Colorado Vacation: Part 6 – The Trip Home

This is a multi-part trip report. If you haven’t already, you should start with Part 1. Remember that you can click on any of the photos to see larger versions of them.

Mandy and I turned in our Junior Ranger badges at the Fall River ranger station, and answered the quiz questions, and endured the cheerful announcement about ‘our newest Junior Rangers’ and the applause of all the people in the gift shop. Next door, at the even-bigger gift store, we spent far too much money on sweatshirts and earrings and magnets, and then it was time to leave the park and head back home.

The car smelled terrible, like body odor and sweaty boots. It’s evidence of a good vacation: we can’t run the a/c on recirculate because of the smell. Back in Estes Park, we ate a nice breakfast at the Mountaineer Cafe, a place Bryan remembered from an old climbing trip with friends. We stopped at a liquor store for several six-packs of local brew (souvenir beer) before leaving town.

On the plains of Colorado, we drove into another storm we’d been watching for miles. We could see the whole thing – from blue sky in the north, through the tall grey clouds with sheeting rain below, through to blue sky again to the south. We watched a rainbow too, not a full one like last week’s but fragments of color appearing and disappearing bit by bit as we approached the rain.

What exactly does it mean when a motel’s only slogan is “NICE”? I think it’s a little worrisome. We hurried to get to Salina before our reserved hotel pool closed for the night, only to find it entirely crowded with a loud family playing football. We left the pool and walked across the Hampton Inn parking lot to the Wendy’s, then went back to our room and snuggled into the clean white sheets and watched hours of a stupid reality tv show.

After a slow start involving hotel-lobby waffles and bacon, we repacked the car and headed home. We ate excellent woodfired pizza at Il Vicino in Wichita. The diningroom was pleasant, the staff was friendly, we could see into the wood oven, and the food was wonderful. Most people seemed to have come there straight from Sunday’s church services, though there was also a woman in sliver high heels, tattoos, and a black tank top that said “Squirrel: It’s Not Just For Breakfast Anymore.”

The last “Roadside America” attraction for this trip: a fencerow chimney sweep sign.

Then there was one last food stop, for burgers and shakes at Feltner’s Whattaburger in Russellville. And then we were home, at bedtime, in our own house, in our own beds. And we dreamed of mountains and storms, meadows and streams, cheeseburgers and pizza.