The first lyrics I heard today on my iPod as I took off for my walk/run–it’s more of a walk than a run in high altitudes–were hard times come and hard times go.
Simple, yet profoundly true.
Once again, Gail, Suzanne and I Marched Forth today, for the fifteenth time. It has been that long since we said goodbye to our parents. I’m not sure how that much time slipped away, but it did. Time, however, as most of us know, is a healing balm. It has been for us, too.
Once again, without Suzanne, Gail and I Marched Forth as we went west into the beautiful splendor of the Rocky Mountains to celebrate their lives, not their deaths. Suzanne gives us her blessing to go, but it is never the same without her. It has been almost seven years since our epic beach trip that was chronicled in the first installation of this blog, and we all know it is time again for another one soon. Stay tuned.
We were welcomed by our favorite innkeepers in grand style, as usual.
I’m pretty sure it comes down between our visits, but it was on the wall in our room when we arrived.
Bonnie and Judy joined us on this trip again, as they typically do when it is just Gail and I.
I found Bonnie and Judy at a garage sale. I knew the sale hostess, and she said they were sisters as well. If you look close at their faces, and use your imagination a bit, you can see younger versions of Gail and me. These statuettes are dated 1953 on the back.
Gail’s friends Margaret, Mary and Cin-Cin joined us too, just as they did two years ago. They bring guaranteed fun along each time, and this time was no different.
I have long wanted to return to the top of Pikes Peak via Cog Train on one of our trips, but since it reopened only last year after six years of repair and renovation, we hadn’t yet made it. I decided it was time again, and Mary, Cin-Cin and I made the trip. Gail and Margaret opted to stay back and enjoy the day in Cripple Creek.
It felt right to get as close as possible to Heaven today, March Fourth.
We boarded the 1:21pm train at the station. It was reported that Mom and Dad left us “about 1:30,” so it was the perfect time to begin our ascent as well.
The views were indescribable on the nine-mile trip as it climbed slowly at about eight mph. From the view below, the conductor told us the Kansas border was below those far clouds.
As I sat facing Mary and Cin-Cin looking backwards down the mountain out the window as we moved on forward, I decided it was time to break out the Dove chocolates I brought along, one for each of us. I doled out theirs, and opened mine.
Here’s your sign.
After about an hour of magnificent views, we arrived at the top. It was fifteen degrees, 25-30 mph winds with blowing snow. It was frigid cold, but incredible.
At 14,115 feet altitude, this was as close to Heaven as I would get on this earth today, this bittersweet-turned-sweet-bitter day. This filled me up in a way I couldn’t have imagined that I would ever feel again 15 years ago today. I felt whole. I wanted to stay and savor it, but a moment was all I needed. They were there.
Lest you failed to notice the split-pea-soup-green coat I am wearing, let me draw your attention to it and explain its significance.
A dear friend lost her older sister in Colorado on March 5th, the year after our parents died. She had a collection of vintage coats, and my friend bequeathed this one to me. I wanted to honor her sister as well today. I’m pretty sure she was there, too.
It was time to leave the summit, and head back down the mountain for another beautiful hour of mountain scenery.
We talked, laughed, ate, drank coffee and other libations, shopped, gambled, puzzled and savored each other’s company. Time passed too quickly as it always does, and Sunday morning arrived too soon, with its inevitable checkout, and return home.
Hard times do come and they do go, but so too, do the good times. The memories, however, are always there for the reverie, and if you do it right, they appreciate in value over time. I do agree with my Dove chocolate wrapper, but this kind of backward-looking is necessary to savor these good times. Just be sure to live life forward.
And whatever your hard times are, be sure to March Forth.
In loving memory of Mom and Dad, “Liz and Ed,” and T.E. They are always with us, no matter what the altitude.
*Fun is doubled when there are two of us present to have it. It is tripled when all three of us are present.
*Unfortunately, Suzanne was not able to join us on our annual “March Forth” Colorado trip.
*She gave us her blessing to go on without her.
*Gail and I had fun x 2, or perhaps, on some other scale, it was exponentially increased. It’s hard to measure. Still, not as much fun without Suzanne.
*The weather was much better for our trip out than it was last year. As last year’s picture shows, we drove–and miraculously arrived–through a mountain snowstorm.
