Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This week: Kauai, HI

The Search for Kauai’s “Aloha” Bench on the Okolēhao Trail

The sweat on my forehead mixed with sunscreen as it dripped down my face, stinging my eyes, which is ironic because the trees had blocked the sun a quarter mile ago. Ferns whipped at my arms and legs. The only place with any space left was at my feet. I pressed on thinking, it can’t be much farther…Can it?

I had set off earlier that morning on a quest. The previous night a bartender told me about his favorite hike, the Okolēhao Trail. I spent my after-dinner downtime researching the trail on my smartphone and decided it was suitable for my skills. said the trail about 2.25 miles one-way and climbed about 1,250 feet in elevation. Easy peasy for this Colorado girl. The site also said there were two overlooks with sweeping views of the Hanalei Bay area. Also intriguing were some social media photos. An image search revealed several pics of a faded green bench with the word “Aloha” painted on in white. I wanted to add my photo to the collection.

Then I came across a blog by a German who had hiked trails all over the world. He had hiked the Okolehao in 2013 and divided it into two sections. The beginning section he described as incredibly easy, even with the elevation gain. The second part he called a “true adventure hike” with jungle-thick vegetation, a narrow cliff-hugging passage and four strategically-placed pull ropes to help hikers in tough areas. The blog ended with a photo he took of his girlfriend surrounded by ferns below blue sky. His conclusion? If his girlfriend can make it, anyone can.

The trail was right where the bartender said it would be. Just after the long one-lane bridge that separates the village of Hanalei Bay from the rest of the island, I turned onto Ohiki Road, which divides the lush Hanalei Valley where taro fields spread out like a patch-work quilt. Two waterways sandwiched the gravel road, the Hanalei River and an irrigation ditch. About a half mile in I found a small parking lot on the left and a wooden bridge with the trailhead sign on the right.

While sitting in the driver’s seat with the door open tying my hiking shoes, a woman popped out of the dense trees and crossed the bridge followed by a large Golden Retriever. She unlocked her small grey truck to let in the dog. As I walked over, I heard a loud splash. The woman, already in her truck, stopped and reached over to open her passenger door. Suddenly an even larger black Labrador emerged from the ditch and shook his dripping fur, spraying water everywhere. The woman called, but the canine walked over to me instead.  

“Do you see my dog?” she asked.

“Yeah, he’s here.”

“Hey, boy, come on.” she called. The dog walked over to her door and sat. “No, go to the other side.” The dog didn’t budge. With a sigh the woman exited her truck so the wet dog could enter.

“You picked a great day to hike the trail,” she said re-entering the truck.

“It sure looks like it.”

“But it can be slippery. You should find a walking stick.”

“Thanks!” I waved as she passed, but was thinking, ‘where the heck am I gonna find a walking stick?’ Then I crossed the bridge to find a pile of sticks at my feet. Laughing, I selected one that seemed appropriate for my height and set off.

Okolēhao means ‘on your butt’ in Hawaiian. The name actually refers to local moonshine, but for this predominantly vertical hike, it also fits. The beginning of the trail is a service road, so it is quite wide and consists of easy switchbacks, equal parts sunny and shady. Tree roots weaved their way across the path like veins lying underneath reddish-brown skin. The slippery roots made the walking stick useful indeed.   

After passing a few people, I quickly reached the first overlook. This overlook is the base of a giant electrical tower and the space cleared around it made for all-encompassing views of Hanalei Bay to the west and Princeville to the north. Moving on from here the trail narrowed to sidewalk-size. I noticed a trail marker that said 1.50 M. I hadn’t seen any before, but at less than a foot tall and painted the same reddish-brown color as the ground, they were easy to miss. Only the sign’s yellow numbers were noticeable.

Shortly after passing the 1.75 M marker I came to the second overlook. While smaller in cleared space, the views were even more remarkable. The westerly view over the taro fields led to the village of Hanalei. The Na Pali Mountains loomed in the distance. To the east were the smaller, but still dramatic Makaleha and Anahola Mountains.

After taking photos I looked ahead to continue, but stopped short. Below me was a pull rope going down. According the hiker’s blog, this was the start of the “adventurous” section. But I had yet to come across the Aloha Bench. Did I miss it? Based on the last mile marker, I guessed I was at two miles so it wasn’t much farther. I decided to give it a go.

I grabbed the pull rope and lowered myself. Sullenly I noticed spider webs strung from branches across the trail ahead. Apparently no one had walked this part in some time. Boy, was I glad to have that walking stick because it was now my web machete. I soon came upon another pull rope, this one going up. The hiker’s blog had said there were four ropes so I assumed I was getting close.

After many minutes of endless jungle, the qualms began. The tree roots underfoot turned into jagged rocks, soft fronds changed into sharp branches and the incline increased substantially. I wasn’t alone anymore either. Tiny lizards invisible when I lifted my leg would scamper before every footfall. Then a shiny green-grey rock moved. I gasped. It was a giant dark green cane toad. He crawled underneath a large fern when I tried to take a picture. Camera shy I guess. Then a loud buzzsaw disturbed the eerie quiet. As I scanned for the source, a small white cotton ball floated by. An island bee. Strangely I had yet to see a spider. Either they were too small or I was incredibly lucky. I chose lucky.

Continuing I held the stick out in front of me to combat webs while keeping my head down to check my footing. I hadn’t seen a mile marker since starting this part of the trail. I also had yet to see a bench. Somewhere up ahead lurked a narrow ridge I’d have to traverse and two more ropes. Where does this end? I was lost in these thoughts when, EEEEEEK! I ran face first into a spiderweb. I stopped to wipe off the web, but mostly succeeded in smearing it with my sweat.

“OK, I’m done,” I said to whatever creatures lurked nearby.

Returning was easy since I’d already removed the webs. In no time I was pulling myself up the first rope that would return me to the overlook where a couple from Utah greeted me. While admiring the view we chatted about Kauai. This was my first trip while they had been here before.

“So where’s the Aloha Bench?” I asked.

“What bench?” they responded.

I have since come to the conclusion that the overlook where I stood with the Utah people was where the bench used to be. Where it went I have no idea. If you do, drop me a comment, let me know!

