Friday, October 11, 2019

The Alpine Slide

Remember how I said I was going to get the kids to the mountains this summer if it was the last thing I did? Well, we made it, and it went about how you'd expect it to go.

There were the meltdowns and freak outs that come with any change in routine, and, like usual, Stow was ready to head home after 72 hours away. Still, I had a chance to hike and canoe and breathe mountain air with the kids, and that was pretty amazing.

Canoeing on Grand Lake
We landed in Denver and picked up a rental car that all three kids disliked because when they sat in the back their bodies touched. "Why didn't you get one of those big SUVs?" one asked. "This is a vacation," chimed in another. "Why do you have to be so cheap?" Three minutes into our drive from the airport, Sky wanted to know exactly when we would see our first mountains, and Stow wanted to know when we'd be stopping for lunch.  Fortunately, once we hit more mountainous terrain, all got distracted by trying to determine the types of rocks and outcroppings they were seeing (score one for just enough geology knowledge to keep them occupied!).

We spent our first night in Estes Park in a tiny motel with magnificent views and a place to build our own campfire (which went ok until Stow became increasingly brazen in his efforts to show us how well he could snuff out the tiny side fires he kept lighting). Sky fell in love with the mountains around Estes Park and the shirt he bought as a souvenir there (this last piece of information may seem random, but it will make more sense in a minute--I promise), and he was sad when we headed into the park and across Trail Ridge Road to our second destination.

Stop along Trail Ridge Road
Since Ren couldn't really hike, I was pleasantly surprised by all we could see and do as we made our way across Trail Ridge Road. The short hikes we could take from various stops and the wildlife we saw along the way thrilled the kids, even as I knew that a younger more mobile version of myself would have ridiculed people like us for being such lazy tourists.

We spent the bulk of our vacation in Grand Lake, the small town where I worked for a summer as a college kid. Sky didn't like it because it wasn't Estes Park, and Stow didn't want to leave our rental cabin because it had a bunk bed and cable, and we'd been away from home for 72 hours so clearly this was our new home. (Have you ever tried explaining the difference between being on a trip and being "homeless"? Because, it's not as easy or as obvious as it sounds.)

Grand Lake and Stow
On the fourth day, we drove to Winter Park where we bought ridiculously expensive day passes so we could enjoy the gondola, alpine slide, putt-putt golf and other activities. Day four is where the trip really started to take a Moe Family turn. We went to Winter Park so the kids could ride the alpine slide (described as Colorado's longest alpine slide with "over 3,000 feet of heart-pounding track"), but the alpine slide requires a ski lift ride, and a ski lift ride for three children, two of whom are on the spectrum, requires, at least at first, two adults.

See the conundrum?

The guy selling the day passes told me that Ren couldn't ride the lift up unless he was willing to take the slide down. He also told me that Ren's spine issues wouldn't prevent him from riding the slide. When I conveyed this information to Ren, he decided it was a perfectly cogent idea for him to take the lift up with Stow and to ride down on the slow track.

On this first trip, Sky led the way followed by Pink. I took the middle with Stow behind me and Ren bringing up the rear. Everyone made it down safely, though I think I probably triggered an adrenaline rush for Pink when I nearly rear-ended her. And, I am sure the group of teenagers who came behind Ren weren't thrilled by his snail's pace.

Alpine Slide

Yay! We made it down safely and the kids had fun!

The logical next step would have been to walk away from the alpine slide. But, our passes were for limitless rides, and we're nothing if not passionate about getting the most for our money. So, I told Ren I'd take the kids on the slide again.

"I'll come, too," he said.

When you live with someone who has a life-altering and painful physical disability, you learn not to tell them how you think they should live with that disability. So, even though I really wanted to tell Ren to quit while he was ahead, I didn't want to stop him from something he felt like he was capable of doing.

My second ride down the mountain was faster and more exhilarating than the first. As each family member arrived safely at the bottom, I felt buoyed by the fact that we were doing something normal. But, then Pink came in with Ren close behind, and before she could tell me about his spill, the attendant at the bottom of the slide was explaining how to get to first aid.

Do you know what's hard to do if you have a titanium rod from neck to tailbone? Bend. Bending is impossible and also completely necessary if you get going to fast on the alpine slide and need regain your balance. Since Ren can't bend, when he started to tip, he couldn't recover without relying on contact between his arm and the side of the slide. Today, three months later, he still has slide burns--they're healed, but the scars look like no other injury we've seen.

When we got to the first aid tent, my biggest worry was that the open wound on his arm would prevent him from being able to have surgery. The nurse gave us some petroleum jelly and some bandages and told us how to keep the wound clean and moist for quicker healing, and after a few gondola rides and a round of putt-putt golf, the kids decided they were ready to take on the alpine slide on their own.

On your second visit to the first aid tent, you know it's time to walk away from the alpine slide. While Ren managed to get a shallow slide burn that covered most of his forearm, Sky got a small deep one on his shoulder that closely resembled a golf divot. The Japanese last name I gave the nurse when we arrived at the tent the second time made her raise her eyebrows, "I thought you looked familiar," she said to me. Armed with more petroleum jelly and clean bandages, Sky and I found the rest of the family, and we all agreed it was time to head home.

"I can't believe how unlucky I am," moaned Sky, who was distraught about the hole in his new t-shirt, and whose day had been ruined by that last ill-fated alpine slide run.

Ill-fated shirt
"Look," I said. "Don't let that one moment ruin a really good day. I mean, it WAS a pretty great day, right?" Reluctantly, he agreed.

I suppose our trip to Colorado taught us all that every day is full of a lot of good and a little bit of bad and we that can choose which of those things will be our focus--

--which isn't to say that I didn't have to spend a chunk of the last few days of our vacation looking for a shirt to replace the one with the hole, because I totally did.

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