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Another curious and entertaining doorway. I suppose the residents of this little duplex tell visitors to go to the right or the left of the cat.

IMG_6969
San Miguel, Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the day: “If you want to believe in something like Fate, she’s a capricious character. Sometimes she stand there blocking the doorway you were born to pass through, and sometimes she takes you by the hand and leads you through the minute you poke your nose out. And the stars gaze down and keep their counsel.” — John Avide

Daily gratitudes:
Pussy willow
Pie with my sweetie-pie
Stark white seagulls agains barren fields
Intrigue in the early morning
The first blooms of a dwarf weeping cherry tree

 

 

 

I would have to flip the arrows around on this sign so both were pointing in the same direction – towards me, which is towards the beach.

Martinis and Bikinis

Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Quote of the day: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”  —  Rumi

Daily gratitudes:
That MKL will buy me a rose when I am down
Thai comfort food
Loving energy between two people
Sore muscles from doing squats
That I can leave work at 5:30 and it is still light out

 

As the end of my birthday week celebration (or at least the first week of my birthday month celebration), MKL and I went to see La Boheme at the Central City Opera on Friday night.

It was magical.  Our last opera was The Marriage of Figaro by Opera Colorado in February.  If you’ve never seen an opera, I don’t recommend Marriage of Figaro as your first one.  I love opera, but haven’t seen one in about 17 years, and “Figaro” was four hours long and tough to follow, which made me wonder why I loved opera in the past.  But La Boheme made me remember.

We drove Tristan, MKL’s BMW show car, up to Central City just in time for an appetizer and a glass of champagne at the Teller House as the sun dropped below the mountains.   The Teller House fortunately still has an air of age and elegance to it.

Though the Face in the Barroom Floor has faded, as has much of the grandness of this former mining boom town since gambling was introduced back in the early 1990s.

The Face in the Barroom Floor – image from centralcityoperafestival.blogspot.com

We still had a little time to peek inside some buildings that have not been tainted by slot machines and blackjack tables, including the Williams Stables, which is also the purvey of the Central City Opera, and which holds small pre-performance excerpts of whatever is playing.

And the dagger in that picture?  REALLY sharp and totally unattended.

You are notified that it is almost time to head in for the performance by the staff marching up the street singing, by the ringing of handheld bells, and by  ten-minute, five-minute announcements, a friendly and gentle reminder to get your buns in gear.

Image from centralcityoperafestival.blogspot.com

It takes no time to get to your seat, and the interior of the Opera House is intimate, old, and beautiful.

As photos weren’t allowed during the performance, I borrowed this one from the Central City Opera website.

The Central City players performing La Boheme

This version of La Boheme was staged in Paris in the 1930s, and sung in Italian. The subtitles on the foot of the stage were very helpful, even though I knew the storyline, and I played with my own memory of two years of college Italian to see if I could catch any words or phrases. I must say, the subtitles were pretty loose with their translation, but it was still easy to follow.  The orchestra was seated beneath the stage, and I could just see the tops of their heads from our seats in the fourth row.

At intermission, we retreated to the darkened, romantic, terraced garden for a glass of wine.

Central City Opera House Courtyard image courtesy of http://www.waymarking.com

Every performer had a simply heavenly voice, and we both cried at the end (spoiler alert) when Mimi died.

It was a lovely evening, though it was late as we started home, and we had just reached the turn-off to I-70, when Tristan decided to play out his own death scene. Yep, he died.  And no amount of MKL’s roll-up-your-sleeves sensor/relay switching and eventual tire iron thumping made him start. My view was approximately this:

We wound up our evening with a long ride in a cushy (really!) tow truck, learning about life story of Ryan, owner of Father and Son Towing and longtime acquaintance of MKL.  It was a little surreal, but totally charming.

A marvelous birthday present…

I’m not a big fan of Halloween, and I never have been. But I surprised myself this year. Somehow or other, I found out about The Shining Ball.  And somehow or other, I asked my new beau, MKL, if he’d like to go. And somehow or other, he said he would. So a few weeks ago, I found myself renting a real Halloween costume.

Image of The Ritz courtesy of http://www.metromix.com

I don’t know why I’ve never liked Halloween. I like the concepts that it encompasses – souls, spirits, alter egos, revelry, chocolate. Still, not my favorite holiday. Kelsea has always loved it, so I did the dutiful costuming of myself to accompany her when trick-or-treating. Generally those costumes would consist of nothing more than a neon colored wig.  I like neon color wigs.

A couple of years ago, I did fall into possession of a slutty pirate costume, that I still have and like very much.  But that was a seriously bizarre Halloween that will never be discussed. It did make me contemplate why 95% of Halloween costumes are slutty.  Is that seriously what women’s alter egos are?  Slutty cheerleaders, slutty pirates, slutty nurses, slutty vegetables? I really couldn’t say.

What I can say is that Friday afternoon found us making our way to The Ritz in Boulder to pick up my costume, and, after a slightly aborted start, we were off  to the lovely little town of Estes Park.

Estes Park view from the Stanley Hotel

Estes Park is known as the Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Founded in 1859 at an elevation of 7,522 feet, it was long ago a summering area for the Ute and Arapaho Indians. It earned the nickname “The Gutsiest Little Town in Colorado” after it rebuilt itself following the Lawn Lake Flood in 1982, in which an earthenware dam collapsed, flooded the main street and beyond, and killed three campers .

Image courtesy of http://www.estesnet.com

Our destination today was the famous Stanley Hotel. Opened in 1909, this beautiful Georgian architectural style hotel was built by F.O. Stanley, one of the inventors of the Stanley Steamer automobile.

F.O. Stanley and his mirror image

The hotel has housed numerous famous visitors, and most notably, Stephen King, whose stay in Room 217 on a blizzardy night inspired him to write “The Shining”. While the Stanley Kubrick film by the same name was not filmed here, because Kubrick didn’t think that audiences would find such a hotel believable in a location like Colorado (hello? reality check?), it does run on a continuous loop 24/7 on one of the stations on the hotel’s televisions. On the other hand, the mini-series, which was much less violent because it was made for TV, and much more accurate, because Stephen King was involved in the production, was filmed on site.  And coincidentally, my boss’ husband appeared on-screen several times in his role as an “extra”.

