Soooo…today’s drama started before today even started. I had just returned the computer to the folks last night after finishing my blog, and was about to climb into bed when I got an ominous text from my mother, whom I’m sure was frantic when she sent it: “We’ve lost Marbles. Can’t find her!” Ho, boy. Problem child again. I grabbed my shoes and headed to their room, kissing at the parking lot as I went, thinking it didn’t make sense that she would’ve tried to escape and LEAVE HER MAMA to go roaming outside in a strange, scary place. (That cat sweats my mom like CRAZY. I mean, if she could, she would occupy the SAME SPACE as my mother.)
Got into the room and Mom was in a panic. There were only so many places she could be. First thing I did was look behind and underneath the recliner, where there was barely a few inches’ clearance between the floor and a metal bar…but I pushed on the back of the chair, tipping it forward, and there was a giant gray-and-black coffee-cake swirl with reddish eyes looking forlornly at me. Dad was boggled…swore he’d looked there, but was sure there wasn’t any room for a fatso like Marbles to squeeze under. I dragged her out and passed her to my mother, who looked about ready to faint with relief. I started to consider our friend Lynn’s suggestion that Marbles might look good in the rearview mirror by the side of the road tomorrow.
So, off to sleep, up this morning at dawn, and ready to go by 7. The folks pilled the cats without me, so I can’t regale you with another episode of that little drama. However, the meds today didn’t affect EITHER cat at ALL, apparently. Belle was as awake as ever on her single dose, and Marbles was wide awake on her double…nothing like she was yesterday. The mysteries of life….
So we trekked through Kansas City…which, I must admit, has been some of the prettiest terrain we’ve covered so far on this trip. Everything is blooming, the houses are quaint, you’ve got farmland and white fences on the outskirts…we even saw the Royals Stadium and…AND…Kansas Motor Speedway!!
Made it to Topeka before we stopped for breakfast at a Denny’s. Along the way, we saw a billboard advertising a historical site for Brown vs. Board of Education…the court case that desegregated public schools. THAT was cool to see, even if just the sign (it’s not exactly a sightseeing trip). When we pulled into the Denny’s, Mom’s Acura MDX’s creepy GPS voice decided it had a serious oil problem that would require us to tow it to the nearest dealer. Uh. We got Dad on it…he opened the hood…and everything looked fine. It gave us no more trouble the rest of the day, and we decided it just wanted to be tickled some.
We placed our Denny’s order, and as the waitress walked away, I noticed a bald man, about 50 or so, in a pink shirt, coming out of the restroom area near our table. Except he came from the ladies’ room. And the strap across his chest wasn’t a messenger bag, it was a purse. And the pink shirt wasn’t a shirt, it was a dress…mid-thigh, button-down. And he was wearing beige sandals. With heels. And had a beer gut the way older men sometimes do that makes them look about 6 months pregnant. Bald man, dress, purse, heeled sandals…with a woman his age. Had this been Oakland, or even Adams Morgan, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. But it was Topeka, Kansas, before 9am on a Monday morning. Just caught me a little off-guard.
(We lost track of where we’d stopped for breakfast, and had to ask an elderly server lady where we were…she managed to keep a straight face, and no one even made any Dorothy jokes. But she did point out rather surreptitiously that we were in Kansas’s state capital.)
Off we go across Kansas. It’s not as flat as they say…it’s an endless series of gentle, rolling hills. With cows. And Baptist-y anti-abortion billboards. And adult novelty shops. Usually within the same 100 square yards of each other. You know, like “HELL HAS NO EXIT” and “JESUS SAVES; PORNOGRAPHY DESTROYS.” That one was directly beside the porn shop. I found that amusing.
At some point, we started to notice the hills on one side or the other of us were blackened. A little further, and we saw what we assumed were controlled burns, being tended by a frighteningly low number of men, quite spaced out from one another. But the hills are all grass, and sparse grasses at that, so we figured there isn’t really any way for the fires to get out of control…there’s not enough to feed them. And the burns apparently kill insects and restore the soil or whatnot…it was just odd. Every now and then we’d get a big flame in one spot, but for the most part, they were just little bright orange lines, eating away at the grasses and clouding up the air.
Not too much farther, and we saw SNOW. In big drifts. Some DEEP drifts. All along the side of the road. In APRIL! And it was about 60 today! Unexpected, to be sure.
Before we hit Colorado, we noticed Dad had a headlight out. (Today was Car-Trouble-But-Not-Really Day.) We had to drive through about 100 miles of Kansas nothing before we could find a Wal-Mart and get him a replacement. And in the 10 minutes it took us to figure out how to pop out one light and wrestle the other one in, it had somehow dropped about 15 degrees and it was COLD!
