There’s Gold in Them There Hills

Fall 2007
Fall 2007

Even though we’re still in the heat of August right now, there is a sense in the air that fall is right around the corner.  Living in Colorado, it isn’t a surprise that we’re avid hikers and there isn’t a more picturesque time of year to be in the mountains than during the fall when the leaves are changing and temperatures are falling.  Although the weekends can be crowded as people from the cities head into the mountains for a day to view the Aspens as they turn to gold, it is actually off season in the resort towns and a perfect time to spend a few days surrounded by some the most beautiful scenery in the country.  Each town or resort provides its own unique opportunity to view the natural beauty of forests as the leaves change as well as places to stay and restaurants to eat.

Fall 2012
Fall 2012
Fall 2010
Fall 2010

One of our first memories of getting into the mountains during the fall was when we went to Estes Park and stayed at the Stanley Hotel.  Estes Park is a beautiful little town that is right outside of Rocky National Park, which is the Yellowstone of Colorado.  At the time, the Stanley Hotel was a five star hotel that was proud of its heritage of having hosted many presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt, and of its original owner who was the inventor of the Stanley Steamer.  Nowadays, after appearing on an episode of Ghost Hunters, they are all about the Shining and the ghosts that may inhabit the property.  Oddly enough, we actually stayed in the same room that Stephen King stayed in when he wrote the Shining, which made our stay even more special.

Stanley Hotel
Stanley Hotel
Stanley Steamer
Stanley Steamer

We’ve also stayed in Breckenridge and Vail during the fall and they are both wonderful places to stay, but our favorite place to go is to Beaver Creek.  Beaver Creek has a feel of exclusivity without being pricey.  The center of the resort has an ice skating rink with shops and restaurants all around.  There a plenty of places to sit outside and watch the sun set over the mountains, all with fire pits or heaters to keep you warm as it can get fairly cold at night.  Hiking up the mountain can be quite strenuous, but the views that you are rewarded with are well worth the effort.

Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek
View from Beaver Creek Trail
View from Beaver Creek Trail

In addition to hiking, there a lots of small little towns with plenty of history.  Towns such as Minturn, Georgetown, or Leadville make for perfect excursions from wherever you’re staying.  We have fond memories of going to Minturn and having lunch in a saloon that boasts that Jesse James used to frequent the place.  In addition to the historic towns, there are also a few ghost towns in Colorado, such as the ones near Cripple Creek and Leadville.

Fall 2010
Fall 2010
Silver Dollar Saloon in Minturn
Silver Dollar Saloon in Minturn

Regardless of where you stay, getting into the mountains of Colorado during the fall will leave you with images that will last a lifetime.  Whether going to Aspen and hiking the Maroon Bells, going to Winter Park where the college students love to frequent, or going to a resort such as Beaver Creek, you will enjoy getting away from the crowds while the locals prepare for the oncoming ski season.  As with any time travelling into the mountains, there can be a chance of snow, but generally speaking the chance of perfect weather far outweighs the chance for inclement weather.  Even if it does snow, it will just add to the beauty of the mountains.  So, despite the lack of proper grammar, the old mining saying is still true that “there is gold in them there hills”.

Vail 2006
Vail 2006
Fall 2012
Fall 2012

The Couple Who Never Grew Up

We’re in the process of planning a trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, so we decided to take a moment to look back at our 20th anniversary trip.  We travel as often as we can, but since we both have full time jobs, not as much as we’d like.  Travel has pretty much become our hobby and is something that we both love and we feel that it brings us closer together.  For our 20th anniversary, we decided to go to Walt Disney World, just the two of us, to bring out the child in each of us.  Honestly, just like Peter Pan, we’ve always teased that we’re still just kids ourselves and that one of these days, we’ll figure out what we want to do when we grow up.

Pete and Dona with Goofy and Pluto
Pete and Dona with Goofy and Pluto
Dona in Hollywood Studios Theme Park
Dona in Hollywood Studios Theme Park

We’d taken the kids to Disneyland when they were all very young and it was one of those vacations when we didn’t have a ton of money, but we made it happen anyway.  We drove from Colorado to California, stopping in Las Vegas along the way.  This was back when Vegas was trying to be family friendly, before they realized it was costing them money, and before they started the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign.  We stayed an the Excalibur Hotel and Casino for one night and then drove across the desert to Los Angeles and Anaheim, where Disneyland is located.  It was a great trip, the kids had a blast, and they never knew what a tight budget we were on.  We were even able to enjoy a dinner at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and take advantage of some of the early morning eat and greets where you have breakfast and meet some of the characters.

