Back to the narrative timeline. These events occurred before the death of Nan’s mother on May 7. In the RV timeline, it’s April 27th.
It was a short run from Colorado Springs to Loveland Colorado. We’ve now had 5 trouble free days of towing.
We had reservations at a campground between Loveland and Estes Park, right on the Big Thompson River. When we got into our site, the “Big” Thompson River was about six feet wide and three inches deep, trickling through the bottom of the riverbed. Nan was disappointed by Big Thompson’s lack of bigness, but we learned that the day we arrived, most of the river had been diverted to an irrigation channel about one hundred yards upstream. They sent the river down its channel the next morning and for the remainder of our stay the Big Thompson was full to the banks, bubbling merrily past the Edmund, providing relaxing white noise outside the bedroom windows.
We had our very own Little Deck over the bank of the Big Thompson. We did a lot of Kindling, coffee drinking, and a fair amount of grilling on the deck; Nan made Sesame Street Chicken and burgers. The deck area was swarming with birds, providing us with an entertaining musical accompaniment to the river sounds—and occasionally taking a dump on us as we sat under the trees.
Rocky Mountain National Park was the reason we were in Loveland, less then a mile from the Park border. To get to the park entrance we had to drive up Big Thompson Road which follows the bed of the Big Thompson River. Vertical mountain walls and winding roads were the order of the day. There were anglers engaged in fly-fishing about every tenth mile in the Big Thompson River (I never tire of typing that name). We passed a passel of bighorn sheep clustered right at the side of the road, surrounded by tourists with cameras. Even though we had been driving though the Park for about twenty miles we still had to pass through Estes Park to the Beaver Meadows entrance. We bought a National Park Interagency Annual Pass, so we can careen through any sites managed by the USDA FS, NPS, USFWS, BLM and Reclamation organizations for the next twelve months.
A Steller’s Jay on the Trail Ridge Road—the white markings above the eyes make this bird look irritable all the time
At the park entrance we learned that barely a third of the Trail Ridge Road was open due to snow; apparently much of Trail Ridge doesn’t open until July some years. Nevertheless, we mushed to the limit and stopped a few times to enjoy the views. Nan saw a group of elk but I missed them.
In Loveland, we finally achieved Smashburger, a fast-food burger chain we started hearing about in Las Vegas. Good burgers, great shakes, interesting sides. I tried the fried pickles, chips, not spears (I prefer fried spears as a rule). The chips were a little salty.
We traveled to Estes Park twice, the first time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, the second time to visit Estes Park. We wanted to tour the Stanley, the hotel that was the inspiration for Steven King’s The Shining. It’s not the remote location we expected; it’s less than half a mile from downtown Estes Park. You can walk downtown from there. On sidewalks! At some point in the distant past I’d gotten the impression that Steven King had actually been the winter caretaker at a remote hotel and that was the inspiration for The Shining.
Nope. Steven King and his wife stayed in this room—room 217—on the last night the hotel was open before it shut down for the season due to the lack of central heating (the hotel is open year-round now). They were the only guests. I’ll give Steve this—it would have been veeerrry creepy to be the only guests at this rambling, cavernous testament to excess. King had nightmares in room 217, nightmares that became the inspiration for his third novel, The Shining. Kubrik’s Shining exteriors were actually filmed at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon since the Timberline is situated in the Mount Hood National Forest and is much more remote. The 1997 TV miniseries of The Shining was filmed at the Stanley. King always disliked Kubrick’s version, so he made his own six hour miniseries to present his vision—the main difference being a much more sympathetic croquet-mallet-murderer. I love Kubrick’s Shining but I think King’s criticisms are valid and I’m glad he filmed his own version.
A corporeal hand reaches for Nan in the Stanley Concert Hall
We signed up for a Ghost Tour at the Stanley. It’s a beautiful hotel and worth seeing for itself, ghosts or no ghosts. The guide asked the people on the tour to raise their hands if they believed in ghosts. As far as I remember, I was the only one who didn’t—I’m such a spoilsport. We started in front of the hotel and then went to the Concert Hall, a separate building, reportedly the most haunted part of the facility. The guide told us that many people felt as though someone was trying to push them over the balcony railing.
The guide had told us that many people experience paranormal activity on the tours, for example, problems with cameras. I hadn’t used the detachable flash on the Canon for months and I knew the batteries were on their last gasp—I wasn’t carrying the flash in its usual pouch so I didn’t have spare batteries with me. When the flash started to misfire the tour guide began to hyperventilate with excitement about the paranormal effect on my camera; he didn’t want to hear about my old batteries. OK, maybe hyperventilate is hyperbole, but he did seem to think supernatural powers were at work on my flash.
We finally got to the interior of the hotel. The main banquet room has some historical oddities, carpenters had to mask the swastikas set into the woodwork over the main fireplace. The swastikas were originally put there to represent native American symbology—symbology that went out of vogue in the forties. The forth floor was the eeriest. He showed us the steps to the roof access door. Some wisenheimer scratched REDRUM on the door a few years back so it’s now a stop on the tour. The guide had an amusing anecdote to go with the stop. A few years back he was taking another tour through, and when he flashed his light on the top of the stairs, there was a little girl huddled on the top step. Nothing supernatural, the kid was just playing hide and seek, but I imagine a goodly percentage of the people on that tour had a sudden need for linen service.
Loveland seems to be crazy for statuary. There are several sculpture parks scattered around town. Benson Sculpture Park was our favorite.
With the exception of the obligatory Statues of Solemn Native Americans, the park was full of whimsy. I enjoyed this park a great deal. We would have revisited it, but for. . .
. . .the eight inches of freaking snow dumped on us the next day!
Now we begin the long sojourn to Bend Oregon. The Edmund is swimming upstream to its birthplace for R&R (Repair and Refurbishment).