Colorado or Bust – Day 4

COLORADO OR BUST – Day 4

Tuesday morning began bright and early.  VERY early.   I’m not sure if it’s Colorado’s altitude or geographic location, but the sun comes up awfully early for this Momma.    Our day started around six a.m., when the sun began streaming through our un-curtained windows, but I didn’t mind.  Because on Tuesday we were going to none other than…..

THE NORTH POLE!

That’s right.  Santa lives in Colorado.  It’s a little known fact.

Actually, the North Pole is the world’s greatest amusement park.  I’ve never been to Disney, but frankly, the bar has been set pretty high.   A Christmas themed amusement park, in Christmasy Colorado, is just about Heaven for me.  For those that don’t know, I kind of have a thing for Christmas.  I don’t just love Christmas, I LOVE Christmas.   Back in the days when Internet users had handles, mine was Mistletoe.  I start hoarding stocking stuffers around August.    My favorite movie is “A Christmas Story”.  And last year my husband and I finally realized a lifelong dream when we were awarded Best Holiday Decorations for the neighborhood.

So you could say that the North Pole was right up my alley.

First of all, everyone is dressed like elves.  And not like surly teenager-who-makes-minimum-wage elves, like friendly, helpful elves.  And then there’s Santa, who has got to be the greatest incarnation of a Claus on the planet.  Twinkly blue eyes, ample lap, real whiskers, this guy had it all.  Not to mention that when the girls told him their names, he said, “Oh that’s right, I just didn’t recognize you because you’ve grown so much since last year!”  And he didn’t so much as flinch when A screamed bloody murder as soon as she walked into his little house.  Instead, he waved from afar and assured the big girls that Santa still loves kids that cry.

The REAL S.C.

And the rides.  Oh, the rides!  They were perfect for the under 12 crowd, which means that the big girls could ride just about everything – twice.  Santa’s Parachute, Tilt ‘o Whirl, Ferris Wheel,  rocket ships, cars, planes, boats, and the coup de grace, the Swirly Candy Cane Slide.   A s’mores pit, a North “Pole” (a giant pole made out of ice), face painting, separate boys’ and girls’ gift shops – it was perfection.  Sheer, utter perfection.   We rode the train around the park, then took the sky ride OVER the park (which I hated, as heights are not really my “thing”).  We ate cotton candy and listened to the Christmas music blaring over the loud speakers.   We mailed letters from the North Pole post office, which will be postmarked “North Pole”.  We watched the Elmer the Elf show.  We rode roller coasters – twice.

Santa’s Parachute

 

Swirly Candy Cane Slide

North Pole’s Post Office

Candy Cane Coaster

View from the (scary!) Sky Ride

And did I mention that the temperature didn’t rise over 75 degrees?  That’s 75 degrees Farenheit for you foreigners. 🙂

We had so much fun that we blew off our plans to visit the Garden of the Gods and went back to the North Pole a second time.  My face literally hurt from smiling.  Aside from the births of my children/wedding/obvious life moments, it was probably the best day of my life.

No joke.

Best. Day. Ever.

Don’t worry, though, the trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses from that point on.  If it was, what would be the point of blogging about it?  Stay tuned for Day 5, where I was prepared to perform an at-home tubal ligation after three hours in a train with my small children!

 

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Colorado or Bust: Day 3

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

COLORADO OR BUST: Day 3

Baby it’s COLD OUTSIDE!  We woke at the crack of dawn on day 3, courtesy of Mountain Time and the lack of curtains to block out the ridiculously bright sunlight.  We were shivering in our un-air conditioned, un-heated cabin, so we did what we had to do.  We lit a fire.

A fire in July!

And it was glorious.

Warming my feet in front of the fire, coffee in hand, with the woody scent of evergreens  (I think that they were actually  Blue Spruce) filling the air,  I found myself singing, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”.   And it was.  It was our own little Christmas in July.  I heated some homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven (that the owner of the cabin made for us), which added to the scene.  Everything was perfect.

