I just can't help myself on this one. While I am a prairie girl through and through, I also love myself some mountains. This trip was for work and I was so fortunate that I had the chance to travel to Aspen - a place I had never been and most certainly want to see again.
The trip started out a little chaotic. It was a terrible time. It was at the start of a three city, eight day swing. Things were in upheaval at work and I was fighting every instinct to cancel and stay home to try to "fix" things when I knew in my heart of hearts that things couldn't be fixed. And, I did what I always do - booked an early morning flight. It always sounds like a good idea to be on the 6:30 a.m. flight until you set your alarm for 4:00 a.m. the night before. A car had stalled in road construction on the way to the airport and we sat for several minutes - long enough for me to get anxious about cutting it too close to make my flight. I also forgot my GPS in my car and had to buy one at the DFW airport from a vending machine. I had always wondered who bought their electronics from vending machines in an airport. Now, I know. It was also snowing in Denver when I arrived. Geez.
After a hard sell from the rental car lady about how I needed to upgrade my car to keep from going in the ditch, I finally got my car. Once I escaped the counter and got to the lot, I got an accidental upgrade when all of the compact cars were gone. The attendant gave me a midsize and things were starting to look up.
Once I got on the road and drove out of Denver traffic and the spitting snow, things really started to look up. I put the address of my hotel into my brand new GPS and followed it's every direction.
It took me via the Independence Pass. I was being a bit naive and should have done a little more research. More on that later.
My GPS did take me by Idaho Springs, a cute town with a classic little diner that served breakfast all day. A veggie omelet with the best biscuits I have eaten in some time were just what I needed.
The drive was beautiful! At least what I could see of it when I dared to let my eyes leave the road. This drive was a narrow and winding road, up and down mountains. I am guessing the "independence" part of the name was because only strong-willed and determined people forged this road in the beginning. Wow. White knuckles and prayers of thanksgiving that it wasn't snowing were the theme for the trip.
When I got to a certain point in the drive, I noticed several pull-off locations along the road and saw that there was quite a crowd of leaf peepers and photographers. Their presence made me feel safe enough to stop and I needed to relax my tense muscles. Remember, I had a tight grip on the wheel.
The aspens were turning a beautiful, vibrant yellow. I could only think of my mom who has a lifetime goal to see the aspens and to hear the moose bugle. I didn't hear any bugling, but I did see lots and lots of trees and I couldn't help but think of her and wish she were there.
Once I arrived in Aspen, I was blown away by the colors of the trees, the nice people and the quaint "village" feel. After checking in at the hotel and with someone for the college fair, I was advised to run a couple of blocks to the gondola and take a ride up the mountain. I was torn - stay at the hotel and unpack and try to relax or run two blocks. The views were promised to be spectacular...so, I went. I barely made it for the last ride up the mountain.
One of the gondola operators told me to take a red car because these had music. I loved listening to their staff playlist - everything from Johnny Cash to newer artists that I am not hip enough to know.
All was going well until the gondola stopped. I was maybe a third of the way up the mountain and started to have a bit of a panic. This was the last ride up the mountain and what if they forgot I had gotten on and were closing down for the afternoon. Rescue scenarios started to play out in my mind. At the top of the list was calling my husband back in Kansas to have him look up the gondola company and calmly call them and tell them to help his wife in one of the red gondolas. Then, I remembered seeing some flowers and other items going down the mountain in gondolas on the other side. I talked myself into believing that they needed to stop the gondola to unload everything from an event. I guess this was the cause because things started back up again. Whew.
At the top of the mountain, the views were spectacular. It was such a gift to be able to have this experience and I am so thankful for the urging of the kind lady back at the hotel.
I made a pledge to bring my mom to Colorado to see the aspens. She would love, love, love the experience and I would be thrilled to travel that way again.