Our arrival into Estes Park, CO was nothing special, same old process of backing in the trailer, straighten it out for 20-minutes, check for level, set level, make the electrical-water-sewer connections, lower the support jacks, extend the slide-out, sit-down with a cold beer, and then store everything back in the camper. It is an exhausting ordeal -imagine you have to reset the foundation on your house, set-up everything inside, get groceries, rinse-and-repeat. Holy shit, if we were ever ready for Colorado, now was definitely the time. Only thing, we didn’t realize what a life-changing experience it would turn out to be.
First of all, we did all of the typical sight-seeing adventures thanks to the Brother-in Law Dean R., who made sure we had a daily activity planned. That was a job for sure, trying to align the schedules of twelve individuals. First was the so-called “ghost tour” for the supposedly haunted Stanley hotel. Although the history of the place held interest, the stories of ghosts grew tiresome. In my opinion, the only reason anyone would see an apparition of any kind would be due to the altitude. Perhaps that and all the booze from the whiskey bar. The kids tried to warn me to keep my skepticism in check so as not to anger the spirits, but for an old grump like me, that warning was not effective. However, it was somewhat amusing to watch the millennials hunt for a spirit with their phones, like a bunch of kids looking for their next Pokemon go capture.
It was very stuffy down in the basement of the music hall and luckily I found that old high-backed leather chair in the far green room to sit by myself. The old paint peeling from the crown molding and the stained carpet only added to the ambiance. It was so nice and cool down there I took off my light jacket, and draped it across my lap. It was so relaxing and peaceful that I almost dozed off, that is until a young woman wearing cut-off blue jeans and a Keep on Truckin’ tank top came down and sat on the couch along the opposite wall. She resembled a character out of a Stephen King novel looking as though she was transported directly from the year 1972. She seemed troubled and I really didn’t want to engage in any conversation, so I ignored her presence through a strategic implementation of the usual tactics -pretending to look at my non-functioning cell phone and pseudo-slumber. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her stand up, approach the fire place, and pretend to warm her hands by the nonexistent flame. Feeling bad, I slowly stood up and offered my jacket to her. She politely accepted and, saying thanks, introduced herself to me with an outstretched hand as “Lucy.” I suppose my smirking reply caught her off guard. “That’s my wife’s name,” I replied. Just then a group of pre-teens captured my attention as they entered the room giggling. I turned to walk-out of the room when the little blonde girl said, “don’t forget your jacket sir.” I turned back toward Lucy only to see my jacket lying on the floor with beads of water glistening on the surface -wait, was that a snowflake?
Later that night I dreamt of an earlier time when the privileged few would travel to the area in search of healthfulness. Men dressed in their pants, coats, and western-styled hats escorted women in their frilled dresses from the dining room to the game room for a quick spectacle of the tourists playing billiards. Music from an antique Steinway grand piano playing Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz echoed across the wooden floors clear to the entrance where I sat in my boots and jeans, plaid shirt and leather vest on the front porch with my feet kicked up on the balcony. With one hand, the waitress softly taps my shoulder as she hands me another scotch whiskey and, as I reach for my billfold, a long, outstretched hand with icicles for fingers pierces my chest, grabbing my pulsing heart and slowing it to a dim flicker. I awoke suddenly in my camp chair gasping for air. Thus the beginning of many restless and oxygen-deprived nights of altitude sickness yet to come.
What with the brutal task of setting up the trailer for the one-thousand-and-oneth time, sitting on a 2-hour nut-crushing horse ride, bouncing around in jeeps up a dusty road to the Alpine visitor center, this old boy was tahred (a.k.a tired). That, and sleepless nights deprived of oxygen were beginning to take there collective tolls on both health and soul. It is so much to take in; the stark contrast of the mountains, sky, and pine forests, that one could get lost in all of the beauty.
The following day, while foraging in the RV’s cabinets for food already discovered and devoured by the kids, I made myself a plate of salami, cheese, beer, and week-old crackers left by my daughter’s boyfriend. The salami, cheese, and beer were nothing special. Oh, but those crackers, they were off-the-chain as the youngins’ like to say. I don't know why, but the more crackers I ate, the hungrier I got. So, scurrying back to the RV’s kitchen like a hungry rat, I began a more invasive raid of the pantry. However, noting the rotten smell of the 3-week-old turkey cold cuts, I returned them to the fridge, subbing them out for a cup-of noodles. "So damn hungry," I thought. In searching for more food, I retrieved the empty box of crackers from the recycling bin that I discarded earlier: "Who makes these things? Maybe they have more in the camp store," I mumbled to myself. The box read: GreenWise Colorado Cannabisquits: made from the highest flower on the market. Holy Shit! I had been inadvertently poisoned!