I write as a journal to capture the good times of life. This may be beyond blog length, but it is your choice to read it!
After a busy morning at work for me, and busy for Barb trying to get some work out of the roofing contractors, we left Tulsa about noon heading west. Barb was driving knowing that I hadn’t fully disconnected from work. Our destination was Guymon, OK; basically a five hour road trip provided there were no stops. Barb was hoping for stops. I was just hoping to get disengaged from work.
Even though there is no one terrain in Oklahoma, it’s easy to think of it as flat and red. We started in Green Country with trees and hills, but soon the sky became the prominent feature. The road was smooth and most of the traffic was made up of white pickup trucks and semis hauling oil field equipment. We drove into Enid and drove downtown in search of a local café for lunch but gave up on that idea. Enid, as a regional center, is filled with large buildings that probably belonged to a different era, but everything looked well maintained. We settled for lunch at Appleby’s – good food but service that was more intent on style than substance. I climbed in behind the wheel after lunch and took off. We had driven a good mile before Barb spotted an antique mall. No treasures to be found this time.
Our trip took us through the unique and beautiful gloss mountains, but with outdoor temperatures reaching 111 degrees we didn’t stop and hike around. We did encounter some construction but the road was a good one – smooth and straight – very straight!
We reached Guymon about 5:45 pm and checked into a new and nice Holiday Inn Express. The desk clerk suggested a couple of local restaurants – we settled for Eddie’s Steak and Seafood located next to the Pop a Top Bar. According to the very efficient waitress, Eddie’s had been in Guymon for some thirty years, previously a bottle club when the county was dry, and the décor was clean, dark, and reminiscent of the 1980’s. There was a regular parade of customers; some local families and some obviously oil and gas workers. Although the food was not cheap, the quality was good, and we were well satisfied with the dining experience. The man at the end of the bar, who I want to assume was Eddie, nodded to us as we left and thanked us for coming in.
We did a quick drive around of the city, and passed by the golf course (looked like a league night), the football stadium, and the rodeo grounds – all required staples of a prosperous Oklahoma community.
Apparently not all Holiday Inn Express Guests enjoy what they have at home, as there was a notice posted that said “We know you appreciate the quality amenities of the Holiday Inn Express. Because of this, the executive innkeeper has made them available for sale. If you choose to simply take these amenities, we will assume you have given permission to charge them to your account.” The list includes large towel for $20, a sheet set for $60, the comforter for $80, the radio for $45, the hairdryer for $50, and the iron and board for $30. Imagine making off with all that loot!
We had a nice quick breakfast in the hotel gathering area – Barb enjoying biscuits and gravy with ham and two conveyer belt pancakes for me. I slipped into the driver’s seat and after a couple of wrong turns we were on our way. Barb spotted a herd of buffalo, a well-camouflaged coyote that ran across a wheat field before stopping to look back, and a couple of prong-horned deer eating peacefully in a field. The road was exceptionally smooth despite the fact that heavy trucks use it regularly. If Montana can be called Big Sky Country, then this is Enormous Sky Country. The only thing between earth and sky on the horizon were power poles and wind generators. The outlines of the mountains came into view.
Our drive eventually got us to Canon City where we decided to do a little Tommy Tourist action and see the Royal Gorge. Prior to heading there, however, there was the matter of lunch. Based on an ad in a Colorado travel guide we picked up in Lamar, we chose Merlinos’ Belvedere, an Italian eatery that had been serving southern Colorado for over 65 years. We chose well. We headed for the Royal Gorge, and decided we had time to walk across the suspension bridge, do the aerial tram (suspended 1100 ft above the river) and do the incline railway that descends at a 45 degree angle some 1500 feet to the bottom of the gorge. Plenty of rafters were using the river for recreation and a sightseeing train also made good use of the scenery. It is hard to believe this is the Arkansas River, the same one that we have a block from our house in Tulsa. We can see ours for nothing; this entry fee was $25 because we are “seniors”, we got in for $21 each.
