Well, I have certainly had an eventful week.
As you may recall, Mike and I recently got engaged. We’re pretty excited about this. The logistics, however, are complicated. (Hey, it’s me!) So naturally, after spending most of June being bored and gearing up to spend most of July packing and moving, I decided to fly out to visit my Aunt Pam in Kansas City for a week and spend two of those days driving with her across Kansas to Denver and back. Specifically the mountains west of Denver. But more on that in a bit.
An aside: I just ordered a free cran-apple with vodka on the airplane. Ahh yes, Southwest, where the highlight of your day is getting a set of free drink coupons in the mail. If only I wasn’t in the last row by the bathroom. I despise their new “EarlyBird Check-in” option, which costs $10 and strands those of us who simply check in online 20-24 hours before the flight well into the B’s. On the other hand, I have the only empty seat on the plane next to me. Bigger picture.
We’re getting married in San Diego next May, which makes perfect sense given that Mike and I are both from Washington State, I’m moving to New Mexico in three short weeks, and my three bridesmaids live in Illinois, Minnesota, and New York. Since I do have a bit of time while I’m still living in San Diego, I’ve been scurrying around trying to line up major wedding-related items. Reserving the Cathedral, doing premarital counseling, finding a reception venue, caterer, DJ, etc. Good times.
Of course, when I made my plans to visit Aunt Pam, I had no idea I’d be engaged. (I may have HOPED for such a thing, but it certainly wasn’t part of my grand planning scheme.) The schedule was simple, albeit packed: fly to Kansas City on Monday, learn to drive stick on Tuesday, drive to Denver on Wednesday, spend Thursday in Denver, drive back to Kansas City on Friday, fly home to San Diego on Saturday. The jaunt to Denver was to scatter the ashes of three of my (and Pam’s) relatives who died in 2008. My great aunt Joyce, her husband Stan, and their son Craig. (Joyce was my maternal grandfather’s sister.) Craig willed everyone’s ashes to be scattered in the Colorado mountains, and Pam wanted company on the long drive across Kansas. The least I could do, and a great excuse to see her.
Like most of my well-laid plans, this journey began more or less as expected but took on additional complexities and nuances as time went on. For instance, we scheduled visits to two bridal shops on Tuesday so Pam could help me look for a wedding dress. We realized only once at the second salon that we had meant to go to a nicer, different place, so we scheduled a last-minute appointment for Saturday morning. Pam used my visit as motivation to clean out a spare room and bought an aerobed. I learned that driving stick is quite a challenge, and one I’ll probably never completely master. Pam’s cat… well, more on that in a minute.
At our first visit to a bridal salon, I found a dress I liked very, very much. But I was very new to the whole “trying on wedding dresses” thing and didn’t want to make a rash decision. In an extremely generous gesture, Aunt Pam informed me she would be buying my wedding dress for me! So we took scads of pictures and headed to the second salon (which really sucked) and then to dinner with some of Pam’s friends and finally home to pack for Denver.
Did you know that Kansas is flat and long and boring? There is some beautiful scenery, but 10 hours of “beautiful plains” with no cell service and nothing but an interstate stretching to the horizon was grueling. Eastern Colorado was worse, both in terms of boringness and lack of cell service, but at least the speed limit was 75 rather than a measly 70. As usual, though, we entertained (and sometimes annoyed) each other quite thoroughly.
Once in Denver, we were put up by Pam’s gracious friend Mark, who works as an air traffic controller in Longmont. He owns four cars, a motorcycle, an iPad, an iPhone 4, two other computers, flat screen TVs in every room of the house (including the bathroom), and a roomba. He is also awesome. On Thursday afternoon, the three of us got lunch outside Longmont, drove down to Boulder, and then headed west through Nederland into the mountains. We went past the tiny town of Eldora and watched the roads get progressively rougher as rain and a short spurt of hail sprinkled down on Mark’s SUV. The scenery was truly magnificent. In our short stay, I firmly placed the geographic area on my “would be OK living here long term” list, which previously encompassed only the Pacific Northwest.
After starting down a one-lane road that looked more like an overblown hiking trail than a legitimate road, we turned a corner and spotted a huge flooded section. At least six inches of standing water, with more pouring in by the second as little waterfalls spilled over from the roadside and rain added to the chaos. Pam and I, being ourselves and somewhat sensible (humor me here), assumed Mark would stop the car and finagle a way to head back out to a more road-like road. Nope. He plunged forward, dismissing our concerns with a nonchalant handwave and an “I’ve done this tons of times; the road is always flooded like this.” Whoa. We navigated not one, but TWO huge swaths of flooded rocky trail-road in the rain as we pushed forward toward our still-unknown destination.
When something resembling a parking spot and a footbridge over the most lovely rocky mountain creek you can imagine came into view, this was our cue to continue the adventure on foot. We donned rain gear, though it was mostly just misting at this point, and each carried one of the small black boxes of ashes. Over the river and through the woods… and up the mountain. The 9000-foot elevation mountain. We must have hiked nearly a mile when we rounded a bend and Mark said this was the place he had in mind – a strikingly beautiful open meadow amidst the evergreens where we could scatter the ashes and say a few prayers.
We did so, and the sun came out.
The creek, alive and rushing and easily visible just up the trail, was a comforting and exhilarating sight to behold. I truly miss living in an environment where I am unknowingly immersed in nature.
