Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Texas Trip -- Nonfiction

Denver International Airport Security lines

I have three grandchildren, one of whom was born October 17, seventeen years ago. And two of whom were born October 15, fourteen and nine years ago respectively. So I went to Texas to celibrate with them.

Thursday morning a little after 5 a.m., as my husband was driving me to Denver International Airport, I got a text from my daughter-in-law, mother of said grandchildren. "I'm leaving Edmond in a few minutes. Will pick you up in Dallas."

Now, Denver is an hour and a half by air from Dallas. My flight was scheduled to leave at 8:00 a.m. MDT, landing at Love Field in Dallas at 10:55 a.m., CDT. Edmond, Oklahoma, is about three and a half hours by car from Dallas. I thought my son was going to pick me up. I had no idea I'd be picked up by my daughter-in-law driving from Oklahoma. I had no idea she'd be in Oklahoma with all the plans of company and parties scheduled for the weekend. It sounded a little iffy, but so...Okay.

I checked one bag at the curb and found out that I had been issued some kind of special ticket so I could go through a shorter line, didn't have to take my shoes off, or take my laptop out of my computer bag.

I hadn't flown in five years, but I was prepared. I had only one carry-on, my computer bag. It's small enough I can put it under the seat in front of me. I packed my belt in my checked baggage and did not wear an underwired bra. No metal, so I wouldn't set off the alarm when I went through the metal detector.

I stepped through the metal detector and the alarm went off. What? I'm sure I looked shocked because I was.

"Do you have an artificial knee?" a TSA officer asked.

"Why yes, I do. Two, in fact. They're new," I said.

He was very kind and directed me to a different metal detector -- one where you put your feet on  yellow footprints and hold your hands over your head while the machine moves around you. I passed and learned the drill. Announce your artificial knees before you go through the wrong metal detector.

In Dallas my daughter-in-law arrived from Oklahoma at almost exactly the same time I got to the curb with my luggage. She's a rational, logical woman. She knew what she was doing. She's an engineer. Need I say more?

My visit was very much a Texas kind of visit. Football is a serious, big deal in Texas. Three football games, a homecoming pep rally, and a homecoming half-time filled my Thursday and Friday nights.

Our team is in red.
Middle Grand is out there somewhere.

The almost 14-year-old Grand played in the first game that Thursday night. He plays both offense and defense which is fairly unusual. He's pretty good. The soon-to-be 17-year-old plays flute in the high school marching band--my personal favorite part of any football game. They performed during the pep rally and then again at half time during the Friday night high school game.

And the nearly-nine-year-old was free to roam the whole area both nights. That's the nice thing about living in a reasonably small town where everybody knows to whom he belongs.

There was one birthday cake to ice and decorate. Son baked it. I stirred up the icing and the eldest Grand decorated it, ably assisted by her mom and her other two grandmothers while her boyfriend helped her study.

The cake was for the youngest Grand's Saturday morning birthday party which involved a dozen elementary school children, their older and younger siblings, and parents, and a bounce-house. .

There was a giant chocolate chip birthday cookie for the Saturday afternoon party. Son baked it. I applied the somewhat Gothic "Happy Birthday." And Daughter-in-law provided the blooming-flaming birthday candle. Most of the household decamped to a trampoline park to meet Middle Grand's friends. I stayed at the house and took a nap with the family dog. She's a lovely boxer. And I must say Rose is easy to sleep with. She doesn't kick or snore.

Someone picked up umpteen smallish bundt cakes of varying flavors for the Saturday evening birthday party. I'd never heard of Nothing Bundt Cakes before. Apparently they're nationwide and we do have them in the Denver area. Guess what I'm going to serve at my next party.

Wine and the birthday bundt cakes followed dinner. Then a rousing game of Loaded Questions closed the evening. Board games are my favorite part of family get togethers.

Sunday morning we all went to church. Not at the same time or in the same car. In fact, Daughter-in-law's Step-Mom and I were the last to go. Since Step-Mom sometimes has difficulty finding her way, it was hoped that I could navigate for her.

Hah! We arrived when the sermon was almost over after many concerned texts from Daughter-in-law. But, Heavens! We got there in time for the Benediction and the Pot Luck Lunch -- the important parts. I don't think Daughter-in-law will trust either of us to transport ourselves any place unsupervised again.

Ahhh. Monday morning, after everybody left in the house got themselves dressed and fed and out the door for work and school, Son drove me into Dallas to catch my flight home.

We discussed where to eat lunch -- I'm always up for hamburgers since you just can't make hamburgers as good at home and I don't eat out often. But during the discussion Son mentioned Freebirds.
It's sorta like Subway except instead of building a sub, you build a burrito. It always trumps all other eateries for me. Even hamburger joints. And there is no Freebirds in Colorado.