We traveled the back roads on our way to Breckenridge; it was a perfect day to follow the Arkansas River and watch all the fly fishermen try their luck. Our speed wasn’t great, but it felt fast with all the twists and turns. I set Miss M (our Magellan GPS) for Breckenridge, and the GPS said we would arrive just after 7:00 pm. It started to rain and we watched the temp suddenly cool to 54 degrees – roughly half of what we drove through in western Oklahoma!
Miss M got us to our destination (“you have arrived”) of the Beaver Run Resort. We checked in and found our room immediately disappointing and unacceptable. It was at ground level with a few of a retaining wall – are you kidding me?! Barb called and got us moved to the fifth floor – at least a view of the mountainside. I don’t think we will have to read about the price of any of these amenities, but we unpacked and said “fine”. We donned our Gore-Tex raincoats and walked downhill in the rain to the bar and grill where the Quittners and other guests would meet us later. We had an unmemorable Slider Sampler with Barb having a glass of wine and me a Coors Light. George and Sharon arrived after we were done eating, and then others; handshakes and hugs all around. Before long we bid them adieu and headed uphill to our quarters. Keep in mind the town sits at 9600 feet of elevation – we needed more red corpuscles!
We went to bed thinking it was going to be cold and rainy for our 9:00 am tee time and we would not get to golf. Instead, we woke to a cool but clear blue sky when we looked out the window. We headed for the golf club after showering in one of the most unusual Jacuzzi tub–shower combinations ever. We headed down the valley and checked in at the Jack Nicklaus designed Breckenridge Golf Club. A guy named Al from Dallas joined us. Sometimes you can get an odd duck if you are not a foursome, but Al turned out to be a fun guy.
Both Barb and I played well; perhaps due to the fact that green fees were $125 each. Barb shot a very steady 96 and I turned in an 80 with a couple of birdies. An old dog appeared on one hole that felt obliged to take my ball and run off with it. Since he was old and had obvious hip problems, I was able to catch it, wrestle the ball from his mouth, and after wiping the slime off, the ball was still good for a par. The course was impeccable, the day just warm enough, the pace of play just right, with absolutely no wind. The highest tee box was at 9450 feet! We had a nice lunch on the golf course patio after the round and I couldn’t help but buy a shirt.
We stopped to pick up our Breckenridge Music Festival tickets for the later this evening. We both took a nap after getting back to the room as neither of us had slept all that well last night.
Our first stop for Saturday evening was the Quittners “Meet and Greet” event at The Mother Lode. It was great to see their daughter Michelle and meet her soon to be husband Brandon, as well as see their son Adam again. Michelle and Brandon work at The Mother Lode. Adam has been a ranch hand in Montana but is heading to Hawaii to hopefully do the same! Both Michelle and Adam are very outgoing and friendly, and treated us like old friends.
We sat with Iris and Marty Ricks (George and Sharon’s friends from Omaha and Barb and Iris were in the same book club), Carol (a friend from New York), and Nancy (Sharon’s sister) and her husband, Steve. We shook hands with or politely hugged many others but names escape as I write. At any rate, the place was packed with friends of the families and had become loud with exuberant chatter. It was becoming difficult to carry on a conversation when we left for our next engagement.
Our next stop was the Breckenridge Music Festival concert at the Riverwalk Center – the last event of the BMF season. We were going because we knew Tim McFadden, the Tulsa Orchestra Manager and Principal Trumpet, takes part in this orchestra every summer. Gerhardt Zimmerman, who has guest conducted for Tulsa at least a couple of times, is the Music Director. We didn’t know that two other musicians from the Tulsa Symphony also play in the Breckenridge Orchestra – violinist Winona Fifield and trumpeter Steve Haefner. Tim and Steve had a trumpet duet with the orchestra titled Carmen Fantasy for Two Trumpets that brought the house to its feet.
