Just like the Griswold's of National Lampoon movie fame, the Wellingtons headed to the wild west for vacation complete with two crabbing teens in the back seat.
The kids and I had never seen the Rocky Mountains before, so we started our adventure in
Estes Park, Colorado.
Don't we look extremely Griswoldish?
Anyway, Estes Park was beautiful.
The quaint town offers up tiny shops and lots of flowers.
It also has the Stanley Hotel, the setting for the scariest movie EVER...
It's obviously a popular place because they charge five-bucks to drive into their parking lot to take a picture.
That's why we took this one from the road below.
Those things were fun and interesting, but what I really wanted to see was MOUNTAINS,
and I have to admit, they seemed kind of puny in Estes Park.
"I thought the Rocky Mountains were huge," I casually mentioned at this photo-op stop.
Those are just the foothills, other tourists assured us.
"Go to Rocky Mountain National Park and see the REAL mountains!"
So we did.
I thought the park would be like seeing the Grand Canyon.
We'd stand at a lookout deck and ooh and ahh.
Instead, we kept driving and driving and oohing and ahhing and driving
up hill...er, MOUNTAIN!
I was trying to snap pictures as the Griswold van whizzed through the pine trees.
"Can't we pull over and actually breathe in the mountain air and take pictures?" I asked Clark Griswold
"If you don't mind our van tumbling over a cliff," Clark said, his hands clenched to the steering wheel.
We finally came upon this lookout station and hopped out of the van to take a look.
Clark was freaked out over the flimsy guardrail, so he offered to take a picture of US,
while he stood safely AWAY.
The views were amazing way up in the mountains.
"Don't lean back, sweetie!"
I even scaled a treacherous, BIG rock in flip flops
to take this picture of my daughter dangling dangerously on the edge of a mountain!
Meanwhile, Clark had retreated to the van and was reading the park pamphlet about
"Surviving Wild Mountain Animals",
"It says here not to approach mountain lions or bears," he read to us.
"If you encounter them, stay calm and protect children by picking them up."
I saw him eyeing our 6-foot son and 5-foot-6 daughter.
"Honey, I want pictures of some wild animals," I said emphatically.
Wouldn't you know it, the moment we started driving again, a deer sprang in front of our car.
I SCREAMED at Clark to pull over, NOW!
"We have deer in our own woods at home," he complained.
"But these are MOUNTAIN deer," I declared.
He kindly pulled over so I could take
this picture from the safety of our car.
We continued driving and driving
up..up...up and around frightening curves.
I kept snapping pictures.
"Honey, PLEASE shut the window!" Clark begged.
"You might fall out or make the van tip over."
"Look at THAT!" I kept shouting.
"Everyone except Dad."
Clark didn't dare avert his eyes from driving and driving.
My heart started drumming heavily when we came upon
a row of cars pulled over on the side of the road.
I also saw a row of people with their cameras aimed into the woods.
"It's a wild animal!" I screamed. "We HAVE to stop!"
OMG!!! It was a MOOSE!
I had to get a picture for my brother-in-law Joe
who you might remember only got to see
half a moose on our Upper Michigan vacation.
I started to walk forward to join this brave group
photographing that brown blob by the green arrow which happens to be the moose:
But a man warned me that moose are highly aggressive
and urged me to stay back.
DARN! Why did Clark have to read that wild animal pamphlet?
This was the best picture I could capture...
A slightly disappointing moose with no big rack, but a funny goatee.
Back in the van, we kept chugging higher and higher
and the air kept getting thinner and thinner.
"I'm gonna throw up," Lindsay moaned from the back seat.
We passed a sign that said, Elevation: 12,000 feet.
We all felt breathless and ill. For me, it was like severe car sickness.
"If we all black out," Clark said. "This van is going over the edge."
The high altitude, and scary roads with no guard rails were taking their toll.
We finally pulled over at the highest point which happened
to host a Visitor Center and gladly forked over eight dollars
for two bottles of water. I prayed the O in H2O would revive me.
I queasily snapped some quick pics.
Honestly, I was ready to jump over the edge in delirium.
We were relieved when we started going down...down...down.
We felt better and better...
and after two hours of dangerous driving, we made it to a tiny town called Grand Lake.
I was certain we had made a big loop through the mountains and straight ahead was Estes Park.
We had conquered the mountains!
We were all elated until a man at the gas station told us the only way back to
Estes Park was the same way we came!
NO!!! We CAN'T do that drive again!!!
I thought Clark would have a coronary.
We should have turned around at the Visitor Center.
I couldn't imagine altitude sickness again.
"Sir, where can we buy oxygen tanks?
We all took deep breaths and headed back.
Immediately, a freak storm hit with lightening, thunder, heavy rain and HAIL!
It was over in ten minutes.
We climbed back UP...UP...UP...
The air got thinner and we got sicker.
"I'm never gonna take my kids to the Rocky Mountains!" Lindsay groaned from the back seat.
We finally started going DOWN again, and regained sanity.
As we gleefully drove out of the park after FOUR hours I saw cars pulled over and cameras pointed.
I KNOW it's a wild bear!" I shouted.
Turns out it was this guy:
I thought it was a moose with its big rack, but a guy said,
"No, dearie, that's an ELK."
What a great way to end our trip through the Rocky Mountains.
After we had recovered enough brain cells, we were awed at our experience.
Purple mountains majesty
SO many magnificent places to explore in America!
Tomorrow, the Griswolds do Denver and Boulder.
Oh, and this is a wild MOUNTAIN chipmunk!