Until I went outside.

My husband’s gashed finger needed some fresh bandaging, so I went out to the car to get the first aid kit.   It was parked under a little car port, with a trash can tucked away into the corner.  The hubby had meticulously unloaded the car the evening before, and cleaned out all of the road trash we’d accumulated over sixteen hours.  Well, I guess McDonald’s coffee and peanut butter and jelly crust smells mighty enticing, because some sort of varmint had gotten into the trash can, spilling its contents across the yard.   I went back inside to tell the family that we’d been racooned a la “The Great Outdoors” (a movie that the big girls love), so they all rushed outside to help assess the damage.

And that’s when we noticed something.

The driver’s side of my car door was covered in muddy prints.  Paw prints.  And the window,  which had been left cracked to air out the road stank, was covered in some sort of snotty residue.   One of the prints was perfectly intact, and that’s when we realized something.  It wasn’t a raccoon.

It was a bear.

Bear Print!

Bear Snot!

Someone later told us that the recent Waldo Canyon wildfires had driven a lot of bears into more populated areas, so there were lots of bear warnings out.  Unfortunately, we did not receive any bear warnings, other than, you know, the actual bear.

We cleaned up the mess and brought the trash cans inside for the rest of the trip.  I personally wanted to leave them out so we could get a bear sighting on camera, but the rest of the family outvoted me on that one.

After the drama of the morning, the rest of the day was comparatively uneventful.   We went into Manitou Springs to shop and play at the Penny Arcades (though I didn’t actually see anything that only cost a penny; it was about 49 more cents than they advertised, the jerks).    We all took a drink from the famous springs, touted for their health benefits (drink = took a lick and spit it out because it was revolting).    For lunch we went to the Crystal Park Cantina, which supposedly had amazing Mexican food.  Now, you all know that I am a Texan, and therefore have very specific ideas about how Mexican food should taste.   When we lived in Georgia I was in a constant state of misery, because frankly, their Mexican food is awful.   So to say that I was skeptical about Colorado’s Mexican food would be putting it mildly.

But it was FANTASTIC.  As much as I hate to say this, it was probably the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.

The world’s best Mexican food

Yet another point in favor of Colorado!

The only downfall of lunch was my youngest child, who was teething and, I think, having some altitude adjustment issues.   In the history of three children I have NEVER had to take a child out of a restaurant for misbehavior.

We took A out three separate times.

She was screaming, writhing, throwing food, generally being miserable and ensuring the misery of everyone else in that restaurant.   My husband had to restrain me from making a vasectomy appointment right then and there.

After lunch we went back to the cabin to rest, relax, and enjoy being outside without melting.  We concluded the day with an amazing, awe-inspiring DOUBLE RAINBOW over the mountains.  I have never seen one so bright and colorful. Seriously, I was awe-struck and speechless (a rarity for me).  We actually saw the end of the rainbow, something that I’ve never seen before (no Leprechauns though, dang it).   It’s moments like those that make me stand still and KNOW that God is watching over me.

Double rainbow over the mountains

Stay tuned for Day 4, where we tackle the North Pole, my fear of heights, and my hubby’s ability to hold down food!

Colorado or Bust: Day 2

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

Day 2 dawned bright and sunny.  We woke up early in our hotel in Amarillo, ready to burn the trail to Colorado.  Theoretically, we should make it there in less than six hours.

Theoretically.

I insisted on stopping by Cadillac Ranch on our way out, thinking that it would be a fun site for the girls.  Turns out, it’s not.  We took a picture for posterity, and moved on.

Cadillac Ranch = lame

The drive was actually rather scenic and uneventful….until we hit New Mexico.  And then, once more, we became well aquainted with bodily fluids.

Hello, New Mexico!

Our first incident was when we stopped at a rest stop to use the bathrooms.   My husband went in first, so that he could watch the little one while I took the big girls to the potty.  He quickly came back out with a horrified look on his face: the men’s bathroom had about an inch of standing poo water on the floor.   I asked a woman coming out of the bathroom if she knew if the women’s restroom was clean.  She said that it wasn’t, but that it was the only bathroom for a good 40 miles.  Awesome. We had no choice but to persevere.