We made it back to the hotel finding no place to park our car. One of the reasons for this was the Triumph motor car convention being held here. We had talked to one guy from Minnesota who had made the trip and saw those little cars with license plates from all over. I’m thinking it would be a long drive in a TR6 no matter how cute they were. Beaver Run Resort is not getting high marks from us for a variety of reasons, but parking is high on the list.
We woke to slightly grayer skies and another altitude dehydration headache. As is a familiar morning conversation, Barb said I snored a lot and I said that was impossible because she kept me awake with her snoring. We mastered the Jacuzzi tub-shower with backward turning faucets today and the shower was better.
We headed to Columbine’s for breakfast, was excellent with very good service. After breakfast we walked up the road stopping in numerous shops. We finally made Market Place and found the Breckenridge Outdoor Market. I bought a new hat “to keep the sun from my eyes”. Barb found some of her favorite Navajo artist Tommy Singer jewelry and we called it an anniversary gift. We wandered across the street to Breckenridge Photography to get my broken camera repaired. It had popped out of my backpack yesterday and shattered the UV filter on the telephoto lens when it hit the tile floor. The store was closed.
We gave up waiting and drove to the Breckenridge Gondola – free ride to the top! There we found a Breckenridge version of the alpine slide that was pretty long, mini golf, bungee cords, pony rides, a maze, fake mountain climbing and other family fun! After getting to the top of the gondola, we paid $6 each to take the chairlift to an elevation of 11,273 feet. I know Barb remembers her last time on a chairlift – it was many, many years ago in Vail, and that was the end of her skiing! It was a fun and inexpensive trip up the chairlift, and about half way up we began to see all kinds of beads in the pine trees. Wonder how that happened. Many folks were hauling their bikes to the top and taking them down the hill. It would be a lot of brake work, but we saw young families making a go of it. We rode the gondola down, and Barb made a call to the photo shop in a last chance attempt.
Because my UV filter and been dented, crushed, and shattered, it was my intention to have a camera shop somehow get it off and simply buy a new UV filter. That almost happened, but soon we were talking about a new 18 – 200 Nikkor lens and then a new body. Instead of a new filter, I walked out of the camera shop with a new camera and lens – my anniversary and birthday gift I guess! Barb will not have to carry a lens when we are using my camera now! She was quick to tell me that her jewelry didn’t cost as much as my camera stuff.
We made it back to the room in time to get dressed up for the wedding of Michelle Quittner and Brandon Doza, which was taking place outdoors at Beaver Run Resort. Michelle’s parents, George and Sharon Quittner, made it to Miranda’s wedding in Georgia, and quite frankly, this was one wedding that we didn’t want to miss. The marriage celebration was Jewish and I must say very joyous and meaningful.
With perhaps the exception of my brothers wedding to a Jewish girl, we believed this was going to be the first Jewish traditional wedding we had experienced. The groom was not Jewish but had pledged to follow the Jewish traditions. The weather cooperated and the event went as planned outdoors on the patio at Beaver Run. The crowd gathered and found seating with most everyone dressed pretty formally, a far cry from the casual western – outdoor wear that is the staple of the area. The Jewish men wore purple (the color of the day) Jewish yarmulke – think beanie.
The groom took his place and the wedding party marched in – ten male and female attendants plus the cute flower girl and ring bearer! A simple acoustic guitar melody was played as George and Sharon escorted Michelle down the aisle. Michelle was absolutely radiant and beautiful as a bride. Rabbi Benjamin Arnold, who goes by Jamie, took control of the event at this point, and did a wonderful job of explaining the traditions and customers of the wedding ceremony.