*As always, we are sure to add John Denver to the music mix while we are on the home stretch to our destination.
John will forever have the classic voice for this classic song, but we gave it our best in a sing-along.
*Stopping to take in this panoramic view of our destination is a must.
*Arrival at our favorite B&B–the Cripple Creek Hospitality House–is always a welcome relief from traveling. We have been guests here perhaps twenty times, and they treat us like family.
*Bonnie and Judy, the sisters pictured on these wooden garage sale treasures, joined us once again. They like to tag along when Gail and I travel, but they stay at home when Suzanne joins us because there is no third sister for them. We realized they are indeed our doppelgangers from our younger days–look closely.
*Gail needs about half as much sleep as I do. She starts it in the wee hours of the morning while I am in my deep sleep mode, and finishes it when I am awake.
*To compensate for this lack of restoration, she rejuvenates herself by bringing fun to the blackjack table to be shared by all the other gamblers, especially fun-loving people like Jimmy.
The casinos do not allow pictures at the tables, so we captured a picture of Jimmy as he boarded the bus back.
*Gail brings fun to any party in so many forms. This time, she added “party-gras” beads to the mix. She had her entire blackjack table adorned with them.
*While we have no way to be sure, apparently a large gaming corporation believes that if they build it, the gamblers will come.
*Gail and I continue to come back to the casinos, with or without winnings, as do the people who fill these buses.
*Gail’s favorite is the Wheel of Fortune, and I have had good luck with the buffalo slot machines.
*No jackpots to speak of this time.
*Clearly, Suzanne is smarter than we are for not over-feeding the beasts when she does go to the casinos. She is no gambler.
*Gail and I always win at the shopping game. This year was no different, as we both found a few new jewelry treasures and other small souvenirs to bring home.
*The trip home began Sunday morning, and was interrupted by Mother Nature. We didn’t plan on spending the night at the Holiday Inn in Limon, Colorado, but when Interstate 70 was closed here, we had no choice.
*The trip was a success. Being together is all it takes.
*Sometimes, unexpected delays and factors out of our control can create a unique experience for Plan B. If we can find a way to connect with other stranded motorists like ourselves, we may be spearheading a big party in the lobby by sundown. We will let you know.
*Life is often about Plan B (or C, or D, etc.)
*March Fourth rolls around every year, and it is the only day of the year that tells us to do something, so we do: we March Forth. It has been 14 years since the March Fourth that changed our lives, the day our parents died.
*We have struggled, mourned and become stronger individually and together, and together, we are the strongest.
*There are dark days and nights in life, but the sun always comes up the next morning, and the morning after. The days always get brighter after the darkness. Always. In time. If you continue to March Forth.
If you value your personal safety above having fun, I wouldn’t recommend traveling with Gail in the mountains in the midst of a snowstorm.
If, however, like me, you value both, you may not have a choice. She was driving, it was snowing (blizzarding?), and I was trapped. She wasn’t the slightest bit scared, and I was white-knuckling it in the back seat. Margaret was in the front, not saying much. She didn’t have to. I was saying it all: Gail! We can’t go any further! Gail! Look at those cars in the ditch already! Gail! We can’t see the road! Gail! Slow down! Gail! Even the locals at that convenience store said we were crazy to go on! Gail! We can’t go 18 more miles on hairpin-turn roads in this weather! Gail! March 4th is not our lucky day! You get the idea.
It may as well have been sunny and 70 degrees, for all Gail cared. The treacherous driving conditions didn’t faze her one bit.
“Kathleen, it’s fine. I can drive just fine. Don’t worry one bit. I’m not.” And she truly wasn’t one bit scared.
Margaret remained silently stoic. I’m not sure exactly how she felt. It didn’t matter, Gail was captain of our ship, and she was captaining forward. Forward through the blowing snow, slush and ice, forward on the road with no center line visible, forward to our Cripple Creek, Colorado destination.
“All I need is my rosary and my rear-view,” Gail said. Apparently, she was right.
Apparently, Gail really is invincible. She thinks so, I think perhaps she is most of the time, but this time, I wasn’t sure. Much like when I am trapped in an airplane and scared to death–for no reason when I’m in the air–I felt trapped in the car. I couldn’t get out and freeze, and I couldn’t exactly hitch a ride either. And there was no place to stay at this point.
