Archive | September, 2012
September 23, 2012

The mountains are calling…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

— John Muir

It’s inevitable. I will always end up in the mountains. :)

My brother (who is sojourning with me on this adventure) and I spent the better part of Saturday and Sunday in and around Estes Park. I don’t recall exactly, but I probably haven’t been there since I was a kid. I remember when we boys were young, our parents took us to Estes Park a few times. Of course, when you’re young, you appreciate things a little differently. It was comforting to find the things I remembered about Estes Park still there (more on that in a bit). But it was really nice to see it from a new perspective.

Before we even got to town, we had to stop at the Colorado Cherry Company for some fresh cherry pie and cherry juice! One thing about me, if there are cherries involved, I’m all over it! I remember when I was a kid my folks would buy these huge buckets of fresh cherries. Really huge buckets. Really. Huge. Buckets. :) There would be cherry cobbler for months! I miss that. So of course we had to stop. And it was yummy!

Once we got to town and got settled, our first stop was the Stanley Hotel. I actually wanted to stay there, but by the time I thought of it the hotel was already booked. Next time, perhaps. For those who are not familiar with it, the hotel was built by F.O. Stanley (inventor of the Stanley Steamer steam car). It was completed in 1909. Aside from its historical and architectural significance, it also has an iconic place in pop-culture, although I suspect many people may not recognize it. If you’re not a Stephen King fan, and haven’t read the novel or seen the movie “The Shining” (yes, I’m talking about you…you know who you are), then you won’t have realized that this is that hotel, and my witty tweets will have been for naught. Oh, and for the record, Jack was not there.

After that, we took a quick run up to Rocky Mountain National Park (hereafter RMNP). We didn’t get too far, as it was starting to get dark. But I did manage to get a few good shots of some Aspens. And to top it off, we came upon a huge herd of elk grazing. I’m not sure which was more interesting, though: the elk, or the large herd of Homo sapiens standing around gawking at them.

Sunday we were back up to RMNP. This time we made it all the way up to the top of the Continental Divide (over 12,000 feet high). Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy due to a stalled weather front, but the views were amazing nonetheless. It’s pretty interesting how the terrain can change suddenly from alpine forests to barren tundra. It’s an amazing drive, and I highly recommend it! After that, it was back down the mountain for one last trip through Estes Park, before hitting the road to our next destination.

I mentioned earlier in this post about being comforted to find some things about Estes Park still there after more than 30 years. When we were kids and our parents brought us to Estes Park, there were a few things that stuck in my mind: the tram, the rock shop, and the slide. They’re all still there. You might be wondering what’s so special about a slide. Well, this isn’t the kind of slide you’d find in the neighborhood park. It’s a very large, multi-lane, multi-story slide. As a child, climbing to the top with my dad, it seemed incredibly high. I was scared and excited at the same time. My dad would take me in his arms and we’d sit toboggan-style on the little carpet at the top. And down we’d go. And I knew I was safe in his arms. And that’s why the slide is so special.

September 22, 2012

Chasing Autumn

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons (second only to winter, but that’s an entirely different trip). From the brisk air, to confetti colors dotting the landscape, to hayrides, pumpkin pie, and apple cider. There is nothing quite like a great autumn day. And since I live in Texas now, I mean that quite literally. While I’m very thankful that the dog days of summer are (mostly) over, it’s still 90 degrees out…hardly what I would consider fall weather. So I’m setting off once again on another journey. I’ll be chasing autumn in Colorado (yes, as several people have recently noted, I go there a lot…it makes my heart happy). One thing about autumn, though, is that she can play a little hard to get, especially when it comes to showing her colors. Hopefully I have timed this trip right. But either way, I expect that this will be a trip to remember. I hope you’ll come along with me.

September 8, 2012

Piano vs. Piano!

So, last night I did something I’ve never done before (hey, no wisecracks from the peanut gallery!)… I went to a bar (ok, so maybe I’ve been to a bar before…ahem…a long time ago…). Anywho, this was no ordinary bar…this was a piano bar. And not just any old ordinary piano bar, mind you. This was a dueling piano bar! Yup, that’s right. Piano vs. Piano!

Imagine, if you will, a dimly lit room with a small stage, and a few neon signs dotting the walls. You know, what a typical bar might look like (not that I’d know). And since this is Texas, there was the obligatory bull head hanging on the wall. Typical…except it was wearing a purple cowboy hat and smoking a cigar, with a guitar strapped around its neck. And it had a couple of other “decorations” on it too.

Aside from the bull, what made the place noteworthy was the fact that there were not one, but two pianos on the stage! Yay! Let the show begin!!

First, let me set the stage a bit (did you see what I did there?). There were four piano players, paired in two teams. Each team would do a set that lasted about an hour, riffing off each other and taking requests from (and making fun of) the audience. In between sets, they would all play together (think musical chairs but with, you know, musical instruments). They’d take turns playing the pianos, drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, and even trumpets! Yeah, they were those kind of musicians. Pretty amazing. They did a wide selection of hits, from classic 70′s and 80′s tunes up to more recent hits. Everything from Billy Joel to ZZ Top. And we all sang along! Yeah, by the end of the night (four sets later), I was pretty hoarse.

As a side note, I’m proud to report that I didn’t know the words to most of the very few country songs they did. However, I am ashamed to admit that I did know at least part of the chorus from “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” Awkward… And, moving on…

Much to the piano players’ chagrin, they also had to do a few really bad songs. For example, someone from the audience requested (and actually paid for) “Call Me Maybe.” Really, people?!? But don’t worry, the piano players took a few liberties with it and had fun.

*** Spoiler Alert *** If you think you might go to the show and want to be surprised, you may want to stop reading now. I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite moments from the show. I’m sure every show is somewhat different, since a lot of the songs they do are requests from the audience. But I’m sure they do a lot of these numbers all the time. You’ve been warned.

There were so many great songs, I couldn’t possibly mention them all (or even remember them, for that matter). But here are a few of my favorite moments:

  • “The Time Warp,” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And yes, they did the dance. On the piano.
  • “Ring of Fire,” by Johnny Cash, complete with trumpets!
  • Of course, we had to have a little Journey moment (“Don’t Stop Believin’”). Seems like I’ve been having a lot of Journey moments lately.
  • “Dueling Banjos,” with a twist. Some of the “duels” included bits from “Flight of the Bumblebee,” “Für Elise,” and the theme songs from The Simpsons and Super Mario Brothers! What?!?

I think my favorite number of the evening had to be the Charlie Daniels Band hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” Not only is it a great song which made for a very entertaining performance, but they actually lit the piano on fire! Really. I’m not kidding. And, I may have forgotten to mention I was sitting in the front row. :)