Along the way on the Kansas interstate, Cross-Dressing-Pink-Dress-Man passed us on the road. With his lady friend in the passenger seat. If you’re on FB, you can see a picture of him. ;)
Into Colorado. Which is just like Kansas. Except straighter. And flatter. And less to see. At least that’s what the first 150 miles is like. At one point, we passed a sign advertising (but not specifying) a “Point of Interest.” We figured about 2 miles later that it referred to a tower out in the middle of nowhere on a hill, billed on a hand-painted sign as the “See Six States Tower.” Uhh…Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico? I don’t think I’m buying that. But it was cute.
We drove over 600 miles today, breaking the cardinal rule Dad referred to (origin unknown) that goes, “Never drive more than 600 miles in one day.” Might be an Engelenism. Anyway, we broke it. It did feel like forever today. We listened to lots of NASCAR radio and some Oprah radio and lots of The Highway on XM. I drove about 3 hours…Mom did the next. Dad has not had driving relief yet…but it isn’t because I haven’t offered.
After entering Kansas City during the morning rush, we finally hit Denver in the evening rush. Awesome timing. Came in through the industrial part of town, so there was nothing scenic about it. Plus, Dad was OUT of gas, and we had a somewhat frantic wild-goose chase through an industrial park looking for a gas station, battling our numerous incomprehensible smart-whatever-devices along the way. Finally found a gas station next to a corner crowded with no fewer than FIVE Denver cop cars, lights flashing, one guy getting handcuffed, and another guy sitting soberly on the curb in what looked like a giant black rubber bag that came up to his neck. Cuffed, stuffed, and…bagged?? By the time we finished filling our tanks, they had all vanished. We followed suit rather quickly.
Back into the traffic, heading northwest to Boulder. We’d secured what sounded like a good hotel deal (another Best Western, Christa, if you’re reading this!), and as the traffic thinned and the road left Denver behind, the landscape started to improve dramatically.
Ohhh, and the Rockies. The Rockies are HUGE. They seem to rise straight up out of the plains. Steep and RIGHT THERE. Just gorgeous.
We got into Boulder and found our hotel with no problems. Got situated, unloaded the cats (who are starting to get used to the routine), and decided to walk from our hotel on 36 and Canyon down to the Pearl Street Mall District (downtown) and find a bite to eat. It was a good mile or more to the downtown area, which THANK GOD because we’ve all been sitting in cars and stuffing our faces for three days (albeit only twice a day). The historic district was beautiful. We were looking for a microbrewery, but stumbled upon the Boulder Café, which looked great from the outside…and gave it a shot. It was long on character and short on expense, and let me tell you, the surf ‘n’ turf there was TO DIE FOR. Mom said the same about her French Dip. We all had wine, too. It was a GREAT dinner. If you find yourself in Boulder, GO THERE.
We walked home afterwards through Pearl Street, past little bistros and coffee shops, bead stores and ceramic shops that let you paint your own crockery. Law offices…financial planners…outdoor shops…trendy little gift shops…lots of apartments/duplex-type buildings that would be great locations if not for the road noise. I really liked it. I imagine in the summer, when it’s green and much warmer, it must be a great spot to hang out.
By the time we hit the hotel, it had JUST started to rain. Great timing.
I wish we had a bit more time to poke around here, but a stopover is fine for me for this trip. I could come out here for a long weekend and get a better feel for the place, maybe. But I like what I see so far. The question is, am I enough of a winter person to get along here? Mountains and studded tires…? I dunno…I do love my warm summer nights on my back porch, and there would probably be no such thing here. But it is everything I’d heard it is, no doubt about that. I like it.
Tomorrow – over the Rockies and into Wyoming…thence to Utah…and stopping in Salt Lake. We’ve got a bead on a great little local restaurant for breakfast tomorrow, too, before we leave Boulder. I’ll let you know how that goes.
PS – Lots of Subarus here. LOTS.
PPS – Lots of backpackers here. Mom says they’re hobos. I say they’re backpackers. Either way, I made a karmic down payment here with one who asked me for some change for pizza. He rolled a giant yoga ball at me and called it bowling. I decided he was cool and obliged him. St. James was watching.
PPPS – No Dancing With the Stars tonight. It comes on earlier in Mountain time, and coincided with dinner. Bummer, dude. Plus, we’re 2 hours back, and it’s only 9:30pm but it’s really 11:30 for me…I’m exhausted. G’night.