Ah, the bliss of a family vacation. Seven heavenly days of togetherness in (preferably) a different climate.
This time we cashed in on an extreme airfare sale (four round trips for under $200 total!!?) and headed to my favorite of all favorite spots: Colorado. We rented a car we fondly called “Thunder Shark” thanks to it’s grey paint and tiny little shark fin, and we headed towards the Rockies.
We divided our days between city life and mountain adventures, between visiting friends and family members and between old favorite haunts and new experiences.
Aaaaaaaaand this is the part where I go into too much detail. Not kidding. If you’d like, just skip to the little Instagram slideshow. I won’t mind. I’ll even put the slideshow next to save you time.
We spent the first day in Denver, enjoying a new-to-us part of the city and ending the day with a swim in the hotel pool. (Don’t ask me why the kids were so excited about this. We’re from Phoenix, people. We swim 8 months of the year.)
The next day we picked up some snow gear at REI (and the kids spent way too much time on their indoor playground!) and then headed up to Dillon with friends to their cabin in the mountains. We also drove through a fabulous snow storm to get there. I say fabulous because, well, we survived. We also survived Daniel’s bathroom emergency and were 80% successful at having him pee into a water bottle. You do the math.
The next two days were bliss – Dillon was a snow covered paradise. We sledded. We snow balled. We drank hot cocoa. We took way too long to get our snow gear on and off. We cooked for each other and just enjoyed the company of friends we don’t see often enough. Also: Fernando decided that we could indeed live in Colorado because the grocery store in Dillon carried jars of cactus meat. It was a revolutionary moment in his life. I hiked for what felt like hours around the city, halfway expecting to wake up from a dream. It was nothing short of a wintery wonderland.
On the way down the mountain a few days later, we passed over the continental divide and were literally speechless over the views. Solid white peaks and bright sunshine made it feel ethereal. I declared to Fernando, “It’s like we’re 50 feet from heaven!” And, terrified over the extreme lack of guard rails on the switchbacks, Fernando retorted, “We almost are, babe!”
That night we made it to Fort Collins in time for a Superbowl party with wonderful friends from grad school. It’s fun to get together with friends you have known for so long, but now everyone is at a different stage in life – kids! Daniel and Violet did so well, meeting and playing with new kids at every step of the way. (My favorite moment of the night was when I asked a ten-year-old if Daniel was being bossy with all the other kids in the other room and she replied, “No, not at all! I mean, we do all have to do what he says, but that’s because he’s the captain!” Daniel is the pied piper of children in Colorado too, it seems.)
We headed to another friend’s house the next morning for breakfast and had an absolute blast. It’s just like uncovering a hidden jewel when your family connects so well with another – in conversation, play style and general comfort level. Truly, it was a fabulous morning.
Afterwards, we galavanted around Old Town Fort Collins for a bit (fair trade store! outdoor piano! terribly port-a-potties! giant bear and fish statues! hot chocolate from Ben and Jerry’s!) and then headed down the 287 to Boulder. Pearl Street was just as fun as I remembered, and we spent a lazy afternoon perusing the Boulder Army Store, Rocket Fizz, and other local treasures. The street musicians were out in full force and Violet had a lot of fun dancing to their music.
Visiting my uncle and aunt is always a highlight of my trips to Colorado. They are some of my favorite people in the world, and are amazing hosts. Daniel and Violet fell in love with them immediately (and with their dog and new kitten) and we settled into a very happy last few days of vacation. Daniel found a “real live scientist” in my uncle and peppered him with questions for nearly the entire three days: “Can you teach me everything you know about the world?” Together they looked through Daniel’s encyclopedia and my uncle’s old science text books, discussing everything from the solar system to life in the deep sea. Violet’s thrill over getting to sleep on Beauty and the Beast sheets was almost alarming – she was a very happy camper on that trundle bed.
Day two in Boulder featured a few highlights, the first of which was snow shoeing. It was Fernando’s first time, and watching him discover the thrill and beauty that snow shoeing allows was as much fun as the actual hike. A lost rental car key nearly stopped the day in it’s tracks (a very playful kitten had found a new toy!) but we persevered. The kids spent the day at my aunt’s preschool and enjoyed the activities and new friends they encountered. The evening brought two more wonderful people our way – my cousin and her husband. I only wish we lived closer to them!
On our final day of vacation, we said goodbye to our family and drove into Denver for a morning at the Children’s Museum (with a friend from Arizona who had, in her infinite wisdom, relocated to Colorado). A quick stop for lunch, then a visit to REI (and a quick hello with a friend from college in TN!), then a quick swing by another friend’s house, followed by a stop at our first hotel where I had left a book, then a trip to the Target to return a winter coat I shouldn’t have purchased… we were ready to head home. The only problem? Mostly due to a delay at the rental car place, we completely missed our flight. First time ever.
Thankfully, we caught one a few hours later to a nearby airport and a wonderful (wonderful!) friend picked us up and drove us to the correct airport, where our van was waiting. We stumbled into our house an exhausted and road weary mess. I think God knew we needed that last mishap to really appreciate our return to Arizona… it was a little too easy to daydream about life in Colorado after seven wonderful days.
Family vacation WIN.