Last night, all the weather reports said that it might snow, but that it wasn't going to start until the evening. So when we planned on getting to central station in Denver, we gave ourselves the hour it should take to get here and then another hour on top of that to deal with traffic, "bad luck", and, most importantly, donuts.
I guess it's old age that insures that we always plan for bad luck.
So when we got up at 5:30 and I heard the soft sound of rain and ice hitting the windows of the house, I wasn't all that surprised.
In Longmont it was just a quiet rain, soaking into the ground and melting the leftover snow from Thursday all the faster. The donut shop was warm and filled with fresh donuts and a girl manned the counter whom I'd never seen before, as I usually only get there after 8 or even 10 on a really lazy day. But they had the donuts we were looking for, including Jet's sprinkles and my raised glazed and plain old-fashioned.
There was even a little drive-thru latte place that had white chocolate for Jet's hot white chocolate, and then were were off ot the freeway, where the weather turned for the worse. Snow and wind soon iced up the roadway and one person in front of us spun out to the shoulder when they couldn't stop fast enough. When John tested the breaks and we slid for a bit, everyone slowed down and got more reasonable distances between all the cars, given the weather.
It's good to drive in a place where everyone knows how to drive in the snow, even on a freeway.
But we slowed from 75 mph to about 30 mph, and so were very glad of the extra time as we found the exit in the horizontal snow, and went on to Central Station. John dropped Jet and I off at the station while he went to look for parking, and Jet and I dragged our luggage into the beautiful old train station and I settled with everything while Jet went off o tind a restroom. It's very good having an older kid, now.
The station had these very tall bench seats that had flourescent lighting built into the top of each seat, so that everyone had hteir own light source. The ceiling of the station was so far up, the light from there was very diffuse, so having the very clear reading light just above our heads was really good when the newspapers and books came out.
There was a man in battered leather pants with an old, soft brown mohawk that had blond Rastafarian rattail ends that suggested old dreadlocks. His face was covered in tribal tattoos and he had possibly 2 cm cores in the lobes of ears with three or four other piercings. His pack included a bedroll and his vest was patchwork, and well worn and he was just fascinating to look at, as he waited for the train.
When the call came it was for kids and overnighters, first, then all parties of three or more, and finally everyone else. I wasn't quite sure of why that particular order, but it meant we got on sooner than most, and got all our stuff stowed fairly quickly.
The California Zypher runs from Chicago to San Francisco, but we were only doing the Denver to Glenwood Springs leg of it all. Given the weather, the train was an hour late, but it gave me more of the feeling of what it might have been like before planes. The more leisurely wait and getting onto the train was much nicer than the "count the minutes so you board at exactly the right time" way of traveling on a plane.
When we pulled out of the station, I didn't even notice at first. There was just the gentlest of sways and then we started to inch away from the platform. The train was very, very comfortable, lots of leg space, the seats themselves can lean nearly all the way back, and there are foot rests for every single one of them. Sliding under the roads and tracks through Denver, I got some pictures of things I wouldn't otherwise see, and then we were out of the city so quickly I was astonished.
I slept for a good hour. The boys explored and took pictures and had fun in the observation car which has windows all the way up into the ceiling. The cafe was under the observation car, and they got us a snack as well, and I desperately needed the liquids and the sleep as I'm definitely sick. I'm hoping that it's just the cold Jet's had for the last week. He coughs some, but doesn't seem to function any worse on the msot part. Compared to the strep and pneumonia that's been doing the rounds with his friends, it seems pretty benign.
The views are spectactular up here, just wending our way through the mountains and trees. Jet played for a while with his XO, long enough to know that that he couldn't get Internet and play the games he really wanted to play, but he had fun with it anyway.
At noon there was a long stop in Granby, as there was a derailed freight car on the tracks we were supposed to be taking, and there was no idea how long it would take to get it cleared off the tracks. I guess that's the other side to the more leisurely method of travel. It is very nice, tought, that we don't have to have seatbelts, don't have turbulance, and don't have to stay in our seats. It's kind of nice to just wander up and down the train.
