Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nikki Post: History Walk

I walk the same route to work from "my" parking lot downtown every day. The lot is at 15th and California, and I walk up California to 17th Street in the morning and back down in the afternoon. Part of the walk is covered by scaffolding, as a block-long building is under construction. Along this part of the sidewalk is what I'm calling the "History Walk": several plaques in the ground that tell a short story about an important part of Colorado or Denver's history. Last week, I had to tiptoe through a group of school children who were obviously on some sort of scavenger hunt for class. They were clustered around each plaque, reading the information and scribbling notes on worksheets. If I hadn't been running late for work, and if they hadn't been blocking my path, it probably would have been a lot cuter than it was. ;) There are also plaques around the "business district" part of the city - the bank buildings and high-class restaurants near where I'm temping. Here are my "regular" plaques; click on the photos to make them large enough to read the words.

Estes Park and the Most Fun Slide You'll Ever Go Down

After Nikki and Steve finished their 2-hour horse ride, they were hungry and saddle sore. (Serves them right!) We headed back down the mountain to Estes Park for food and to map out how to get to the next camping spot.

We went to a nice restaurant where Nikki and Steve got unremarkable sandwiches, then Nikki pretty much went running down the sidewalk to buy homemade cookies (which Steve ended up eating most of once we got home). Steve got some ice cream, and as he ate it, Nikki and I had a little photo shoot. There's a stream (river? I don't know how to differentiate between the two) that runs through Estes Park; we were sitting in a little park alongside it.

The bridge you see in the background leads to a variety of shops and boutiques that are all built into a sort of tree house maze of places to buy things. Tourists line up and watch the water wheel, which...confuses me. I mean, it's a water wheel. But I guess when you're from the Big City, rustic throw-backs like water wheels are fascinating. *shrug*

I'm a beautiful flower!

These next few pictures are of me and Nikki with this statue. It's actually a pretty funny statue on its own; then Nikki and I (and other tourists, of course) go and pose for pictures with it, and it's even sillier.

Thar's gold in dem der shews!

Steve and I played Poohsticks over the stream. I am EXCELLENT at Poohsticks. Nikki taught me how to play, just like she's taught a lot of her friends to play. (Her one friend Agnes used to visit Nikki at work all the time and play Poohsticks. Agnes is also very good.)

Once we were done playing and relaxing, Nikki brought up the next campsite on GoogleMaps. Unfortunately, she had been using a bad address when she made the reservation, and rather than being only an hour away from the next campsite, we were FOUR HOURS away!! I could tell Nikki felt awful, but Steve hadn't had any coffee, and he never sleeps well when he camps, so he was pretty grumpy about it. They decided we should just go home.

Never one to let a mistake ruin her day, Nikki suggested that we stop by the Alpine Slide in Golden, Co, not too far away from Boulder and Denver. Steve went along with it, and obviously, I did too. Turns out, it was a GREAT idea!
Nikki, ever the dork, filmed this video of us riding the ski lift up the mountain to the start of the slide.

View from the top: a local quarry

Another view of the quarry, and I think that's Denver in the distance

Click on the photo to red the looooooooong list of rules for riding down the slide. Oh, and we OBVIOUSLY got into the Fast Track, even though we had never ridden down the slide before. RISK TAKERS!

Our slide and a helpful guide as to how to use it. Nikki promised me that we'd barely use the brake. She's a wild woman like that.

The last picture Nikki could take before we went down the mountain. Since you need two hands to steer, and since you go so fast (SO FAST!), taking pictures is both dangerous and impractical.

The slide was a really great way to end the day. Even Steve was really hyped up and grinning like a little kid when we were done! "I almost flipped over," he said excitedly. Everyone could hear Nikki giggle-screaming down the slide. Lord only knows what all those poor people on the ski lift must have thought as they saw the two of us whizzing down the concrete track! This is a place I know we're DEFINITELY going to visit again!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nikki Post: Scratch One off the Bucket List

What Claire said is true: the grizzled "cowJERKS" who ran the stables were pretty rude to her and to me about letting Claire take a ride. They didn't see the joke in it, even when I explained the purpose of this blog. They also weren't very supportive when I had a minor freak out on my horse. Some little girl gets scared of her horse, and everyone's being soooo nice to her, but when a 28-year-old explains that her horse is biting others and doing what he wants because she's NEVER BEEN ON A HORSE BEFORE AND IS, FRANKLY, KINDA FREAKED OUT, everyone is just gruff and cranky at her.

