As lazy as we were getting up and out, there was still frost to scrape off the windshield. Of course the Weather Channel had declared the temperature to be 39, but perhaps water freezes at different temperatures in the mountains like it boils at different temperatures? No? But the weather people are always right, aren't they?
Once frost was scraped, we had a lovely view of the mountains. Steve's mountains, according to him. The front range of the Rockies was the view he grew up with. With figuring we still had time before the noon shindig in Aurora (yes, that Aurora), we decided to head to Loveland, see what we could see a month after the flood. I hoped to make it as far as The Dam Store (Best Store By A Dam Site!), if it even still existed, and if we were allowed to get that far. 34 was closed at some point before heading up Thompson Canyon.
The first stop in Loveland is always the lake. They have great bronze statuary in a park along the lake, and I love to shoot it. Plus, if you can zoom in, you can get white-capped mountains in the picture, the "fourteen hundreds" of RMNP. While I was doing the latter, a woman walked by and we started a conversation. While a local now, she was originally from Little Falls, MN, and you know how the next couple minutes of conversation goes. We got to my hope to visit The Dam Store: did she know if it still existed? Not only did it still exist, it was the turnaround on the road past the semi-baricades where you could still proceed to "local businesses only".
Hearing that, we got back on the road and started that trek.
It was quite a sight. Huge piles of bulldozed mud lined yards, roads and parking lots. Piles of household now-junk littered the highway shoulders, along with other huge piles of tree branches, chopped down to a size that wouldn't impede traffic. Views of the riverbed showed new mudbanks, downed trees, a couple wrecked RVs, and occasionally heavy equipment parked, possibly due to it being Sunday morning. One small bridge over the river going to one of those local businesses, an RV park, bore yellow tape in places. Though about 30 feet up from where the river sat now, it had steel side rails either removed or severely bent from heavy debris slamming into it on its way downstream.
Yes we took pictures, though not until on the way back, after visiting the Dam Store and having a better idea of our remaining time.
Once at the store, there were seriously manned barricades, allowing only the cement trucks through, about one a minute each way. A sign pointed us off the road to a small parking lot. Upon hiking in, we announced to the cashier our feeling that if she was keeping the store open under these conditions, and we both had been occasional customers in previous years, that we considered it a moral obligation to stop in now and support her with our shopping. Which we did. Steve, a lover of bill caps, got one with their name on it. I picked up a "basset hound guard dog" kind of sign, a glass hummingbird window hanger, and a little something as a present for somebody who occasionally reads this, so nevermind. We found wonderful t-shirts with PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals, and a smaller print statement that wildlife always looked best next to mashed potatoes and gravy. Of course, they had only smalls and mediums in stock. Dang!
There was an amazing amount of traffic on the freeway into Denver for a Sunday morning. Not sure if it's up due to other roads being closed for repairs or if this is typical. Not going to stay around to find out. Despite that, we made it to the reunion only a minute late, if that counts. My excuse for that is not turning on the only corner that allows access to the park, which in this case translates to a side street which allows parking and a hefty walk in to the playground/picnic tables area. I do mean hefty. The other sides border back yard fencing or a 4-lane road with no parking allowed.
The playground in Rocky Ridge Park is great for kids, a huge slightly sunken pit with an elaborate system of things to clime and slide down, along with a "dinosaur" skeleton in pieces which also encourage climbing and imaginative play. There were a whole lot of kids there. I'm not sure about how many were with our group.
Start with Steve's long deceased grandmother Stanberry, and come down through the generations of cousins, kids, in-laws, and everybody was connected somehow. Steve saw people he hadn't seen for 50 years, and many more he'd never met. Ages ranged from 85 to 4 months. Some were local, as in from Colorado. Others came from Alabama and Ohio, to name just a couple places.
Despite his intention to take lots of pictures, he was so busy talking to everybody that I decided to do duty capturing everybody I could, know them or not. (Usually, not. No earthly clue.) Do not assume I didn't have a great time, despite my usually hating crowds of people. There was always a new one or two people to chat with. There was one really odd duck there who I decided after a bit must have (undiagnosed?) Asperger's. The 4-month-old was very cuddly and got passed around to everybody who need their baby fix, including me. Before everybody left, groups were lined up for pictures - all the cousins in a particular generation, or a family. Eventually Steve and I had our turn before the line-up. Of course they waited till the end after wind had blown my hair into a freak show, and where we lined up it came from the direction guaranteed to raise the most hair rather than smooth any down.
About 2/3 of the way into the event, I just had to go open my mouth, wondering aloud to Steve (Yes, I did see him occasionally) just when people were going to start calling this the "first annual" family reunion. Vi, Steve's young half-sister by his dad's 2nd marriage well after Steve was grown and gone, spoke up.She was the one who planned this on the Denver end after Steve suggested it. She found us a park, changed the location after that one got flooded. She announced she'd gotten involved when it was just a "let's get together for lunch on our way through" with Steve, and suddenly he announced there's be 50 attending. The next one would be planned by somebody else!
And so it was, right on the spot. Lee and Joan live in Kersey, just outside Greeley, and have a large yard for parking right next to their front door. Instead of waiting a whole year, let's all do it in April, when Steve and I are on our way back up to Minnesota.
Eventually it was time for hugs good-bye and the long trek back to the cars. It was only 5:00, so Steve decided we'd head down to Pueblo, getting a good start on the next day's drive. I was more let's see how it goes, but Pueblo it was.