Fort Collins, Red Feather Lakes, and Boulder, Colorado
02.07.2016 - 09.07.2016 70 °F
Danielle and I had been together for about three months before I got the opportunity to first meet her family in November 2012.
I had been at a USC-UCLA football game that afternoon, and I was drenched from the rain that had poured on the stadium that day, hoarse from all the screaming, and elated that my Bruins had pulled out a 38-28 win over our cross-town rivals. Exhausted after the match, I meandered back to my car only to wait in 4 hours of traffic to get back home (for context, it usually takes about 25 minutes). I quickly showered and arrived late to waiting Chinese food and the wonderful people that would eventually become my family.
Danielle's brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Marlee, had flown in early that day from their home in North Dakota. They greeted me with warm smiles when I arrived at 8:30 PM despite the jet-lag and the overall fatigue that comes with taking care of a little one (their first born was about 8 months old at the time). I conversed with everyone about the game, sounding like I had been smoking a pack a day for 20 years with the hoarseness in my voice. I found out Chris had played football for Colorado State, and Chris and Marlee had met while they were both living in Fort Collins.
The story goes that he had a hunting hat on and she jokingly quipped, "Oh what, you hunt?" outside of a local bar in Fort Collins. He replied frankly with, "Yes, I do hunt" and she gave him her number before he left the bar. Less than a year and a half after they were married, I would get the chance to meet them. Five years after their marriage, with two more little ones, they invited us to meet them at the place where it all began to celebrate their milestone anniversary. Danielle and I were off to Colorado.
Al, Keri, Danielle and I flew into Denver and met up with the family late Saturday afternoon in Fort Collins. The next morning, the four of us After a headed off to Rocky Mountain National park for a day of exploring. Our first stop was the Stanley hotel, a hotel made famous by the movie "The Shining." Many of the scenes were shot at this hotel, and it was definitely a beautiful space, albeit a bit out of our price range.
The historic Stanley Hotel rests at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park
The plaque adorning the facade
Not sure how they got this in the lobby
Danielle, pensive in the lobby
The movie that made the Stanley famous
Rocky Mountain National Park itself was wonderful and incredibly large. Although we spent five hours in the park, it felt like we only got to see a very small portion of it.
Smiling (even with the altitude sickness)
Al would often scream "Deer!" when he saw something as I was driving, I'm just glad the roads had guardrails
A local having lunch
Two miles up!
We got to visit that evening and the next day with Al's brother, Levi, and his lovely fiancee who had made their way over from Divide, Colorado. He talked about his Alaska adventures and we poked and prodded to get a wedding date from them. The next day, we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and they wished us well as we all headed off to Beaver Meadows, the site where Chris and Marlee got married five years prior.
Levi and his fiancee
We spent four days at the resort, focusing on family time and getting caught up with one another. I got to be the fun uncle (and sometimes the mean one) and play with Cast, Eli, and Ezri. We went horseback riding, had a water balloon fight, went on walks, and even got to see where it all started. All in all, it was wonderful quality time with three of my favorite people in the world.
Our view from the room
Cast practicing his rodeo skills
Danielle saddled up
Ezri unsure of the horse
There's that smile
Eli was a natural
Eli with mom and dad
With the family and his big brother
Cast gets his turn
Having a moment with his dad
The boys exploring where mom and dad got married
Relaxing on a bench
Grandpa and the boys scouting for fish
Grandpa helping the boys across the stream
Showing Eli how to fish
Trying to blend in
We also got a chance to take a side trip to a local lake. Al went off to fish and Danielle had an impromptu dance party with the little ones.
Ezri playing in the dirt
By the shore
Al showing off his catch
Our last night in Beaver Meadows
On our last day in Colorado, we decided to check out Boulder on the way back to the airport to see the university and explore the town. We even got in a showing of "The Secret Life of Pets" at the local theater.
The University of Colorado with the Flatiron mountains in the background
The university's Nobel laureates
Buffalo v. Briun
Art by the science buildings
A last look at the flatirons
The trip was short, but it was great to see my North Dakota family. Only a week back in Los Angeles, and then it's back on the road again to South Africa for the third and final chapter of the 2016 journey.
On the road again