Read about my visit to Kauai's Tiki Iniki @ The Drink Nation 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

This Week: Steamboat Springs, CO

Dine without the Dash, Part II

As we continued a few more people came walking up the trail. A family, mom, dad and two boys, passed me. The boys were jumping on rocks and squealing like boys do. Old Man asked the parents how much farther to the bottom and the dad’s eyes opened wide.
“Uh, you’re a long way from the bottom. You OK?
“Oh yeah, we’re fine, but I brought the wrong shoes for this trail.” They looked at his feet and saw shoes just like theirs.
“Well, you know, it’s actually easier to walk up if you’d like to follow us,” Dad began, but was immediately interrupted.
“Oh, no. Not going back up. We’re going down.” I winced every time he said “we.” The mom then looked over at me. I smiled weakly.
“OK then. Have a nice day,” she said and the four of them took off. After only a few minutes of walking Old Man asked me how much farther we had gotten. Because of my smartphone, I knew exactly where we were at.
“One mile. We’ve only gone one mile,” I said matter-of-factly.
“How long is the trail again?” he asked.
“Four miles.”
“Shit,” was the response. “This isn’t what I thought it would be,” he finally admitted. Like the two guys and the family that just passed us, I too began pleading with him to go back up.
“We’re much closer to the gondola and then we could ride it down.”
He remained firm, but then said, “My legs can barely handle going down. There’s no way they can go back up.” I too began explaining that going up was actually easier on the muscles, knees and back, but he stopped me with a wave of his hand. I turned around and began going down again. I made it a point to get a bit farther ahead than I was before because I was now doing a Google search for Steamboat Mountain Rescue’s phone number. 
Just then I heard another rustle in the leaves behind me. I turned around in time to see him fall backward into a bush. I ran over to him and offered my hand as I asked if he was OK.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He took my hand and pulled himself up.
“Do you think you could turn around?” he asked shooing me away with other hand. “I have to pee.”
“Uh, OK.” I walked down the trail a bit to give him some privacy. I thought I heard a zipper and asked if everything was OK.
“How embarrassing.”
“You gotta do watcha gotta do,” I said. We began walking again, this time in silence because I had run out of things to say. As if reading my mind, the Old Man said,
“So, if I can’t make it down, what happens?”
“I can call mountain rescue to come get you.”
“They can come up here?”
“Well, yeah, they’d have to.”
“But how do they get up here?”
“They hike.”
“They do? But that’ll take forever.”
“Well, they’re a lot faster than we are. They train for this sort of thing.”
“How do they get me down?”
“Well, on one hike I once saw rescuers carry a guy who twisted his ankle down on a stretcher.”
“I don’t wanna be carried out on a stretcher.”
“I’ve got a phone, if you want me to call.”
“No, no,” he said emphatically. “Let’s just keep going. We’ve got to be coming up on the end soon.” I took another glance at Google Maps.
“We’re not even half way,” I said. He waved me on.
We walked on in silence and once again I got a bit ahead of him, Eventually, I could see an open space through the trees. I quickly walked to the clearing where a large maintenance building and one of the gondola towers stood. I then ran back to a huffing and puffing Old Man.
“There’s a clearing up ahead,” I shouted. Old Man looked up at me, raised his arm and said “Really?” But then fell over backward again into some tall grass.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed as I came running over. “I didn’t mean to make you fall. I am so sorry. Grab my hand.”
“I’m fine. Just lost my balance.” When he stood up, fresh blood was now running down his leg. I handed him a Kleenex I had in my pocket. The wound wasn’t deep, just a raspberry, but it covered a large area of his calf and was bleeding profusely. To add insult to injury, the fluffy white cloud above us began spitting rain drops.
“Do you think you can call that rescue thing for me,” he asked.
“Yes! But let’s get you over to the building so you can rest.” As we moved toward the building a young woman came out of the opposing set of trees walking toward us.
“Are you from here?” I asked.
“Yeah, do you need help?”
“Do you have the mountain rescue number? I can’t find it.”
“Yeah, I have it in my phone. You never know when you’ll need it.” She dialed the number and spoke to a dispatcher and then put us on speaker so I could answer her questions.
“Elderly man…can’t finish hike…has cuts and bruises…at maintenance building.”
“We’ll be right there,” the dispatcher said. We then found a metal folding chair next to the building and brought it to the Old Man so he could rest.
“If you guys are good, I’d like to continue on,” the woman said. “Want to get to the top before the weather turns.”
“Of course! Go on ahead. Thank you,” I said.
As she left, the clouds were still spitting, but it was a friendly rain. As we waited, a man walked up the trail with two teenage boys. They walked around the base of the gondola tower and then walked over to the building and stood under the eave to avoid rain drops. They appeared to be lost, but I had other things to worry about.
“So you think it’ll be long?” Old Man asked.
“Not too long.”
“So how far did we get?”
“This is only halfway.” I watched as some of the joy left his face.
“All that work and we’re only half way?” He shook his head. “This trail was not what I thought it would be.”
After about 10 minutes a large dirty white Suburban lumbered up the gravel maintenance road from behind the tower. Out of it stepped a tall slender blonde woman. Not only was she pretty, but I could see sculpted biceps in her arms; she was probably a climber.
“You the people that need help?”
“Yup,” I said. “This guy here took a few spills on the trail. I think they look worse than they really are, but they sure did bleed.” She bent down to examine his leg.
“I’ve got some bandages if you want to cover those up. Maybe some ointment so they don’t get infected.”
“Actually my leg is OK, but my arm is starting to hurt.” He held out his arm displaying a gigantic purple stain of a bruise.
“Ouch,” she said. “Doesn’t look like anything is broken. I’ll get some bandages.”
“No,” Old Man said. “I just want outta here.”
“Can you stand up?” she asked. I held one arm and she held the other as he wobbly stood up and then took some wobbly steps to the Suburban. To get inside, I held his arm steady and the woman had him put one leg on the rim while she pushed his back as he got into the vehicle. As I rounded the vehicle to get inside and the woman opened up her door, the man and two boys I’d forgotten about walked over.
“Are you heading back to the Square?” the man asked.
“Why yes. You guys OK?”
“Well, we’re from New York and my son seems to be having trouble with the altitude. Can you take him down?”
“Sure! No problem,” she said. The younger of the two boys got in the back seat with the Old Man. The boy’s dad and brother then continued up the trail.
“So do you know each other,” she asked me as we drove down the maintenance road.
“Oh, we just met up at the chalet,” I was quick to say. “We did the Wine Festival nature hike this morning. After lunch a few of us decided to hike down the mountain.”
“There were more of you?”
“Yeah, but the other people took off and didn’t wait for us.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” The boy then said he had a headache.
“When did you get here?” the woman asked him.
“You just need a day to acclimate. Take it easy tonight and maybe a couple of aspirin when you get back. You’ll be fine tomorrow. Oh, and don’t forget to drink lots of water. Easy to get dehydrated up here and that causes headaches. How about you? You doing OK?” she asked Old Man.
“Much better now.”
“So what resorts are you staying at,” she asked.
“I’m at the Grand Hyatt,” said Old Man.
“I’m at the Ptarmigan” said the boy.
“OK, I can drop you off at your hotels. How ‘bout you?” she said to me.
“I’m staying in town. I just need to be dropped off at the shuttle stop.”
“That’s right next to the Grand. Easy enough,” she said.
As we continued down, the road snaked around the edges of the ski area and soon condos and homes came into view.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to make the wine walk tonight,” the Old Man said disappointingly. The maintenance road then turned into a paved road and Gondola Square came into view. The Rescue Woman dropped off the boy first. He said a mopey thank you and walked away. Then Rescue Woman turned the big Suburban around and drove to the other side where the parking garage, Hyatt and bus stop all were. As we pulled in the bus area, a small dark blue pickup sat nearby.
“I think that’s my son,” said Old Man. I took a closer look and saw there were wine boxes stacked three high in the truck’s bed and also to the roof inside on the passenger seat. A tall handsome man in khaki shorts and dark polo shirt got out. Rescue woman got out and opened the backseat door and Old Man swung his legs around. The Young Guy came over to help.
“What the hell did you think you were doing?” was the greeting Young Guy gave the Old Man. Rescue Woman pointed out some of his injuries and the Young Guy softened his tone.
“Jees, dad, you could have had a heart attack up there. You’ve had enough adventure for today. I’ll take you to your room and we’ll get you cleaned up.”
“How did you know I was here?” Old Man asked.
“I have a radio,” he pointed to his back pocket where a black radio antenna stuck out. “I heard the call when it came in. Somehow, I just knew it was you.” Old Man asked his son if he could have a ride across the street to the Hyatt.
“Dad, my truck is full. You won’t fit.”
“I can take him,” said Rescue Woman. She helped him swing his legs back in the vehicle and Young Guy shut the door. He then looked at me.
“Were you with my dad the whole time?” He asked. I nodded. “Sorry about that.”
“Oh that’s OK, We made it.” I said.