I have never seen either the movie or the mini-series, nor have I read the book, having sworn off Stephen King some time ago. I have tremendous respect for his writing, but reading it is simply destructive to my psyche. But The Stanley makes the most of the connection, with exhibits pertinent to the novel, and The Shining Ball, a wonderful costume ball and Halloween tradition. Room 217 is also included on the hotel’s Ghost Tour, which we missed out on. But not entirely. More about that in a bit.

On the lobby typewriter

The Stanley offers rooms in the original building and the Manor House, built slightly later.  Our room was in the original building in a little dormer on the fourth floor, which is the most haunted floor of the hotel.

Our little dormer

Dormer rooms are small, but cozy.

Word to the wise (and now head-injured) - the shorter person takes the side of the bed with the low ceiling.

Since it was so late, and cold, and parking spaces were rare, we decided to have a light supper in the Cascade Room, taking the stairs this time, instead of the terrifying cage elevator. I’ve had a deathly fear of cage elevators since I was a child, but I took it when I had to.  The staircases though, were too beautiful to resist.

Beautiful balustrades

Dinner was expensive but delightful, made all the better by our wonderful server, MaryAnn, who had worked at the hotel for 21 years and told us her own personal ghost stories. She made us promise to come back the next night in costume so she could see us.

Shadow play at dinner.

We had wasted no time upon arrival in exploring our creepy hallway. Fortunately for me, MKL is rather a sensitive in this area, as I am, so at least he doesn’t think it’s nuts when I pick up on energy or see stuff that would spook most humans. In fact, he often shares the same experience. So it’s quite a pleasure for both of us to have someone who understands.

The Seemingly Normal Creepy 4th Floor Hallway

About halfway down the hallway, I got dizzy. I got queasy. My head ached. And the farther I got towards the end, the thicker the air became, until it felt like walking through goo. And yet everything appeared perfectly normal.  Energetically, however, normal it was not.  We experimented with the hallway many times, and with other hallways in the hotel. The experience was always the same, hitting at the same place, and it never happened in other hallways. On one of these little escapades, I turned and quickly took a photo, and caught the culprit in orb form.

My little orb

It vanished in the next instantaneous photo. I know there are plenty of naysayers out there, but I’m a believer in my orb.

The next day was gorgeous.  But bitterly, freakishly windy. Painfully windy. Wind that, as MKL put it, was throwing dirt and rocks and branches and small children at us as we tried to make it to the car from breakfast at The Egg and I. It totally deterred us from our planned explorations of town. So we stopped at the excellent combination pharmacy and liquor store to pick up some champagne (who can’t love a store that sells both drugs AND alcohol?) and retreated back to the hotel, picking up some sandwiches for late night post-party consumption.

A lovely Colorado day and the lovely Stanley Hotel

Our room was, as I said, on the haunted fourth floor. The hotel runs ghost tours from around 10:00 am until 10:00 pm, taking small herds of visitors (who, by the by, sound like baby elephants tromping around the old creaky floors) to the spookiest places in the hotel. Room 401, which housed the infamous Lord Dunmore, who remains a mischievous ghost, was just down the hall next to the elevator. Room 428, home of the kissing cowboy ghost, was next door to us.  Room 418, supposedly one of the most haunted rooms, where ghost children take candy if it’s left out on the dresser, was down the hall. Room 406 , where we started getting the most creepy vibes wasn’t specifically mentioned on the tour, but in the hallway itself numerous ghost children run up and down it at all hours, playing ball, and flushing toilets in rooms repeatedly. Including ours.  Yes, that toilet started flushing itself on our second night, periodically, refusing to stop.

A glimpse into the eternal flushery

So, all of this knowledge we gleaned from listening to the ghost tour outside of our door. We also ran into a crowd outside Room 217, where Mr. King found his muse, and outside of Room 237, where Elizabeth, a former chambermaid, “looks after” guests. Elizabeth is very benevolent, and MaryAnn told us that when she first started, she could feel Elizabeth looking after her, leaving lights on and such. It was rather awkward, though, when guests in these rooms would open their door when a tour was stopped in front of it. And slightly startling to find people taking pictures of your room door.

Mirror,mirror

The time came for us to get dressed up and head down to the ball. The Shining Ball. In full costume with about three hundred other people in the haunted MacGregor Ballroom. We felt like such royalty going down the beautiful staircase.

Almost time

We came as the Phantom of the Opera and Christine. While I don’t yet have any photos of the two of us together, we were told by many people that we were a gorgeous couple.

My slightly blurry phantom

A slightly overexposed Christine

We are waiting for our new friend Natalie to send us some of the photos she took of us. I didn’t like the only two I have – I felt like they made me look big as the hotel. Natalie looked stunning as the Black Swan.

Natalie as the Black Swan

Her adorable mother Mary came as a slutty gypsy. We ran into these two right in our hallway when we first checked in, again at breakfast and later, they saved us some seats at the Ball.  I loved watching these two. I hope that when Kelsea is Natalie’s age, she and I have a similar relationship. In fact, I look forward to it.

A Mother-Daughter Moment

And so we had cocktails, we danced and danced, we went outside to cool off in the chill mountain air, and we people watched. There were some amazing costumes. I’ll share a few here:

A well-decorated MacGregor Room

An extremely intoxicated wood nymph..

doing highly inappropriate things with Tigger.

The Blues Brothers got their own solo.

The Shining Twins and the Headless Bride (her costume was AWESOME)

Cousin It

Twin swans. Or ducks.

My favorite horns - he made them with cotton balls, red dye, and something else.