Obviously, we made it. And, several hours after we arrived, with several more hours of snow accumulation, several more hours of daylight gone, and several more hours of wind, Mary and Cindy made it, too.
I wasn’t feeling any form of Rocky Mountain High like I normally do when we are driving through the mountains on that last leg; I was too scared. The John Denver CD was ready and waiting, and finally, with just a few more of the last 18 miles to go, I loosened up a bit, dug out the CD and sang along. I let myself think that perhaps we really would make it there alive, and for that, I was feeling a bit high. Gail and Margaret sang, too, and we coasted slowly into town.
It is always a bummer when Suzanne can’t join us, and there is no replacing her. We weren’t trying. Her altitude intolerance makes it miserable for her, and we get it.
It seems Gail has touted this destination among her peers back home as a great place to spend time and money, and several of them wanted to check it out for themselves.
So, since it wasn’t officially an exclusive sister trip without Suzanne, we included several new adventure-seekers. Margaret went last year, and apparently had enough fun for a repeat trip. Mary and Cindy had never been, which made their arrival all the more wondrous. The last 18 miles are normally splendidly beautiful, but this time they were treacherous. Mary, however, is apparently a skilled snowy-mountain-road driver in her Jeep, even when she has no idea where she is going. They blew in with the snow and the wind in the dark several hours after we did, and the fun commenced.
And it really never stopped.
It actually started for me Wednesday evening, when I arrived in Atwood to spend the night at Gail’s before we departed Thursday morning. Margaret conceived the idea for this sign for her beloved hometown, and she worked to make it happen.
We hit the road Thursday morning, and made our way west. Gail’s favorite stop just outside of Colorado Springs–The Pop-a-Top Saloon–was on the agenda, as it always is. However, as we approached, something didn’t look right. It wasn’t. It was closed due to a fire in January.
We continued on, with the snow just beginning to blow as we approached the Springs. It became slush by the time we were on the other side of town, climbing up the mountains on Highway 24. There were several cars in the ditch along the way, and even with the snowplow just in front of us, it remained slushy and slick. We turned the corner for the last 18 miles, and the highway was white. It didn’t get much better as we went along. Mercifully, there were no idiots speeding at us from the other direction on this two-lane, mountain-hugging highway with sharp drop-offs on the side opposite the mountain. We met a few cars, but most people probably had the good sense to stay put. Below is a picture from Google Earth of the road this weekend, with more snow headed there.
The storm this weekend in Colorado apparently opened up for the travelers to arrive safely to Cripple Creek.
We were the only guests on the first night at our favorite inn, the Cripple Creek Hospitality House. It is the former Teller County Hospital, and it is reminiscent of the early days of the last century, complete with authentic equipment and remnants from its days as a hospital. I turned in before all the others, and, as I understand it, they celebrated in the hallway well into the wee hours of the night. Sleep is always my first priority, so I didn’t join them. I wish I had their stamina.
The next morning brought sunshine and warmer temperatures, as if the snow squall from the night before never existed. The wind went down, and the streets were quickly cleared.
We shopped, hitting our favorite jewelry and gift store, 9494, as well as the second-hand store, where–woo-hoo! I found a few more Fiesta ware pieces. It wasn’t the jackpot I gave away last time to Suzanne and Gail that I wrote about in my last blog, but I found a few nice additions to add to my collection waiting in boxes from Kohls.com when I arrived home. There are several more must-shop shops there, and we made our rounds. We donated to the local economy in the casinos as well, with a few of the others hitting a few small mother lodes, but no large fortunes.
And, of course, we ate. And we ate some more. We are sure to hit our favorite Irish pub each time; this time we hit it twice.
The donkeys that have freely roamed the streets of Cripple Creek for years are descendants of the original donkeys used during the original gold rush there, and are safely sheltered just outside of town during the winter months. Visitors are encouraged to visit and feed them, so we did.
Gail doesn’t normally kiss ass…
We took the four-mile drive to nearby Victor, another gold-mining town. The large mining operations along the way are an educational sight, and, because I am a trivia nerd, I wanted the others to know all the uses for gold besides jewelry, and I want you to know, too:
*It is used as currency worldwide.
