been wearing sandals).
We wandered around Estes Park looking in the stores, splashing in the water in a little stream-side park there at the edge of the downtown area (where we learned that Nathan's word for water is "cuppy"), and bought cookies at a cookie shop (yep - that's all they sell!). We decided to eat supper up there after we found a Mexican restaurant with reasonable prices.
We got back to Grandpa's house about 9. Nathan had a hard time winding down to go to sleep that night. He was never fussy, he just kept wandering out of his room to the living room where we were. After about 3 attempts to put him back to bed, we finally let him play for about a half hour. He finally made it to bed about 11.
We got up Wednesday and headed out about 8:30 for Rocky Mountain National Park. The two things on our "to see" list was Bear Lake (it has an easy walking trail around it) and to drive Trail Ridge Road (the highest paved highway in the US - over 12,000 feet at the highest point). We went first to Bear Lake - we had to take a crowded shuttle from the parking area lower down the mountain. Imagine me - six months pregnant - holding Nathan (he wouldn't go to Paul), standing up on a crowded shuttle trying to keep my balance on a curvy mountain road. More than once the thought crossed my mind, "Whatever happened to chivalry?"
We walked around Bear Lake, Nathan pointing out the "cuppy" at every overlook. We found a place where a large boulder makes a wading area, and let Nathan take off his shoes and get his feet wet. And of course had to drag him away kicking and screaming (even though it was so cold he gasped every time he touched the water!). From there we took the shuttle back to our car, and ate our picnic lunch at Hollowell Park. It was a gorgeous scene with blue sky and mountains and wild flowers everywhere. Unfortunately it was a bit windy, so we had to keep catching our lunch as it tried to blow away. We hiked a bit up Mill Creek Trail until I was out of breath (no surprise - but I think I made it a half mile), and then headed back to the car. We got Nathan settled for a nap, then headed up Trail Ridge.
I don't know if it's the pregnancy, or old age getting to me, but I had a really hard time with the heights and sharp road-side drop offs this time. I'd look straight ahead or even have to close my eyes and breathe deeply when we passed certain points. Still we got to see some spectacular scenery, which could be enjoyed safely from the confines of the car. Nathan slept the second half of the way up, and all the way back down.
We pulled off at Hidden Valley on the way back down to stretch and potty. We'll be going there again - I think the only place in the park that has running water and flushing toilets! (There used to be a ski park there, so I'm guessing that's why it has plumbing.) There was an easy trail (or so I thought) that looped around and came back to the parking area. We put Nathan in his backpack carrier and took off. But I was still huffing and puffing before we even made it halfway. Out of shape + pregnant + altitude = Rachel can't breathe. Paul got ahead of me and turned around to wait for me and informed me that I was "definitely waddling." Thanks, dear. (I'm blaming it on the slight uphill grade, plus the over two hours we'd just spent in the car.)
We headed back "home" after that, so we could see Grandma before supper. We visited for just a little bit before we took off again. We took Nathan to City Park to let him run again after all day in the car. He amazed us by tackling the slides at the "big kid" playground (higher slides, ladders instead of wide steps, etc). He's not even 2, he shouldn't be able to do some of the stuff he was doing.
We got some more "porch time" with Grandpa that evening, and watched America's Funniest Videos with him (a mutual favorite) before we headed to bed.
Thursday morning we got up, cleaned house, packed up, and then headed over to see Grandma one last time before getting on the road to go home. We finally got headed out about 10:30 their time. We stopped just east of Denver to potty (and decided to fill with gas since we were stopped), then stopped in Burlington (CO) for lunch and a stroll, then in Hays (KS) for gas. We needed a place to stretch our legs so we went to the WalMart there. We bought Nathan a pack of toys, partly as a reward for doing so awesome in the car, partly because we liked them. We had to stop in Junction City to go to the bathroom, and decided to grab some Taco Bell while we were there. We finally pulled in at home about 10:30.
It was a great trip. We stayed busy, but got to relax, got to see family, but also got lots of alone time. Nathan was a champ in the car, playing and talking (his vocabulary exploded on the trip!), entertaining himself a lot of the time. Really the only times he fussed was right before he fell asleep, and that was only for a few minutes. We decided it's good that our oldest seems to be such a good traveler, so he can (hopefully) be an example for his younger siblings on future vacations.
But we're glad to be back. REALLY glad to be in our own bed (Paul and I had to share a full-size bed out there). Nathan's been exhausted, taking 5-hour naps, and sleeping 12 hours at night since we've been back. Plus I think he's about to hit a growth spurt. The last two days, he'd scream at everything, even when I offered him food, but once I finally got him to take a bite, he'd eat adult-size portions.
Now. We've been home four whole days.... Maybe I should start unpacking.
The photo uploader here was being a pain, so I'll just post the pictures over at my photo slideshow blog.

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