As we approached Mark’s boat, er, SUV, and the late afternoon light became incomprehensibly more spectacular, we saw moose. Not one moose. Not two. Three of them, just kind of chilling by the car. Giving us looks of indifferent curiosity as they strolled about the area. Eventually they wandered off, and we motored back toward Longmont through pond and over mountain. We had some epically delicious pizza and gelato for dinner that night.
Friday came early, and the Cajun-style brunch was a sudden awakening (complete with powdered sugar, beignets, a biscuit the size of a salad plate, hot chocolate that was mostly whipped cream, and a scramble that was distinctly lacking in avocado and overpopulated with potato). We set out on the road half an hour late – no surprise there. Back across eastern Colorado. Did Colorado really take this long to cross on the trip over? Back across the whole of Kansas. Managed to lose Pam’s credit card somewhere between Colby and Topeka. Enjoyed the best chicken strips of my life with a cherry beer (an addition to my list of beers I like – now with a length of two) for a late dinner at The Foundry around 10:30. Headed home to feed Pam’s two kitties and relax with a couple episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress.” Pam headed upstairs to shower around 12:30am, and I gave Mike a call.
Ten minutes later: Pam is jibbering about how kitty Lola just jumped over her back and other-kitty Eddy is stubbornly sitting in her suitcase as she unpacks. I mostly ignore her, because I’m on the phone. A few seconds pass and I hear screams. Hissing, meowing, a bloody-murder scream, a door slam, and the most urgent cry of “HELP!” I hope to ever hear in my life. I hang up on Mike and run upstairs. Eddy has a bottlebrush tail and a deranged look on his face, and is growling. He largely ignores me. Pam is screaming and has locked herself in the bathroom and is frantically telling me to stay away from Eddy, and to hold still, and to come help her.
So you don’t needlessly panic: Pam is fine, and Eddy is locked in Pam’s second bathroom for now.
I rush up the stairs, past a smear of blood on the wall. I burst into the bathroom and find Pam moaning in pain, but clearly standing and conscious, and blood all over the floor. She is holding a wad of paper towels to her forehead and all I can see is streaks of blood in her blonde hair. She explains that Eddy attacked her, and is not safe to be around right now, and points out that she is bleeding. Well no shit. I ask her if I need to call 911. She says no. I hesitate, and quickly survey the extent of the damage. A gash in her forehead, several other scratches on her face, a nasty scratch on her leg, and dozens of minor scratches all across her hands, arms, and back. I make her sit down. We grab paper towels and the bleeding has soon slowed, leaving only a blood-drenched bathroom floor and two shocked women at two in the morning who were headed for sleep not twenty minutes prior.
We wound up going into the ER after Pam showered, I cleaned the floor, and we worked together to shut Eddy in the downstairs bathroom. He attacked her leg in a similar manner some four months previously and had just finished being weaned off kitty Prozac before I arrived. It’s truly befuddling – he is a sweet kitty! A bit of an oddball, and quite possessive of Pam, but an honest-to-God sweetheart. Clearly something in his primal kitty brain was triggered and he got confused and attacked Pam. His future is uncertain at present, and the whole situation is very sad.
By 4am, Pam had three stitches in her face and a bunch of band-aids everywhere. We picked up her antibiotic prescription at a 24-hour Walgreens and didn’t get to sleep until around 5am. Pam was feeling nominally fine, albeit a bit after-shocky and exhausted. Same for me. We had a 10am appointment at a bridal shop on Saturday morning, so decided to go ahead and set alarms for 8:30am and see if Pam felt up for it or not. I was feeling more and more convinced that the dress I had found on Tuesday was the one I wanted, and it didn’t seem like we’d be doing much in the morning.
Yeah, right. That would be too easy.
Pam couldn’t fall back asleep after 8am, so she got me up.
I stumbled into the shower and we got out the door in just enough time to get to the bridal shop about 10 minutes late. They were excited to see us and appropriately astonished at Pam’s kitty story (her face is a walking conversation piece for the time being). Since I already knew the basic style and silhouette of dress I wanted, and we had an appointment at the first bridal salon to re-try my favorite dress and get measured in case I decided I wanted it, we wanted to do this rather quickly. I filled out a form and they brought us mimosas. (Pam requested plain OJ.) Moments later, we were in a dressing room, and they didn’t screw around – nearly every dress was great or close to it. One after another we ruled out small parts of each dress, and I fell more in love with a shimmery satin fabric. As luck would have it, the last dress they had for me was actually made of taffeta, but fit the silhouette I was after perfectly.
I stepped into it.
It wasn’t anything like the emotional, nutty brides on “Say Yes to the Dress,” but after walking out to the main area of the store and looking at the dress from many different angles, Pam and I both agreed that this was MY dress! Very exciting. Coincidentally, they had a perfect veil to match. Amazing. We took tons of pictures and we left the store elated after figuring out the timeline and ironing out most of the details involved with being an “out-of-town bride.”
Next we grabbed lunch at a Thai place, paid a brief visit to another of Pam’s friends, I threw my stuff back into my suitcase, and we headed for the airport.
Now I’m halfway to San Diego after one of the more eventful weeks of late.
Thanks for sticking through to the end of this lengthy, but action-packed, story of my week.