I'm even getting a little writing done.
Between a traffic problem and the derailment we didn't get into Glenwood until nearly 6 pm, and the wind was cold, but the sun was actually out. No real show of a storm in the area. That was nice. We checked into the Victorian era Hotel Denver, and had dinner at the Glenwood Brew Pub that was connected to the building. The food there was very good. Lovely garlic sauteed veg, lean smoked turkey in a Philly style sandwich. John got a pork loin smothered in a red chile based sauce, and it was tasty and tender. Jet got a grilled cheese sandwich that he really enjoyed.
We were pretty worn out from the long train trip, so we hiked up the main street and back just to see what was there, and ended up far enough to find a little ice cream shop where we had ice cream, and then walked back.
It was funny to see all the Doc Holliday signs everywhere, from a tavern named after him to a sports store with the words "Doc Holliday died Here" emblazoned on both front doors. I love the legends of Doc Holliday and how he thought it was pretty funny that he died in bed, after so many gunfights he'd been in in order to help out the Earp family. I have to admit that there is some romance and something tempting about dying from someone trying to kill you rather than the slow deterioration of ones own lungs.
Dying to save someone is so much cooler than dying of drowning on our own lungs inability to do what they were supposed to do.
Jet went to sleep pretty easily when we got back to the hotel, but he'd been awake all day. John sampled a couple more pub brews before coming to bed, so he slept well, too. I took a little while longer to get to sleep, but once I did I slept well; and given that it was in a hotel bed, that was a very good thing indeed.
I woke up thinking I had strep because my throat hurt so badly; but it turned out that it was just being in the extra dry hotel room. The boys let me sleep another hour after they'd gotten up, and they just walked around the hotel several times and outside a little bit.
When they came back I was willing to actually attempt getting up. A long hot shower made me feel mildly more human, and then they took me to the Daily Bread, which was a little diner like place that had a bakery counter, but half of it was filled with their homemade sausages, which they also sold. They were really a small restaurant more than anything, and their Spinbacado Benedict had spinach, bacon, and avocado instead of the traditional Canadian bacon, worked out really nicely.
Three cups of coffee made me feel more like making the attempt at the local springs.
Here they've turned the hot springs into a huge outdoor pool. There are two parts to the pool, one is a huge swimming pool that has diving boards and lap lanes on the deep end, and then there's nearly 50 yards of shallow (3 foot to 5 foot) water that's all kept at 90°F (32 C). There's also a smaller pool that's only four feet deep at the deepest that'd kept at approximately 104° (40° C), which is basically standard hot tub temperatures.
Coming out of the dressing rooms (which have signs everywhere saying, "Shower before Entering The Pool"), while wet into the 28°F (-2° C) wind was daunting, and then getting directly into the very hot pool was such a contrast it was astonishing.
It was really really good. Jet and John and I stayed in the hot side for a bit. Then John and I went into the bigger pool. We went to the far end, and then, on the way back, we saw Jet heading for us through the deeper water. It's a good thing he's half fish. All together we explored the cooler, big pool for a good long time. Just swimming through the warm waters, and ending up at the far end, where the two guys went and jumped off the diving boards half a dozen times.
The two boys also discovered that the 'natural looking stones' lining the edge of the pool was actually the concrete slabs that had been built there, but they were all covered in a thick layer of deposits from the minerals in the water. The water was so filled with 'stuff' that it was salty and smelled of sulfur. It was so dense that it was easier floating in it than it was to float in the Pacific Ocean. I was pretty impressed by that. But the deposit layers were so thick that a chunk had broken off one of the slabs of concrete and Jet was able to take a piece of it with him.
The steam was amazing. When the wind didn't blow it pooled over the water, obscuring everything in all directions. When the wind did blow, it whipped off the surface like a banner, streaming into the air.
The harsh wind was probably why all the life guards, sitting and standing around the pool were all bundled in multiple layers, with what looked like a water proof layer on the outermost side. They might even have been in dry suits, for all I knew, but they really needed the insulation in the below-freezing temperatures. That was really odd to see...