*It is used in dentistry for crowns and fillings.
*It is used in computers and other electronics because it is a good conductor of electricity. It is likely in your cell phone, too.
*Winning the gold medal is recognized as the top honor, and it is used in religious statues and idols as well.
The mother lode was struck in the Cripple Creek/Victor area in 1890, and Cripple Creek’s population swelled to about 50,000. Today, Cripple Creek’s population is just under 1200 people, and Victor is home to about 400. Mining jobs remain an important element of the local economy.
It was in Cripple Creek that the idea for this blog was conceived. We have been taking our sister trips to Cripple Creek twice each year for the last ten years, and it became obvious to me a few years ago that I had indeed struck the sister lode. This time, we hit the friend lode, too.
We enjoyed lunch at a local veteran-owned bar and grill in Victor, then shopped some more.
We had a 5:00 date in Cripple Creek, and after an hour and then 12 extra minutes of grace, we found our way out of the escape room in the Cripple Creek District Museum. As well as enjoying our collective brainpower in this adventure, we learned a lot about the gold-mining history of the area; we had to in order to get out.
These adventures will stick in my memory, but I am most fond of this memory: I made new friends. It is no secret that when women gather in groups, as the numbers increase, so does the potential for discord. Not among us. I am looking forward to gathering again with Gail and her three friends, whom I now call my friends as well. We talked, laughed, cried, bonded, “relieved wind,” did yoga, did a puzzle, ate, drank and were merry–with Mary, Margaret and Cindy.
Bonnie and Judy, the sisters I found at a garage sale last year, joined us once again. They are quiet, but good company.
Mary and Cindy left a few hours before Gail, Margaret and me on Sunday. The weather remained bright, sunny and safe for traveling. While we have never wished for a snowstorm to keep us from arriving–which we almost didn’t this time, we always wish for a snowstorm to sock us in to keep us there for an extra day or two. As I write, the area is getting pummeled by a monster snowstorm, and I wish it would have been a week earlier. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and we were all able to hit the road.
Rocky Mountain High blared again on the way out, and we all sang along.
There’s no place like home…
It has been 13 years since March Fourth became March Forth for our family, and while the pain of loss never fully subsides, each passing year strengthens our sisterly bonds, as well as our fortitude to continue to live our lives in honor of the legacy our parents left us. We celebrate life and their lives on or around the anniversary date with this trip each year, and again in the fall. We know that we hit the mother lode and the father lode with our parents. As parents and as people, they were golden. Something tells me Mom and Dad are smiling down upon us and our adventures, and while they never met Mary, Margaret or Cindy, I’m pretty sure they are smiling down upon them as well.
RED SUEDE COWGIRL SHOES…and other necessary extravagances.
Greetings from the splendidly beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is time once again for our semi-annual Go West, Young Women trek. Sadly, Suzanne is not with us this time; she chose to stay behind rather than fight the altitude sickness. While we completely understand and support her decision, it is never the same without her.
But we must forge on without her, so we do. She sends her blessings with us.
As we all know, the world has changed in the last seven months. Cripple Creek, Colorado has changed as well since our last trip here in early March. Social distancing and mask-wearing are the norm, which precludes some of our favorite activities, namely, table games in the casinos—Gail’s favorite. Some slot machines are spaced with every other one out of commission if they are close to each other, and some are divided by plexiglass. Still, we managed to have fun.
“Fun,” as a noun, is defined as “enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure.”
Having fun, as we see it, is a priority in life. We agree with the wise doctor:
In “Red Leather Cowboy Boots,” (June 7th, 2020), I wrote about the awesome cowboy boots I purchased after my quest to do just that. This weekend, in Colorado, I broke them in.
It was indeed fun.
My friend Shari helped me find my perfect pair, and several weeks ago on our trip (Plan B: Let’s Sea, October 4th) I helped her find her perfect pair. While she was shopping in the vast western store in Oklahoma City, I discovered some western-themed footwear that I didn’t know existed. These shoes sucked me in, and I was hooked. Except that I couldn’t find the perfect pair that spoke to me, so my next quest was to find them online.
And I did. And they are fun.
