Loveland and Estes Park

So here I am in downtown Fort Collins, Colorado.  I’m sitting at THE eponymous red table of the Red Table Cafe, enjoying some beautiful music and a mimosa (!!) and watching a very fine snow fall outside in the quaint streets near the pedestrian plaza.  There’s beautiful art (for sale!) on the walls (I’m already in love with one) and I’m the only one in here…and I’m trying to figure out how to engage the staff in the kind of conversation that would give me some insight as to whether or not moving here will mean that my life will become exactly what I’d always dreamed of for the next 60 years.

That’s a far taller order than the mimosa.  Maybe I’ll just let them sweep.

I arrived late on April Fool’s Day with a suitcase full of the kinds of layers I thought would work for a forecast that predicted highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s…which is to say, I didn’t pack for real cold, and I didn’t pack for warmth, either.  Arriving at Denver International Airport for my 10th time in 12 months (this was the first time I actually got to LEAVE the airport), I was somewhat disconcerted to see people in shorts and flip-flops, slightly pink.  I was worried I’d packed way too heavy for warm temps.

From the airport, I took the Avis shuttle to the car rental place some 5 miles outside of the airport, and waited in a 25-minute line with other grumpy, sleepy folks waiting for their cars…and got to the counter…and gave my confirmation number, and got no more than three letters in before the desk girl stopped me with a “What…?”  I didn’t rent from Avis.  Sigh.  She immediately offered to get me a ride to the Fox (?) rental place, where I entered a shady-looking warehouse building and was hooked up with my car by a very friendly and rather attractive guy named Manny, who was just the kind of outdoorsy-looking guy I’m moving out here to find.  I got into my claustrophobic little Chevy Malibu and headed north to Loveland…making it to my hotel room at about 1am local time, 3am by my body clock.  Unpacked everything, set up bathroom and drawers and desk and closet (my favorite part of a hotel stay), and collapsed into a bed that, after having my SleepNumber set on 90 for months now, had me feeling as if I were drowning in the mattress.  Luckily, I was too exhausted to care.

Monday morning I dragged myself out of bed in time for the complimentary breakfast, reminding myself that economy was key, and that places like this sometimes have Belgian waffle-makers.  Aaaand, they did.  YUM.  With a belly fulla waffle, I was ready to tackle the day, which was going to start with coffee in downtown Loveland with my friend Mandy from high school.  She looked exactly as she did in high school, and, to my surprise, said the same about me.  The coffee shop was also a bookstore…mostly used, some new, and had a great little area to sit and chat in.  We started with June of 1995 and caught up on 17 years of college, grad school, jobs, families, siblings, and what it’s like to live in Colorado.  She had a lot of reassurance to offer me about the weather, as she had moved here last summer from Seattle and claimed that this area has 300 days of sunshine a year, just like Reno.  To hear someone say they had moved here “for the weather” made me feel like the cold was something I could handle, and that I had a lot of bright days to look forward to.

When Mandy had to go, I wandered a few blocks of the main downtown on foot and dropped in on a little Reiki-type mystical-spiritual-woman-type shop that reminded me of Woman’s Wish down in Occoquan back home…and almost thought it was the same woman who’d run that shop.  It wasn’t, but she was just as warm and friendly, and we talked for a while about what brought me out here and how she was certain I’d be very happy here and that everything would fall into place.  It was like having a cup of coffee with a rent-a-grandma, and I left the shop feeling like I’d met an angel.

Getting back in the car, I decided to follow Mandy’s advice to drive out to Estes Park, a little resort town in the mountains.  As soon as I passed my hotel on Rt 34, I saw signs that I was entering Roosevelt National Park and the Big Thompson Valley Gorge…and right away, I found myself on a little two-lane road that hugged a river that cut through steep walls of rock on either side.  It was really beautiful (despite the fact that my Malibu is probably the worst mountain-sight-seeing rental car on the planet…no sunroof, low ceilings, small windows).  A few miles in, the cars coming towards me began flashing their lights at me, and I kept an eye out for cops, but within moments, came upon a herd of bighorn sheep crowding the right-hand shoulder of the road, nibbling indifferently at grasses while their ram gazed at us with cocked head.  I scrambled to get a few shots with my phone, which did NOT cooperate, and then swallowed the pictures I eventually did get of him and his beautifully curved horns.  I wondered briefly if he would charge my car and ram my hood…realized I had no idea what the habits of bighorn were.  As more cars came to a stop behind us and on the opposite side, some of the ewes and lambs decided to cross, changed their mind halfway, and crowded back to the shoulder as we all eased past.

Estes Park finally came into view after miles of twisting mountain roads through the river valley, with little homesteads nestled against the rockface, looking like they would be full of hardy, mountain-dwelling folks who were prepared to handle any kind of weather the Rockies could throw at them.  It was picturesque, but tough to imagine the lifestyle.  I kept wondering where the kids went to school, and how they got there, and how long it took, and what on EARTH did they do when the weather turned bad??

Estes Park had the look of a typical resort town…the kind of place a wintry person would pick for a honeymoon.  The mountains rose up at sharp angles, and though there was no snow, I could see ski runs cut into the sides of some of the wider mountainsides.  A fine, misty sleet was falling the entire time, and the tops of the mountains were shrouded in mist.  It really was quite beautiful.

The Red Table Cafe folks just stopped by my table to tell me they were closing (had closed 35 minutes ago, actually), so I have to chug this mimosa and get moving.  I’ll write more later, I’m sure.


About merlintoes

Amateur marathoner, constant wanderer, sometime teacher, and pilgrim for life. As of July 2012, I have picked up and moved my life to Colorado, a state where I know no one, have no job, and hear it is very beautiful. I don't understand it myself...but I'm gonna run with it.
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