“Thank you,” said Young Guy and he got back in his truck. I walked over to the shuttle stop bench and then, as if this afternoon hadn’t been long enough, I sat on a bench for another 20 minutes before the shuttle arrived, just enough time for the small cloud above to drop all the rain it contained on me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This Week: Steamboat Springs, CO

Dine without the dash, Part I
“So, you walking down?” asked the Old Man sitting next to me. He wore a teal polo shirt with the name of a Las Vegas casino on it, matching teal golf shorts, a white golf cap and white running shoes. He was very tan with a Tom Selleck mustache and dark sunglasses. He sat hunched over his plate with a bit of a pot belly, but skinny arms and legs.
“I dunno. I haven’t decided.”
“Well, if you do it, I’ll do it.”
“Uh, OK,” I stammered.
To be honest I hadn’t been paying attention, but the conversation at the table was whether or not anyone would hike down Mount Werner. About 12 of us had signed up for a nature hike as part of the Steamboat Wine Festival. The hike was followed by lunch paired with local beer and wine.
Our group of hikers had met at Gondola Square three hours earlier and rode the gondola to Thunderhead Lodge.  When we stepped off the ramp onto the lodge deck we were greeted by bright sunshine and a picturesque green pine forest. The sun rose higher in the August sky bathing the pine trees and us in warmth. We then walked the Vista Nature Trail loop at the back of the chalet with two nature guides who pointed out the different tree and flower species and gave a history of the ski resort. Afterward we entered the chalet for a sandwich buffet lunch and some craft beers on the outdoor deck overlooking the town of Steamboat Springs below.
As we finished up lunch and I munched on some brownies a couple from Denver asked our guides about hiking down the mountain instead of taking the gondola. One of the guides said it was about four miles on the Thunderhead Hiking Trail and that walking at a leisurely pace would take about two hours or so. It wasn’t a difficult path, but it was steep; Mount Werner is a ski mountain after all. At a few minutes before 1 PM, I calculated I would get down around 3 PM. Plenty of time to clean up before the evening Wine Walk in downtown Steamboat. Walking off the brownies seemed like a good idea. Along with the couple from Denver, another couple from Aurora also decided to walk down. Including the Old Man, that made six of us.
We said our goodbyes to the rest of the group and made our way to the exit. But first, we three women decided it would be prudent to use the restroom. After doing so, we exited the building where the men were waiting on the back deck. The Denver woman retied her shoes and I was adjusting my backpack when the Aurora couple just up and left for the trail head. The Old Man decided to adjust his fanny pack and retie his shoes too and asked if we would wait. I stopped while the Denver couple kept going.
The deck where we just had lunch disappeared behind the tops of the pines trees as we descended. I walked ahead at a good pace and I could hear the Denver couple chatting ahead of me. I was happy to be hiking, not just simply walking as we had done earlier that morning. It was a fantastically beautiful day on Mount Werner; shining sun, a few big puffy clouds here and there, but nothing threatening. In the shade of the trees, the temperature was perfect. I began to day dream about the upcoming wine weekend and what a great place the area was. Maybe we should get a second home here? As I rounded a switchback the backsides of the Denver couple came into view. From behind me came a shout.
“Oh, Shit!” and a crackle of branches.
I turned around to see the Old Man slide down the switchback on his butt. He had scraped his elbow on an aspen tree and it was bleeding, quite runny, down his arm.
“Are you OK?” I asked as I approached.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I could tell his pride hurt more than his arm. He propped himself against a tree. “I need to rest for a minute,” he said. His breathing was heavy. I wondered if I should continue on. I never said I would hike with him, just that I was hiking. Instead I grabbed his arm to help him stand up.
“Damn,” he said kicking his feet into the dirt. “I wore the wrong shoes.” His shoes were regular tennis shoes, exactly like mine, but a different brand.
As we began walking down the trail again, I paid more attention to him and realized his breath was labored.  His walk slowed to a crawl as he began tiptoeing around every switchback touching trees for balance.  I slowed down with him and the once clear voices of the Denver couple disappeared.  Eventually, I had to stop and wait for him to round the switchbacks. He asked if we could rest.
“So, where you from?” I asked trying to break the awkward silence.
“Las Vegas, been living there since I retired.”
“When was that?”
“Oh, about 20 years ago” I raised my eyebrows. This guy even was older than I thought.
“So what brings you here?” I asked.
“My son invited me. He runs the wine festival and got me free tickets.” Remembering the wine walk, I glanced at the time on my cell phone and casually said we should get going.
“How much farther do you think it is?” he asked.
“I dunno. Let me look.” I was able to get on Google Maps and clicked a tab that would find my location. We had only walked a ½ mile, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that.
“We have a long way to go,” I sighed.
We started and once again I had a good lead on him, but would pause until he made a switchback and was at least in my sight. I heard voices and soon two young, rather strong looking men came up the trial. We all said hello. Then Old Man came around a tree.
“Say you don’t know how far it is down, do you?” he asked. The guys looked quizzically at each other.
“Um, the trail is four miles or so,” one of them said.
“But how far is it from here?”
“Well, you’re practically at the beginning. If you’re having trouble I suggest you come up with us and ride the gondola down.”
“Go back up? OH HELL NO! I ain’t doing that!” he yelled startling all of us.
“I know this sounds counter intuitive, but walking up is actually easier.”
“No. There’s no way.”
“If you want, we’ll carry you. We can do a cradle lift and get you up.”
“No way. I’m not going back up.” The guys then looked at me.
“Are you with him?” one asked.
“Yeah, I’m with him,” I said.
“Good luck then.” The guys quickly disappeared above us. He rested for a few more minutes, but I was getting antsy.

