I wake up in Rocky Mountain National Park on a queen size bed inside an RV that my family has christened “Big Bessie.” It is an apt name; it feels enormous, as far as things you can drive on a freeway go.
I peer behind the vinyl blind that hangs on the bias over the small rectangle of window. My heart cracks into a smile: trees, mountains, sky. The weather has held. We will hike after all.
Outside of my view but within earshot, a drama plays out in the front of our camper. Unlike our campsite at Zion National Park on night 1, this site at Glacier Basin campground has no electricity hookup to power our appliances — so no A/C, no microwave, no electrical outlets. We have a generator that could power these items, but generators are not permitted in the Glacier Basin campsite.
I, for one, am okay with this enforced quiet.
But for Christopher, who is realizing that he cannot turn on our coffeemaker, this is turning into an apocalyptic moment. He thinks I am still sleeping, and I hear him ask the boys, rhetorically I am sure, “Do you think I should turn on the generator?”
Without having had coffee, there is no saying what his judgment will be. Or, more accurately, there is exactly saying what his judgment will be. From back of the RV I call out, “Do NOT be the asshole who turns on his generator in the National Park!”
“That was a close one!” one of the boys says gleefully. “His finger was right on the button!”
“Everyone would understand if I explained it was for my coffeemaker,” Christopher contends.
“Are you kidding? Look around.” This peaceful campsite mostly comprises families in tents. We are the behemoth on the block. “Do you think they have electric coffeemakers in their tents?” My voice is sharp, to cut through his pre-coffee fog. “Just boil water,” I instruct. (We do have a propane stove that works without electricity) “And pour it over the grounds.”
He listens. The method is a bit messy, but adequately caffeinating, and we avoid being “those people.” Now we can move forward. The morning keeps improving — fresh banana pancakes, and a four-mile hike to Sprague Lake, and Boulder Brook and a loop back to the camp.
Emmett crosses the creek stepping over wet rocks, and Aaron and Christopher follow. I hesitate. As a kid I used to rock-hop with abandon. Being the mom has changed that.
“Today is my favorite day,” I repeat (too often) as we hike. But it is. The clear air. My body moving after days of sitting. The epic views. Aaron and Emmett are good sports, passing the time engaged in a made up game involving the drafting of basketball teams.
Once we are back at the campsite, the kids are ready to leave. Aaron is eager to have dinner with a college friend who lives near Boulder (the reason he agreed to this trip in the first place), and both boys are eager to return to the Xbox. I push back against their pleas; we have time to pause a bit longer in this place of immense beauty before resuming the constant motion. “Don’t rush me.”
I tell them my plan: I will make us lunch, and then I will take another hour to sit in my camp chair to read, and write, and snooze — three must-dos. The boys wonder what there is for them to do here for a whole hour. I generally try not to spend too much time on regret, but in this moment I deeply regret not having taken them camping more when they were little, teaching them how to chill, to enjoy doing nothing.
After we eat, I park myself in that chair with my book, my journal, and a pen. They throw a football in the meadow.
And then, reluctantly, I leave We stop in Boulder and walk on Pearl Street, and over to the University of Colorado. When the rain starts again, my boys tell me to keep going, it’s just a little water — maybe they have learned something about chilling.
Then we drive to a restaurant where Aaron will meet a friend from college, in a mall outside of Boulder — which could be Irvine, or San Mateo, or Van Nuys, or anywhere else in America with a BJ’s Brewhouse. (And this is where I confess that the first restaurant I have patronized for dine-in service since March is BJ’s Brewhouse in Broomfield, Colorado. I never saw that coming.)
After dinner, Aaron and his friend part ways with renewed smiles. This reprieve from so much family time is a down payment on the moment they will return to their college town and resume the life they left before Spring break and stay-home orders.
It is time to move on to where we will sleep tonight, a KOA (Kampground of America) in eastern Colorado. As we head east and the land gets flatter and the landscape becomes rural, we drive under an overpass where Trump 2020 signs hold sway. Ahead of us, the sky is washed in ominous gray; maybe more rain will come. We find the KOA and, under cover of night, we take our place between RVs parked row after row, in earshot of the highway. We feel like conspicuous outsiders who anyone could peg for city slickers. This place has all the “amenities” — electricity, a hookup to the city water line, and places to dump what you’ve been carrying and no longer need. As Christopher plugs us into the grid and I scratch my head at why people choose this KOA over the national park nearby, I know at least that there will be unfettered coffee-making come morning. And maybe that answers my question.