Despite my mistrust of horses (they're large man-eaters), I've always wanted to ride one, ever since I was a Girl Scout and was lied to at camp. They said if we were good, we'd go horseback riding; well that never happened. That was the first disappointment that led to my disillusionment with the Girl Scouts. The fact that I also wasn't allowed to learn to shoot guns and bows and arrows like my brother in Boy Scouts and learn how to make ridiculously large bonfires (like James in Boy Scouts) or even learn how to use a real Swiss Army knife (you guessed the Boy Scouts) was just too much for my tomboyish heart to take. did I get here? Oh yes, horses.

My horse's name was Buster Brown, and he was a right...the word I'd use isn't appropriate for this all-ages blog, but just know that we didn't get along immediately. He chilled out (more or less) on the trail though. All he had to do was follow the horse in front of him and not throw me off onto some cacti or anything. He did that pretty well. He also wasn't supposed to eat anything growing around the trail, but sometimes he was tempted. When our horses went for a snack, we were supposed to use the reins to jerk their heads back quickly to stop them from eating. While almost everyone on the tour (not the guides, obviously) had to struggle a little to get the giant, recalcitrant horse heads to move away from the wildflowers, the small children had the hardest time, what with their lack of strength. They also had a hard time kicking the horses in the sides to make them move, which held up the tour occasionally.

Steve's horse was AJ, a pretty big mare (not that I know how big a mare should be). She walked behind Buster Brown (or "Busta Bust," as I would occasionally call him) and generally seemed ok with her lot in life.

This was taken towards the end of the tour, when AJ decided she was sick to death of waiting in line behind me and Buster and just started walking forward, ignoring Steve's tugging on her reins to get her to stop. She wanted to go home. I don't blame her; being forced to walk up hills and over rocks and through plains of delicious grasses that I'm not allowed to eat would make me cranky too.

Steve on AJ during the tour

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take pictures during the tour. There was some pretty tricky terrain, and if any of the guides caught you without your hands in the proper places (on the reins and on the saddle horn), they'd get cranky...even though we all signed liability forms before riding. Feh. There WERE times when the group stopped for one reason or another, so I was able to snap the picture of Steve above.

The Moraine Park Stables are the only horse stables and horse tour in Rocky Mountain National Park proper. The tour was two hours long and wound through some really beautiful countryside. However, two hours is a REALLY LONG TIME to be on a horse if you're not bowlegged (like certain fiances of mine). My knees hurt SO BADLY when we were done. Steve had a different problem; while he's naturally bowlegged, his hips don't really open up that wide, so at the end of our two-hour tour, he was sore too. Still, I think it was worth it overall. I have no more desire to ride a horse, unless it was a really cool occasion, like down the Grand Canyon or something. However, it's nice that I was able to accomplish something on my Colorado Bucket List.

A regular Lady Godiva...with clothes on, of course.

My sexy cowboy, waiting to take his horse back to the stable.

Ride 'em, Cowgirl!! (Taken just for Ilona and Jan.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Which We Go Camping, Avoid Bears, and I *DON'T* Get to Ride a Horse!

So remember long ago when I said that we went camping for one day in the Rockies? Well, Nikki FINALLY finished editing the photos for me, so now I can finally make a post about that weekend! Honestly, she can only use the "but I work all day and have grad school homework and I'm trying to get a social life here" excuse so many times before I just stop hearing her talk anymore. :P

Steve, Nikki, and I left Labor Day Weekend Friday to make the drive up to Glacier Basin Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a high-altitude park, and there have been BEAR SIGHTINGS there recently, so I was terrified. Nikki tried to pretend that she was cool with the whole "we might run into a bear...literally" thing, but she soon showed her true colors. (More on that later.)

Our drive to the Rockies took us through Estes Park, Colorado, a small town up in the mountains that's full of little restaurants and cafes and clothing stores and skiing places and TOURISTS. We stopped at a sports bar for dinner and ate outside on the patio, which overlooked a river.

 I love this picture of me! I think I'm going to make it my new profile picture. Everyone keeps mistaking me for the cat because of the one I have now of the two of us. :P

Nikki abandoned me on this tiny rock in the middle of the rushing rapids of this river! (Luckily, armadillos are EXCELLENT swimmers!)

Thanks to a poor bit of navigation on Nikki's part, we didn't get to the campground until after dark. When we pulled up to the ranger station to check in, Nikki was freaking out about the "bear situation." She had a pamphlet we had gotten at the FIRST campground we drove to and was reading about how to avoid bear attacks. When the old ranger lady started grilling Nikki and Steve about camping in "Bear Country," Nikki blurted out, "THERE AREN'T ANY BEARS IN OUR TRUNK" which confused the hell out of the ranger and Steve but just had me cracking up! Turns out, Nikki had been reading about how you have to put all your food in the trunk of your car because bears have figured out how to bust open windows. You're also not supposed to wear to bed the same clothes you cooked in because bears can smell the food on your clothes and then burst into your tent and try to eat you!!