Son eating a medium size Freebirds burrito. 

We had guacamole and chips, too. Freebirds guacamole is almost as good as my husband's. So it turns out my medium burrito was more than I could eat. I wrapped it in its foil, put that inside a Freebirds bag and stowed it in my carry-on.

Not to worry. I got this. I know you can't bring liquids in excess of three ounces on the plane in your carry-on. Burritos ain't liquid.

So in the security line at Love Field with all I've learned about commercial flying, I announce that I have had knee replacement. Two, in fact. And go through the proper scanner. No problem.

But then a TSA guy indicating my computer bag asks, "Is this your bag?"

"Yes," I say.

And he invites me to come with him to a bank of screens. He pulls up something like an ultrasound shot with an area circled many times. I step behind him so I can see the screen better.

"Please stand to the side," he says.

"But I can't see," I say.

He insists I stand to the side.

He opens the bag and points to a brown paper bag with the words "Freebirds" clearly inscribed.

"It's a left-over burrito," I say. Like what else would it be?

"Ma'am will you take it out of the bag?" Meaning the brown paper bag.

I do as asked, explaining that we don't have a Freebirds in Colorado and I didn't want to leave it behind and it wasn't liquid after all.

He proceeded to swab the foil-wrapped burrito and the entire inside of the computer bag and my laptop. You will be relieved to know that there was nothing explosive about the burrito -- just a cayenne tortilla, rice, refried beans, carnitas, pico de gallo, and hot sauce -- a righteous gustatory explosion, perhaps.

I was so tired when I got to DIA. But the adventure wasn't over yet.

It was the first time I had taken the train from the airport into Denver. Which, by-the-bye is great. Courteous officers, no traffic. But it's a long, long walk from baggage claim to the train. And when I got to Union Station in Denver, I got a bit lost trying to go to the light rail station. I walked probably two blocks the wrong way which put me five blocks from the light rail. But I got to ask directions from two pleasant young men, separately, three blocks apart.

And all the while I'm dragging my husband's very heavy, hard-sided suitcase. On wheels, thank goodness.

I learned that you can use the handicap ramp to get on the light rail and that way you don't have to lift your luggage up those very steep steps onto the train.

My husband picked me up at the Federal Center Station and drove me home. I ate my leftover, well-swabbed burrito and went straight to bed.

I am so glad I had my knees replaced. I don't think I could have done it with the old ones. As it is, I'll probably be ready to do it all again next year. But I'll take a lighter suitcase and get the small burrito.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Stone House Park -- Nonfiction

The Stone House
Built sometime between 1859 and 1864, the Stone House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed of stones from Bear Creek and rough-dressed sandstone quarried from a nearby ridge called the Hogback, the house has 18 inch thick walls -- the better for its inhabitants to withstand 100 degree summers and minus degree winters. These days it belongs to the City of Lakewood and is a popular venue for wedding receptions and family reunions.

Stone House Park is one of our walking group's favorite destinations.

Bear Creek, where they gathered the rounded river rocks used in building the house, runs through the park. Fed by snow melt in the mountains to the west, it provides water to this otherwise parched country. Water for trout, trees, birds, and wildlife of all kinds.

A paved bike and walking path runs along the south side of the creek. It goes west to Red Rocks Park, home of the well-known Red Rocks Amphitheater where everybody from The Beatles to Joe Bonamassa have performed. The bike path runs east to the South Platte River Trail.

Along the north side of the creek, the trails are unpaved, but well-maintained.

I completely missed the weather forecast for this morning. I thought it was supposed to be 48 degrees and sunny.  Silly me. It was 33 degrees and completely overcast at walking-time. Some of us had other obligations and others had more sense than I so I walked alone. That was perfectly okay. I could stop and take pictures at will, without worrying that I was slowing the group down.

With the flowers and most of the leaves gone for the winter, I saw things that I hadn't noticed before. Like the bat houses that local Eagle Scouts have put up near the shore of the park's lower lake.

And a grand old cottonwood stump, much bigger around than two people could reach.

By the end of my walk, I ran into Lanay, a fellow member of our walking group. Our group is from everywhere -- New Jersey, Louisiana, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Germany, California, etc. And even a couple of Colorado natives.

In addition to walking together in beautiful parks, we visit. I get to learn about all kinds of places I've never been. For example, Lanay did her graduate work at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. And that is one of the places my daughter is applying to for graduate school. So I got to find out that Ithaca is a beautiful city on a hill and Cornell is a welcoming and well-regarded educational institution. I've  appreciated their Ornithology Lab and its All About Birds website for years. But now, I know that it will be a good place for her to live, if she does go there for school.

What better way is there to make connections with the world?