“If we’re going to make the wine walk, we need to get going.” As we walked, I began to talk about what a lovely day it was and asked him questions about the wine festival, anything to keep his mind off his difficulty and keep him moving. Every time we stopped, it took him longer to get going. At this pace, it would take us four hours to finish. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

This week: Saying good bye to Larry

Good Boy

In May we said goodbye to our dog Larry. Larry was a black/white brindle Cattledog/Border Collie mix. He had a black nose with large black spots on his back and his black tail had a cute patch of white on the end. The black of his tail covered his rear making it look like he had a pin-the-tail-on-the-dog tail. His eyes were a chocolate brown and his ears were slightly floppy, conveying various other breeds of canine hiding in there too.

We met Larry at a BBQ at a friend’s house. The friend was our new insurance agent and he and his wife shared our love of college football, hiking and dogs. Our friend and his wife had an elderly German Shepard and they also had Larry. They had adopted him from an animal shelter in Breckenridge, where they owned a condo. He was so cute and friendly it was easy to see why they picked him. During the BBQ Larry made it a point to check out everyone, especially the kids, and he would stop by me in my lawn chair every few minutes. I thought he was adorable.

A few months later, after learning that our new friends were pregnant with their first child, they invited us to a college bowl game watch party featuring their beloved college team. Since it was January, this party was indoors, with a lot of people in a small livingroom. Larry kept getting under everyone’s feet and our friend scolded him a few times. Every few minutes or so he would make his way to me and I would pet him and tell him how cute he was and he sit with me for a few minutes, but then someone would shout at the TV and Larry would leave to go investigate the noise. I thought he was adorable.

Toward the end of the game, the football team ran a play with a receiver heading for the endzone. The touchdown would be a game winner if he made it. Our friend jumped up in excitement and shouted at the football player on the TV. Larry began barking too and right when the player scored, Larry bit our friend in the back of the calf. Our friend was wearing jeans so Larry didn’t catch any skin. Our friend was in shock. Larry had never done that before. Larry was scolded and he made his way to me to sit in silence for a minute. I petted him and rubbed his ears. He was a cattledog and biting the ankles of sheep is what they do when they round up herds so I wasn’t really surprised at his behavior. I have to admit, I thought it was kinda funny.

After the game was over and some of the guests left the party, we chatted with our friends and they told us they were worried about Larry. He had a habit of getting underfoot and with a baby on the way they worried he would get underfoot while they carried their new baby up and down stairs. Without missing a beat, both Christian and I said, “We’ll take him!” The four of us laughed about it and then we went home. Without Larry.

About a week later, Christian got a phone call. It was our friend asking if we were serious about Larry. He said of course. The two of them were headed to their mountain condo for one last couple weekend before the baby arrived and they suggested dropping off Larry for the weekend for a test run. That was four years ago.

No matter his breed, Larry was all herding dog. Every action he had and every behavior he showed went back to those herding instincts. He followed our cat Morgan around the house; he followed me around the house. He barked at doorbells, even the ones on TV. We also discovered he was deathly afraid of thunder. When spring thunder storms came around, he would shake and whimper and when the storm was really bad, he would even drool. That first spring whenever a storm happened I would wrap my arms and legs around him in a bear hug to get him to calm down. We eventually bought him one of those Thunderjackets, a piece of fleece with Velco that you wrap around dogs who are scared of storms. He was still nervous, but at least it stopped the drooling.

We asked our friend if he knew Larry’s history. He knew some.  Larry was found as a stray puppy in Yampa County (Steamboat Springs). Because he was a cattledog mix, he assumed he came from one of the many ranches in the valley. From a Yampa shelter he was transferred to the animal shelter in Breckenridge (Summit County) where he was adopted…and then quickly returned by that same person. Shortly after that our friends were at their Breckenridge condo and made a visit to the shelter and brought Larry to Denver. That made us his third official family. His original name at the shelter was Beasley, but at some point it got changed to Larry. We figured he was confused enough about where he was so we decided to keep the name Larry when when he came to us. Our friend told us that Larry was not full grown when he adopted him so he guessed he was about 4 years old when we took him. However, he could have been older, or younger. We’ll never know.

Larry wasn’t all that interested in other dogs. When we took him to the dog park, Christian used to joke that he was the Hall Monitor. If any dog starting running around the park, which is pretty much every dog, Larry would bark at them to make them stop. He also had a “radius” around us when he was off leash. That radius was about 25 feet. There was one time we took him on a walk around our open space and we stopped to talk to some neighbors when Christian asked, Where’s Larry? We scanned the horizon and didn’t see him. Then we looked down. Larry was sitting at Christian’s side.
When I worked from home, he would spend his day lying in a dog bed under my desk. He was a joy to walk, perfect on a leash. Last summer Christian took Larry on a camping trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota with his brother and nephew and some other people.  Larry got to ride in a canoe, an amazing feat for a dog who didn’t like water. He also slept with Christian in a hammock and the kids on the trip adored him.