We had a marvelous time. There were lots of people dancing on their own, which is great, although sometimes it got a little creepy because of the costume.  There was a jester always at our elbow, checking out MKL.  There was the incredible hulk who kept sort of thrusting himself into all partners.  There was the red toga lady who was really getting into grinding on me from behind while MKL and I were trying to dance, until her husband (Nero) called her off (literally). And there were a phenomenal amount of exceptionally tall people there.  Really.  Close to seven feet tall. Weird. And lots of my photos of partygoers also contained orbs, so the ghosts enjoyed the festivities too.

Stopping for a final martini in the bar before bed, we watched a very tall guy dressed as a cowboy trying to decide if he wanted to accept the attentions of either of the guys who were hitting on him.  He looked pretty drunk and pretty confused.  We wished him well, and turned in at almost two. I haven’t stayed out that long in years.  I felt like a princess. It was so cool.

We got a slightly late checkout, had a wonderful breakfast at the Mountain Home Cafe, and talked about what we might be if we go next year. It would be a lovely tradition.

A view to a future

Kelsea and I are on what is the first of several road trips for the summer this weekend.  We’re up at Cripple Creek for Donkey Derby Days, which I’m looking forward to writing about.

I love her. She’s so awesome. It was almost as if we started out being a little quiet and awkward on the ride up, but then we started talking about music – she has an immense knowledge of music and I have no idea where that came from.

We strolled around town, had a nice dinner listening to an awesome singer, and then shot pool for hours.  Her game is improving, and I, of course, shot like a goddess, except for scratching on the eight-ball.  We both danced with an old miner named Wayne.  She got to see a side of her mother that daughter’s don’t often get to see, I think, and while I was mentally beating myself up for not exactly being Mother of the Year in the eyes of the world, I’m Mother of the Year to her, and I guess that’s all that matters.

Last weekend was the 24th annual Rhubarb Festival in Pine Grove, Colorado.  You may have figured out by now that I love weird little festivals.  This one wasn’t weird.  It was just small-town festive.

Welcome to Rhubarb Heaven!

Pine Grove is part of a tiny trio of towns around Highway 285 about 50 miles west of Denver: Pine, Pine Grove, and Pine Junction.  The name Pine encompasses them all.  Pine Junction is the really the intersection of Hwy 285 and Hwy 126.  Pine Grove is the historic crossroads town that used to be a railroad stop and is sort of an adjunct to Pine.  And Pine has the rare claim to fame of being one of the foremost homes of miniature donkey breeders in the United States.  Not that I saw any miniature donkeys, even at the Festival, so I think someone is missing a significant marketing opportunity here.

Image courtesy of Satroma Ranch

The outskirts of Pine fell victim to the Hayden fire a few years back, and while I know, as is always the case in fire-ravaged areas, that fresh, new,  brilliant green shoots of life will sprout, it still seems to be in recovery mode.  I feel relief and pride for those who either kept their houses or rebuilt them – it’s impossible to tell which without the intimacy of knowing the people or the area.  I also feel horror and sorrow for the wildlife that perished, and for the woman who loved the forest, who accidentally set the fire by burning the love letters from her ex-boyfriend. The bitter irony of the outcome of that oh-so-private ritualistic gesture made by someone who knew the dangers better than most is poignant, painful and not lost on a  fellow lover of men and nature.

Burned Memories

Anyhow, I went on my own.  I had invited Kelsea. I had invited a friend.  Neither could make it.  And in the end, I was so very glad of that, as much as I would have adored the company of either.

I got there early – about 9:30 – and things had clearly been going for quite some time.  These rhubarb growers know how to play.  Parking on the road a distance away from the happenings, I was immediately greeted by a few suspicious deer –

Deer...Surprised and Suspicious

– they were suspicious of me, not the other way round – and several little old houses surrounded by lilac bushes.  Lilacs seem to bloom later at this altitude ( 8,550 feet, which is 3,214 feet higher than where I live) and are soooo much more fragrant.  My nose oohed and aaahhed every time I passed one, which was often, as each house seemed to boast the blooms.

Roofpeak Peeking Over Lilacs

The sun was warm, the sky only slightly hazy with the waking-up of morning in the mountains, richly mixed with smoke from distant wildfires, which must be a perpetual reminder of the past for permanent residents.

Most of the festivities were set up around the one of several volunteer and paid firefighting stations (ah, the irony), and the line was perpetually out the quonsset hut for the pancake breakfast, which of course would not be complete without rhubarb sauce.

Breakfast, anyone?

I’m not much of a pancake girl, so I wandered.  There was already a sort of semi-Southern rock-blues-abilly band playing on the stage.

Rocka-bluesa-jazza-billy Band

The vendors were setting up their wares, enjoying the music and the sunshine.

Beautiful Boxes

Handmade quilts

There were truckloads of motorcycles, particularly Harleys.  The approach to Pine from any direction involves a rambling road with sweeping curves and equally sweeping vistas, and so the drive is a popular one with riders.

One of numerous scooter line-ups.

Much to my delight (and unlike most festivals), oodles of dogs were in the thick of things, enjoying the event as much as their owners.

Beagle...with a tad of Bassett?

Corgi-Shepherd?

Poodliscious

I walked up the road a piece to check things out.  This is why I love going off on my own sometimes.  I stopped to take pictures every single time I wanted to, and nobody else fussed about it – and I thanked the photo gods for digital, as I have come to do almost every time I pick up the camera.

Armadillo Planter Awaiting a Bellyfull

A Rarity in Pine

The Chair at the End of the Stairs.

Coffee Shop for Sale

Swan Pot

Swan Pot

Pine is nestled amid some rock formations that I find unique to this area of Colorado. In fact, when you take the time to examine the rock formations of the Front Range and foothills, inclusive of Colorado Springs, you will find yourself contemplating some amazing and diverse geology – but that’s for another time.  Today, it was all about Pine, and it’s gently massive round rocks that look like the perfect rappelling challenge.

Rock Formations

A slight river meanders through the town,  and residents clearly take pride in the age and history of their mountain (and railroad) roots.

Caboose Left Behind

If you have yet to realize it, walking up one side and down the other of the same road provides you with a completely different experience.  It’s not as if you are retracing your steps – you are just seeing everything from a completely different perspective.  And you get to see completely different things as well, that perhaps you didn’t notice before.

