As a kid, I always had this obsession with Colorado. I had this concept of it being verdant and beautiful (which I still think was a pretty accurate impression) and the kind of place where people could gallop around in forests on horseback on their way to town (not so accurate). When I was 11 years old, I was bothering my dad when I was bored one Saturday afternoon. He stopped reading, looked up at me and said "Do you want to go to the mountains?" like some parents would say "Do you want to go to the movies?" I said "Yes!" and he said "Okay" and I said "Okay!"
So my dad said "Go pack us some clothes and let's go." I didn't believe him but figured that pretending I was going to the mountains was better than nothing. So I packed up a shirt and some clothes and then also packed my dad a bag. I came out and my dad said "Did you pack underwear for me?" I was like "Um...one second." So I ran back and got him underwear and took the bags to his truck. My dad said "Did you leave your mom and sister a note?" I said "No, what should I write?" And he said "Just tell them where we're going." So I went and wrote on Lisa Frank horse stationery (you know the kind -- the one with the mare and foals with the butterflies? Yeah.):
Dear Mom & Grace -- gone to the mountains! Love Rachel & Dad.
He'd just gotten a new Dodge Ram 1500, the very first year that they redid the model. It was sweet truck for its time. Also it happened to be Labor Day weekend, which is also my dad's birthday weekend (Sept. 4). Historically in TX it is one of the hottest most humid weekends of the year and this weekend was no different. It was about 106 degrees as we drove north on I-35 up through Round Rock.
I still didn't believe him that we were actually going somewhere until we hit Dallas. My dad is famous for these shenanigans (one year he pulled my sister and I out of school to go to the "dentist" and we ended up at Celebration Station which was like a mini-theme park). The funny thing about my dad is that my sister and I always thought he was trying to abduct us whenever he did these things...I have no idea why because he was never anything but loving towards us --but we always had zero faith in humans (thanks, mom) and we would always stare out the window blinking back tears thinking we were being abducted and imagining ourselves on milk cartons.
So I knew we were going somewhere, but started to wonder if I was being abducted. This time I figured I was really screwed since my sister wasn't even with me. I kept asking "Are we really going to the mountains?" and he kept insisting that we were. As we drove he asked me where I wanted to go see the mountains. I told him I thought Colorado Springs would be best -- I had no knowledge of the city other than that it sounded pretty and it was in Colorado.
So we took the most backwards route to Colorado anyone has ever taken, up through the panhandle of Texas. Along the way, we got pulled over twice for speeding. Both times the State Troopers asked my dad about his new truck. "How ya' like yer new Ram?" One of them gave him a ticket ad one gave him a warning. My dad to this day insists he was never speeding and that they just wanted to check out the inside of the new truck. I still insist that they should have questioned why a man was headed out of Texas with an 11 year-old girl.
We drove until it got dark and were still in Texas. We stopped for the night in a town called Plainview, Texas. It is basically between nowhere and nowhere, north of Lubbock and has a population of about 22,000. I just remember it smelling like feed lots wherever we went. We got into the hotel and I did what every red-blooded Texan girl under the age of 15 does -- I went swimming. I was always checking out the pool at any hotel we stayed at, as the pool is the first and foremost reflection of a hotel's standard of quality.
When I came back from swimming, my dad said "Do you want to call mom & Grace?" It was at this moment that I stopped worrying about him abducting me, because surely abductors wouldn't let you call home and go swimming. So I picked up the telephone and my dad stopped me. "Wait wait wait. You know what you should say?" I laughed when he told me and so I called home.
My mom answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hi mom! It's Rachel!"
"Hi Rachel." Not impressed.
"Did you see my note?"
"Yes...you and your dad went to the mountains?" Still not impressed.
"Yeah! Can you see us?"
"Can you see us?"
"No..." Not impressed.
"Well that's funny 'cause we're in PLAIN VIEW! AHHAAHAH"
My mom was not amused.
Onward we drove the next day to Colorado and eventually got to Colorado Springs at dusk. It was as beautiful as I'd ever imagined; even the Popeye's we stopped at seemed glamorous. These were the first mountains I'd ever really seen, other than a trip through Utah that I couldn't really remember because we went when I was 8 and I had altitude sickness the whole time so I spent the trip curled up in a ball puking.
Luckily this time I felt okay and we ended up somewhere at the base of Pike's Peak in Manitou Springs. We checked into a small motel and I immediately went for a swim. This pool was not that fancy but won bonus points for the scenic mountains in the background as I paddled around. My dad eventually joined me in the pool and then it started to get chilly. I kept remarking on how weird it was that it was so cool in the middle of the summer in Colorado. We went walking around in town at some street fair and I scoured the shops for Mexican Jumping Beans (which I would look for on every road trip but somehow they'd always be "out of season"). The following day, we took a tram to the summit of Pike's Peak. While I was on the tram, an elderly couple struck up a conversation with me because they saw I had a horse necklace on. They said that their daughter loved horses and used to be a riding teacher in Austin, Texas. Turned out it was my old riding instructor from when I was nine. Pike's Peak was beautiful and the weather was perfect.
On our way back to Texas, we took a much more direct route. We got pulled over for speeding again but got away with a warning. When we finally made it back down through West Texas, it started to get hot but we just kept turning up the AC so we never noticed the temperature shift. All of a sudden we passed a bank and it had a huge electronic sign saying it was 109
degrees out. In disbelief I rolled down my window and sure enough, it was like an oven. I looked at my dad, said "Well I guess we're back in Texas" and rolled my window back up.
And that is the story of my trip to Colorado with my dad. It happens to also be of my favorite childhood memories.
Update. This morning I received my dad's take on this event via email. My comments are in italics:
I was reading your blog about our trip to Colorado. What I remember you saying as you checked the temperature was
"We should have stayed in Colorado"
Ah Mean Rachel started at an early age.
Remember too that you were doing some kind of number thing...writing numbers on sheets of paper.
I also remember this but couldn't remember exactly what it was that I was trying to do. I thought about it and recall now that we had been learning about palindromes in school and we were challenged to find a Lychrel number which is a number that cannnot form a palindrome after you repeatedly reverse the base 10 digits and add the reversed numbers. It's also called the 196-algorithm. No one actually knows of a Lychrel number. Before the Labor Day weekend break we were challenged to try to find one, and I decided to use our old home phone number at the time: 512-443-9582. I never managed to make a palindrome, despite pages and pages of adding. I still think I might have found the only Lychrel in the world at the age of 11.