The Ketubah comes first, which is the signing of the written marriage contract between the bride and groom. Historically, it outlined the groom’s responsibilities for the proper support of the new bride; today it is more of the mutual promises of support, care, and friendship to one another. The wedding takes place under a Chuppah, which is a cloth canopy under which the wedding ceremony takes place. It represents the home and is open on all four sides signaling openness and hospitality to all who pass by. The Chuppah today was one used as a prayer shawl for Saul, Sharon’s father. Each corner was held up by a parent of the lovely couple. During the ceremony, the bride and groom circled each other several times as a means of signifying that no matter where their individual journeys take them, they will always turn first to each other. It also reflects the idea that husband and wife must be the sacred focus of each other’s attention. The wedding includes an engagement ritual called an Erusion, a blessing recited over a full cup of wine that testifies to the holiness that must be a part of the physical and emotional intimacies of a marriage. The Sheva Brachot, or seven blessings, is a reminder of the sacred dimension of life that exists between a man and a woman. At the conclusion of the seventh blessing, the bride and groom again drank from the second cup of wine. The wedding ceremony concludes with the breaking of the glass. We are told there are many interpretations of this tradition, but it symbolizes the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 C.E and is a reminder that even in moments of great joy, the world is very fragile. The last step in the wedding was the Yichud, or Seclusion. Immediately after the ceremony, the bride and groom retreat to a separate room to jointly savor the first moments of marriage to each other.
This was a beautiful, joyous, and meaningful wedding ceremony and I think many of us could learn from the Jewish wedding traditions and customs.
I had to ask the radiant Michelle and smiling Brandon about the last tradition when they returned to the reception, and although they admitted they knew what the tradition was for, they quickly said they instead took a “chill pill”.
After the reception, it was time for the wedding dinner and dance, and we drove to the Salt Creek Bar and Grill in downtown Breckenridge. The bride and groom arrived stylishly and very eco-friendly in a pedicab, a three wheeled human powered carriage. I can’t imagine the endurance and power of pedaling such a rig at 9600 feet of elevation. We were seated with a host of friends of George and Sharon, and each had an important connection to the family. The speeches were good, and although the food service required patience, the food was very good. Michelle and Brandon had the first dance, and it was a showpiece, and a lot of fun to watch. It was obvious they had taken lessons and it appeared the dance instructor had done an excellent job and they were excellent students. It was as good as Dancing with the Stars! This was followed by George dancing with Michelle and finished with the traditional dance where the bride and groom are placed on chairs and hoisted into the air holding a large hankie between them, dancing them around the dance floor.
We said our good-byes to George and Sharon, and headed back to Beaver Run to pack and get ready for our trip to Wyoming. Although we didn’t sleep all that well, we didn’t get out of bed until after 7:00 am, and so didn’t get on the road until almost 8:30 am – late for us. We filled the car with gas and hit the interstate to Denver and then north on 287 to Tie Siding. The haze over Denver was noticeable. We called Bill and Claudia when we left Fort Collins. They were in Laramie getting new tires for her Honda CRV. Bill said he would meet us at the second ranch gate about 1:00 pm and we followed him in his Polaris 4-wheeler up to Diamond View Ranch, where we were welcomed with handshakes and hugs.
We decided a hike on Elk Ridge was in order sometime after a late lunch and so we donned the proper foot gear and headed out. This was supposed to be level terrain, and it was in comparison to other steeper trails on the ranch. We headed back when the weather clouds appeared to surround us. We relaxed with a cold drink and conversation on the back porch, catching up on details of their and our lives, as well as those of mutual friends. It was soon time for dinner – pasta with artichoke spaghetti sauce and cheese bread, topped off with special brownies that were adjusted for the altitude.
Bill and I took the Polaris out for an evening ride, and spotted a very black bull moose near the trail. We stopped, and he looked at us. We got closer and the moose started licking his lips, a sign of aggression per a TV show Bill had recently watched. We backed up, and then decided to go past him at high speed. I thought this was fine for Bill as the moose was on my side, but the moose high-tailed it into the woods. We continued on the trails that go to all the trout fishing ponds and then back to the ranch house. We reported our finds to the girls, talked a while more, and then hit the bed.