No Way

Iris and patriotism both do well up here.

As do wildflowers.

Residents have a sense of humor...

and so do their dogs.

Wandering back into the thick of things, I took a closer look at the classic (and not-so-classic) cars lined up for the parade later that afternoon.

Buick beauty

Lead Parade Vehicle

Classic cars are a favorite photo subject for me, and I love (again) the pride that small towns seem to take in their past by showing off these treasures.

Roadmaster Reflection

Everything on a Bentley is branded.

GMC Dashboard

The Pride of the Police Force

The festival itself was in full swing now.

The Rhubarb Festival at its exciting peak.

Vendors were doing a brisk business and the crowd was happily swaying to another performer on stage.

Terrifying Santas

Tie-dyed shirts were popular among sellers and attendees.

The most unfortunately attired representatives of the Mutual of Omaha booth were kindly giving away free water to all and looks that completely expressed their opinions about their attire to me, me being a sympathetic woman.

I'm quite sure they drew the short straws at the office on Friday.

Stopping for a totally unhealthy snack, I realized that one of the reasons everyone was being so pleasant was because this was an alcohol free festival.  There was not a beer to be had.

The Festival Bar

I also realized that, several hours into the event, I had yet to see any rhubarb.  This is a rhubarb festival, right?  So where’s the good stuff?  I squeezed my way back into the quonsset hut, and found one rhubarb plant available for bid at the silent auction.

Rhubarb Plant up for auction.

There were a plethora of soon-to-be-eaten baked goods entered into the rhubarb baked goods competition, the winner of which is apparently crowned rhubarb queen.

The Queen's Pie

One similarly inquisitive couple had just bought the very last available rhubarb pie.

The Last of the Pies

I had no pieworthy intentions, but I was most determined not to leave the valley until I was the proud possessor of red gold, aka, rhubarb.

More music was going on – they had a broad range of interesting musical talents.  Smokey the Bear was getting his …. something on.

Bear Behaving Badly

Children were sucking on traffic cones when their parents weren’t looking.

Child In Between Cone Sucks

Dogs happily were doing meet and greets with other dogs.

Not Touching!

Or in training.

Three Months Old and Trying Sooooo Hard To Be Good.

Or just roaring at the sunshine.

King of the World

I wandered off again, fascinated by the Public Library that has seemingly permanent shelves outside in the shelter of their building awnings, a sight unseen since Hay-on-Wye in Wales some four years ago.

Outside Shelving

There were  women on horseback and wizened old men with pride and canes. Walking up the dirt road, I found houses that were being transformed into classic painted ladies and some that were just classic, along with one that was simply  a photographer’s dream.

Photographer's Dream.

The small cemetery was at the top of the hill leading out of town to Sphinx Park.  What a lovely spot, overlooking the perfect valley that I had taken photos of on my earlier walk.

My Favorite Valley

The gate was old, wrought iron and unlocked, so I went in, accompanied by a couple of magpies, and found or imagined the stories buried beneath my feet.

Cemetery Gates

It was a sparsely populated cemetery, but that was okay – it gives the residents room to breathe.  The most common tribute was the Indian Paintbrush.

Indian Paintbrush

Because it looked like it was kind of off limits, and because there were no signs specifically telling me I’d be struck dead if I did so, I climbed through the brush up the hill to a barely visible giant flat rock above town.

My Lichen Rock

It gave me a bird’s eye view of the festivities, and a chance to bask in the silence of the warm sun.

Bird's Eye View of the Rhubarb Festival

I lay on my back on the big rock and took one hundred pictures of heaven, basking in bliss, and thanking the universe for the gift of being.

One shot of heaven.

Another shot of heaven.

When I was done, which was no particular time, I wended my way back down into town again.  As always, the camera was in hand – this is becoming more of a photo post than a festival post.

Grapes and Bells

Classic Signs

Yellow Door

Words Escape Me

The next spot to capture me was the Pine Emporium, which on the surface appears to be a small false-fronted touristy- trappy antiquey store. Enter and you will find that appearances can be deceiving and it’s anything but.

Pine Emporium From the Inside Out

This place was awesome with a capital awe.

Gnomes Galore

A maze of rooms, shelves and floorspace crammed full of almost anything you can imagine, this is a flea market lovers dream from underground basement to narrow-stepped attic.  I must have spent an hour there.  They had a plethora of gorgeous, inexpensive, vintage earrings for unpierced people like me, books, boxes, art, incredibly creepy gnome-ish chotskies, glassware, memorabilia – it was almost as good as Jerry’s Museum in Genoa, Colorado.

Jerry's Place in Genoa, Colorado

The owners were adorable.  The husband told me all about his hernia surgery last year – the wife oohed over the inlaid box I was buying (for my earrings), lamented selling it, then realized it had been hers, which was why she liked it so much.  I brought up the fact that I hadn’t seen any rhubarb at the festival and they sold me their last bag for the bargain price of $5.

On my way out, I encountered several individuals with arm dogs. I always ponder the concept of large men with small arm dogs.

Big Man, Small....Dog.

Apparently, the parade had gone on while I was buried in the shop, but I didn’t feel like I really missed anything, as I had seen the lineup before start time and the firetruck and ambulances – a quintessential part of small town parades – were still in evidence.  I am sorry I missed the Rhubarb Queen though.

Best Seats for the Parade

Festivities ended around 1:30. Vendors were packing up, dogs were making their way back to their cars.  I decided that since I was so close, had never been, and yet was still the proud owner of a t-shirt from it, I should take a side trip up to Sphinx Park to see the famous Bucksnort Saloon.

Sphinx Park Sign

The Bucksnort is a haven for motorcycle riders, which amazes me, because the road up to Sphinx Park, which was a summer community founded back in the late 1800s, is a bit of a white-knuckler, and I don’t say that very often.  Dirt, windy, and one-lane, I was a tad edgy taking it in the truck, especially when I’d run into lowlanders in their extra-large Highlanders who didn’t know a damn thing about one-lane mountain road etiquette.  I mean, I know yours is bigger than mine, but just exactly where do you think you’re going to put it? Seriously. The rock formations got even more amazing the higher I went, and the higher I went, the closer I got to them.  At the edge of Sphinx Park, the still-standing remains of old cabins were literally perched on the edges of cliffs overlooking Elk Creek. I wish I could have stopped to take some pictures, but I didn’t want to risk being a traffic hazard or worse yet, a statistic.