For the last two summers we have taken camping trips to Steamboat Springs and we always wondered if Larry felt like he was in familiar territory. Larry was the best camping dog because he always stayed close to us. Larry was also a great nap dog. He was always ready to snuggle up on the couch or jump up on the bed. This is what I will miss most about him. When my husband was out of town, I had Larry to keep me company. He also had to mark everything he came across. He once peed on a woman’s leg at an outdoor party because she stood so still Larry thought she was a tree.

Back in March Larry had a urinary tract infection. The vet prescribed antibiotics and it went away, but two weeks later the infection returned, only it was twice as bad so he had to go on even stronger antibiotics for an even longer time. After being on the antibiotics for almost two weeks, he stopped eating his regular dog kibble. We started feeding him deli meat and cheese, but after a few days he wouldn’t eat those. We tried peanut butter, which was a total disaster. He ate melon and shredded chicken for a while. I gave him canned food. He ate that for two days and then stopped. His weight quickly dropped from 45 pounds to 38. The vet took him off the antibiotics and said to try and get his weight back up. We began feeding him anything we could, but he would only try new foods for a day or two and then stop. I fried up some ground beef and he ate two bites and walked away. At one point he ate nothing but carrots for three straight days. A friend suggested baby food. At first he licked a Gerber container of turkey and rice clean only to turn his nose away the next day. Another friend of ours gave us some organic ham and turkey jerky for dogs. Larry took it in his mouth, chewed it a couple times and spit it out.

At the end of our rope I took him back to the vet where they did a second blood test. He’d had one back when the infection started and it came out fine. The second one a month later told the vet that Larry’s kidneys were failing. In five weeks he went from healthy happy dog to fatal illness. In a last ditch effort to save him the vet had us give him subcutaneous saline infusions every other day in order to flush his kidneys in the hopes that would kick start them into working again. We also began feeding Larry special soft kidney food, which was low in phosphorous, mixed with water into a soup and used a turkey baster to get it down his throat. We did that for two weeks. Then came the morning he immediately threw up the food I had just put into his stomach. I knew that was bad and took him straight to the vet. The vet told me it was time.

Larry was a happy, goofy, silly, slightly crazy bundle of joy and our part of the world won’t be the same without him.

Looking for a new four-legged friend?  Visit Foothills Animal Shelter

Saturday, December 27, 2014

This Week: Virgin Gorda, BVI

Boats and Billionaires

The roosters had no sense of time. The cawing echoed in my ears intensifying my already aching head. The chicken cacophony was in complete contrast to the gentle chirps of the tree frogs. The beasts sounded like they were right below our balcony and I couldn’t close the windows, because there were no windows, only screens open to the world outside. I thought roosters only crowed at dawn. Didn’t they know the sun still had three hours’ sleep?


The previous day had started early. Awake at 6:30 AM San Juan time; that’s 4:30 AM in Colorado. We had an 8 AM island hopper to catch, but this wasn’t our first rodeo. We had ridden island hoppers before. At least we had two pilots this time. The Seaborne Airways flight was uneventful, just as it should have been. Several thousand feet below us the islands of the Virgins passed, St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola… there’s Jost on the left. There’s Norman Island and the Willie T on the right. With these islands we were familiar. Then an oblong patch of green with a white rock border came into view and the plane went into a banked curve before approaching a dirt runway. This was it. An island we had not stayed on before:  Virgin Gorda.


 “Welcome to Jumbies,” said Ali the bartender. A round black man with black polo shirt and khaki shorts, he handed us a laminated drink menu. I ordered a Painkiller and Christian ordered a Rum Punch. Then we asked if he served food. Ali handed us a laminated food menu. Ali asked where we were from and did not like our answer.

“Colorado? Mon, how can you stand all that snow?” he said making a face like he’d just bitten into an onion.
“How would you know ?” asked Christian. “Have you ever seen snow?
“No mon,” said Ali. “I’m an island boy. Don’t wanna see snow.”
“Are you from here?”
“No, I grew up on Barbados,” he said. “But I’ve been here for 14 years.”
“Why did you come here?”
“To bartend,” said Ali.
“Oh, so that’s what you’ve always done?”
“Yeah, been bartending for almost 20 years.”
“Why did you leave Barbados?”
“Had a friend here and he said come on over. Been here ever since.”
 “So, do you know Rhianna?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah,” said Ali. “She lived in the same parish as me, but she’s a few years younger so we weren’t in the same classes or anything like that. She was pretty cool though. And we knew she could sing. Oh, mon, even back then you knew....” and he trailed off because now we all know she can sing.

A group of two gentlemen and two women, with two small boys playing in the sand behind them, began chatting about something; I didn’t hear what, but Christian heard them.

“Hey, where you guys from?” he butted in.

“Fort Collins.”

“As in Colorado??” The guy nodded. In all the years we have been coming to the Virgin Islands we rarely met anyone from west of the Missouri River and had never met anyone from our home state of Colorado. His name was Jimmy and he was quick to offer up his story:  He had been laid off his job, but received a nice chunk of severance change and while trying to decide what to do next with his life, he and his family were spending the month of February renting a boat and sailing the Virgin Islands. Jimmy, his wife and two kids had just spent the first two weeks with family on the boat. Then the family went home and now his best friend from college and his wife here for the next two weeks. He was thrilled to be able to spend this time with his boys who were running around between us. During this conversation, Ali asked all of us if we wanted to reserve seats for that night’s show.

"Yes!” Jimmy exclaimed.

“What show?” we asked.

“You don’t know about the pirate show?” Jimmy gasped. “Let me fill you tell you!”

Pirate Michael Beans performed every happy hour, or as he called it “Happy Rrrrrr.” From October to April Pirate Beans ruled the Leverick Bay sunset with songs, stories and a joke or two. Bartender Ali added that he drew 100-150 people a night so a reservation came highly recommended.  Jimmy told his boys to get to the dinghy as they had to get cleaned up before the pirate show started. We traded our expensive cocktails for cheap beers and headed to our assigned seats to wait for the party pirate. Even though it was still early, several tables began filling up.

A few minutes before 5 PM, the dastardly pirate himself made his way from the resort building. He was barefoot, his puffy pirate shirt was tattered, and he had an unkempt beard and a black pirate hat on top of his head. He held a guitar in one hand and a conch shell in the other and he greeted each guest as he walked through the tables to his tiny stage at the far end.