Fishing was supposed to be our morning activity, and so we drove to the new FC Fishing Club leased pond. It’s a great spot but the wind was going to make paddling around in float tubes extra difficult, so we nixed the fishing. We had seen Steve working at the old Tie Siding cemetery when we went fishing, so we stopped and visited him on the way back. Steve is 80 years old and looks like a typical old cowboy – narrow at the waist, wiry build, big belt buckle, and a smoke between two fingers. He was putting up a new steel fence to protect the cemetery from cattle and other critters. He had one reference where he talked about “guys our age” that made me wonder how decrepit I looked.
The girls were waiting when we returned. Since we couldn’t fish, we had given them their choice of things to do. Barb had suggested seeing some of Laramie’s historic sites, something Bill and Claudia had yet to do. There was not an overwhelming positive response from the boys, so Claudia suggested lunch at Adale’ Rapido as part of the tour, and Bill was hooked as this was one of his favorite Mexican cafés. We drove to Laramie, and during lunch, I pulled out the You Tube Ultimate Dog Tease video which was immensely enjoyed. We were off to the historic Ivinson Mansion, and got hooked up with a wonderful docent.
The Ivinson Mansion was built in 1892, and had to be one of the areas finest homes. It was Victorian Queen Anne in style and had twenty three rooms, with each room featuring different woods. The most amazing room to me was the bathroom – indoor plumbing in Laramie, Wyoming in 1892!? The shower had an overhead shower head as well as two side sprays. You could use foot pedals to control water flow. Edward Ivinson came in on one of the first trains to Laramie in 1868 on his way to California, but had to stay in Laramie when he was involved in a lawsuit. He ended up staying and after bringing in wife and daughter to Laramie, seemed to have the Midas touch, becoming an entrepreneur, banker, and even a candidate for Governor.
After we walked the Union pacific Railroad Pedestrian Footbridge, we completed our touring with a stop at the historic Buckhorn Bar for a cold beverage. Laramie, as a frontier town full of railroad men and cowboys, has had its share of saloons and bars. The establishment was originally called Blair and McCane’s Saloon in 1913, but changed to the Buckhorn Bar in the 1930’s, and has quite a collection of novelties on the wall, and in our view, an interesting collection of characters that grace the bar and tables.
A stop at Bart’s Flea Market on the way home finished out our day. Barb spotted a Charles Lindbergh Spirit of St Louis plate in the Laramie Women’s Club booth, and for $20 it was mine. The proceeds from the Women’s Club booth all go to maintain the Ivinson Mansion, so it was a full circle purchase.
It was time for cocktails when we got home, and Bill had made up a batch of “greenies”, a frozen concoction of various alcohols and frozen limeade. A fabulous steak dinner followed later, and it was accompanied by all the good things that come from Costco, Bill’s new favorite store. We enjoyed the conversation that went along with dinner as much as the food. The evening called for a walk under the stars, and we were able to spot the space station as it went overhead. A trip to the hot tub was a perfect way to end the day, and once we saw a shooting star and a satellite, it was time for bed.
We slept as well as one can on a full stomach, and the morning was perfect for another attempt to fish at the new fishing club pond. The wind was non-existent and the sun was bright, and after a quick breakfast of Cheerios with fruit and some wonderful zucchini-apple bread, Bill and I headed out with the back of his Tahoe loaded with float tubes, waders, boots, flippers, and poles. After donning the gear and getting adjusted to the float tube, I immediately hooked a very nice rainbow trout! Any day when I am not skunked is a good day. Bill, who loves to fly fish, was regularly catching fish, but he thought it was a little slow. I had a couple more on later but it wasn’t until much later that I landed another rainbow – he had a lot of fight and spun my tube around a number of times before I was able to bring him in. Bill took some pictures, and even captured one with the fishing jumping out of the water while he was on my line. I hope he sends those to me. I felt very relaxed on the water, and miles away from work details.