I broke them in this weekend, the day after I broke in the boots. When I found these Ariat Cruisers, in the “Vintage Cowgirl” print online, they screamed fun, and then they whispered my name. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist.
Among the various fun activities Gail and I engaged in while nestled behind Pikes Peak in this quaint little mining/gambling town, was simply relaxing in our room. We stayed in our favorite inn, and, as always, we were welcomed back with open arms.
Massages are not Gail’s jam, but once again, I received a fabulous treatment from Joanne, the in-house masseuse extraordinaire. While I wouldn’t call it fun, exactly, it does help to free me up and relax me to enjoy the other lighthearted pleasures we partake in.
Gail rarely sits down to watch TV, but when she is away from home, she allows herself this lighthearted pleasure. We watched the good old favorite Saturday morning cartoons,
The movie “Matilda” was showing later, and it caught our interest.
Matilda, the main character, is a little girl who possess extraordinary telekinetic powers, and generally tries to make life fun. She struggles with the mean and nasty teacher/headmistress at her school, who had this quote on the classroom wall behind her:
“If you are having fun, you are not learning.”
We beg to differ. Some learning, by nature, is not fun. I recall not having a lot of fun in my high school math classes, but I did learn a lot, mostly how to persevere.
We would argue that you can learn more by having fun. These are the memories that stick; the memories that we carry with us because the memories of the fun we have is often a close second to the actual fun while we are having it.
Above all, we have learned that having fun is a choice. Fun, whether it is a simple picnic in the park, or a long weekend away—or perhaps a week away on vacation, is sometimes something we fight against. Fun doesn’t have to cost anything, or take a lot of time. Watching a good movie, having dinner with friends or playing cards is great fun.
If your plans for fun, however, involve an expenditure of a considerable amount of money or time, then there are other factors that must be considered. I hate to admit it, but I still wrestle with the guilt that tries to spoil my fun when I think about how I should be at work, and shouldn’t be spending money. When I am with my sisters, I quickly beat down the little voice that reminds me “you are abandoning your family again,” because it always tries to be heard. My children are grown and my husband is quite independent without me there—he was an ace bachelor for years. They all encourage me to go, but still, that voice keeps trying. Each time I shush it, it becomes a little more timid, a little more quiet the next time. In time, I know, it will stop trying, because it knows that as long as it continues to lose each battle, it doesn’t stand a chance at the war.
Gail, on the other hand, is a seasoned pro, and reports only a twinge of this guilt for not being at work. Her work ethic is strong, but her fun ethic is stronger. Her family is independent as well, because she has trained them well.
We plan for our trips, we save year-round for them, and we have taught our workplaces that this is our priority, and that they will carry on fine without us.
And they do.
When our children were younger, it was more difficult to get away, but we made it work.
There has never been a time when our families and our workplaces approached us and said: “You deserve a vacation. Take some time off and go, and don’t feel a bit guilty about it. And, here’s plenty of cash to make it all happen. Go, and have tons of fun.” Perhaps this has happened to someone, somewhere, but generally speaking, it doesn’t happen. So, if you are waiting for this kind of special permission, accompanied by a bunch of money, keep waiting. I would bet the entire cost of this trip that it will never happen to me, or you.
This translates into a simple truth: you need to give yourself permission, and make it happen. If your plans for fun involve considerable time and money, only you know what you can afford in terms of time away from your family responsibilities, time off work and money to spend on fun. Sometimes, however, looking at these resources—time and money—from the fun is a necessity perspective may reveal that just maybe, you have enough of both to create some fun.
It’s your decision.
The sisters of The Sister Lode, whether it is one, two or all three of us having fun, are here to tell you that it is worth the effort it takes. The time you take for yourself is never wasted time. And the memories of the fun you have will stay with you long after the time is gone.
Or maybe it’s buying your own version of red suede cowgirl shoes…or both.
As always, we never tell all from our travels, but we do tell some. Here is a montage of the fun we had.
Neither of us won any money, but it was fun to try.