After leaning his guitar on a stool, he took the conch shell and stood on the stonewall that separated the bay from the bar. He put the conch shell to his lips and blew a mighty trumpet tone across the water. As he blew people began to roust from their boats. They climbed into their dinghies and motored to the dock. One of those dinghies held the Ft. Collins family. When the Jimmy docked his two boys jumped out before it was even tied and came running over the tables. They were decked out in pirate gear complete with hats and white shirts; they even had eye patches. Pirate Beans came over to greet them as they found their reserved table right next to the stage.

“Ahoy, maties!” he cried as he gave each boy a hug. “You look ready for the show!”

As the boat people took their seats, Pirate Beans began. He strummed a guitar, blew a harmonica and stomped his bare feet on a wooden box below his stool. He sang traditional songs like Drunken Sailor and The Grog Song and told jokes between each one. Then it was time for audience participation No 1. On every table were several plastic water bottles filled with sand and rocks. Our purpose was to shake the bottles like a Polaroid picture.  I fulfilled my role with gusto as Pirate Beans sang Yellow Submarine.

We were seated at a long table with a several other couples. Our server Doreen with her broad white smile took care of us. Realizing we needed some food after all the beers we drank we asked her for a menu. The guy sitting next to Christian tapped his arm.

“Hey! We already ordered a pizza,” he yelled over the music. “You guys can have a slice!”
Pirate Beans took a break about halfway through his two hour show and we were able to meet our tablemates. The couple that ordered the pizza were Steve and Debbie from Canada. Then there was Jeff and Kelly from Nova Scotia and Jeff and Katie from Wisconsin. The first thing Katie asked was…

 “So what boat are you on?”

After some um’s and ah’s we pointed to the hill behind the bar and said we had a room at the resort.
“They have rooms here? We didn’t know that,” everyone exclaimed.

We were surrounded by boat people. Steve and Debbie were renting a boat and sailing around the VI’s for a month. Jeff and Kelly had sailed here from Nova Scotia and were on a six-month journey that would take them to the lower West Indies. Jeff and Katie were the boatiest of the bunch. They were sailing a boat they had spent the last several years restoring at their lake house in Wisconsin. Then Debbie, after 25 years of teaching, and Jeff, after 25 years of construction, and with two grown sons finally out of the house, left their jobs, sold their house and then sailed through the Great Lakes, down the Hudson, down the east coast of the United States to the Virgin Islands. After sailing through the Caribbean they planned to eventually end up at the Panama Canal, where two more people would join them for sailing across the Pacific in late fall. For them, boating was a way of life.


After his break Pirate Bean returned and announced it was time for a conch shell blowing contest. All four men at our table headed for the stage, along with many other people. Each person was given a practice blow and a little instruction from Pirate Beans. After a woman tried a practice blow on the conch, he handed it straight to the next woman.

“Don’t worry, honey. Just take a swig of rum if you want to kill the germs.”

After each contestant had a practice blow, it was time for the real deal. Whoever could blow the conch the longest would win a six-pack of Carib beer and a Carib hat. Once again audience participation was a must. We had to count out how long the contestants could sustain the note. Most contestants didn’t get past the count of two.  However, our new friend Jeff went over 40 digits. Christian, who went right after him, got to 30, but faded. Jeff was the winner. Before continuing on with the music Pirate Beans had everyone raise their glass for a toast.

“There are good ships, and there are wood ships, and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships, are friendships, and may they always be."

After the show, each of us took turns buying rounds of rum drinks with our new friends. Christian and I forgot we were at sea level and consumed way more than we normally would, hence the hangover that the roosters kept interrupting. Cock-a-doodle-doo was stuck on repeat.


The next afternoon we found ourselves once again at Jumbie’s Beach Bar happy hour and another Pirate Beans show. Our boating friends had already arrived and saved us some seats. Pirate Beans walked by in his bare feet just as we sat down. In front of us a group of boaters were all decked out in pirate gear, but these weren’t young boys; these were full-grown adults with hats, stick-on tattoos and eye patches. One guy had a stuffed parrot propped on his shoulder.

Also joining the show tonight was a large group of young, rather good looking men and women who corralled two long tables together. They sang with gusto and each person had a different foreign accent, British, Australia and Dutch. According to our boating friends, the group belonged to the crew of the giant yacht that had pulled into the bay earlier and they had all been drinking since they arrived. Some of them began heckling Pirate Beans.

“Where you guys from?” Pirate Beans asked them.

Each person yelled out their home country making for a confusing jumble of answers.

“Are you all from the big boat?” he asked. This time they all yelled in unison as they held their drinks high over their heads.


After Pirate Beans’ show we were hanging out with our new friends listening to their sailing stories. Listening was all we could do because we didn’t have any of our own. Then suddenly, one of the handsome young men from the yacht crew came over and asked us how we were doing. He introduced himself as Dave. Katie, who had had a few rum punches, immediately grabbed his arm for support and plied him with questions.

So where are you from? “England.”

What is your position on the ship?  “Second Mate”

Where did you sail in from? “Gibraltar.”

How long did it take you? “A little over two weeks.”

Who owns the boat?  “I can’t say, but he’s a Russian billionaire.”

Oh, com’on. “I can’t say.”

It’s not like I know a lot of Russian billionaires. “Nope.”

“Is it the guy who owns the Nets?” Christian asked. Dave laughed. “No, not that guy.”

“So, how does one become a Second Mate on a billionaire’s yacht?” asked Katie. “Oh, I took some classes, worked my way up from deck hand, the usual,” he said.

“I don’t know what the usual is so please explain.” He then explained how he had been working on ships since he was 16, starting as a deck hand and learning the ropes and taking navigation courses between boat gigs. He had worked on a millionaire’s yacht before moving up to the Russian billionaire’s.

“So how old are you?” asked Katie. “27.” She just about fell over, although she may have fallen over at any answer, with all the rum punch she drank.

“So what’s it like working on a billionaire’s yacht?” Kelly asked. “Do you sleep in the billionaire’s bed when he’s not on board?”

“Oh, hell no. We’d get fired. Very strict.”

“Why are you in the BVI?” asked Kelly’s Jeff. This was the story we got:

It was for the Russian Billionaire’s son’s 10th birthday.  The Russian had sent the boat ahead to the BVI and hired some “Hollywood producers and writers” to travel with it. The boat and crew were to spend the week traveling the islands checking out restaurants, coves, activities and beaches. The job for everyone on the boat was to find the best places to moor and the “Hollywood producers and writers” were going to put together a “script” for the 10-year-old and his cousins. “The Script” would be a pirate story and the kids would be involved in finding pirate treasure on their voyage.