The one toilet in the women’s bathroom that wasn’t clogged with feces was cracked and filthy.  I papered it to the my best ability and prayed for the day when my girls learn how to hover.  I constantly barked at them not to touch anything but themselves or me, but little hands have a way of touching the exact thing that you don’t want them to touch.  You know, like cracked and dirty rest stop toilets.

Twenty minutes later, we were back on the road.  And, contrary to the oh so helpful woman’s potty location services, we found a nice, clean service station about five minutes away from the rest stop.  Figures.

We pressed onward and upward, exclaiming gleefully over every little “mountain” that came into view.

New Mexico Mountains!

It was surprisingly fun, until…..

POO SPLOSION!!!

I turned around in my seat to answer a question from one of the girls when I noticed that A was covered in chocolate.  She had some on her hand and was licking it off her fingers, smearing her face in the process.  How funny, I thought.

Then I realized something.

We hadn’t given her any chocolate.

It wasn’t chocolate at all.

It was poop.

I screamed in horror and yelled for my husband to pull over.  Only two days into the trip, and already we were quite familiar with roadside poop clean ups.  We went through yet another box of wipes getting her cleaned from head to toe and tried not to vomit in the process.   Once we were back on the road, I spent a good ten minutes trying to answer L’s questions about why somebody would eat their own poop.  I still don’t have a good answer.

Our venture into New Mexico was stinky but short, and then we found ourselves in…..COLORADO! It was pouring down rain and we were going around narrow mountain passes, but who cares!  It was 70 degrees outside!  In July!

Hello, Colorado!

We stopped in Trinidad for lunch, and found a cute little café downtown.  Where we ate OUTSIDE.  In JULY.  I cannot stress how exciting this is for a Texan coming from 106 degree heat.  I had my first taste of green chili, which apparently is a big deal in Colorado, and oh.  My.  Gosh.  It is freaking amazing.  I’m going to learn how to make it and put it in everything, including my coffee.

Two hours later we pulled into Colorado Springs, which is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  It’s surrounded on all sides by mountains – huge, gorgeous, green mountains.   We headed west to Waldo Canyon, home of our cozy little cabin at the base of Pike’s Peak.  Isn’t it sweet?

Home sweet cabin

And check out this view!

Love this view!

But then, disaster struck.

We were all unpacked, A was in bed, and my homemade chili was simmering on the stove.  The casement windows were thrown open to let in the cool mountain breezes, including the top of the Dutch door.  Everything was perfect. That is, everything was perfect except for one thing:  the shoes.  There were tiny flip flops scattered about the living room, so I thought that I would take a few minutes to tidy up.  Little did I know just how fateful that decision was…

I bent over to retrieve a piece of miniature footwear when I was struck by a strange sense of foreboding.  A dark presence loomed above me.  I straightened my spine, and it struck without mercy.

THE DUTCH DOOR!

It rammed it’s sharp corner into the crown of my scalp, and I doubled over like the little girl I am.  I sat in the nearest chair and wrapped my arms around my head, waiting for the throbbing to cease and my vision to right itself.  I honestly wasn’t that concerned, because to be frank, I hit my head a lot.  I know, it explains a lot.  But when I removed my arms from my head, I noticed an odd, liquid sensation down the back of my neck.

My husband was looking at me in horror.  I brought my arms in front of my face, and they were covered in blood.  It was running in rivulets through my hair, across my forehead, down the back of my neck.  He ran for towels while I looked on in horror, visions of hospital visits and CT scans racing through my bloodied brain.   Two soaked towels and ten minutes later, the bleeding finally stopped.  My husband played the good doctor and looked through my matted, sticky hair, until he found a little cut in my scalp.   We assessed the damage and called my mom, the Wise Woman of all things health related, and decided that a concussion was unlikely; I probably cut my head more than hit it.  Still, fatalist that I am, I spent the rest of the night waiting for fluid to leak out of my ears or for one of my pupils to dilate (both signs of concussion according to Web MD).