Kids with Mad Hatter
Kids with Mad Hatter
Kids with Meeko from Pocahontas
Kids with Meeko from Pocahontas

Things were a little different for our trip to Disneyworld, there would be no driving and we were staying at our Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare in Orlando.  We planned in advance, purchasing our 6 day “Park Hopper” passes and some customized maps that you could order online.  We also looked at the restaurants and made sure to have special dinner reservations for the night of our anniversary, plus a few other surprises.  When we arrived in Florida, it was a stress free experience as we knew that we weren’t on a schedule and could just enjoy everything that Disney World had to offer.  Disney World isn’t just a single theme park, it is actually several parks, so we were glad that we had a full week to explore and relax.  Even though it was April, we’d also planned a visit to Cocoa Beach since we met in Ocean City Maryland, we thought that a visit to the Atlantic Ocean was in order.

Hollywood Studios Theme Park
Hollywood Studios Theme Park
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom

When you enter the park, they ask if you’re celebrating anything special and, if you are, they give you a special occasion button, so we proudly wore our anniversary buttons.  We weren’t the only adult couples enjoying the parks, Walt Disney World has turned themselves into quite the wedding and honeymoon destination offering even coordinators that will make any trip special.  Whatever your age, we would definitely recommend that you visit Walt Disney World at least once, it is truly an experience that you’ll never forget.

Pete and Dona with Anniversary Buttons
Pete and Dona with Anniversary Buttons
Epcot Gardens
Epcot Gardens

We started our trip by going to the Magical Kingdom theme park, which was the original park and is where Cinderella’s castle is located.  Throughout the week we made our way to the other parks as well, including Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the Epcot Center where they were celebrating the International Flower and Garden Festival.  We weren’t shy about getting pictures with the various characters throughout the parks and going on the rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, Its a Small World, The Wizard of Oz, the Haunted Mansion, and so many others that there are too many to mention.  We also made sure to watch several of the many parades at the various parks as well as stay in the park to watch the famous fireworks show.  We really enjoyed Epcot Center where you could do wine tours and get a different glass of wine from each of the countries represented in the theme park.

Parade in Magic Kingdom
Parade in Magic Kingdom
Dona at Epcot
Dona at Epcot

The highlight of the trip was our anniversary dinner at Victoria & Albert’s, which reservations must be made well in advance as it is very exclusive, but also very much worth it.  Before heading to the restaurant, we went on a horse drawn carriage ride where we enjoyed opening a fine bottle of wine that we’d purchased on our 10th wedding anniversary to open on our 20th.  We had no doubts that we’d still be together and very much in love.  At dinner, Dona was surprised with a princess tiara and glass slipper on a pillow made of flowers that Pete had arranged to be delivered.  To say that the evening met our expectations would be an understatement as it will always be one of our very treasured memories.

Dona with Tiara and Glass Slipper
Dona with Tiara and Glass Slipper
Tiara and Glass Slipper at Victoria and Albert's
Tiara and Glass Slipper at Victoria and Albert’s

It was a wonderful week that truly made us feel young again, reminding us that age isn’t a number, but a state of mind.  Wherever we go this year for our big anniversary trip (we went to Aspen for a long weekend on our anniversary itself this year), we know that we’ll share new memories that will last a lifetime.  In the words of the fairy tales that inspired Walt Disney to create his movies and theme parks, we are living “happily ever after” year after year.

Horse Carriage
Horse Carriage
Parade in Animal Kingdom
Parade in Animal Kingdom

Empty Nest and Loving It

Within three weeks of our youngest daughter leaving home for college, we were sitting at the beach in Cabo San Lucas.  As our friends have gone through the same transition from having kids at home to being empty nesters, we’ve seen two typical transitions.  One, like ours, where the couple starts dating again and enjoying the freedom that it offers.  And the second, which always saddens us, is when, after spending years devoted to the children and their activities, the couple wakes up to find that the only thing they had in common was taking care of the kids and they drift apart and often get divorced.  Happily we couldn’t wait to start spending more time together because not only are we husband and wife, but we’ve always been each other’s best friend.  So, as sad as we were to drop our daughter off at college, we were excited to start having more adventures and we were off to Cabo.