.. all these people in swim suits lazily paddling about in the water, and the life guards freezing their buns off on land, in small shelters with heaters or all bundled up.
At one point I had to climb out of the pool to use a restroom, and the metal tubes they used for handrails were so cold at the top of the ladder I was half afraid my wet had would stick to them. There wasn't ice forming at the top, but the minerals had deposited a thick ring of stone right where the pipe met the water.
After a couple hours of swimming, we were done, and we rinsed off, changed into our clothing and headed into a different part of town to find Jet his "free arrowhead" from a kitch shop there. It turned out to be a very nice little obsedian glass arrowhead. He really likes it. we took a little while getting back to the other part of town, and once there we hit a knitting store a few blocks up. They didn't have much there compared to what I could get online, but I kind of like to look and if I can support a local yarn shop, I prefer to. We wandered through book stores, through other stores, and into a coffee shop with a guy playing music that was far, far too loud.
We went on to a different coffee shop, which carried smoothies along with coffee and bagels. John and I shared a bagel with lox while Jet downed a strawberry smoothie and then had to play foosball to warm up. There was a health food grocery store a bare block from the hotel, and we wandered through it getting ideas for what we'd take on the train tomorrow, as the train snacks were very expensive and the quality wasn't very good. So we might pack chips, sandwiches, and some snacks and drinks, it'll be cheaper and better quality stuff.
Back at the room, the boys played video games while I read and knit and thought about taking a nap. I probably should have, but wasn't feeling that bad, although I was having some pretty horrible lung-deep coughing fits now and again.
We took another walk out in the freezing temps in the afternoon, trying to find a park where Jet could play with the Frisbee he'd gotten with his dinner the night before. It took quite a lot of exploring and finally finding a way back across the Colorado River on a foot bridge before we found a piece of the long trail that runs parallel to I-70 in this part of the country. It's a huge trail that runs alongside the freeway and the very small at this point, Colorado River, and it's all paved, with rest stops every few miles, so in the summer it would be a wonderful adventure on a bike. As it was, we found a big, open park and the two boys threw their frisbee while I tried to knit with hands that just froze in the wind. I finally just huddled in my coat with my thick mittens on, and waited for them with my back to the wind.
We got back, warmed up, and then went to dinner at 5:30. We went to the Rib City Grill, which had BBQ everything, along with some nice sides like sweet potato fries, their own homemade BBQ beans, regular fries, cole slaw, potato salad, etc. They had three different kinds of sauces and a hot sauce that they only kept in the back. *laughs* John got that since he was wearing a chile shirt, and enjoyed it mixed with the vinegar-based sauce.
The smoked chicken that Jet and I got was tender and succulent, the baby back ribs were a little dry but very tasty and really great with their sweet sauce. I loved the BBQ beans, as they obviously had little chunks and drippings from the smoked meats. They served everything with Texas Toast, and it was very, very tasty.
Jet wanted something from the bookstore just up the street, and so we went there. There was a book called My Pet Virus about a hemophilac boy who got the HIV AIDs virus from blood transfusions when he was 11 and how he was treated while he lived in the Deep South with that disease. He talks of learning how to date from gay guys online and how he really became A Rebel Without a Cure. It was under "Green Living", which bemused me a little, but it might have been because that was the shelf next to the other autobiographies (including "Fallen Angel" about one of the ex-leaders of the Hell's Angels) there was something about the edge of his humor that really grabbed me, so I bought it.
Nothing like real life when one wants a good story...
We got all our stuff and went back to the hot springs for a swim, some tossing back and forth of a foam ball, and then a good, long soak in the hot water. It felt hotter in the evening. More people were there as well, as I suspect the locals, coming home after work, might come out and soak in the evening. The evening rates were also lower; but the day rate included being able to come back any time for the rest of the day, so that made a lot of sense.