While I convalesced in a rocking chair, my husband tended the two big girls and saw to dinner.  He was in the middle of chopping a jalapeno when I saw him race past me into the bathroom.  He emerged holding yet another bloody towel – this time, from a gash in his finger.

And thus we made a blood sacrifice to ensure nothing but good times from then on out.

Stay tuned for Day 3 to find out if it worked!

 

Colorado or Bust! Day 1

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

 

COLORADO OR BUST: DAY 1

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to start our trip out west in search of higher altitudes and cooler temperatures.   Goal for the day?  Make it to Amarillo, a mere ten hours away.

Ten hours.

In the car.

With three kids.

Oy vey.

Still, we were optimistic.  I had spent weeks preparing “busy bags” for the girls.  I’d trolled Pinterest with pernicious passion searching for the right combination of activities guaranteed to buy us thirty-two hours of peaceful driving.  I’d even bought them “surprises” to open once we were on the road (I call them surprises, but we all know that they were bribes for good behavior).  I loaded our DVD case chock-full of animated delights, and packed a large reusable grocery bag to the brim with snacks.  We were prepared for every eventuality.

Well, almost.

I wasn’t really prepared for how quickly the girls would buzz through each activity….and how quickly they would toss said activity to the floor of the car once they were finished with it.   Or that A would throw EVERYTHING that I handed her, be it books, toys, or food.   And that she would refuse to nap in the car. And that the only DVD she had the slightest interest in watching was “Backyardigans”, resulting in us watching the same four episodes for ten hours straight (I should mention that she also liked “Maisy”,  but after thirty minutes of listening to random trumpeting from Charlie, the special needs alligator, we had to turn it off).

Oh, and the poop.  In retrospect, we really weren’t as prepared for the amount of poo-splosions that occurred as we should have been.   I mean, I expected a few from A, if not quite the volume that actually occurred.  And believe me, there was volume.  Then we hit the long stretch of road between Childress, TX and Amarillo.

Middle of Nowhereville

Also known as No-Toilet Land.

My poor, sweet oldest.  The combination of travel and juice boxes did not set well with her tummy, and she had to go.  Like, RIGHT NOW.  We sped down the highway  as fast as we could, but there was literally nothing.  She held it as long as she could.  Then, about five minutes from Amarillo, it happened.

Poo-Splosion.

She was horrified.  This child has been potty trained since she was two, and has had maybe two accidents in her entire life.  We pulled to the side of the road to get her cleaned up, only to realize that the side of the road was covered in stickers.   We kept L in the car, balancing on discarded coloring books and squashed granola bars, and used a pair of fingernail clippers to cut her underwear off.  It’s really amazing the many ways that one can use fingernail clippers, don’t you think?   After a box full of wipes and some stories of how everybody poops in their pants, we finally got her clean and the poo-splosion panties contained in a trash bag.  I got to spend the next twenty minutes dislodging stickers from my flip-flop clad feet.

Nine and a half hours after we pulled out of our driveway, we pulled into the parking lot for the Big Texan.   I had never heard of this restaurant until my dad mentioned it to me, but apparently it’s kind of a big deal.  It’s been on Man vs. Food  and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.  They’re best known for their 72 oz steak, nicknamed “The Texas King.”  If you finish the entire steak along with a salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and a roll, you get your meal for free.  It’s very reminiscent of “The Great Outdoors”, when John Candy eats “the ol’ 96’er”.   Around  50,000 people have made the attempt, and only 8,000 have ever finished.  We watched three, ahem, large gentlemen take on the challenge while we were there, but even they couldn’t do it.

Finishing that steak is now on my Bucket List.

