Amber arrived in Colorado Springs, coming from Minnesota, on July 3rd. But she only spent one night there before heading up to Boulder. Beginning July 7th, I had been at conferences - first in Charleston, SC and then in San Diego, CA. I arrived in Colorado Springs after that on July 15th (Amber picked me up at the airport in Denver after my gorgeous flight over the canyons of puckered old Arizona, the baked sands of Utah, and the mountains -still with some snow- of southwestern Colorado).
I love going back home not only because of all the great childhood memories, but also because it is a place to just do nothing, which I had great success at doing for about three weeks before flying back to Nederland. Parts of our time in Colorado were spent in Boulder (see other post), but I spent most of my days in the Springs.
On our first night home, I handed out some souvenirs to my mom, dad, and brother Matt and we shared our big news about baby Briggle. My family was almost last to know about Spruitje, because I wanted to be able to tell them in person. They were so thrilled to hear the news, and during our whole trip they got us flowers and lots of little gifts (clothes and blankets) for the baby.
A typical day involved sleeping-in a bit, maybe getting a little work done, petting cookie and emmitt, reading, relaxing, and then topped off with either a game of Shanghai (a Briggle tradition), dinner out, or a movie in. We did go out once to see a movie toward the end of our stay followed by dinner at the Macoroni Grill. Sometimes we would visit my ma at work or drive my pa to his work and get the car washed or something (or regrettably eat the mean green chili at Jose's without thinking that may be a bad idea after a year of nothing but mild northern European food), but all in all it was just the lazy experience I was hoping for - just time with family. I was also able to see some of my good buddies from my childhood and from our days in Boulder, including one housewarming party and one birthday party, both in Denver. We also saw Amber's sister Katie, who decided to move to Las Vegas on a whim and was driving through Denver - it was great to see her, and I am sure Vegas is even bolder and brighter (and weirder) now that she is there.
My dad was in the middle of finding a new gym when we visited and while we were there, he settled on a place and got Amber, Matt, and me some guest passes. So, from time to time we would head down to the gym and buff up a bit. I am pleased to hear that Matt has become a regular gym rat since then.
One of the real highlights of the trip was a visit to the Flying W Ranch - a favorite Briggle hang out. The Flying W is an old ranch in Colorado Springs that is still operational, but way smaller than it used to be. Over the past fifty, but especially, twenty years or so they have sold much of their land for development. But they still have a place that brings you back to the old west and lets you walk around outdoors, watch a horse getting shoed, and breathe in some fresh mountain air...all while doing souvenir shopping, of course. The main attraction is dinner and a live show. The dinner is always the same - real chuckwagon beans, beef, baked potato, applesaucse, biscuits, and icetea, lemonade, or coffee. The show features real cowboy music by some of the top western musicians in the world. It was a great time, as always.
We also got a chance to drive up to Winter Park, a mountain town where my great aunt Alice lives with her son Don and his wife Mari and their giant, loving dog Bella. We ate at their favorite German restaurant in town and then visited with them in their beautiful home out in the woods. Amber and I love visiting with aunt Alice; she is so thoughtful and kind and she really enjoyed listening to all of our stories about life in the Netherlands. Mari gave us sherbet, and Don taught us all about the terrible pine beetle infestation that has decimated nearly all of the lodgepole pines over huge swaths of Colorado. The trees have turned a rust-red-brown as far as the eye can see. They will all succumb to the beetle and then there is a good chance that catastrophic fires will follow.
Our last couple of nights there, my ma went all out with some of our favorite dinners - including a fondue, which is our traditional Christmas dinner. That was a real treat. We were heartbroken when we had to leave, because my family is the best in the world and I feel most content with life when I get to be with them. But we are also happy to be back and continuing with our adventure, knowing that soon we will get to visit home again to smell the nighttime rain in the ponderosa pine...and this time we will be with our little baby Briggle!