The Bucksnort Saloon

The Bucksnort is dark and woody with a great patio overlooking the river.  It’s very much a family place, at least during the day, and it was hopping after the festival.  Ceilings and walls were covered with “I was here” dollar bills.

Dollar Bills Galore

It reminded me of a mountain version of Foxy’s on Jost van Dyke.  Except instead of underwear, T-shirts, and hats stapled to the posts and ceiling, it had dollars.  I guarantee you that no dollar would ever stay stapled to a pole or ceiling at Foxy’s for long.

I snuggled into a corner barstool to people watch and listen to music.  Two Coronas and 3 tacos later, I was still a happy little camper.

Corona and Ticket

One of the regulars – Bob – whose customary stool I had taken, told me that the place only served beer and wine, and closed at 10:30 to try to keep people from getting too toasty and taking that road back down to town.  As it was, the crowd was tame and well-behaved.  I wonder if it remains so after dark.  I may have to find out sometime. There’s actually a really cute little cabin for rent, overhanging the water, just up the road which I would tell you about, but then I’d have to kill you.  No just kidding, I’d tell you about it if I could get their website to work, but I’m not going to subject you to the needless frustration I experienced trying to access it.

Outhouse in the Trees

Apparently, the road that I took up continues on until you reach a crossroads where you can return to Hwy 285 via Schaeffers Crossing.  I took my accustomed route home, singing in the truck and enjoying the sun, and basking in the blissful day.  Next time I head up, I’ll take Kelsea.  She’d love the Emporium, the rocks, and the hummingbirds at Zorla’s restaurant.  Her company would give me an excuse to stop at the Angry Llama Diner on the way up – I couldn’t stop there without her.

As a punctuation mark to the day, on the way home, I witnessed a car accident, right in front of me.  No one was hurt, but it was definitely a “gasp” moment.

I’m so pleased with my self and my peaceful adventure.  The pleasure of it has stayed with me through the past stressful work week.

And even the zebras were happy about the rhubarb.

Zebras Eyeing the Rhubarb

 

Kelsea and I are here in soft and grey Milwaukee.  While not exactly an impulse weekend, it was an impulsive time to go away as we are moving so soon, but I think it will do us both good.  We are that sort of people, who need to see something new when stress levels are high.

Arriving last night after what was a remarkably short flight, we only got slightly lost on our way to our hotel, the County Clare Inn.  I thought I would indulge her love of Ireland by staying someplace Irish-ish, and sure enough, the check-in girl had a lovely Irish lilt to her voice.  Our little room is lovely, with a big whirlpool tub and a comfy bed.

Dinner was yum – salmon and spinach.  I never take pictures of food, but it was so pretty!

Our waiter, who had lived all over, has adopted a touch of the brogue in his accent.  I’ve never met someone with such a tin ear.  We followed up dinner with darts in the game room and then collapsed.

My sister was supposed to come up to meet us, but her littlest sweet girl got sick in the middle of the night, so I don’t know if she’ll make it.  I hope so. 

We’re off to explore and will keep you posted.

Guess what this weekend was?  It was our annual excursion to ….. (drumroll please) ….. Frozen Dead Guy Days!!

This was Kelsea’s and my fourth foray into this festival of the intoxicated macabre.  And this year, we took her uber-cool friend Will.

Uber-Cool Will

You may not be familiar with this event, which is now in its tenth year, but the legend (or fact, really) that inspired it is far older.  Back in 1989, Grandpa Bredo Morstoel passed away in Norway.  Instead of going underground as so many do when they pass, Grandpa took to the skies; his corpse, packed in dry ice, was flown across the pond to the US.  After seeing California (as so many Norwegians want to do) and becoming cryogenically preserved (not quite as popular a tourist activity), he arrived in Colorado to wait out his fate in the company of his daughter and his grandson in the old mining town of Nederland, Colorado, just outside of Boulder.

Grandpa Bredo was kept quietly in a shed on his daughter’s property for a few years.  He was a colorful piece of local lore.  I recall hearing about him before he was famous, but no one was sure if the rumors were  true.  After he’d been resting comfortably for a couple of years, the proverbial S hit the proverbial F.  Grandson Trygve found himself deported, and daughter Aud found herself evicted.  And Grandpa found himself on his own, which is not a good position for a frozen old Norwegian in a Tuff Shed.

You must understand that the people of Nederland are a people apart.  I love it up there.  The townsfolk took Grandpa to their collective bosom.  People stopped by the Tuff Shed where he was stored to tend to his dry ice needs.  And they rallied the town council to – literally – grandfather – Grandpa into the town’s new law that prohibited keeping bodies on private property.  I wonder if any other town has that regulation?

Grandpa’s plight garnered quite a bit of publicity on a worldwide scale.  He has his own caretaker who, with the help of the ever-loyal townsfolk, keeps his body packed in a sarcophagus surrounded by 1600 pounds of dry ice.  He’s been relocated from his original Tuff Shed, due to logistics and safety factors, to a larger unmarked storage facility up the mountain a bit.  On occasion, guests can go up and see the shed, but not Grandpa Bredo himself. 

Still, his share of fame grows yearly.  He’s been the subject of two documentaries by the Beeck Sisters – “Grandpa’s In The Tuff Shed” and “Grandpa’s Still In The Tuff Shed”, and a book written by his caretaker Bo Shaeffer (aka The Iceman) called Colorado’s Iceman and the Story of the Frozen Dead Guy.  There’s even a mystery set around the festival, which I have, but haven’t read yet, called One Too Many Frozen Dead Guys by Pamela Stockho.  And there’s a song by T.D. Rafferty, most aptly named “The Frozen Dead Guy Song.”  Both books and the song are available at trusty www.amazon.com.

