Family vacation. Day 2. 47 degrees. Cloudy with rain showers.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch, outside of Fraser, Colorado.
Mastered fly fishing in the morning. Moved on to rugged terrain disc golf in the afternoon. Ranch living wears on a body and feeds the soul. After a hard day, was grateful to ease into the hot tub this afternoon.
Despite a weather app that noted it at 34 degrees this morning, it felt mild and warm in the sun. We ate breakfast in shifts at Heck’s Restaurant. We appear to be the only guests at this 1,000 person ranch. After fueling up for an intense excursion, we walked about 200 feet across a muddy field to a pond stocked with trout. Our guide helpfully taught me to tuck my rod into my sweatshirt sleeve to keep my wrist from breaking as I cast. No one else received this sage advice. I must have appeared to have been especially advanced. Or he thought I was 12.
Last night, we all wished my sister and brother-in-law happy one-year anniversary. We realized that at this time last year, they were doing a first look. That was great. Then at dinner we talked again about how we would have been….eating dinner at the wedding at this time last year. My mom suggested that it was so nice to all be together that perhaps we should make it an annual tradition, and go on a trip together to celebrate their anniversary every year. My dad and I shouted her down pretty quickly, saving my sister and brother-in-law the trouble.
When it came to what time to get up for breakfast (yes, this was discussed at dinner: we’re planners, my family), I mounted an argument that one of the benefits of my youngest sibling, spinster status should be being allowed to act as a lone wolf. Such as getting up and eating breakfast when I feel like it. My mom told me I’m not allowed to be a spinster since I still occasionally look 15.
So you can see where our fly fishing guide might have been confused about whether to give me the tips for adults or the tips for kids.
My dad caught a fish and we all put up a cheer and called it quits.
My aunt and cousin drove up from Denver to spend the day. At lunchtime we did a professional overview. My brother-in-law was invited to do a complete and thorough narrative of his potential new work situation. By invited I mean whenever he summarized or omitted something, my mom made him go back. I’m still unclear how she knows so much more about the situation than he does. Questions ranged from: “Where is the office?” to “Are your new co-workers married?” This is relevant because married co-workers are generally more understanding of mandatory vacations with your wife’s family, such as the one upon which we are currently embarked.
After careers we asked my cousin about his new girlfriend. We were headed there all along. But that isn’t good reinforcement of values. First careers. Then love lives.
My sister talked how she separated her shoulder skiing this year. “I sort of just fell,” she said.
“At first I didn’t even believe she was hurt,” her husband said. “She fell so slowly. She was doing a kick turn…”
“You kicked her??” my mom asked.
“No! A kick turn! But she just sort of…lay down.”
“Yes, but I lay down with my arm out,” my sister said. “And it still hurts. Fly fishing was tough this morning. Archery is out.”
“Damn,” I said. “I guess that means the rest of us can’t do archery either. You’ll just be too jealous. You won’t be able to handle it.”
“I separated my shoulder once,” my mom said, “Carrying a honey-baked ham on Easter. Of course I was hurrying because I had 8 million things to do.”
“And no help,” my dad said. “Who knows where I was. Sleeping, probably.”
“I probably was hurrying to get home to make the baskets.”
“Maybe I was there, just standing around and not helping,” my dad said, helpfully.
“I’m carrying this ham through the parking lot and I tripped on the speed bump. My arms flew out. It was incredibly painful.”
“Did anyone help you up?” my aunt asked.
“No,” my mom said mournfully. “I helped myself up. I always help myself up.”
I went back to the room. My key didn’t work. The parents caught up with me. Their keys didn’t work. Our lodge is about a 5-minute walk from the main lodge. My dad headed back down. I found a phone and called. My dad reappeared with a staff member he’d run into on the way. I put on my tennis shoes. My sister called and asked why I was taking so long to join them for disc golf. My aunt asked me if my cousin had his hat. I hung up. My aunt asked again about the hat. I don’t know, I said, why don’t we look in his backpack right there? My aunt didn’t want to invade his privacy. My dad looked in the backpack. No hat. My aunt told me she thought my cousin had left it in the restaurant. I said I thought it was on his head. She said it wasn’t. I called my sister and asked if my cousin had his hat on his head. He did.
My dad declined to go horseback riding on Thursday morning. I told him this is the Griswold’s family vacation, and I need all the material I can get. He’s coming.
“I took your sweater outside because it feels wet.”
“It’s not wet. It’s cold.”
“It feels wet.”
“It feels cold because it was outside. I brought it inside to try to warm it up.”
“Well, now it’s outside.”
Disc golf involved a 15-minute walk up to a horse trail. We went through brush and threw through tree stands. We got a disc stuck in a tree and snagged it with a long branch. We jumped over streams. We climbed over a fence. Some of us threw well. Some of us did not. Some of us contributed primarily by serving as a scout. Some of us judged each other’s throws with a critical eye. Expectations are a tricky thing.
Some of us eyed the clouds warily. Some of us thought the storm would skirt around us. The word skirt was said an inordinate number of times. My cousin mentioned playing disc golf on the mountain in Montana. My sister said that sounded windy. My sister is talented at cutting through to identify the challenges in sporting situations. I am talented at cutting through to identify the stupidity of what we’re trying to accomplish. My brother-in-law is talented at sports. My cousin is talented at having a good time no matter what’s going on around him.
The storm did not skirt us. The storm caught us. Fortuitously, we were next to a strategically placed warming hut. Not fortuitously, it was padlocked. We crawled under the porch and sat there, waiting out the rainstorm. Gradually, it passed. I was the only one not wearing a rainjacket. I was the only one advocating for pushing ahead. “What I lack in skill, I make up for in pluck,” I said this, but it probably isn’t true.
Now a master of fly fishing and disc golf, soon to be doing dressage on a horse and winning archery competitions, I suggested that perhaps some sort of ranch-activities decathalon was in order. My cousin said that more vacations need an element of competition to them. Yes, I said, more competition and adrenaline. More risking of lives, my sister suggested, more general stress. Definitely more hard-edged competition, my brother-in-law agreed. Some of us were sarcastic. Some of us were not.
We headed back out into the weather to finish the game. We were fortified. We were still relatively dry. We were determined and skilled, now, at spotting the red-and-white-stripped posts. We were surrounded by beautiful country, snow-capped mountains above us and a rolling valley with horses grazing below. Then we realized we were only on hole 5 of 18 and went home.
“Where are my glasses,” my mom said, wearing a swimsuit, a robe, a visor, and her sunglasses pushed up on her head. “I can’t read my text messages.”
“They’re on your head,” I said.
“Oh, ok,” she said.
“Your text messages just say failed to send,” I said, “who are you trying to text anyway?”
“If I had my glasses I could tell you,” she said.
“They’re on your head,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, “call your dad and tell him to bring you your sunglasses.”
“I don’t want them,” I said.
“Well, tell him to bring mine,” she said.
“They’re on your head,” I said.
I kept trying to go inside to go to the bathroom but due to the faulty keys, I couldn’t get in. No one understood. Everyone wanted me to wait to say good-bye to my cousin and aunt. I finally made it clear that I would be back to say good-bye, that I was just going to the bathroom, not running away to the hot tub by myself, that I was just going down the hallway. To the bathroom. My mom told me to make sure to come back. Where else would I go?
When I came back my aunt and cousin had left without saying good-bye.