vacation, from a distance

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With smoochies and scratchies under the chin, we dropped off the dog. Packed the bags. Stuffed our Subaru Outback with two weeks of necessities. We loaded the bikes on the rack and ourselves in like sardines. We headed down the ribbon of highway that splits our state in half, the one that leads to the mountains of Colorado.

Along the way we played highway games, DVDs, and dozed- while listening to (but trying to ignore) the strange new sound the car was making. It was dreadfully, record-breaking hot, but the temperature dropped rapidly as we wobbled up to Keystone. Looking around us, we suddenly realized that about every 3rd car was a Subaru Outback with bikes on the back. "Ahh... our people," we said smiling. At the grocery store I commented about all the Tevas and Birkenstocks. "Yes, these are our people," we said again.

The first leg of the trip was with family, and our kids played so nicely with their cousins. The altitude bothered me more than I expected, but it was nothing a few migraine pills couldn't fix. After a few days I adjusted. We loafed and slept in. We played games. We rode chair lifts and gondolas. One of us lost a tooth in the air. One of us found his independence and rode the lifts alone a few times. We watched sunsets from the tops of mountains- perhaps the most beautiful I've ever seen. Someone had pink eye again, and we visited a nice doctor whose name was strangely close to our own doctor's name. It was nothing a few eye drops couldn't fix. We hiked and hiked and hiked. We rode our bikes for miles. We drove a bit to have dinner and pie with dear friends. A kind mechanic fixed our car- no charge! We re-built a little trail bridge across a stream just for the fun of it, then scratched our names in the wood. We opened the windows every night and let that same stream sing us to sleep. In a blink, we had to hug and say goodbye (and see you at Thanksgiving!)

We loaded the bikes back up again headed just a bit higher to Breckenridge- the next several days were spent with good friends from home. We drank cold beer and laughed and laughed. We took turns making meals in the kitchen. We sat in the hot tub and watched our kids play so nicely with their friends. We hiked and hiked and hiked some more. We rode our bikes for miles. We bumped into a friend on a hike to a waterfall. We ran into an old college buddy at a pizza joint. We rode more lifts and gondolas, and then zoomed back down on the alpine slide. We were led to an amazing aspen grove. We learned that if you give a dead aspen tree a good shove, it makes a satisfying pop then tips right down. We peered over edges of cliffs and watched the sun set over a smooth lake. We built a campfire and ate s'mores. We couldn't believe the views we saw. We tried to capture them in photos- so many photos. We sat in the hot tub in the rain. And then laughed some more.

Too soon we had to pack up again, say goodbye (and see you next week!), and drive back the long ribbon of highway, the one that leads home. Along the way we visited Red Rocks. We stopped for dinner. We climbed back in the sardine-can car. We watched the bike tires spin in the rear-view mirror and sleepily fantasized about moving to Colorado. We looked at each other and smiled.

As the sun set over the flat corn fields and low rocky hills, the small bumps of this vacation began to smooth out. Car repair? What car repair? Pink eye? Who cares. The headaches? I don't recall headaches. Did we spend too much money? No bother. A few tantrums, a couple arguments? Never happened. The tasks that have stacked up for us at work and home? So very, very worth it. And now, from the distance of one week home, unpacked and laundry done, we remember this perfect vacation. It's among the best we've ever had. When I look at these photos, I'm filled with a wonderful feeling. I'm glad this is the way my memory works. I wouldn't change a thing anyway.