Back to the festival!  It’s become a packed event, which is good for the town’s small businesses, but it seems that as it grows, it becomes less and less quirky.  Sad.  However, the two-and-a-half day festival still consists of such unusual activities as:

  • Parade of Hearses, which is exactly what it sounds like
  • Polar Plunge, where participants in varying stages of costume or undress jump into a hole cut in the frozen lake
  • Coffin Races, in which teams of people carry makeshift coffins through an obstacle course in the town playground
  • Frozen Salmon Toss, where you see how far you – yes, YOU – can throw a frozen salmon
  • Brain Freeze, an ice cream eating contest held in the middle of First Street
  • Frozen Turkey Bowling, where you use frozen turkeys to knock down bowling pins (this is also commonly done in supermarkets late at night, and Australians use midgets instead of turkeys)
  • Frozen T-Shirt Contest, where you must unfold a frozen T-shirt and put it on
  • Rocky Mountain Oyster Eating Contest, in which you consume as many “prairie oysters” as possible

We arrived a tad bit late, just after the start of the parade.  The parade is definitely my favorite part of the event.  Several dozen hearses, most of them from the ’60s and ’70s, but the occasional entry from the ’40s and one even from prior to the 20th century, turn out to make a circle around the center of the little town.

Not your typical horse-drawn carriage

A lovely exit vehicle

 

Adjusting the antenna

Big dog in a big red hearse

Big Man, Small Car, Reverse Compensation?

Ghoulish participants were waving and throwing candy.

Hello, Creeper!

Rubber face...or not?

Pay no attention to the woman behind the leopard skin curtain

Small children hardly knew what to make of the event.

One of the Funereal Princesses

What the heck is going on?

Contemplative baby

And really, who can blame them?

After the parade, we headed over to the Polar Plunge, which takes place in a little pond off the creek.  Paramedics are handy by the ice hole to help plungers out if they have trouble. 

Rescue personnel - and this is not a costume.

We found a perfect spot on the edge of the ice.  Nederland is a very dog-friendly town, and pooches were plentiful among the aspens. 

Fluffy shepherd

Calm, cool and collected

Plungers weren’t as creative in their costumes or their approaches this year, which was a little disappointing.  I had tried to talk Kelsea into jumping with me, but she said not until next year, since she’s not a strong swimmer and didn’t want to embarass herself in front of her beloved paramedics.  But we had a grand time watching…

Leprecaun somersault

Hauling out the frozen yeti

These two girls emerged from sleeping bag coccoons to reveal their butterfly selves!

And flew into the cool water!

The Chicken Plunge....

and its unfortunate aftermath.

until the latecomers started just packing onto the ice in front of us so we couldn’t see anymore.  How rude.  In fact, my edit function was apparently set pretty low, as I was telling people in no uncertain terms to sit down.  And I was wishing all the ice would just collapse, making the whole inconsiderate lot of them into unwilling plungers.  The paparazzi really were testing the limits of ice gravity.

Dead Guy Paparrazi

It had gotten REALLY chilly, so we headed to the bookstore/coffee shop to warm up.  I love this little bookstore – it’s mostly used books, but they also have ice cream, a little clothing, a little jewelry, a Tarot card reader, and of course, chai, cocoa, lattes and etcetera. 

Frozen Eyeballs, Dead Man's Toes

And they have creepy stuffed squirrels bolted to their exterior walls.

Freakish? I think so.

We got coffee and brownies and found a little table in the children’s book room in the back.

A coffee trio

The shop cat immediately came to say hello and Will decided he wanted to marry it.

Aura cat

Man, I don’t know what was in those brownies, considering there’s a “green wellness” clinic on either side of the bookstore, but we spent about two hours in silly hysterics, laughing and snorting and giggling at absolutely nothing.  We poked around the bookstore, and fell more in love with the cat, who was now occupying the Tarot card table. 

Aura cat moves to her spot on the Tarot table

I chatted with a lady who teaches knitting and who had knit some amazing glow-in-the-dark skullcaps.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as glow-in-the-dark yarn. 

Glow-in-the-dark skullcap

(And as a lovely reminder of my last lovely weekend, there’s an Alpaca Store in Nederland where she gets her yarn.)

Can I buy an alpaca here?

We spent so much time in the warmth and silliness of the bookstore that we missed the coffin races.  Kelsea and I had seen them before, so we didn’t mind – the wind had picked up and we were all cold.  Heading back into town through the little covered footbridge, we stopped in a couple of shops.  Will and Kelsea parked themselves in rockers and pretended to be old people.

Practicing to be grumpy old folks

I took lots of artsy pictures.

Artsy pink glass lamp

Artsy green vase

Artsy art glass

And imagined decorating my new little house.

Post-safari porcelain

Or perhaps a dead guy theme? I might be able to find a coffin coffee table.

Emerging again into the chill, we discovered a mechanical bull set up outside the Pioneer Inn bar.  Well, in my ongoing quest to try new things, I tried this new thing. 

My first mechanical bull ride!

It was a lot harder than it looked and I don’t think I stayed on for 8 seconds.  But Kelsea did quite well!

And Kelsea's first mechanical bull ride!

Our time was winding down.  We passed the Brain Freeze contest, with very few participants. 

Brain freeze competitor

And we passed more cute dogs (in trying to type ‘dogs’ just then, I typed ‘gods’ twice). 

I think I can fit through here...

As our final excursion, we decided to walk out into the half-empty reservoir, something else I’ve always wanted to do.  The reservoir is full to the brim in the summer, putting Boulder at risk of the imminent and overdue 100-year flood, which last occured in 1894.

Archive photo of Boulder's 100-year flood in 1894

But in the winter, it is a barren plain of rocks and dry earth. 

At the bottom of the reservoir

The wind was absolutely vicious; we walked out as far as we could bear, then turned and made a run for the car.  A real run, tears streaming down our faces and snot flying in the wind.  By the time we got to the car, we sounded like we’d had strokes, we were so cold and our brains so bizarrely impacted by who knows what (wind? brownies? mechanical bulls?) that we could barely form words. 

