(Continued from Part 1)
Leaving Rocky Mountain National Park was sad, but it was hard to stay sad as we drove through Estes Park-- the town that borders the park on the east side.
The main street through Estes Park has zillions of shops with every kind of souvenir you could imagine, and although it is strange considering how much I loathe clutter, I do love souvenir shopping.
As we drove through the congested tourist hot-spot, Will called out from the back seat, "STOP THE CAR!" He had seen some people walking down the road while eating ice cream cones, and informed us that he had to have one.
Will-- who typically doesn't eat food and has refused ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, and sherbet any time we've offered it to him.
Rob miraculously found a place to park in an extremely crowded public lot, and we walked the densely packed streets until we found an ice cream shop.
Out of the 32 flavors that the store boasted, Will chose Bubble Gum, and he wanted a sugar cone dipped in chocolate and coated with sprinkles.
As you might imagine, he ate two bites, complained that the ice cream was too cold, and pronounced, with finality, that he was done.
We got back in the car and kept on driving to Boulder, with no particular destination in mind once we got there.
Boulder was nice. It was more actually in the mountains than Fort Collins was, and the mountains were greener.
Will was crying because he wanted a playground, so we found him one. Then he was happy.
I kind of loved Boulder, even though it was 90 degrees out and there were no clouds to take the edge off the harshness of the sun. I started Zillow-ing real estate, and realized that the only way we could ever afford to live in Boulder was if we lived in our car. This was distressing.
We also had trouble finding a motel/hotel to stay in for the night, which may have been because it appeared to be University of Colorado's move-in weekend. But finally we found a place (that seemed to be halfway to Denver), and ended up planning out the next couple days of our trip, which we had never managed to do before.
As we headed over there, I noticed that the people in Boulder drove kind of stupidly, and it may have just been because I was overheated, unshowered, and a little bit carsick, but Boulder went way, way down on my Places I Want To Move List.
Dinner at Native Foods was pretty nice though.
We finally checked in to our way too fancy, way too expensive hotel, and at long last, I got to shower. It was so nice.
The next morning, Rob got up early and drove back into Boulder so he could run/climb up Green Mountain. I haven't seen him quite so happy in years. Or ever.
When Rob got back from his run, we checked out of the hotel and headed over to see a friend/colleague of mine who recently moved to Boulder. She has two kids, one of whom is the same age as Will, and the three littles had a blast playing together. We all went to a playground for a while and then had lunch at a semi-vegetarian restaurant.
It was great catching up with friends, but by this point, I was not feeling so well. My head felt like it was splitting in two, my throat hurt, and my nose was stuffed up. I didn't know if I was just having altitude issues or if I was actually getting sick. I tried to drink as much water as I could (I knew I was pretty dehydrated) and hoped for the best.
After lunch, Rob, Will and I hit the road again, bound for Leadville. Why did we choose this bustling mountain metropolis of 2,600 people, situated 2 miles (>10,000 feet) into the sky?
Leadville is the site of the Leadville Trail 100--the largest and one of the oldest (dating back to 1983) trail 100's in the US. It is therefore a site of pilgrimage for our people. But beyond just being a point of interest, the annual race was actually going on that weekend, and we would arrive just in time to see the winners cross the finish line!
As soon as we arrived in Leadville, I thought, This is it, I am home. I loved it that much.
Leadville was once a silver mining town, and the place still has this wild west feel to it. That and and a thousand ultra runners plus their crews. Everyone was both chill and extreme. I'd be curious to see what Leadville is like on a weekend when the nations biggest 100-mile trail race is not taking place.
We cobbled together some dinner from leftovers and snacks and headed to the finish line to wait, and wait.
Will passed the time by grabbing my phone and taking pictures.
We were all very excited.
The race was neck-and-neck between the two front runners, Ian Sharman and Nick Clark. Both of them are also competing in the Grand Slam, which involves doing not just this race, but four (4!) of the nation's most prestigious hundred milers throughout an approximately 10 week period over the summer. This is some major endurance.
At last, we heard the race officials say that Sharman was coming up the hill. It was amazing to watch the completely raw emotion on his face as he crossed the finish line after having covered 100 miles in just over 16 and a half hours.
Clark struggled late in the race but still looked strong when he (and his son, who ran with him during the final stretch) came in around a half an hour later.
I don't really know Nick Clark, but I did meet him briefly in Nicaragua when he ran (and won) the 100K Fuego y Agua last February. I actually sat across from him on the plane ride home, but I was too star struck to say anything besides something kind of dumb like, "How did you like the race?" He seemed like a really nice, down to earth guy, and I've been a big fan of him ever since. Wishing him well as he finishes out the Grand Slam.
I really wanted to stay longer at the finish line, but Will was tired and flat out demanded to be taken back to the motel so he could go to bed. Highly unusual for him. The thing about hundreds is that they are very spread out. The third place guy was probably more than an hour behind, and Scott Jurek (vegan ultra running legend) wouldn't end up finishing until after midnight. As much as I wanted to stay all night long and watch as other runners trickled in, it was time for all of us to go back to the motel and get some sleep.
The next morning I got up early and headed out into the cold to run (Rob got Boulder, I got Leadville). I had looked on the map and found a footpath (paved, but at least it was asphalt instead of concrete) called the Mineral Belt Trail that looped right by our motel. It was beautiful.
Running at 10,000 feet didn't really seem to bother me at all. I took it easy and managed to go 5.6 miles. I felt like I could have kept running forever, but we needed to check out of the hotel and get ready for a long day of driving ahead of us.
I didn't really want to leave Leadville, and in fact I would like to move there for good. I wonder if they need any doulas?
On our way back through the mountains, we stopped in Georgetown to take a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad-- a working old-timey steam engine. William is still completely obsessed with trains, and because so much of the trip had been about doing what Rob and Melissa wanted, we thought it was only fair to do something that was 100% for Will's enjoyment.
Will was mainly very silent on the train, and I'm not sure if that meant he was so overwhelmed with joy that he couldn't speak, or he wasn't paying attention. In case of the latter, we tried to just take a lot of pictures so he could remember it someday if he wanted to.
We drove east for the rest of the day, and as we descended out of Denver, my ears filled up with fluid and I could barely hear anything. It was actually kind of painful, and it lasted that way for about 24 hours--well beyond the mountains.
On the drive back, we learned a couple of things.
First: the border town between Kansas and Colorado is named Kansorado. Not kidding, couldn't make this up.
Also: there is nothing between Denver and Kansas City. As in, billboards would advertise steak houses that were 150 miles away. Because that was the closest thing.
We took two days to make the trip back, and as we descended into the gridlock of traffic on I-64, I couldn't help but start bawling. During the trip, people we met would ask us where we were from, and we never said we were from St. Louis. We'd say, we're living in St. Louis, which is different than being from here. We'll never be from here. No matter how long we live in this place, I doubt it will ever be home.
One thing I'm starting to wonder though, is if it might actually be the gateway to the west for us?
Call me if you need a doula, Leadville.
Thanks for reading.