Last summer, my husband Steve, my 12-year-old son Tommy and I flew to Colorado, Denver, to be specific. Instead of taking our yearly summer trip to Rhode Island to see my husband’s family, we were doing something completely different — embarking on a family vacation to a place we’d never been before.
That first night, we stayed at the Denver Embassy Hotel, which was arguably the plushest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. My son was happy because he was used to chain hotels, and this one, again, was part of an incredible chain. The furnishings were elegant; the linens, crisp, clean and wonderful-smelling; the toiletries, first class — everything about the place was dynamite. We all had a good night’s sleep and in the morning, were treated to the best “free” breakfast I’ve ever had. The homemade omelet from the omelet bar was stupendous. I can still taste it — light, fluffy and buttery, full of mushrooms, cheddar cheese, green pepper and onion.
The next day, we drove a couple hours to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, where we were planning to stay for four days in a small place called Forest Lodge. Forest Lodge was over one hundred years old and was much different than the Embassy. Tommy took one look at it, and decided he didn’t like it. The place didn’t have sleek, modern furniture. Nothing was new. Forest Lodge definitely wasn’t part of a chain. Tommy just wasn’t used to staying in “little inns with lots of character.” He would have to get used to the situation. Luckily, by the next day, he was acclimated to his new surroundings; Forest Lodge did have Wi-Fi.
And then, the rain came. Day one, it poured. Despite the rain, we all went down to town and looked in the little shops. In a jewelry shop, I bought my mother a turquoise necklace made by local Native Americans. I had packed rain ponchos, which we all sported. Not knowing what else to do after we went shopping, we hit the library and looked at the new books. Tommy liked this. He “gets” libraries. Going to the library is not your typical sightseeing excursion, but we didn’t want to get soaked, so we improvised. This is a reason why rainy vacations can be just what you need; improvisation is good for the brain.
That night, Steve grilled steaks in the pouring rain while standing under a big, blue golf umbrella. The meat was expertly cooked, albeit a little wet, but what made the event so great was that it was novel and we would never forget it. I snapped pictures of Steve flipping steaks while trying to stay dry. It was a hoot! Another reason rainy holidays can be wonderful — you’ll never forget them.
The next day, guess what, it rained. That day, we decided not to go out in the morning, but instead, to watch a movie from Forest Lodge’s extensive movie library. We picked “Maid in Manhattan,” a lovable love story starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. You wouldn’t think that three people holed up in a small hotel room on a rainy day would enjoy themselves, but the closeness got to us and we really began to feel like family instead of three folks who were residing under one roof. During that stay at Forest Lodge, we’d watch two more movies — “We Bought a Zoo” and some cheerleader movie about kids in high school; Tommy loved that one. Reason three — if the weather isn’t cooperating, you might find that your group is.
That night, I cooked for us on our little stove. I made baked chicken, macaroni and cheese and broccoli. The food tasted so good, cooked in tiny pots and pans. After dinner, we decided to go swimming in the rain. Steve and I jumped in the hot tub. Again, the experience was memorable because swimming in the rain was out of the ordinary. Cool drops wet our foreheads as our bodies melted in the hot, steamy water. Rainy vacations are just different and sometimes, that’s good.
After the swim, we got ready for bed.
About three in the morning, I was awakened by what I thought was a dumpster diver rummaging through the lodge’s huge trash dumpster. Whoever it was, was throwing cans and bottles out of the bin and onto the ground. And, of course, it was raining.
The next morning, I had to laugh. The intruder hadn’t been a local scavenger; it was a huge, black bear! And this guy, we were told, barged into the hotel whenever he felt like it. The nice lady at the desk showed me a picture of the black bear trying to access the candy machine the year before.
Our friend the bear would have showed up rain or shine. He was hungry. But there was something all the more poignant about his ravenous appetite because it was pouring. The rain was drowning us all.
Day three was comprised of eating out, watching HGTV and playing Monopoly while it poured buckets outside. Believe it or not, I wish I could go back to that cozy little hotel room and do it all over again.
On the last day, the sun came out. Finally, we were able to take a family hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We walked around a beautiful little lake. The contrast of the last three wet days and this glorious dry one was phenomenal. We were grateful for what we got that vacation. We didn’t need outside experiences to have a good time. The experience of being cooped up together helped us to enjoy each other and appreciate the fun you can have staying in.
In conclusion, don’t feel that all is lost if it’s raining on your vacation. Hunker down and make the best of the situation. You and your traveling companions will be much better for it. And, again, you’ll never forget the experience.