You wouldn’t believe what I went through to put this post together! First my phone wouldn’t sync with my desktop, then I downloaded AirDroid, then it turned out Google Photos synced and wiped all pics from my phone, and then I had to transfer pics from Google photos to my desktop and finally, WordPress.

So here I am, trying to catch up my blog. My Mom, Grandma, aunt and three cousins paid us a visit before the 4th, so we’ll start with that. Next, I’ll talk about my Dad’s trip the following weekend.

My Mom’s side arrived the Thursday before the 4th. We had some issues with the rental car, so Keegan and I pitched in on transportation. I drove my Mom and cousin to my favorite field of flowers residing between the airport and our house, and they loved it.

The first night of the trip, we chilled at the house and talked about the upcoming weekend—what everyone wanted to do and how to make it happen. Some of this was planned ahead of time, but since we had to return the rental on Saturday instead of Monday, we had to rearrange some plans.

Everything worked out pretty well for the most part! Friday morning, we headed to Perkins on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park. Perkins is one of my Mom’s favorite places to eat, and none of us had eaten at one since they closed in Lebanon, Tennessee about 15 years ago. We all picked off of each other’s plates for the ultimate smorgabord.

We finished brunch and drove to the park for a light hike. Sprague Lake has become my go-to for out-of-town visitors. It’s flat, short and easy, plus the views are awesome, and at 7,500 feet, the elevation isn’t too bad. After completing the loop, we drove to the top of Trail Ridge Road, the most scenic part of the park. I don’t really post pics of Trail Ridge Road anymore, because we’ve been there so many times, but it’s always fun to see people’s reactions that haven’t been there before. Snow drifts in July are unheard of in Tennessee.

 

Mom, Grandma and I made plans to camp in Grand Lake that evening while Keegan, Shelly (aunt) and the kids stayed at the house. So we parted ways at the gift shop and continued west towards our camp site in Granby. I reserved the spot a week and a half before their vaca—I was lucky to snag it as most campgrounds in the area were already full.

We set up our spot just as the sun was going down. I forgot the firewood, but luckily someone sold us a spare bundle. When I found Arapaho Bay online, I didn’t realize how remote it would be. Sure, it was technically KOA, but we had to travel 8 miles around the lake to reach out destination. It was much further off the beaten path than expected, so that was pretty cool.

Instead of bringing food to the campsite, we opted for dinner in Grand Lake. Dairy King was a must-do. There’s a Dairy King in South Nashville, and they are not affiliated, so I had to see how this one measured up. The fried mushrooms were awesome and the root beer float was even better. Their menus were oddly very similar, and in the end, I couldn’t choose a favorite.

We returned to our site and got the fire going, mixed some drinks and talked about life in general. I’ve camped with my Mom before but never my Grandma. The elevation affected her a small bit, and she didn’t pack warm clothes as I’d instructed, but we got her some sweats at Wal-Mart, and she handled everything pretty well! One of my favorite parts of the trip was our three generations camping trip. I’m so grateful to share these moments with my Mom and Grandma and for them to see first-hand why I fell in love with Colorado.

We left the next morning and headed to Fat Cat for breakfast. Originally, we planned to meet Shelly and the kids at Mother Cabrini Shrine near Parker, then head to Buffalo Bill’s Grave about 20 minutes away. But since plans became skewed with the rental car and it had to be returned by 3, we decided to rearrange the day. Grandma, Mom and I slept in, drove to Grand Lake for breakfast and skipped the shrine and the grave all together. We opted for Denver Botanical Gardens instead. This saved us 45 minutes’ of driving and brought us closer to Aurora near the rental car agency.

The Garden’s have so much to offer, it’s hard to see it all in a day. We made it to the Japanese Gardens, the Tropical Conservatory, the Water Garden, South African Plaza, Cactus and Succulent Garden and I don’t even know what else. And last but not least, I finally remembered the name of the “purple stuff” in our front yard. We planted Catmint last year and forgot the name of it! But as soon as I laid eyes on the plant I proclaimed, “That’s it!!”

We met up with Shelly, the kids and her uncle afterwards. My aunt planned this trip to see her uncle for the first time in 20 years and to visit her father’s and grandparent’s graves. We invited the uncle over for dinner and grilled steaks, fried potatoes and corn on the cob and blended the best daiquiris I’ve had in a really long time.

Sunday was probably the funnest day for the kids. They waited patiently all weekend to see the Denver Zoo and Water World, and I have to admit, I was pretty excited for the zoo. The only depressing exhibit to me was the hippo. His lonesome puddle of water was a makeshift habitat until his renovated home in San Diego was ready for his return. Otherwise, most animals appeared happy and well taken care of. I didn’t expect to love all the different birds as much as I did, but I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve wanted to try birding for a while, but the binoculars are so expensive.

