By early March, preparations for Robert's family's skiing reunion in Steamboat Springs, Colorado over Easter week were in full gear. Judy and Christina emailed each other excitedly, with visions of chocolate and lollipops and sugar cookie decorating and, respectively, grandchildren and nephews/nieces dancing in their heads: "I found your Easter molds and brought out my s'more ingredients and my recipe for chocolate sauce. I can see chocolate fondue in the future. Do you think if we put all the kids in swim suits, we could contain the mess? I can't wait. It will be so much fun. See you soon"; "We had a powder day yesterday and skiied in the trees. Bob would be proud of us. The conditions are great now. We hope there's a few more good snowfalls and very little spring weather so you'll have good conditions the end of the month. . . . I have a flank steak in the freezer and thought perhaps you'd have some [stir-fry] recipes in your Palm. . . . I could probably wing it, but alway appreciate some help. I checked the library and found no Chinese cookbooks. . . Look forward to seeing you soon." Robert and Christina had been going to the gym 2-4 times a week since last July, primarily to get in shape for skiing, and now both were getting excited about skiing Sunshine (or Headwall, at the very least) with a pack of small children behind them. In addition, Christina had already packed bags full of Easter goodies for everyone. Who, exactly, would be there? Look at the family tree below for details.
Jennifer and Joe, with John and Aurora in tow, flew from Chicago straight to Steamboat on the Monday before Easter. Meanwhile, Brian and Lisa and their three kids flew from Alabama to Denver and then drove to Steamboat, arriving later Monday night. Judy and Bill were already there, and had arranged rentals and ski school lessons for the kids to start Tuesday morning. Robert and I flew from Boston to Denver, and then via a connecting flight to Steamboat, on Tuesday, since I had classes on Monday.
Our trip soon got off to a roaring start. With our ski bag, boot bag, and two bags of ski clothes and gifts, we had our full four items to check andenough luggage to specially request a station wagon or minivan cab to the airport. Once in the cab, just a block away from our house, Robert said, ''Um, there's a car,'' and we immediately heard a small crunch--the cab's passenger side-view mirror was smashed by the cow-catcher (English translation of the German name for the big angry grill on the front of an SUV, according to Martin 1 in Los Angeles a few years back) of a car leaving a parking spot on the right. Both drivers leapt out, yelling about speed, right of way, and police, as Robert and I sat in the back of the cab. The cabbie rushed back to check on us in between shouts. ''He insisted on calling the police even when I had the right of way!'' he said indignantly. ''You did have the right of way,'' Robert told him soothingly, ''but--'' I nudged him, andhe refrained from saying, ''But I told you that guy was there!'' ''Anyway, this shouldn't take too long--you'll have plenty of time to make your flight,'' the cabbie said, swiping at the meter to turn it off. He missed, actually, and just succeeded in adding an extra .50 to our fare. In a moment a police car drove by. Clearly annoyed at extremely minor accident they were called to investigate, and at the SUV driver still half-out of his spot, blocking traffic, and meanwhile gabbing on his cell phone, the cop refused to comment. Leaning out the window, he yelled at the SUV driver that the cabbie had the right of way. Jubilant, our driver swung back to give us another update on the situation, and then, armed with the opposing driver's information, leapt back into the cab. He was driving away en route to the airport while the SUV driver was standing in the street behind the cab, still copying down the plate number.
Strangely, our driver was quiet and somewhat subdued the rest of the way to the airport. Robert gave him a good tip because he felt bad about the accident, and we made our plane with plenty of time to spare--even after a female security guard gave me a hard time about my "attitude." "Stand over there," she ordered, not letting us proceed to the gate, "until your attitude improves." I understand security concerns, but what is this--kindergarten? The woman was seriously trying to make us miss our plane because she didn't like my tone of voice when I said, "Excuse me, we were here first" as she went to help someone else who cut in line. "Wait a minute--why are you making us stand here?" Robert demanded after a few minutes of this. She ignored us, and a fresh-faced National Guardsman came over and inquired what the problem was. For all the world like a part-time public school aide high on power, making a kid stand against the wall all through recess, the security guard explained there was "an attitude problem." I smiled sweetly at the Guardsman while he scrutinized our IDs. "Are you sure you have nothing sharp in your carry-ons?" he asked. I assured him we didn't. He passed us through.
Robert sighed something about the rather involved start to our vacation, and then remembered an emergency at work he had to make several cell phone calls about before the plane took off. Meanwhile, I prayed we wouldn't get cell phone coverage in Steamboat and smiled at the fellow-passengers who eyed me suspiciously after seeing us pulled over to the side at security.
Our layover in the Denver airport was over an hour, so we leisurely had lunch at the Wolfgang Puck Express; tried to find a working Internet terminal (all had smashed keyboards or trackballs, however); bought reasonably good, somewhat overpriced candy at the Rocky Mountain something-or-other (which I mostly wanted to go to because it reminded me of happy times and good ice cream at the Rocky Mountain Creamery in Wellesley); and walked from one end of the terminal to the other. In the middle, at the information booth, we asked a fat and cheerful Denver cop what there was to do at the airport. He seemed happy enough to tell us that there was nothing at all exciting to do there. "Not even the fountain?" asked Robert, consulting a map, "in Terminal A?" Now the cop seemed puzzled. "It's water," he said. "Going up and down." We decided not to trek over to Terminal A just for the fountain. (FYI, much later, obsessively reading the map and helpful airport brochure more closely, I found out that the Denver International Airport has one of the largest displays of public art in an airport in the world, and that we could've picked up another brochure from the information booth and taken a self-guided tour of the different sculptures.)
We did get a kick out of the location of the Denver airport. This is Denver? We couldn't see anything that looked anything like either a city or a highway out of any of the windows.
Our connecting flight finally left, and we were soon at the Hayden (very non-international) airport near Steamboat Springs. We'd been to Hayden before, so we were prepared for the small-town feel of this airport--you know, the "get off the plane and hike to a small hut we're going to call the terminal" kind of airport. On the plus side, it's extremely easy to find whoever's waiting for us (in this case, Bill, fresh from the slopes); your luggage comes out amazingly fast; and you get a really good shot of the plane while you're walking to the "terminal."
more. . .