Day One: Full Day on LoA Trip – Denver | Red Rocks Amphitheater | Garden of the Gods

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. – Hilaire Belloc

Leaving the Hotel  

A night away from home in a ratty hotel. Broken tv, shower curtain rod hinging on one screw on each side, and a real seedy-looking neighborhood. I remember after I had parked the vehicle the night before, I saw a Sheriff’s Deputy squad car driving through the dark parking lot. It instilled tons of confidence.   

Ellie and I woke up, or I woke up, and Ellie woke up because I was up. First thing’s first. Get some clothes on to get Ellie outside for her potty time. It was a bit chilly outside, but she did her business. I picked up her feces, like a good urban dog daddy. Chucked the bag into a garbage can outside the hotel. Went inside to give her a (doggie) toothbrush from Costco.   

I took a quick shower, or as I like to think of it, splatter-fest in the bathroom. I watched as every single time I tried to pull the shower curtain to the very edges of the curved shower curtain rod all scrunch together in the middle. Nothing I could do was going to prevent water pooling on the floor of the bathroom. I gave up my battle, it just wasn’t mine to wage.   

I threw my extra towels down onto the floor to sop up the standing water on the bathroom floor, but that was all I was willing to do for this company that overlooked this. Once I had dried off, put on some fresh clothes, I brushed my teeth. Yes, this is super tedious, but how else will I get my high word counts? Once all the daily ablutions had been completed and Ellie tended to, the packing up commenced.   

This hotel had an ice machine, and anyone who is going to be on the road for a while with coolers knows, you take advantage of all that ice. I emptied one of my coolers, of the 3 total, and loaded it up with ice to spread amongst all three coolers. As my room seemed to be devoid of an ice pail, I went to the front desk to request a bucket to borrow. I filled up the one cooler as far as it would go and then took that out to the vehicle and spread it all out. Cold-brew coffee should not be enjoyed as lukewarm. Water on the road, in possible deserts, should also be enjoyed nice and frigid.  

After I conducted that small chore, it was time to start the transferring of goods. The overnight bag, which was my hiking backpack (CamelBak), had a couple of pairs of underwear, socks, and t-shirts. It also had my toothbrush, toothpaste, and pills. I packed it all up as tightly as possible and even kept what little soaps I hadn’t used for any future emergencies. I kept Ellie in the hotel room, while I went and loaded the SUV back up. It took a couple of trips.   

I am meticulous with my check-out process at any hotel/motel, insomuch as I always give a once, twice, and thrice look over to make damned sure I didn’t leave a thing behind. Once all of the sans Ellie artifacts were transferred to the SUV, I picked up Ellie’s collapsible water bowl and food dish and leashed her back up. Off to the car we go. I lifted her hindquarters into her plush taco.   

I brought the borrowed bucket for ice back to the front desk. I was even kind enough to provide some items for a punch list. I informed the front desk employee about the tv, which the phone call from the previous night had not registered an actual note. I shared the wondrous time I had with the soaking wet bathroom floor due to the shower curtain rod. I handed the key cards to the clerk and thanked him for the bucket. I filled up one of the complimentary cups of house coffee.   

Denver or Bust  

Once I got back out to the vehicle, I took a swig of the coffee and realized what a waste of time that shit was. I poured it out and then threw the accumulated garbage into the hotel garbage can. Started up the engine, and vroom vroom, Ellie and I started the actual adventure. I had no actual place to be on a Tuesday. We were about 2 hours from Denver proper. Punched the city into the GPS and off we went.   

We made it to Denver and drove around aimlessly for a little bit. Found a nice park for Ellie to take a number two in. Yes, as a matriculated doggie daddy, I DID pick up after her. I am no savage (at least in an urban environment). Ellie and I played with one of her throw toys I call the ‘Pickle.’ As the hyperlink should indicate, it’s a throwable toy with a string attached to it. It’s really good if you do not want to handle dog slobber.   

Ellie gets lots of time chasing this silly-named toy. She is panting. I take the opportunity to urinate near the park too, since Ellie was a bad example, just dropping her proverbial trousers where she saw fit. I made sure this active pooch had access to plenty of water since she was running a lot. Once I see the white foaminess of the saliva dissipate on her tongue, I feel she is better hydrated.   

While in the park, I tried calling the closest wolf habitat to Denver. No answer, so I left a message. I emailed them too as I was anxious to see if I would be able to get into seeing their wolves. Was unsure if they sold out. After the email was sent, I got back on the main road and just putzed around. About 15 minutes into the drive, I get a call from the number I had called. It was the wolf habitat, reaching out to me.   