She’s in there, I swear…
Watch for the rocks—and Gail
We took in the purple mountain majesty…
We shopped at our favorite store, and came away with more beautiful jewels…
And staged a little crisis on the way out of town…
I had to talk Gail back from the edge…
We had to stop for a photo op at this historic site with a great name:
And on our way in and out, in the last stretch of beautiful mountain hairpin twists and turns, we always crank up this classic and sing like no one’s listening:
And until next time, we had to leave this beautiful little mountain town behind.
Even a nun’s habit isn’t completely black and white–at least, ours weren’t. If you look close, you will see a bit of gray. Gray—not black and white– seems to be the rule in life.
Halloween blessings to you from The Sisters of the Stained Cloth
Gail, Suzanne and I departed from Gail’s home Thursday morning—Halloween—after Suzanne and I traveled to her home from our small city Wednesday night. It was time once again for us to head west, and this time, all three of us were in tow. We missed Suzanne last time, and she was up for a rally against the altitude sickness. It appears she lost a few of the battles, but this time, she won the war.
It’s just not the same if we’re not all three together.
It was her idea, after all, to dress as sisters—nuns. We are sisters to each other, so the costume idea was brilliant. We were born and raised Catholic, so we know the territory.
It was Halloween, but still, it appeared some people weren’t sure if we were the real deal, or if we were in costume. Several people said it was the socks and shoes that gave us away.
We made a few trick-or-treat stops in Gail’s small town to see several of her friends at work before we headed west. Because everyone—and I mean pretty much everyone—in her small town of 1,194, according to Wikipedia– knows Gail, those who saw us knew we were in costume.
Nuns have to eat, too, but down the road a bit when we ate lunch, most people weren’t sure.
And, because most people don’t realize that nuns can indeed drink beer, I think the socks/shoes were indeed a giveaway.
A kind man named David who stopped to take a picture of the iconic sign was nice enough to take our picture at the state line.
I’m pretty sure real nuns wouldn’t attempt to climb on the nunasaurus, but we did.
Our usual stop at the Pop-a-Top saloon just outside Colorado Springs wasn’t to be missed, so we didn’t.
And, because the world is indeed small, we met some fine folks there who live just down the road from Gail.
Old traditions prevail, like John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High to us as we complete the final twists and turns just before our arrival. That’s a black and white matter.
Lunch at one of our favorite restaurants can’t be missed either.
Even though she doesn’t like to drink beer, Suzanne is just as much a real woman as Gail and I are.
We were a bit chagrined because we expected more Halloween revelers like us at the casinos. However, we realized that everyone who was supposed to be there, was indeed there.
Sometimes in life, things “coincidentally” line up so perfectly that humans couldn’t have planned them any better without screwing them up. Quite by surprise, Cruella found one of her Dalmatians at the casino. The Dalmatian waitress Janelle didn’t know that Julie—Cruella—would be there, and neither did Cruella know that she would find a Dalmatian there. With a bit of red added, that was a black and white matter, too.
Because we saw them both alive and well the next day, Cruella lived a bit more happily ever after than she fared in the movie.
We had goodies to pass out in our jack-o-lantern bucket—the usual candy, and special treats for certain people that fit into the we don’t tell all category. Let’s just say that nuns are hip to the world, and understand more than one might think.
The population of Cripple Creek, Colorado—according to Wikipedia—is five people less than Gail’s small town: 1,189. However, it is the county seat of Teller County, and is home to this beautiful courthouse, built in 1904.
When we ask some people if they have been to Cripple Creek, sometimes they respond “I think I’ve been through it.” We think, however, that this response means they are confusing it with another Colorado town, because, except for seven miles further to Victor, it is essentially the end of the road. It is typically the destination that one has when traveling the twisty-turny hairpins on the last 18 miles of road there, 18 miles on Colorado 67 when you turn off US Highway 24 at Divide, Colorado.
These twisty-turny roads were snow packed and icy early in the week, just before we arrived. This proved to be challenge for the extra hundreds of people—potential jurors, national media and spectating citizens– traveling to this courthouse for the beginning of the trial of the man standing accused of killing his fiancé last year on Thanksgiving Day in nearby Woodland Park.
No media cameras were allowed inside, so they set up camp outside, across the street.
This tragic real-life saga stood in stark contrast to the comedy in the local theater half a block away.