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Took the sky bucket from one side of Water World to the other in search of adult beverages!!

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Pretty sure we took it easy that evening and shot off some fireworks before bed. Monday, I drove Shelly and Mom to Fort Logan National Cemetery. It was an emotional experience; Shelly hadn’t visited her Dad’s grave in over 20 years, and I don’t believe her grandparents were buried there the last time she visited.

A kind receptionist took our information and gave us a map with instructions on how to find the graves. We spent a few moments at each grave, and I wondered how different my aunt’s life would be if her Dad hadn’t passed when my Grandma was pregnant with her. Would she have grown up in Colorado instead of South Carolina? Would we be as close as we are? Would my cousins have been born? We’ll never know, but learning more about my aunt’s dad’s side of the family really put things in perspective.

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Fort Logan National Cemetery

My Mom and aunt were nice enough to check out Boulder, so I could show them “the spot where it all began”, also known as Chatauqua Park. I lead them to the trail I hiked by myself back in February 2013, the day I decided I was moving to Colorado. We grabbed pizza at Pasta Jay’s beforehand (my 2013 pizza spot) and Gelato off of Pearl Street.

We grabbed empanadas on the way back to Greeley. Apparently Venezuelan empanadas are fried and Argentinian empanadas are not. They all taste good in different ways. But the fried chicken salad empanadas hit the spot that evening.

The weekend came and went too soon. But it was really nice to see my Mom and everyone. I know what a sacrifice it can be to fly out, between the cost of plane tickets and taking PTO. So my family coming to visit means a lot to me!!

My Mom relayed her reservations regarding group travel, and by the end of the trip I understood why. It can feel slightly chaotic trying to herd 6 family members plus your husband from one place to the next, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!! In hindsight it’s almost amusing how things panned out with the rental. In the future my parents might travel together, which is also amusing considering the fact that they’re divorced. Other than that, I anticipate my Mom taking solo trips to Colorado in the future, which is cool with me so we can spend more one-on-one time together.

The fam left the morning of the 4th, allowing Keegan and I an evening to recoup before my Dad arrived on Thursday. So we set up camp at Wiley Roots and drank until the fireworks started. Syntax was closed and Wiley Roots is a brewery, so I brought a homemade concoction (rum, orange juice and grenadine) and enjoyed the show.

20170704_213205I was pretty excited about my Dad’s trip, since he hadn’t come to see me yet. Dad booked a spur-of-the-moment flight 10 days in advance, so planning his trip was really fun. This was easier than trying to accommodate plans for 6 people in 4 days. The only down side was limited time. He landed on Thursday and left early Sunday morning.

Friday morning, we ate breakfast at Yolk and headed for the mountains. On the way, I showed Dad where I work, because our Victorian House setting is just amazing and beautiful.

By the time we arrived and headed up Trail Ridge Road, soft hail began to flood the narrow roads. We pulled over twice and watched the lightning  strike nearby. The storm was a little too close for comfort at two miles above sea-level, but Dad reassured me we were safe in the car. How did I not know that rubber tires ground you in lightning? Most days I feel smarter than a 5th grader and others, I’m not so sure…..

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We finally reached the top and watched the storm in the valley while we snacked in the gift shop. You could hear the thunder echo in the valley and watch elk and moose migrate from one side of the road to the other. Plus we saw a baby blue bird and a marmot peek out from a drain pipe.

That evening, we grilled and chilled. Talked about plans for the following day. Fort Collins was next on our to-do list.

I wanted Dad to try Green Chili since he’s not a super picky eater, and it’s a regional dish. Santiago’s was closed, so we dined at Rio instead. Between their chili and mini margs, we did not walk away disappointed.

Next, we gave Dad the Fort Collins tour featuring Peace, Love and Little Donuts, Horsetooth Resevoir and a viewing of our old house. I showed Dad where we landed and the park near our house. I showed Dad the house Buddy stayed in when I lost him for the night. And I showed Dad the grocery store we walked to more often than not.

We rounded out the evening with fried catfish in the cast iron skillet. I hadn’t had fried catfish in years! The nostalgic taste was much appreciated. What started out as us cooking for my Dad turned into him cooking for us. I hated that the weekend ended so soon. But Buddy loved seeing him, and that’s all that really matters.

My Dad’s visit ran so smoothly, because he’s simple and prefers not to do too much. He would be happy chilling at our house the entire time with a trip to our local Harbor Freight. Before my Dad arrived, I had to seriously convince him that RMNP was worth seeing in person. But I’m glad I did, because it’s an unforgettable experience. You really can’t describe how large the mountains are until you see them for yourself.

I had a great time seeing family in June and July. I appreciate everyone making an effort to see me, because I know it’s not cheap! We had a wonderful time with everyone and hope to have more visitors soon.