They informed me of the types of tours they had. I was primarily interested in the interactive tour. The price felt steep, but since I was on a medical LoA, it was time to treat myself to some healing powers. I was driving, and the office staff member who had called me wanted a credit card number to book the tour for the following day at 2:00 p.m. I informed her that I had to pull off the street to pull out a CC for her. She gave me a few moments as I am cussing.   

I pulled into the smallest fast-food restaurant parking lot while hauling a trailer. I pulled in, practiced my backup skills with the trailer to execute a complete turnaround. Once I had successfully cleared all the anxiety out of my system, I was able to proffer her the cc number. She had me read it to her a couple of times, as something was lost in translation. Finally, it went through successfully. She told me where to look on the site for directions to this off-the-beaten-path refuge. Thus concluded the phone call.   

I took a few moments to add time to my calendar on my phone with all the pertinent details. Even copied and pasted the directions per the website, just to make damned sure I did not fuck this up. Once all that data entry had been conducted, I checked out my favorite fuel comparison shopping app to find fuel offered in the area. I set the destination to one a few miles away. We set off for that local destination.   

Red Rocks Amphitheatre  

Work being done to the stage

After fueling up, decided I wanted to take Ellie to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. GPS loaded up, fuel tank full, just needed some ass-kicking music. I may have put on one of my shitty mixes I did years prior. We set off for some healing for the day. The nice thing about traveling to popular destinations during the week is that not many people are destined for them. No traffic snarls to the park. Ellie and I found more than adequate parking, thus begins the hike.   

Beauty of the trees at Red Rocks

I’ve been enamored with this amphitheater as the band U2 recorded an album here. U2’s Joshua Tree album was the first secular music cassette tape I ever purchased. So, they have a special place in my heart. Ellie did the hike from the parking lot to the seating at the amphitheater. There was work being done on the stage, so we were unable to get onto the stage. Ellie was patient enough for me to take a bunch of pics of her as well as the natural environment this outdoor venue had to offer.   

Dapper Ellie at Red Rocks

I snapped so many artsy-fartsy pictures of Ellie as well as capturing the sun through the veneer of the trees and bushes. I’ve always been a fan of taking upshots of stairs, with proper lighting. There were plenty of stairs and crags and all sorts of wild rock formations to capture. Ellie never fatigued by me taking her picture, but she grew weary of people getting too close to us.   

Ellie between two (red) rocks

We were there for about a good 60 – 75 minutes. It was time well worth the stop. Beautiful day, deep blue skies, amazing red rock contrast, and slight vegetation. I saw other people with their dogs enjoying the day too. I did the right thing by pulling off to the side of any trails or stairs, for Ellie and me to wait for the other pet parents, and even parents of small kids who I worried would make the wrong choice. I did have to yell at one kid, while sticking my arm out, to help deflect a young child from walking directly into Ellie. Those parents thanked me for my patience. I was also waiting for one guy with a pit bull and a cute husky pup in his backpack, traversing up some stairs.   

Ellie, red rocks, and vegetation

Once I got all the shots of the sun, the red rocks, blue skies, stairs, and vegetation, Ellie and I sullied up to the vehicle. Set to find a hotel or campgrounds near the wolf habitat. Set the GPS for Colorado Springs, and off we went. The traffic flowed pretty well. Did notice a higher police presence once we got closer to Colorado Springs. Even noticed State Patrol on motorcycles.   

Garden of the Gods  

As we were reaching the very northern outskirts of town, I noticed a freeway sign for the Garden of the Gods. I cut over 3 lanes. It wasn’t on my radar, but I had more than enough time to add it. I followed the signs to the park and was totally in love with the area. The rock formations, or environmental decay, were astounding. Ellie and I found no problem parking, deeper into the park, for the SUV and trailer. Had it have been summertime or a weekend, it would have been problematic.   

Yup, fo’realsies was there

I got Ellie leashed up – and had her swig some water before we trekked off on the trails. Walking the trails, I heard at least 2 separate groups commenting on how cute Ellie was – or more accurately, ‘Cute dog’ being uttered within earshot. I found some cool spots to take pics of Ellie with the contrast. It was a gorgeous day. There was plenty of vegetation, so much beautiful contrast of colors to absorb. The air was clean and full of value and appreciation for the outdoors.   