We all cocked our heads to the side. “No really,” he insisted.

“So how much does it cost to run a boat like that for one week,” Christian asked.

“About 250,000 dollars US, including food for the crew, cleaning, fuel, salaries…”

“So,” said Christian, “He’s already spent $1 million and he hasn’t even had his vacation yet.”

“Ah, yeah, I guess that’s one way of putting it, but that doesn’t include the Hollywood people. I don’t know what that costs.”

“So how many kids are coming?” asked Katie.

“Oh, I dunno, 7 or 8.”

“Who are these cousins?” Katie’s husband Jeff asked. Dave just laughed.

“Most of them are the billionaire's illegitimate children. We call them cousins.” Now I almost fell over.

At some point during this most fascinating discussion, a DJ arrived and set up shop near the tiki bar and began playing dance tunes so everyone moved to the sand dance floor next to the bar.


Such is life in the Virgin Islands. A life filled with singing pirates, career bartenders, unemployed dads, sailors of all ages on boats of all sizes and even the one percent. It’s a place where everyone belongs. On this night the cackles of the roosters wouldn’t wake me up.


If anyone doubts the validity of the Russian Billionaire, then I suggest you read the November 2014 issue of Islands Magazine, starting on page 32, Chasing Time by Jad Davenport. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This week: Tucson, Arizona

The $14 Cocktail

My husband likes air conditioning a little too much. The room was downright chilly. I opened the balcony door to our Ritz Carlton hotel room and the early morning heat of Tucson felt wonderful on my goose pimpled skin. I made myself a cup of hotel Starbucks coffee, put it in the Ritz logoed cup and sat on the balcony drinking and breathing in some warmth.

I had arrived in Tucson the previous afternoon. My husband arrived the day before that. He was attending a business conference. I was on vacation. My husband would be done with his meetings by noon and we had planned to do some hiking, but until then the morning was my own and I planned to fill it with some reading-by-the-pool time. Even though the sky was cloudy from Hurricane Odile, the air was warm and getting warmer as I headed toward the resort pool.

The Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain is a true resort. Nestled on the edge of a desert canyon surrounded by Saugaro cacti, the lobby of the Ritz is filled with fine Southwestern art, along with bell hops and lobby ambassadors who greet you when you walk past. Framed like a picture window, the back of the lobby opens up to the hills behind it from a patio with soft seating and large fire pit. In the distance is an infinity pool with umbrellas, the bright blue of the pool a distinct contrast to the browns and tans of the desert. I had to cross a cement path to get to the pool, giving the pool an oasis feeling, separate from the rest of the resort.

As I rounded the corner to the pool’s gate, two pretty young girls, one blonde and one brunette, both said good morning to me in a cheery tone. They were writing in colored markers on the pool information board. In the top left corner of the board it said “Drink of the Day.” Below it in curly letters that the girls had just written it said Turquesa Dream followed by a list of ingredients. The first two were Bacardi and Malibu.
“Is it too early for the drink of the day?” I asked.

“Hmmm, I don’t know. The kitchen doesn’t open for another hour, but if the bartender is here I think we can get you a drink.

“Ya know, 9:30 probably is a little early,” I said. “I can get one later. That’s fine.”

The brunette followed me through the gate and grabbed two towels from the towel stand. Another young girl was also standing there. I was expecting her to hand me the towels, but instead she asked me where I wanted to sit and began to head down the steps to the pool. I followed and pointed to a chair in the middle of the pool past a woman who was already settled on a lounge chair with a book in her hands. Rain from Hurricane Odile was in the forecast so I picked a chair under an umbrella. The brunette placed one towel on the seat of the lounge chair and the other towel she draped over the back.

“Just let us know if you need anything else,” she said as she walked away.

I had barely sat down when a different blonde girl walked over and said she heard I was interested in the Drink of the Day.

“Uh, sure,” I said. “Why not.”

She left and I put my feet up on the lounge chair and gazed over the infinity pool to the resort building. Then I reached for my smartphone in my bag when a handsome young man came over. He wore khaki shorts and a white polo shirt. He introduced himself as Joel and asked if my umbrella was OK. I said it was fine. He said if there was anything I needed, to just let him know. I thanked him and he walked away.

I went back to my smartphone to pull up the book I had downloaded on it. Then another handsome young man came over in white shorts and a black polo and introduced himself as Anthony and offered his hand to shake, which I did. He asked if my umbrella was OK or if I wanted him to move it. I said it was fine. He then said if I needed anything at all, to let him know. I thanked Anthony and he walked away. As he walked away I could see the pretty blonde girl returning with a glass on her small round serving tray. As she walked by the other woman reading her book, that woman perked up and asked the blonde what she was holding. I could see the blonde talking to the woman, but with her back to me I couldn’t hear the words. However, I did hear the lounging woman say that she wanted one too. The blonde then walked over to me with my Turquesa Dream.

Through the clear plastic Ritz Carlton logo cup, I saw the cocktail was a surprising grass green color and topped with a bit of froth. My first sip was rummy deliciousness with a fruity, creamy finish. As I sipped I noticed ripples from a light rain making rings in the pool. Since I was under an umbrella, I didn’t feel any drops and was content to sip my cocktail. However, another handsome dark-haired man wearing khaki shorts and white polo shirt approached.

“Are you OK or do you need me to move this umbrella?” he said as he started to reach for the umbrella’s stand.

“Ah, no, it’s fine.”

“OK, but if you need to move it, just let me know.”

“OK,” I said as he walked away. How many different people work here anyway?

Again, I picked up my smartphone to read my book. I had downloaded Mark Twain’s book The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims’ Progress, his tome about an excursion to Old World Europe and the Holy Land. He was somewhere in the Middle East traveling the desert on horseback. He was not impressed by it, the heat, the food, the endless rocks and the barren villages filled with the poorest of the poor. He found it overwhelming and insufferable. I too was in the desert, sitting next to a pool with a cool beverage and an umbrella to shade me from the sun that was still behind some Odile clouds and keep me getting wet from occasional rain drops.

