from Sandy Needham

Monday, October 14, 2013

6-Week Dispatch: the Rocky Mountains

I got a late start having kids, and my nephew Brad got an early start. That’s why his oldest daughter Emily - my parents’ first great-grandchild, is just three months younger than Jake, the youngest grandchild. Not only did I see Brad grow up from infancy, we also raised our kids simultaneously! Well, his two daughters, anyway, with plenty to commiserate through the teen years! Brad and wife Tracy did two phases, with two boys later.

Emily was getting married in her hometown of Durango, Colorado, so we decided to meet up with our kids there a week in advance.

We began by staying right downtown. My amazing sister Dorothy lives walking distance from Main Street in a condo that overlooks the Animus River (more on that later). Main Street was closed to traffic the first day for a huge antique car show (more on that later). The shops and hotels in the well-restored Victorian buildings are friendly and sophisticated; there are plenty of good restaurants, and many opportunities to explore the grandeur of the surrounding Rocky Mountain Continental Divide.


Early in his career, my brother-in-law Bill got sent from St. Louis to work for AT&T in Manhattan. Perhaps it was on one of his crowded commutes from New Jersey that he clarified his vision of a life in his favorite town of Durango. Off the family went. He made a new career in four-wheel drives, horse trailers, rare used cars, and eventually, RV’s – those homes-on-wheels. Bill often contributes vehicles to the Durango antique car show (still more on that later). He and Dorothy are now retired and share their time among three residences: Scottsdale, Arizona; Durango; and recently, a cabin on nearby Electra Lake, from where they have already sent a snow-scene photo! Their Durango condo houses an exquisite collection of Native American art and Navajo rugs, plus this table made from our great-grandfather’s wagon wheel from the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1889:

wagon wheel table at dorothy's

Newt planeDSC01326
One more item about Bill: he’s a pilot with a little two-seater plane. He took Newton up on one of his daily 6:30 am flights around the area. Particularly at this season, they could observe the outlying areas plagued by forest fires. Here’s the lovely town nestled in beauty:
Aerial Durango

Ouray our hotelouray 3
After a couple of days around town, our crew - including Jake’s fiancée Larissa - drove up to the beautiful mountain town of Ouray for a couple of nights. The whole town is registered as an Historic District and offers trails of various challenges to explore. Box Canyon is a highlight with its waterfalls and views. Our hotel was the Hot Springs Inn just on the Uncompahgre River – so lovely. One of my favorite dinners ever was at the Outlaw Restaurant, simply outstanding. Of course our time hanging out in the hot tub was interspersed with games, as is our wont when Jake and Larissa show up with an entire repertoire of games! The kids spent an afternoon at the hot springs waterpark. I never tired of the needlepoint bargello of pine trees on the mountainsides, or the blue, blue sky above the mountain peaks.
bridgejake scramblingJ & L
ushugthumbs up
dinner in Ourayouray 2

It was one morning in Ouray that I found a rare moment to read the New York Times on my iPad after some days, and opened the paper to this:
NY times
Yes, my college friend, Marie Arana, had asked me about impressions concerning the Pope’s upcoming visit to Brazil. Imagine my utter shock to read my own name there!

We returned to Durango and managed to see various members of the family even while the wedding preparations were afoot. Here we are at Brad and Tracy’s house, where Tracy - with a wedding approaching in a couple of days - was never happier than with her big house full of relatives!

group at Brad's
Left to right, back row: Jake, Newton, Bill, Bradley, Nick.
Left to right, front row: Larissa, Sandy, Dorothy, Tracy, Brad, Emily, Mary, Elise.

Here we are tubing down the Animus River with members of the wedding party. I’d like to say this is really fun, but it is so much more: challenges, dangers, COLD, and a sense of accomplishment upon completion. I got stuck on some rocks for a while; poor Newton was knocked out of his tube near the end – when the afternoon was turning colder and he was on the shady side of the river. He ended up blue and shaking. Fortunately, there was a big rock on the shore that had stood in the sun all day over which he draped his shivering self to thaw. If one managed to stay in their tube, only the tush got cold.
Newt tubinggroup rafting
Jake raftingflowing
el raftings rafting

Our last day before the wedding was spent on the Durango-Silverton steam engine train. This goes through the mountains, along narrow passes and rushing streams to Silverton, another old mining town. We had barbeque and got our Wild West photo taken before returning to Durango by bus. I was channeling ‘Miss Kitty’ from the old TV series, “Gunsmoke.”
traintrain 2
Silverton train 1Siverton train 2

rabbit earsLar  & J
BBQ SilvertonOld Time

weddding setting
Time for a family wedding. The setting was sublime.
Little did I prepare for the instant when I turned and saw my darling baby nephew Brad escorting his daughter down the aisle in her grandmother Rose's wedding dress. Sniff. Emily is an amalgam of the openness, affection, lack of pretension, can-do astuteness, sanity and deeply-felt connectedness of her family…all wrapped in a breath-taking natural beauty. The officiator of the wedding was none other than my brother-in-law Bill, grandfather of the bride. He presented, without notes, such a beautiful tribute to the adventurous spirit she shares with the groom, Chad.

bradEm & Bill
cakeHere are Emily and Chad at cake time:
They live in San Diego and are able to see both our kids from Los Angeles and Baja, Mexico pretty often!
I think Chad looks like the famous Greek Poseidon statue I saw in Athens…fitting because he is a surfing man of the sea!
posei 3

Here are more darling relatives during the festivities:
Dorothy and Bill:
D & B
Brad’s sister April from Los Angeles with husband Marty and kids; here are Ryan and Addie after a throwback rendition of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got you, Babe” at the Rehearsal Dinner:

wedding groupsonny & cher
ApeE & Addie

B & T
Brad's brother Todd came from New York City. It is a rare sight to see Brad and Todd in the same spot!
Brad & Todd

My nephew Mark drove from Tulsa with his daughters, Lainey (about to get married, herself!) and Madison. Here they are with Elise:
marke & m & l

Amanda & LaurenMy niece Amanda and her daughter Lauren came from Phoenix.

red sneakerMary & fred

Emily’s sister Mary came from Chicago with her boyfriend Fred. She is a dancer with Chicago Dance Crash, and I collect her fabulous dance photos:

Emily and Mary’s brothers, Nick and Bradley, are on the right:
Wedding party

Bill's Oldsold trailerhangar
The next day Newton left for São Paulo, Elise returned to LA and Jake and Larissa went to Las Vegas. I stayed on in Durango to do a photo project with my sister Dorothy. Dorothy and Bill have an airplane hangar at the Durango airport. This houses their plane, an antique vacation trailer, their old Saab, an exact replica of Bill’s parents’ old DeSoto, an old Ford pick-up…along with My Mother’s Stuff – stored since her death in 2010. This included two boxes of keepsakes marked “Sandra,” which I was able to pare down to one, and seven large storage boxes filled with the photo albums Mother so meticulously curated. I was determined to cull some of the old family photos from these albums and scan them to share, with Dorothy’s help and scanner. The work was intense, but we had a lovely time together, so full of great memories. The photo treasures will get their very own dispatch because this one is too long.

Yes! After six weeks of travel, we headed home. Our friends were all partying out front at Hian’s bar, so we had our caretaker drop us directly there from the airport. As we drove up by the sidewalk, a huge cheer went up. Now that was a welcome home!



1 comment:

  1. Finally got a chance to read this one! (Got distracted last time by the Brazil disaster Loved remembering our trip - one of the most fun! More to come soon :)


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