Arch at Cabo
Arch at Cabo
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

We’ve said this many times, but we truly prefer to travel in the off season, so our trip to Cabo was in late October.  Our parents, who are avid travelers as well, had given us a week using their timeshare and this would be our first experience using a timeshare.  We flew into the Los Cabos International Airport, which is located in San Jose Cabo and is about a 45 minute taxi or shuttle ride to Cabo San Lucas.  This was our first trip to Mexico, we’ve been there several times since, but seeing the armed federal police officers all over the airport was unexpected.  You deplane outside and then walk into the airport to go through customs.  Somehow we managed to go through a wrong door into a room with all of the luggage.  There was a large glass wall between us and the room to go through customs with a door where a policeman stood.  We went to walk through the door to get into the other room and were quickly and abruptly told that we had to exit the way we came and go in the correct door.  No arguing with a man with semi-automatic rifle.

Dinner on the Beach
Dinner on the Beach
Infinity Pool at Villa Del Arco
Infinity Pool at Villa Del Arco

We made it through customs and were prepared for what we would face next, which was the gauntlet of timeshare salesman claiming that they will take you to your resort.  We’d been warned in advance and walked through, ignoring the fervent pleas to provide us a ride, and made it to the taxis and shuttles.  We chose to take a shuttle, which is cheaper, but you share the shuttle with several other families and couples, so it takes a little longer as they stop at the various resorts until they reach your resort.  As you get closer and closer to Cabo San Lucas, the ocean and the resorts start coming into view and it finally starts sinking in that you’re about to spend a week in paradise.  We were staying at the Villa Del Arco resort and from the moment we arrived, we knew we were in for an incredible stay.

Villa Del Arco
Villa Del Arco
Suite at Villa Del Arco
Suite at Villa Del Arco

Resorts in Cabo San Lucas aren’t like resorts in most other tourist locations in Mexico, they have a height restriction on resorts near downtown, so you don’t have these giant monstrosities along the beach.  The result of this is that the resorts are smaller, with fewer crowds in the resort and on their private beaches.  As we checked in, we were told that if we attended the one hour timeshare sales presentation we would get discounts in town and some vouchers for the resort.  Having not been through a timeshare pitch before, we accepted and were off to have a tropical drink while our luggage was taken to our suite.  Once we got to our suite, with its gorgeous view of the ocean and the famous arch in Cabo San Lucas (El Arco de Cabo San Lucas), we were truly impressed.

Arch at Cabo San Lucas
Arch at Cabo San Lucas
Private Beach at Villa Del Arco
Private Beach at Villa Del Arco

The following morning, we went to our timeshare tour where we were shown the different rooms of the resort and then taken to breakfast with our sales person.  Afterwards, we went to the sales office for the closing pitch.  We had told ourselves before we went that, no matter what, we were going to say “no”, this was just to get some free stuff.  Even though we’d only been there for a night, we were in love with the resort.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but after much debating and the sales manager sweetening the pot, we decided to buy what would turn out to be our first timeshare.  After the stress of making the decision to purchase, we were off to the pool and the pirate ship bar and restaurant located in the center of the pool.  We have swam laps around that ship/bar many times now and it is one of our fondest memories.

Pirate Ship Bar
Pirate Ship Bar
View from Our Room at the Villa Del Arco
View from Our Room at the Villa Del Arco

Another great thing about Cabo is the close proximity to town, restaurants, and the marina.  We love going to the restaurants and asking for the fresh catch of the day and having it prepared specially for us.  Cabo is also famous for the marlin and other sport fishing, so you can catch some fresh fish and take it to the restaurants to prepare for you and your guests.  On this trip we discovered walking down the beach from the resort to town and the marina provided us with many beach bar opportunities with drinks almost always on special and ceviche, guacamole, and fresh seafood always in abundance.  Walking from the resort to town to see the famous Cabo Wabo bar or haggle with the beach and street vendors for trinkets to take home is an easy twenty minute walk and some nice exercise to offset the time spent sitting pool or ocean side eating and drinking.

Cabo Wabo
Cabo Wabo
Marina at Cabo San Lucas
Marina at Cabo San Lucas

It was the first of what has been many happy trips that we’ve had since becoming empty nesters, but obviously holds a special memory in our hearts.  Not only did we become timeshare owners, but we fell in love with our home resort, the Villa Del Arco.  Most importantly, if it was possible, we became even closer by sharing another travel experience and have been back to Mexico several times since.  For those of you that aren’t empty nesters yet, take our advice, don’t forget to be a couple and foster the things that brought you together, the things that you have in common, the things that will fill your lives when raising the children is no longer your number one priority.  You’ll always be parents, there will always be advice to give and wisdom to share, but hopefully you’ll do that while filling your lives with adventure.

Our Favorite Poolside Waiter
Our Favorite Poolside Waiter
Lover's Beach
Lover’s Beach