Hi everyone. I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend, and found some time to relax while honoring those who’ve given their lives in defense of our country.
I postponed this week’s newsletter a bit because my family and I went up the mountains (specifically to Grand Lake, Colorado) for a few nights, with plans to return on Monday afternoon. I didn’t have a lot of time to write last week, so I figured I’d wait until I got back, and then write about something from the trip.
So, here I am… with a few trip-inspired thoughts.
Snow plow operators are unsung heroes
Every winter, I joke with my wife about how long it takes the city to plow snow out of our subdivision. A lot of people assuredly have this same complaint, but the truth is that these operators have a very tough job, and don’t get nearly the respect they reserve. I was reminded of that over the weekend.
The most direct route from Greeley (where I live) to the town of Grand Lake is a 2 1/2 hour drive on Highway 34. Yes, a single road connects us, but it’s hardly a straight shot.
The first half of that trek is comprised mostly of a winding, scenic route up Big Thompson Canyon to the town of Estes Park (which sits pretty high at an elevation of 7,500 feet). From there, you enter Rocky Mountain National Park. Highway 34 becomes the two-lane Trail Ridge Road. Heading northwest, you keep climbing and climbing (from side to side) up the Continental Divide… until you reach the very top (where the air is thin and the wind is rarely absent). Then, you slowly descend down the other side, winding back and forth again until you eventually find yourself in Grand Lake. The scenes along the way, from the landscape to the wildlife, are pretty remarkable.
At a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in Colorado. It connects Estes Park with Grand Lake, but only for about 5 months of the year (from late spring to mid fall). The rest of the time, it’s closed due to heavy snow.
Every year, snow plow operators work very hard to try and get the road clear for a Memorial Day weekend opening. It’s a monumental task, and often doesn’t work out due to late spring storms. We had such storms this year, but the plow boys and girls came through nonetheless (sparing me from an extra 70 miles of driving along a very out-of-the-way route).
Hopefully the pictures below will do some justice to the challenges these folks face every year on Trail Ridge Road. The first collage is from news reports. The second is from shots my family and I took on Saturday morning (we stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center near the top, where people were carving their names into the snow):
Beauty from disaster
A number of wildfires tore though Colorado last summer, and you didn’t have to live in the mountains to be affected. Just being downwind was sometimes enough, as evidenced by this shot I took from my backyard in early September (no, the picture wasn’t filtered):
One of those fires was the East Troublesome Fire which burned through parts of Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Lake itself. My family and I were expecting to see some of its damage as we got closer to town, and we certainly did (on hillside after hillside):
What really struck me, however, was the beauty of some of the damaged areas. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out.
A lot of evergreen trees that had narrowly escaped the flames were turned autumn-orange from the intense heat. I’m not sure if they’re dead or dying at this point, but aesthetically, they look rather amazing… especially contrasted with the bright green spring ground-cover.
Yes, those are moose in those last two shots. We saw more of them than ever on this trip (they love that green grass). You can check out more pictures of them (along with video) on my Instagram page.)
Another aesthetic leftover from the fire is coming from collections of rain-water throughout the area. Because the runoff is flowing from largely burned areas, the water is black from ash. Environmentally, it’s obviously not a good thing. But to the human eye, it brings some unexpected beauty:
I’m thinking there’s a circle-of-life point to be made here, but I’ll spare you the philosophical waxing today, and just leave you with the images.
I love VRBO
I really do. What a great freakin’ service.
I mean, how else can one enjoy a long weekend at a round, somewhat rickety wooden house on stilts, with a moat and two huge porches, on the side of a mountain, with a great view of the area, that allows dogs… all at a reasonable, slightly off-season price?
The family (especially the kids) just loved it.
Thanks again, VRBO!
Do you have a favorite weekend getaway? Do you marvel at orange pine trees, or other weird stuff like that? Let me know about it in an email, or in the comment section below.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Danger is his middle name.
Simply put, Don Rickles was the best. When I was a kid, I laughed my head off at his late-night appearances on The Tonight Show (this was back when Johnny Carson was the host). He was great with David Letterman, Jay Leno, and the rest as well, but Carson’s reactions to Mr. Warmth’s insult-heavy humor just killed me… as did Rickles’ groveling when it came to his pal, Frank Sinatra.
By the way, if you’ve never seen the classic 1976 clip of Rickles surprising Sinatra on The Tonight Show, and Sinatra telling the restaurant story, make sure you check it out right after you’re done reading this newsletter.
Anyway, as uproariously funny as Rickles was (from his brilliant timing to his facial expressions), I didn’t catch any of his stand-up acts until many years later… and never in-person (unfortunately). Sure, there are plenty of YouTube videos to fill the gap (and I’ve watched quite a few), but I’m convinced his full routines on vinyl are the best way to experience Rickles’ magic during his prime. The recordings capture the mood of the era and its raw comedy scene in ways that the videos don’t.
“Don Rickles: Hello Dummy” from 1968 is a great example.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!