As we make our way from Utah to Colorado, we stop at a “View Site” — our bow to sight-seeing on an otherwise forward-motion-progress type of journey. (There is always enough tie to take a photo staged to make a grandmother nervous.)
We have a little more than an hour to go before we arrive at our cousins’ townhouse in Avon, Colorado. They won’t be there, but they’ve allowed us to take refuge there on this, our second night. This may turn out to be a strategic mistake; we may never leave.
The Colorado River glides beside us, going the opposite direction. An idle train adorns the hillside. I am reading The Liar’s Club in the passenger seat while Christopher does the bulk of the eight hour drive today, our longest day. I look down at a section of river that is brown and looks almost still.
“I’m so happy there’s basketball,” Aaron says from the back, looking up from his computer screen with a look of relief and joy. He is watching the third NBA game of the day, on the first day of NBA basketball since it ran off a cliff in March.
As we approach Avon, we call a local restaurant to order takeout, then pick it up (with masks and gloves and six-feet distance). We eat, shower, and get into real beds, and before I fall asleep I say a prayer of petition: Please God don’t let our RV tip over.
The next morning, the RV is still upright, despite the angle of the ground it is parked on. Such relief. Emmett is lying on the long soft cozy couch in the living room wearing clean clothes and feeling reborn after a shower, sunken into it like he will never leave. He is looking at his phone. “I’m just saying, if we move to Pennsylvania, with a permit we could legally own a kangaroo.”
“I’m not hating it as much as I thought,” Aaron says to a friend on the phone. “My parents are sitting up front so I don’t have to listen to what they are saying, and Emmett and I are playing Xbox for hours.” I’m happy he’s enjoying himself.
When it is time to leave, I get on the listing RV and let Christopher and the boys direct me to safety, with only the necessary amount of stressed shouting. Then we manage up passes and down again, cresting at 10,000 feet. The evergreen coated peaks are like Titans commanding the world below.
And then the downpour begins. It does not look like it will let up. We worry that Siri is pranking us with every new turn, that makes this drive longer than expected. I am building up a head of sorrow over the fact that we are still driving, curving, meandering, ascending, going out of our way to get to Rocky Mountain National Park, only to get rained out. “I am not used to feeling disappointed,” I say. “I don’t like it.” I am willing to sound spoiled or petulant because I’m confessing this to Christopher and he already knows this about me.
The rain is still coming down when we arrive. Christopher sets up the blue canopy we brought to protect us from too much sun, and our camp chairs underneath. We gather and sit and wait as rain falls around us. I hear a child at a nearby campsite shout, “There’s a double rainbow!” I can’t see it from where I am. I have to get up and move. And there it is.
The rain runs its course. In front of us is a vast meadow, clear across to the mountains. With the COVID restrictions on reservations, there are few other campers in our view. The mountains are dwarfed by thick white-gray clouds, with a few small blue spots of sky piercing it, like tiny jigsaw pieces of cloud are missing. The mountain breeze is steady and gentle, like a grandma’s kiss goodnight.
It is too late for a hike; that will be tomorrow morning. We make dinner and eat as the sun sets.
After dinner, Christopher teaches the boys how to build a fire, we roast marshmallows and make s’mores, and only now do I feel that we have officially begun.