We loaded up, headed for home, stopped to get the mail in Tie Siding, and unloaded the gear once we made it. Claudia and Barb had a nice lunch ready, and the boys were hungry. Claudia and Barb had taken the Polaris out for a nice trail ride in the morning. Naps followed lunch. Bill and I took the Polaris out on the trails later in the afternoon, but were home in time for some chips and guacamole washed down by a margarita. Dinner was tostada pie, something from the South Beach diet book that was quite good. The meal was finished by another South Beach specialty – fresh strawberries covered in dark chocolate. We haven’t lost any weight on this trip. We finished the waking portion of our wonderful day with the Clint Eastwood directed Japanese story of Letters from Iwo Jima. War is hell.
On Thursday we woke to clear skies and star-filled sunrise. Our plan today is to drive to Denver to have lunch with George and Sharon, and then head towards home. After a breakfast made complete with some of Claudia’s special “hash”, we gathered up our things, took the required front porch picture, and said our good-byes with hugs and handshakes. We headed down Deer Path Road, and made our way off the ranch property. We saw one the black squirrels on the way down.
We hit Highway 287 toward Fort Collins, and then took I25 to I76 where we turned west toward Grand Junction. We found the little deli-café called Parisi where George and Sharon would meet us for lunch. George showed up right on time but Sharon wasn’t far behind. We visited a while outdoors and then went inside to dine. As is usually the case, there was no shortage of conversation points. As we were leaving, Sharon spotted a mail truck, and ran across the street with a letter that she had brought to mail. How could she have known the mail truck would show up at this time? Handshakes and hugs, and we are off again, this time on I70 going east. We are soon out of the Denver congestion and civilization, and the territory is almost barren. We lose the hour we gained driving west, and we stop at another Holiday Inn Express in Colby to spend the night. A Taco Johns next door to the hotel is too much temptation – no driving required and a sweet churro for me for dessert!
We didn’t get up as early as planned, but did hit the road shortly before 8:00 am after a Holiday Inn breakfast. The roads were clear, smooth and mostly devoid of any traffic, so driving was easy except that it was into the sun. I was hoping that the road signs calling for us to see the Russian pig and the live 5 legged steer call wouldn’t be too much temptation, but I gave in to Barb when she said we have to stop at Wilson, the Czech Capital of Kansas to see the giant Czech egg. We drove around and finally stopped at an antique store to ask where the egg was, and got an earful. The lady said as far as she was concerned, it was false advertising. She said the egg was now at least ordered, and we should go down to the Chamber of Commerce office and give the lady President an earful. We declined, but did drive by the little round jail.
Since we were already off the road, Barb said we might as well head toward Lindsborg, the Swedish Capital of Kansas for lunch.
On the way, I spotted a sign for a Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette, and we were both amazed when we went in at all the motorcycles and bikes and scooters. This museum was started in 2003 as a tribute to Marquette’s own Stan “The Man” Engdahl, a five time National Racing Champion. It is home to well over 100 rare and vintage motorcycles, as well as over 600 trophies won by Stan from the 40’s to the 90’s. Mr. Engdahl, who owned a TV store in this little town, passed away in 2007 while on a fire call, but his widow LaVona remains as the curator of this fabulous museum.
We headed to Lindsborg and ate at our favorite Swedish Crowne Restaurant, splitting a Swedish Sampler Platter (boiled eggs, ham loaf, meat balls, new dill potatoes, pickled herring, pickled beets and a rye roll). I couldn’t resist the bread pudding covered with lingonberries for a dessert, which even Barb said was fabulous. Of course we stopped at the Courtyard Gallery and bought a John Presley woodcarving titled “Keeping the Flame Alive” and then Hemslojd-Dala Horse Factory where we bought a few more things, the last purchases of our trip. I know we will have to have a garage sale when we move next.
The temperatures had been steadily climbing, and we encountered 104 degrees before hitting Tulsa. We were home by 5:00 pm, and the boys were happy to see us. We drove 1842 miles in eight days and got 20.8 miles to the gallon in the Explorer. It has now been washed and detailed and is ready for rain. It was a good trip made where I was actually disconnected for a while, but it was made special by seeing old friends and making new memories.