I finally had some uninterrupted time reading and drinking. After many minutes I left Mr. Twain somewhere near the Sea of Galilee and decided to pay for my cocktail. What the wait staff didn’t know I was took a Diet Coke from the 12-pack we purchased at a grocery store yesterday and brought it with me to the pool so I wouldn’t have to pay pool prices for soda. Clever, right? I grabbed my wallet from my bag and did some estimating in my head. A regular cocktail at a regular pool would be $7-8, right? But a cocktail by the pool of a Ritz Carlton would be more, I guessed $10-12. However, this particular cocktail was the “Drink of the Day” so it must have been on special. Hmmm. This cocktail could be anywhere between $8-12. I grabbed a ten dollar bill and a five dollar bill from my wallet and put them under my now empty glass.

As if on cue, the blonde server returned and asked if need another cocktail or anything else. I said no, please tab me out and she had to leave to go get my ticket. That was unexpected. I had another five minutes to myself. She returned and handed me a receipt and said I could pay whenever I was ready. Fortunately for me she turned and walked away because my jaw hit the concrete when I saw the bill. The “Drink of the Day” was $14; with tax it was $15.63. A $14 cocktail? And this was the “Drink of the Day?” I quickly and hopefully discretely put my $15 dollars back in my wallet since it wasn’t enough to pay the bill and grabbed a $20. I had three guys and two girls visit me this morning and I wondered if the tips were spread among the pool staff. I decided to just give the server the $20 and let her keep the change and hope it was distributed among the rest of the pool staff. I went back to reading my book and the pretty blonde came and picked up my $20.

“I’ll get you some change,” she said.

“Oh, no that’s not necessary,” I said. She thanked me very much and left. I had many more minutes of uninterrupted reading time. That was followed by some hot tub time and another few minutes of lounging on the in-pool lounge chairs before the intermittent rain finally chased me away.

Later that evening my husband and I attended a dinner hosted by the organization running the conference. This was after my husband and I spent the afternoon on a NINE-MILE HIKE through Dove Mountain Canyon, which is a story I will save for another blog. The dinner was held at a restaurant at the Ritz’s golf course and had spectacular views of the valley. The clouds of Hurricane Odile had a wonderful effect on the evening’s sunset. The organization held an open bar reception before the dinner where we mixed and mingled with other couples attending the conference. We also chatted with a fellow from Canada who worked with my husband.

“Hey, how was your afternoon,” my husband asked him.

“It was great,” he said. “It was nice to relax by the pool.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s what I did this morning.”

“Yeah, it was great, but man, things sure are expensive here,” he added. “I paid $18 for a burger.”

“Did you have the’ Drink of the Day’,” I asked.

“I dunno, but I had some cocktail that they told me was on special. “

“Was it green?” I asked.

“Yeah, it was,” he said. “It was good, but it was….”

“Fourteen dollars!”  I said with him in unison.

“Wait, you bought a $14 cocktail?!” my husband asked while giving me the stink eye. I shrugged.

“What is it with these resorts and their exorbitant prices,” asked our friend. “That’s crazy!”

That’s why they call it ‘the Ritz.’

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This week: Albany to Denver

When things go right

Nobody ever talks about when good things happen at the airport. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a bad airport story. Stranded in Green Bay with the internet down. Stuck on the runway on a hot Phoenix day for two hours. Caribbean airport food that causes one to go through three air sickness bags. Yeah, we’ve been there.  The airport gods rarely smile on anyone and when they do, they can easily take it away. Hence, we all try to top each other with stories about the bad, but never, ever do we speak of the good, when things go right when they should spiral completely out of control. Well, I dare to talk about the best possible experience we could have had while flying.

We had just spent a wonderful week in upstate New York to celebrate my husband’s cousin’s wedding. The whole thing was beautiful. The outdoor wedding was bathed in sunlight under a clear blue sky. The children blew bubbles around the happy couple. The bride was gorgeous, the groom funny, the cake too pretty to eat. Alas, the whole fairytale had to come to an end and my husband’s mother drove us to the airport in Albany where we would begin the long journey back to Denver via Washington DC. The trouble began at check-in.

Unbeknownst to us as we feted, there had been a terrible afternoon storm front that ran all the way from New York City to Atlanta and our flight was unable to get to Albany. It would arrive well after our connection in DC left for Denver. The ticket agent said he would reroute us and began looking up other flights…all of them in and around Baltimore and DC, where it was still raining. All of them involved an overnight stay.

“Wait a minute,” my husband said. “Why do we have to go through DC? This is United. Why can’t we go through Chicago?”

“Oh, yeah. I didn’t even think of that,” said the agent. My inner voice screamed so loud at that comment I'm pretty sure the agent heard it. 

It took only a few key strokes to find the solution. A plane was flying was to Chicago and from there we had a choice of three connecting flights to Denver. However, the Albany flight was going to start boarding in 20 minutes and we still had to go through security. As we took our tickets and gathered our bags the agent said he would call the gate to let them know we were coming, but we ran to security anyway and then afterward on to the gate in case that call didn’t get made. Fortunately, we only had carry-ons.

The flight to Chicago had just starting the boarding process as we arrived so we made it onto the flight and it left without incident.

We arrived in Chicago completely unprepared for the chaos that was happening. The violent rainstorm on the East Coast had wreaked havoc on flights across the country and it seemed to me that the entire flying public was stranded at O’Hare. From the moment we emerged from the plane’s walkway the gate was packed with people. As we wove our way from the gate to head down the terminal to our connecting flight, we could see lines everywhere, at the gates, at pay phones, at the ticket counters, at the food counters. An endless sea of people and bags and cell phone charger cords to trip over. As we half walked, half jogged to our next gate we could hear people yelling in the distance over the steady drone of hundreds, maybe thousands of people talking to each other and to their cell phones.

We arrived at the gate of our Denver flight, which was at the end of the terminal where several gates came together. The place was packed. People filled the seats and spilled onto the floor or stood around the perimeter. Just then two people got up from a row of seats right next to us and left. We took their spots. Finally able to relax, my husband took the tickets out from his jacket pocket to examine them. He looked at the tickets, then at his watch and then at me.

“It says on the tickets that the flight to Denver lands at 9:30.” He paused a moment and looked at the tickets again. “That is a whole hour earlier than our original flight from DC would have been.”

I looked around at the crowd of people around me, all of whom were wearing weary scowls on their faces. 

“Don’t say another word,” I told my husband. “You don’t want to jinx this.” He nodded and put the tickets away. We sat silently for the next 30 minutes; my husband checked his emails while I read a magazine. Finally, our flight was called. I don’t think I exhaled until the plane was in the air.

The flight was uneventful, just how I like them. We landed in Denver at 9:30 PM, right on time. We were home in time to see SportCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day. We have never spoken of this flight since.