We happied our way down the mountain back to Boulder.  That night, my eyes were still hurting from the grit and the wind, and Kelsea and I were exhausted from battling the breeze, the cold and the mud.  But we had a wonderful time.  Next year, maybe we’ll try tukey bowling and salmon throwing. 

I think it’s great that even with dead guys, there’s always next year.

No, I did not buy an alpaca at auction.  However…

This weekend the Boulder County Fairgrounds hosted the Alpaca Expo.  You may remember from our trip to the Stock Show this year how enamoured Kelsea and I were with the alpacas. Well, even though Kelsea chose to go to the Mall on Saturday, I decided to fly solo to see the critters. 

Empty Corrals at the Boulder County Fairgrounds

O. M. G.

Hello!

There is (almost) nothing I have found that makes me smile more than alpacas.  While the Expo was fairly small, I spent almost three hours there, just hangin’ with my alpaca peeps.  I made friends with several of the ranchers there to exhibit and I learned a lot of little tidbits.

But mostly, I just kind of hung on the railings of the little corrals and basked in the glow of the beasts.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they have amazingly soothing energy.  They are calm, expressive, curious, and gentle.  Kind of like me, but with more hair and bigger eyes.

Adorable Alpaca

I had such a wonderful time that Kelsea and I went back on Sunday.  And as an extra-added bonus, we went to an antique auction that was being held next door.  If you check out my Life List of Things Yet To Be Done (in Lists), you will see that buying something at auction was one of my life goals.  Well, not only did I buy something at auction, I bought somethingS at auction – namely, two pocket knives, a sword, a miscellaneous box of vintage hats, purses and gloves and an amazing piece of folk art – a flying pig, who told me his name was Homer. 

Homer In Profile

Homer From Above

My auction number was 339 and I was flapping my little card along with the other pros, aka, Pierre, George, Tommy and a lady whose shop we had visited in Cheyenne last Labor Day.  Anyway, the whole thing was AWESOME!  And here’s a sampling of the things that I – wisely, in my opinion – didn’t bid on.

Miscellaneous Brasses - I would have bid on this if we'd been there when it was up

Random Auction Items

Creepy Decapitated Doll Heads

Victorian Baby Shoes

Strange Vintage Glassware

As for the alpacas, well, as I said, we learned a lot.  And here are a few things we learned that I’ll bet you probably didn’t know either:

Alpacas are very social creatures.  You can’t have just one.

Just Saying Hello From Behind the Neighboring Curtain

Alpacas only have bottom teeth until they are about three years old, at which point they are ready to breed and get their fighting teeth.

Clinton Showing Off His Alpacas Bottom Teeth

 When they get bored, they chew things.

Dishevelled Beastie Eating the Rail

Alpacas’ adorable “Hmmmm” humming noise means they are stressed.  Or hungry.  But I guess being hungry can make you feel stressed.

Her Close-Up

Like many animals, they like to groom each other, and can often find leftovers in their Alpaca buddies.

I Love Eating My Friends Fur

The Suri is the most dominant type of Alpaca, although it is the least common type outside of South America.

Nancy Showing Off Champagne the Suri Alpaca

But there are also some interesting Vicuna-Alpaca mixes (and all alpacas (and llamas) are part of the camel family).

Alpaca-Vicunas

Alpacas chew their cud in a figure-eight shape.  And when they swallow a lump of cud (what’s that called?), they immediately bring up another one.  If you watch their throats, you can see the one coming down and the other coming up.

Cud-Chewing Cutie-Pie

Alpacas sit on all four legs, but when it’s very cold, they raise their hindquarters slightly off the ground to increase their warmth.

Seated Alpaca

Alpacas are raised for their fiber and for breeding – several people were weaving and spinning at the event.

Dyed Alpaca Yarn

Spinning

 

They don’t always like being touched on the head because their mothers generally nudged them on their heads to discipline them.  They prefer being touched on the neck.

Intertwined Alpaca Necks

And when a randy male alpaca tried to mount Perfection, he was decidedly put in his place by her spitting most firmly in his face after escaping his lascivious clutches.  She is a feisty little beauty.  No one can mount Perfection.

Perfection

Most importantly of all, they give amazingly awesome angel baby kisses.  Storm the big white alpaca kissed me several times.  (No tongue.) I felt truly privileged.

Storm the Kissing Alpaca

So it was a lovely weekend.  I even tried out Zydeco dancing on Friday night.  Not well, mind you, but it was new and fun and great exercise, so I think I’ll try it again.  And since the auctions happen once a month, we’ll definitely be back.  It will be THE place to furnish the new house!

Have a happy week!

Dead birds may be dropping from the skies, but in one Colorado town, on a spectacular January morning, the things falling from the heavens weren’t birds – they were fruitcakes.

Yes, those fruitcakes.  The bane of the holiday existence.  Those glutinous lumps of dough chock full of nuts, candied fruit, fruit rinds, dried fruit that you’ve never heard of, and alcohol (but not enough alcohol).  The occasion to celebrate this much-maligned baked good?  The 16th Annual Fruitcake Toss, held in the tiny – and undeniably quirky – town of Manitou Springs.

It was truly an amazing day, weather-wise.  The sky was a deep turquoise blue, it was warm and windless.  Just what we love to see here in Colorado.  Of course, tomorrow’s forecast calls for snow, but as we say here, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

The event had, in previous years, been held in a park in the center of town, but apparently the park wasn’t long enough to accommodate the distance some fruitcakes were wont to fly.  I suspect a few parked cars bore the brunt of a few errant pastries.  So the festivities have moved to the high school football field, high above the town.

There’s  a great view of Pike’s Peak in one direction:

and the red rocks on the north side of town in the other. 

It was a little icy going up the hill – OK, it was a lot icy.  I skidded, which was kind of fun, but the fire truck behind me did a 180, which I don’t think they found as enjoyable. 