The restaurant is hilarious, full of stuffed animal heads (including a huge bear) and boardwalk-type games.  We had to play Zoltar, even if the girls didn’t get the “Big” reference.    The wait staff is dressed like old ranch hands, and they look completely miserable about it.   There’s a huge cow out front for photo ops, along with a larger-than-life neon cowboy to beckon Route 66 travelers.

The Big Texan

The food  itself was surprisingly good!  We’ve learned from experience that most touristy attractions have blah food, so we were pleasantly surprised at how good this was.   We had steak (of course) that was cooked perfectly, a baked potato with some sort of butter/sour cream/chive combination that was to die for, and salads with homemade ranch.  L had steak, because she is Queen Carnivore in our house, and even the kids’ steak was a really nice cut.  C and A split some chicken tenders, which looked, you know, chickeny.  We had chocolate chip cookies for dessert that were cuh-razy rich and topped with whipped cream.  And the best part? All of the kids’ meals come with a free cowboy hat.  And it was a really cute straw one, not a crappy plastic one.  Big Texan, I give you two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Oh, and  did I mention the rainbow?  When we started out that morning,  we passed a beautiful DOUBLE RAINBOW !  I don’t think that I’ve ever actually seen a double rainbow.  I felt like God was smiling on our trip….and laughing a little, too, because He knew what we had in store for us.

Double Rainbow!

And that, my friends, was Day 1.  Stay tuned for Day 2, where we encounter New Mexican rest stops, a Poo-Splosion Snack Time, and finally, FINALLY…COLORADO!

A Fine Dining Don’t

In retrospect, taking three hungry girls – who had been up since six this morning and were all jacked up on cinnamon rolls and soy milk – to an upscale Indian bistro was not the brightest idea.

Turns out, most upscale Indian bistros do not have a kids’ menu.  The lone highchair hidden in the back of the restaurant was spotless – a sure sign that this was not going to be a “kid friendly” dining experience.  But it’s my husband’s birthday, and he wanted Indian food.  So we persevered.

We asked the waitress (the only waitress, in fact, in the bistro) if we could have a basket of naan to keep the natives from getting restless.  Apparently she’s not used to dealing with such plebian requests, because that was completely ignored.  I resorted to digging out every half-eaten snack from the bottom of my purse and doling it out like it was Christmas candy.  Everyone loves to eat four month old Mum-Mums, right?

Wrong.

A decided to express her displeasure in a physical fashion, since she’s too young to whine (don’t worry; L and C covered that.  No dining experience would be complete without it!).  She crumpled her Mum-Mums into miniature fragments and confetti’d our table.  Raisins rained on the floor.  And the naan, when we finally got it, was hurled across the room.  I’m sure that our fellow diners, sitting at tables for two in their business wear, appreciated the show.

Especially once the shrieking began.

We tried to order the most kid-friendly dishes possible.  The birthday boy got vegetable fritters as a starter, and I got potato samosas (mmm….samosas).  Neither one of the big girls would touch a fritter, but A actually seemed to enjoy it.  The samosas, on the other hand, were immediately spit onto the previously immaculate black tablecloth. (An aside: if there are tablecloths and actual napkins, then it’s not a restaurant one should take children.  Lesson learned).  For our entrees, he had the chicken Korma and I got chicken tikka masala.  Both (relatively) child friendly, both (relatively) mild.

It was met with a resounding “YUCK” from all parties (all parties under 4’5″).  L, our adventurous diner who lives for shrimp and is known to eat sushi, actually tried it.    She popped a piece of chicken Tikka into her mouth, made a face, and daintily wiped her mouth while whispering, “No thank you”.

At this point, it is one o’clock in the afternoon.  Did I mention that the girls had been up since six?  And that we were already entering nap time?  We were a runaway train headed straight for Meltdownville.  So, I did what all desperate parents do in this situation: I promised them McDonald’s in exchange for twenty minutes of good behavior.

It was a feeling of beautiful relief when we walked back out into the oven we call Texas, leaving a trail of saffron rice and fritter crumbs in our wake.  And we went to McDonald’s.