The boys also discovered a "swim suit spinner" in the men's locker room, and they took all the suits for a spin. They came out practically dry, which was really, really nice. We'll be able to pack them to take home tomorrow, with no problems whatsoever.
After I got a thorough shower, we went back to the brew pub and had some dessert. Jet had a root beer float, John had a stout, and I had a slice of the Bourbon pecan pie. It was really excellent. Then we went back to the room, Jet got ready for bed, and we watched a little of Dirty Jobs before just falling asleep.
I guess I've never been good at sitting still even when I'm sick. We covered over 15,000 steps today, and I guess I don't feel any worse for the wear. I don't have a fever, at least, and while I coughing stuff up, at least it's coming up and not sticking around. My breathing has been a little short sometimes, but only from exertion, not from being unable to get enough air. That's been good, not feeling like I'm short on oxygen while sleeping has been really, really good. So I must be making some kind of progress with my lung treatment.
it'slike Amtrak is trying to make up for Monday's slowness. The train is not only running on time, but it's actually going faster than scheduled. We're getting to each stop in advance of the time, and leaving exactly on time. Even with the snow blowing horizontally across the windows.
The views have been spectacular. I slept soon after we boarded at 1:10, and woke up once in a while to gorgeous vistas with water and snow covered hills or rocky mountain peaks all around. Threes, short and tall, scrubby and pine beetle eaten were everywhere, and we followed the Colorado River, after it's sourcing from Grandview lake, for a good half of the trip through to Granby. From there, we headed down, following a small river that looked much the same. At the source, the Colorado is pretty small.
Given that our car didn't have power sources at every seat, I've been a little more reluctant to fire this thing up, but we're down to the last hour and a half of ride, so I thought I'd do what I could while I can.
Our morning was very leisurely. We found a little diner just a block's walk from the hotel, they only had a dozen things on the menu, and I suspect that all of them were great. My egg over medium was perfectly done, the hash browns crisp and not greasy, the thin bacon perfectly crisp and not burnt at all. Jet's hard boiled egg was not only good and hard (at altitude it'sa job of at least ten minutes), but also shelled for him and still hot. They'd buttered his toast and sliced it into solders, if he'd had a soft boiled egg it would have been perfect for dipping.
As it was, John's toast gave him the option of buttering it at all, so it wasn't one size fits all. My three little pancakes were nearly half an inch thick and they were good and crisp on one side and tender all the way through.
Jet said, "That was a really good breakfast."
The local Aspen paper was running their April Fool's Day edition, all jokes all the time just so no one would get mixed up at all about what was a joke and what wasn't. We bought coffee drinks at a local cafe, brought along my laptop and Jet's XO and had fuwn with our computers for a while. John and Jet are hooked on an online game called Mutiny, which has all kinds of simple projectile physics, lots of different kinds of weapons that all do different things, so they really get to plan their strategy as they go. It's turn-based, and no one can move until it's their turn, so there is no twitch to it at all.
We spent a good time there, and then went back in order to pack up and get ready to go. We left our luggage at the hotel, and they stored it for us until the train came. We stopped at another cafe for a bit of lunch and then hit the health food store for our dinner. The pre-made sandwiches were just a bit too fancy for our taste, so we ended up just getting a block of cheddar and some crackers along with some chips and Pellegrino drinks. I love their lemonaide and orangeaid and they cost less than then the cans of pop on the train. So we each got two.
So with all our luggage and a grocery bag filled with dinner we went to the train station, and boarded right on time. The conductor spoke to Jet as if he were four, and Jet was very polite about the whole deal but he shook his head after he got our boarding passes.
The boys have been all up and down the train, several times, and they bought Jet a hot dog for his dinner. They've been in the VistaDome nearly the entire trip. I have problems with sitting sideways, so I came back to our seats fairly quickly, but the views really were magnificent.
We got into Denver a few minutes after 7, which was early for the train, and we got home before Jet's bed time. It worked out really, really well, and we still have four more days of Spring Break to play with Jet.
It's nice to be in our own bed again. But the whole trip was a good one to get away for a little bit and discover more that's *near* home.