(Isn’t it creepy when the word you are typing is spoken on the TV just as you’re typing it?  That just happened with the word “bleachers'” – I’m watching Jeopardy.)  The bleachers looked like the place to be, so I started out there, sitting in front of two large, charming lesbians with a nervous chihuahua dressed in a baby T-shirt with a baby plaid overshirt.  What an excellent and inexpensive idea for dressing your dog.  If there is such a thing as an excellent idea for dressing your dog.  They were forced to leave when the booming noises of the spud-guns were terrifying poor Chewie to the point that he was shaking uncontrollably, even in their comforting arms. 

The kids from one of the local schools sang a truly inspirational song called “Everlasting Fruitcake” and actually sang it very well.  They weren’t shy about belting out the lyrics or doing the accompanying mini-skit.  It was refreshing and funny, and who knows?  We may see some of these kids on American Idol in a few years. 

The bleachers gave me a front row seat for the performance, but they were too far from the action for my taste, and the sun was in my eyes, so I headed down onto the field to inspect the proceedings up close and personal.  Besides, I had to get a little nearer to the random armadillo mascot:

There were a lot of good photo ops of a seemingly infinite number of cute children:

As a warm-up, the Fruitcake Honor Guard had set up four spud canons which we spectators were invited to fire off. 

To prepare the weapons, the Honor Guard greased them and loaded them with a potato using a giant Q-Tip like plunger.

Well, I’m not one to resist adding something new to the life-list, so I fired off one of those babies and shot a potato all the way past the uprights at the opposite end of the field.  I may have a new career.  Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me hold it on my shoulder like a bazooka.  That would have just enhanced the awesomeness.  Since I was flying solo today, I haven’t got a picture of me firing my massive phallic weapon, but this will give you an idea:

Thank heavens my form was better than this gentleman’s.

The first official event was the Great Fruitcake Toss, with categories for kids, women, men, men over 60 and women over 60.  If by chance you didn’t bring your own fruitcake, you could rent one for $2.  I’ll say upfront that my impaired shoulder prevented me from participating, but there’s always next year!  And by the way, all proceeds (and canned food donations) went to the very worthy local charity, Westside Cares – and everything was staffed and provided by volunteers.

We started out with the kid’s fruitcake toss, and some of the kids made some pretty impressive throws, exceeding 70 feet. 

As is the case in almost every children’s event these days, everyone was the winner. (Don’t get me started.)  And everyone who participated won a cool little catapult, complete with a marshmallow for firing.  These remarkably study devices provided endless amusement for many small fry for the rest of the morning.

Next came the women’s fruitcake toss.  The mayor opened the event, but her toss was pretty lame – clearly, things weren’t rigged in her favor.  The mayor is, most improbably, the woman in the brown shirt in this photo:

The women seemed to put more stock in their throwing style than the men.  I suppose that’s why they didn’t toss the fruitcakes as far – or as accurately.  We in the crowd really needed to stay alert.  And of course, the one moment when I let my attention wander, I looked up to see a festive red fruitcake barreling through the air directly towards my head.  Only a quick backstep AND a suave lean, saved me from a fate worse than being hit in the face by a fruitcake…oh, wait…. The winner (yes, there was an actual winner in this one – the lady in red in the photo below) threw her fruitcake an astounding 197 feet (and ground rolls count in the measurements). 

Sign that girl up!

The men were the last blast.  They were dedicated to getting up to the line and throwing with all their might.  Which made it more embarrassing when their tosses flew a paltry 25 feet or so.  But one gentlemen nailed that fruitcake – a whopping 371 feet!  Another guy (the man in black below) drove all the way from Arkansas to toss his fruitcake, which I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around.

There were two varieties of fruitcakes in evidence: the round version and the rectangular-log version.  Those tossing the round version clearly had an aerodynamic advantage, and an added advantage if their pitch hit the ground with a good rolling momentum. 

As all this tossing was going on, the announcer, a native Manitou Springer, was alternately looking for her co-announcer by calling “Dad! DAD?” (he was down on the field socializing with the contestants), and providing us with interesting fruitcake trivia and statistics, including:

  • 23 million fruitcakes are produced each year
  • Canadian TSA no longer allows fruitcakes in carry-on luggage, as they are too dense for the X-Rays to penetrate
  • A large dog is indeed capable of eating 30 loaves of 7-year old fruitcake
  • Fruitcakes can be used as doorstops, lethal weapons, paving stones or boat anchors
  • The average fruitcake weighs two pounds
  • A fruitcake stored in an airtight tin can remain edible (if you want to call it that) for 26 years

It was now time for the main event: the launching of the fruitcake. There were about eight entrants, some with massive slingshots:

A superb crossbow:

Some with excellent catapults:

And some with pneumatic cannons:

One entrant launched a stuffed Tigger and a stuffed Nemo along with his fruitcake, all from one blast of the cannon.  Poor Tigger’s head survived intact but there was a massacre of stuffing stretching the length of the field.  Here’s Tigger’s last view – would that mine will be this lovely.

A few attempts fell far short of expectations – literally.  A few fruitcakes exploded upon firing, showering us spectators with chunks of cake and candied citron, which can cause eye injury at the appropriate velocity.  But once the crumbs had cleared, the indisputable winners were…

Fruitcakes of Mass Destruction, whose bicycle-powered pneumatic cannon fired an event-record-setting toss of over 1400 feet.  That fruitcake went so far up in the air that I thought it might collide with one of the air force planes that was entertaining us with fly-overs. 

And it wound up way up on the hillside at the far end of the football field.  Little critters will be champing fruitcake up there for weeks to come.

Somehow, I missed the Accuracy competition, and the Fruitcake Catch – I’d have liked to have seen that one.

I came away with a slightly sunburned face, a smile, and a new appreciation for creativity and small-town spirit.  Manitou Springs is a place I’ve often thought I’d like to live.  That won’t happen any time soon, but I, for one, will be there for the Emma Crawford Wake and Coffin Races in October, just to share in the sense of community, fun and blog fodder. 

Maybe I’ll even bring a fruitcake.

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