Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Long, Strange Trip

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I set out to Denver to visit my brother and sister-in-law, Jean-Noel and Linda, in their cozy abode. I checked us in to our Southwest flight the day before, and we arrived at the airport two hours early, all set and ready to go, when I noticed the screen at the gate flashing that our flight had been delayed FIVE HOURS (Unfortunately, I had turned off my cell phone that morning as I took the day off work. Had it been on, I would have received the call from Southwest's automated flight status service...drats!).

I went to the gate agent to find out why we were delayed: extreme thunderstorms in Texas that shut down the Dallas airport, where our plane needed to land before coming to Albuquerque to pick us up. I joked that we could get to Denver sooner if we drove, and the agent looked at me frankly and said, "yes, you probably could". So, we did.

And the trouble only started at the airport...

We went back to my folks' house to borrow my dad's car for the trip. After a quick stop at Hasting's Entertainment in Albuquerque to purchase some sale CDs for the long road trip ahead (e.g., the Jerry MacGuire soundtrack, Willie Nelson B-sides, Miles Davis in Paris, Ella/Lena/Sarah/Billie, and yes, Dolly Parton), we headed north for what would become a 10-hour trip (it should have only been seven).

After passing through Santa Fe and Raton to cross the Colorado border, we made our first stop: Rino's Italian Restaurant in Trinidad, CO. You may remember from a previous Denver roadtrip post that Trinidad was once regaled as the sex change capital of the world.... Well, apparently it's home to eccentric restaurant owners, too. Once we returned home and I looked up this quaint little joint on TripAdvisor, I found an anonymous review that summed this place up perfectly: "I know it sounds schmaltzy, but the combination of good food at a reasonable price and singing waiters, mostly in Italian, made for a very enjoyable dinner." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Then there were the storms, a huge deluge on our approach into Westminster, the Denver suburb where Jean and Linda live, and a string of violent ones all along the drive home. At some points, we literally couldn't see a foot in front of us, and other cars were drifting into our lane, nearly driving us into a ravine. But, somehow, we survived....

We had a great time in Denver, visiting Jean-Noel and Linda, and enjoying their home, their garden, and their terrifying yet adorable dog, Lily (don't let the photo fool you--she's a whole lotta whoop-ass!).

We toured around 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver that Saturday, strolling by the D & F tower, once the next tallest building in the U.S. next to the Empire State Building in New York, according to one report I saw online. Earlier that day, Linda took me to the gym where she teaches weight training and aerobics so we could do two--count TWO--workout classes on Saturday morning. Needless to say, I was pooped by Saturday evening.

In our downtime, we watched a couple movies on their incredible 50" HD TV: Doubt and The Dark Knight, both so apparently real on that high-def TV, my dreams were especially vivid that night.

The weekend went by way too fast, and before we knew it, Mom and I were on the road again. This time, we only made one or two quick stops for food and gas. In Springer, quite a few miles south of the Colorado-New Mexico border, we stopped at Russells' Truck & Travel Stop, where we wolfed down a 6" Subway sandwich and then strolled through the unexpected 50s road trip museum, decked out with vintage cards, cardboard cutouts of 50s stars, and old gas pumps, gumball machines, and other memorabilia. It was a pleasant surprise before we drove into another overwhelming thunderstorm....

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