This contrast, as I see it, is indeed black and white, as black and white as the Dalmatian’s spots. No gray there. Sometimes the blackness of real life can be devastating. The time for sadness, the time to mourn can be overwhelming. We’ve been there, too. But in time, and with a little faith and a little help, perhaps, the black fades to gray, and eventually some white shines through.
Whenever possible, we make time for laughter because we know it heals. It permeates the black, and helps the gray become white. So, we took in the afternoon show, which provided several hours of entertainment and raucous laughter. We can be cultured when we want to, although it may not be apparent from our earlier antics.
Gail and Suzanne are gifted with the ability to bring the gift of laughter to others. Quick and sharp, they both pounce on any occasion to create humor, sometimes apropos of nothing otherwise funny, like a daily shower.
Or fruits and vegetables–this one is a classic from a long-ago trip.
Or challenging a road sign
Or, while driving, the opportunity to fling me off my seat when I unbuckled to crawl into the way-back to get something that Suzanne didn’t want to get for me from her nest in the back seat, probably to cause a laugh.
But there is a time to be serious, too. We need that time just as much as we need to laugh, and we took that time while we were away. Time to sit and talk about our heartbreaks and joys. Time to reflect on our lives—past decisions that forever closed one door and flung open another. Time to talk about dreams derailed and deferred, and dreams we keep working on. Time to tell secrets we only tell each other. Time to reflect on the profound loss we all experienced when our parents died together, but even more so on the legacy of love and joy they left all of us. The legacy that continues to grow and strengthen as we continue to celebrate our sisterhood—and I’m not talking about our nun get-ups.
Our black and white—and gray—nun costumes. Gray like life. And gray is beautiful.
Happy Halloween from Sister Gail Jean, Sister Kathleen Ann and Sister Suzanne Patrice.
Suzanne and I live at 1,227 feet above sea level in our small city. Since I live north of the city, and I am eye-level with the tops of the water towers in town from my front porch, I am probably a few hundred feet higher than that. Gail lives at 2,858 feet, perhaps a bit higher because she lives on a hill in her small town.
My first post detailed our adventures at sea level on the beach. The subsequent posts detailing our travels took place at 9,494 feet in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
While on this trip several years ago, we traveled up nearby Pike’s Peak by cog train to an elevation of 14, 114 feet. Technically, we were higher than that at cruising altitude around 35,000 feet on our flights to and from the beach. But that doesn’t really count.
These travels are anticipated before, enjoyed during, and savored in their memories. But, like all events in life we enjoy, they are typically here and gone.
I work hard to enjoy life at my daily altitude as much as I enjoy it at each end of the altitude spectrum we travel to. But that is hard.
I find myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of each trip, and savoring those memories after each trip. During the trip, I want time to stand still. I want to languish in the minutes and hours without them passing by so quickly. Without them being over so quickly when we find ourselves back at home again.
Back at home, where the meat and potatoes of life are served up daily, where Real Life dwells in our day-to-day rounds. Where we live with our families. Where the minutes and the days may tick by slowly, but the months and years whizz by quickly.
Back at home, on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons and everything else in between that constitutes life. Because, as we all know too well, time away is a respite, a sabbatical from the work of life.
Another Colorado trip has been here, and is gone already. We eagerly awaited it—as we always do, languished in the moments there, and we are now relishing the memories—once again. If my calculations are right, this marks the twentieth time we have gone west, young women.
There was a point in my life a few years ago when the pull of the mountains—and the beach too—were a mystery to me. Like the full moon, I am drawn to the mountains instinctively; the deepest part of me is pulled by some invisible but undeniable force to travel there.
I decided upon a single word that describes this force that draws me to all three: energy. The mountains, the beach and the full moon have a living spirit about them, one that draws not just me and my sisters, but humans in general toward them. Which would explain the high real estate prices in such places. People with good money pay their good money to live in or near the mountains, and/or near the water. And most of us cannot deny the beauty of the full moon, even though we can’t purchase real estate there—yet.
So, we go. And we go again. And again. And we come home again.
If I could characterize our latest trip in one word, relative to our other mountain getaway weekends, it would be this: subdued.
Perhaps it was the delayed departure—one month after our usual Labor Day jaunt. However, we frequently talked about taking a later trip to enjoy the change of color in the mountains, so we relished this new schedule. Perhaps it was the touch of altitude sickness one of us experienced—or both, that made this trip a bit more laid-back than normal.