Follow the link for some other tips on how Not to Get Eaten by Bears While Camping.

Steve and Nikki set up the tent while I took first shift on Bear Watch. Really, Nikki had nothing to be worried about; our part of the campground was a wide open space surrounded by other campers in tents and, on the periphery, campers in RVs. There were some trees/woods, yeah, but nothing thick enough for a bear to hide in. Frankly, I was a little disappointed.

Finally, after a lot of bickering and "Why are you mad at me, I don't know how to set up a damn tent"s, our home for the night was finished! Here, let me give you the tour...

This is the outside of the tent. I know it looks small, but Steve can almost stand upright in it (if he's standing in the middle), and he's a little over 6' tall. So really, it's perfect for me and Nikki.

And this is me, inside the tent. I'm on the air mattress that Nikki and Steve brought with them because they're pansies who don't want to sleep on the cold hard ground. ;)

And this is me INSIDE the tent. See how little I am in there?

Nikki's set-up for the bed was pretty ingenious. Because an air mattress traps all the cold air and makes you FREEZE when you sleep on it, Nikki had one of the sleeping bags cover the mattress, with the flannel part facing up. Then she had a sheet on top of the sleeping bag, and then ANOTHER sleeping bag on top of the sheet, this time with the flannel facing down. To bring the overkill full circle, Nikki put their comforter on top of everything. I thought she was being a little melodramatic. I mean, it wasn't THAT COLD yet...

As the night went on, I became more and more thankful that Steve knows how to build a campfire. It was cold as all get-out up there in the Rockies!! I mean, down in Denver, it had been in the 80s all week; nice, warm, armadillo weather. But in the mountains at night, that's a whole other story. Nikki bundled into her giant Loyola hoodie and kept walking around shivering and muttering to herself dramatically. But even Steve started getting really cold! He put on long pants and stood ridiculously close to the fire. He didn't even want to snuggle, for fear of giving up his warmth, I guess. I finally just said, "Let's call it a night," and we all huddled under Nikki's brilliant layers of blankets and warmth. She snuggled me HARD that night, curled tightly into a ball like an armadillo.

The next morning, the sun was shining brightly, and the sky was blueblueBLUE! It was still really chilly though, so Nikki stayed in her hoodie...and *I* stayed under the covers! At least until Nikki made me come outside to keep her company while she and Steve made breakfast.

Our campsite at Glacier Basin Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out the perennially snow-covered mountains!

Look at this tiny tree! I am a giantess next to it! This stately evergreen could easily become my breakfast! Muahahahaha!

Speaking of breakfast...

TURKEY BACON!! Not as good as pig bacon, but significantly better for you. We also had cereal, and Steve had scrambled eggs. 

...That frying pan is STILL burned to a crisp on the bottom, and it's been washed TWICE! Nikki says it's not a big deal since it was a hand-me-down, and it still works fine.

After breakfast, we packed up and got ready to go to the next spot. We had quite a bit of time before we could check in at the next campground, about an hour or so away, so Nikki suggested we all go horseback riding through the Rockies while we waited.


I've only ever seen pictures of horses or seen them from a distance when we were driving through The Nothingness of the Mid-West, and now I was going to have a chance to RIDE ONE?!?!

....OR SO I THOUGHT!!! >:(

When we got to the stables, the grizzle old cowJERKS kept calling me a "teddy bear" and said that Nikki couldn't bring me on a horse, not even just for a PICTURE!!!! I kept yelling at them that I was an ARMADILLO, and NOT a "teddy bear" (UGH), but they wouldn't have any of it. The cowJERKS made Nikki return me to the car while she and Steve rode horses for two long, boring hours. (Boring for me, anyway.) So it's up to her to tell you about her *greeeeeaaaat* adventure riding a stupid horse in the Rockies. She's telling me it's time to go to bed now though, so I guess she'll write about it later.

Good-night, peeps!!

Monday, September 5, 2011


We ended up only staying one day up in the mountains camping. Nikki accidentally booked a campsite at a park that was four hours away from the first one. She blames Google maps for not showing her the correct location. We ended up going somewhere else fun instead, although it was just a stop-over on the way home.

I'd write more, but Nikki put me through the washer and dryer when we got home. She said I smelled like "campfires and cat." I'm still a little dizzy from the ordeal, so I'll be updating the photos and all later this week. I still had a good time camping; I just wish it had turned out a little better.

Pardon me while I go be green near Tasha....