Memorial Day! What better way to spend a three-day weekend than to fly to Colorado and raft some gnarly whites (I don’t think that’s a saying) with your bros, drink whiskey from tiny plastic bottles, and spend the night at a turn-of-the-century AirBnB, whose walls are covered with paintings of a very pretty, most likely dead, 5 year old blonde girl?
This is why I love Colorado. It’s packed full of stuff, both of the standard vacation variety and the weirdly odd tilt, people and places you’ll tell stories about for years to come. Do they have gorgeous Mountains? Sure. Do we get some QT with family and friends? Of course. But Colorado also likes to throw you some curve balls, like the Frozen Dead Guy festival I attended a while ago, or the fact that your friends live in an air stream trailer, but also have access to an old school bus with shag carpeting on the ground.
We left the baby in Denver with an aunt, an uncle, and two dogs who would quickly become said baby’s new best friends, and drove two and a half hours to Buena Vista. As we made our way up and through the mountains, I saw snow dusting the side of the road, and started to worry about our lack of warm clothes. Even though it was late May and as balmy as the underside of an undertaker’s buttcrack (I don’t think that’s a saying BUT IT SHOULD BE) back in Missouri, the weather in Colorado was a little less sure about going full summer just yet.
Once in Buena Vista, we met up with our pals and decided to go white water rafting. Yada yada yada, we didn’t actually start preparing to raft until about 2 pm. Bad news, because it’s late in the day and the sun’s not going to be out forever. Good news, because everything was free when your buddy is a BAMF raft guide who is universally loved by all and borrows all your gear from friends. We waited for him in the parking lot, where the mountains could be seen casually standing in the background.
After corraling our gear, a stop by the liquor store, and a lot of discussion about where to raft, where to drop the cars, etc., our friend and his wife left to strategically drop the cars at our pickup point. That way, once we floated down the river, we’d just hop back in the car and drive back to the other car. Simple, right? (this is call foreshadowing.)
While we waited, Shawn and I did what any respectable parents in their early thirties would do while they waited patiently for their friends to get back. We slammed beers and took shots of whiskey.
See those sharp looking blue jackets we’re wearing? They’re not just fashionable choices from the 80’s, they were cover ups to wear on top of wet suits. The water was freezing.
For the first two hours of the float, everything was glorious. Beers were sipped, the stand up paddleboard was mastered and the stunning scenery was taken in. The sun was warm and heated up the jackets, making you feel nice and toasty.
The next two hours, as the sun set, the weather got colder, and our friend couldn’t quiiiite remember where the car was parked, were less than desirable. As we rafted longer and longer, we stopped cheerfully chatting and my teeth started chattering. His wife yelled at him that she was over it. We looked at each other with mutiny in our eyes. The warm sun seemed like a distant memory as we made our way down the river. I seriously considered getting off the boat and hitchhiking, as if 1) I knew where any of the cars were; and 2) I had any experience thumbing a ride. I cursed myself for agreeing to go rafting, for not checking the weather, for not starting out sooner. I started to make promises to the Universe – if I ever get off this boat, I’ll be a better person. I’ll stop eating meat. I’ll volunteer. I’ll quit spending so much time on the internet. I swore to myself that I would never go rafting again.
Finally, at very long last, when the sun had long set and the night had spread across the sky, we spotted the ramp to the parking lot with the car. We hurried off the raft, hauling the heavy, soaking boat up onto the roof of the car, stripping off our cold, wet clothes and burying ourselves under blankets. My fingers were nearly numb as I jumped in the car, pulling on my sweatshirt and coaxing their dog to sit on my lap for maximum heat. As we made our way back to the town where we had left our other car, we stopped and got a pizza for the ride. Eating the hot slice, I immediately took back my promises about rafting. And about meat. The pepperoni was just too good. So was the company.
As I lay in my twin bed at the AirBnB that night, underneath the watchful eye of an incredibly creepy little girl’s painted portrait, I could already feel any discomfort from the last few hours of the raft disappearing, the cold giving way to an appreciation of being able to see good friends in a different state. Plus, it’s a good story. If we had come to Colorado and spent the afternoon at a brewery, the day would quickly fade into my memory, a fun but otherwise unmemorable hang. Instead, our day together is seared onto my brain. Colorado is good at that.