You wouldn’t know it from our usual stop in Limon,
Bear claws were always Gail’s favorite…
Or the great lengths that our newly-acquired friends go to in order to be in our group,
Or the cult followers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show waiting in line with us to see the show at the local theater. We hadn’t yet seen it, and we had no idea what we were in for…
Perhaps the most surprising, unplanned event was the fortuitous, purely-by-chance meeting of our former hometown farm neighbors on Bennett Avenue.
Gail and I used to babysit the young man on the right. He now protects and serves our country. Thank you for your service, Paul.
You may know the subdued nature of our trip by the beautiful aspens as they turn their glorious golden color, as they do every fall. We welcomed this beautiful sight, having never traveled here in October before.
Their seasonal slow-down perhaps helped set the tone for our relaxed weekend. Perhaps we, too, shed some temporary coverings—internally, of course. The daytime temperatures were relatively balmy, but the evening and night-time temperatures were flirting with the freezing mark, so we put on extra layers on the outside.
You may know it by the mountains in their fall grandeur lined in the brilliant golden of the aspens, their fresh air and their majesty against the bright blue sky have a way of opening up one’s mind and soul, which is not a bad thing. Instead of reaching out as much as we normally do, perhaps we reached inward.
John Denver sings Rocky Mountain High to us every trip, so you wouldn’t know it by that..
I signed up for the 1,000 feet below adventure at this local attraction with my family many years ago. Gail and Suzanne have yet to sign up for it. I went to the gift shop by myself; I needed a souvenir with this awesome name on it.
In my profession as a speech therapist, we distinguish between receptive and expressive language. Expressive language is that which we put forth, typically in our speech. Essentially, it is what we express.
Receptive language is that which we take in from others, typically by listening. It is what we receive.
Typically, my posts about our travels detail and expand upon our expressions, that which we put forth. Typically, we have plenty of interactions with others; an abundance of connections and expressions made. This trip was no different.
Besides the family from our home and our history pictured above, Gail and Suzanne connected with four people who pulled up in a car with Kansas plates outside our hotel. It was a Veteran’s tag, so the home county was not on the plate.
The family pictured above lived about two miles—as the crow flies—south of our farm. One gentleman in the car grew up about three miles north of our farm.
Sometimes, like on this trip, doing nothing special is really something special. Sometimes, like on this trip, traveling without a plan is the most liberating form of vacationing. Sometimes, our structured lives at home and at work spill over into our vacations, making us feel as if we must have a plan.
On vacation and in life in general, I often seem to do better without a plan. Gail and Suzanne travel that way, too. There is a long-standing joke between us about going to Colorado without a plan. Perhaps that is why we get along so well.
Perhaps that is why I can safely say this trip was one more of reception vs. expression. We let it all in.
The beauty of the aspens along with the change of seasons in the cool mountain temperatures was a refreshing new sight for us.
I received a little bit of jack from this machine, but I’m pretty sure I put forth more than that all told.
This is a common sight along “The Strip” of Cripple Creek. Gamblers and tourists come and go at all hours. Like us, they keep coming back for more.
“The Strip” is relatively subdued; I was obviously able to stand at the top of the hill without interruption from traffic to take this picture.
Two weeks ago this evening we returned home. This morning, I took these beautiful roses outside. They were waiting for us upon our arrival to our usual bed-and-breakfast/hotel; the proprietors do back flips to ensure we know how much they enjoy our stay. Gail and Suzanne took their share, and the rest came home with me. As with all their gestures of appreciation, we received them well.
Like the trip, however, they are temporary. The memory of this gesture, as well as all the new memories we made will remain. Until next time, we will languish in those memories, and anticipate future ones.
Every day in between, however, we will attempt to enjoy the moments here at our own altitudes, our own longitudes. Because here at home is where Real Life is lived.
My front porch view of the tops of the water towers and small buildings of our small city. The front porch of my home, where I live a pretty good real life.
Our trip was so subdued, in fact, that we forgot to take a group shot. We had a family event today, so we snapped this one just a few hours before this post. We make it work wherever we find ourselves together.