Ellie taking center stage

We walked the trails, dutifully. Snapped pictures maybe every 37.4 steps. Captured the bulk of the essence of this potentially overlooked park. Again, it wasn’t on my radar, but I recollect some vague conversations others have had about going here. That was all I needed to determine I would also go. I am glad I experienced this park.   

May have only taken 32 steps between this pic…

We got to a nice little canyon that had some low rocks that children were magnetically attracted to. The parents did not pay attention to the cues that others may have been trying to snap some pics of the smaller rocks in contrast to the larger ones. The parents egged the kids to reach the apex of this small rock to get pictures. It wasn’t just one, but a couple. I had my phone out, I was still mindful of Ellie’s proximity to me and other people. It got bad enough that my lack of patience got the best of me. I know I uttered some more east-coast internal dialogue that made it past my vocal cords.   

I got out of that congested area, semi-unscathed, but rattled, nonetheless. I still got quality pictures. So, I had to calm my nerves down. It wasn’t anything I could control, could the parents have had better control of their kids? I suspect the answer was yes, but often I find they just don’t give an iota of a shit about those outside their nuclear family.   

Amazing pose of this particular rock

People do not take into consideration the inconvenience they place on others by imposing themselves onto others with an impromptu portrait session. It may not be a fact that they are imposing upon others, but there is the expectation that everyone in their periphery will just have the inherent patience for that kind of behavior. Oddly, some of us do not, and we will call it into question. I’ve seen this behavior in virtually every state I have ever set foot in, along with Canada.   

Interesting rock formations

We completed the loop. I was satisfied with the shots I got. Ellie was super happy with all the sniffs she got to smell. She loves the adventure as much as I do. Exercise, water, treats, pottying, and being with daddy pretty much tops her charts for a solid adventure.   

Lodging in Colorado Springs  

I drove us out of the Garden of the Gods and parked in a city park for a few moments, to see if there were any possible open campgrounds nearby the wolf habitat. I had a shitty cell signal. So, I decided to drive closer to the city center, expecting a better signal. I found a coffee shop and drove in the wrong direction. Thank God I had out-of-state plates for that rookie mistake. Once I got the coffee, of which even Ellie got a pup-cup (a cup filled with whipped cream), I pulled into a few empty parking spots, to determine where Ellie and I would stay.   

I looked at the weather and thought we would tough it out if we could find a campground for our tent. I called a few campgrounds, all of which had not even been open for the season yet. I then looked for a local LaQuinta hotel. For anyone that may not have known, ALL LaQuinta hotels are Dog-Friendly. They do not charge extra for your dogs. I did find one about 5 miles from where we were. I booked a room via the app on my phone, and GPS was set.   

Pulled under the awning of the office, to fully check-in. Asked for an outside entrance room for the dog and to keep an eye on the vehicle and trailer. Those fucking trust issues, eh? Got our room and started the tedium of getting Ellie situated while I grab our necessities. Once I felt content with having visibility on the vehicle and that our room was good, I turned on the tv. This one didn’t have a punch mark, though it did have issues with the remote. I called the front desk to report that problem. The dude said he would come to check it out.   

Long story short, the satellite tv box was hosed and wouldn’t allow you to advance with the remote. The gentleman offered me another room one floor down. I took it. He gave me the key card for the new room. I got Ellie and the stuff situated down there. I brought back the first room card key. No further issues. Ellie and I settled in for the night. Figured I would get a bit more sleep here. And, yes, the tv remote worked. I checked that first before moving anything down.   

This seems like a legitimate place to end. The daily nuances of an end of the day for adventuring aren’t as glorious as the adventures themselves. During part of the drive, I had been listening to a couple of podcasts on Trauma that I subscribed to before the trip. It gave me pause and appreciation for what I endured as a child and young adult. I still had to fight with my demons during the drive, regardless of the distractions.  

I still pine for a mind that is free and clear of the previous owner’s shitty driving behavior. I feel I got a lemon and no lemon laws are protecting me. With all the ‘screen-time,’ being the windshield, and suggesting the drive time, it gives me tons of time to reflect on life. It was a day filled with tumult. It felt like a productive and enjoyable day for both Ellie and me.   

As always, I welcome any constructive criticism, or complementary theories, analogies, anecdotes. I would love to hear if you find these edicts of challenge useful or utter horseshit. Similar to the ’90s when the catchphrase, ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ was hailed as a marketing genius. I need to come up with one that invites you to either subscribe, via WordPress or email, like posts or even comment on posts. Immediate feedback is useful for anyone. Thank you very much for reading through all of this drivel. Be well, stay safe, AND stay sane! 

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