Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Colorado, Day 1: Red Rocks

Every morning began the same way: Liza had to choose which of the landscape rocks outside our hotel room she wanted to bring with us in the car. Good way to kill five minutes while we loaded up with snacks and extra clothes and emergency potties and more maps than most AAA offices carry.

Our first destination was Red Rocks, which had the dual benefits of opening early and being open on a Sunday. Nothing like a 2-hour time difference to make travel fun with a preschooler ... ever try to entertain a 3-year-old quietly at 5am? Let's just say that she might have watched few more DVDs on vacation than she usually does at home. Like, 4,000 more. Thank god for portable DVD players (and Blue's Clues, and the Ringling Brothers circus video, and the cheesy 1980s televised ballet version of The Nutcracker). Liza was able to point out to us exactly why it's called "Red Rocks." She's smart, that one. For the uninitiated, Red Rocks isn't just a geologic attraction, it's also a concert venue. And, apparently, on Sunday mornings it's a popular place for personal trainers to drag their clients to put them through hellish routines on the bleacher-style seats that face the stage. I had to do some interesting framing and cropping to avoid photographing the packs of insanely fit yuppies that were scattered throughout the venue. Liza, meanwhile, was enjoying her moment in the spotlight.

It was cold, and the altitude was a bit of a factor, especially when Liza decided that her legs were tired and had to be carried ALL THE WAY BACK UP TO THE CAR. We took the scenic route so we'd have some breaks in between the 14,000 stairs we had to climb to get to the car. Got a nice, if somewhat hazy, view of Denver in the distance.

One of the things I found surprising about Denver was that it isn't actually IN the mountains, it's just NEAR the mountains. It's a mile high, yes, but that's thanks to the high plains, not because it's perched atop some scenic mount. Denver's pretty flat until you get 20 minutes west of town, at which point it begins to look appropriately Rocky.
Back in Denver we managed to locate a playground where we could kill time until Casa Bonita opened for lunch. Here she is, sliding down the first tube-style slide she's willingly used in about two years.

And how to describe Casa Bonita? Let's see, it's a (relatively bad) Mexican restaurant in a strip mall, and it happens to have a 30-foot-tall waterfall with cliff diver shows every 15 minutes. It is so unusual that they actually made a South Park episode that centered on it. Did I mention the mariachi band? The guy in the gorilla suit? The grottos and caves? How about the all-you-can-eat sopaipillas?
Liza loved it, except for the part where the sheriff and the outlaw exchanged (cap) gunfire, which she deemed too loud. Otherwise, she was dancing to the band, ignoring her overpriced food, and standing slack-jawed in amazement whenever the diver climbed up the cliff near our table. We had a chance to see him up close when we were leaving, when we were watching from the pool level and he swam over at the end of the show, and Liza was so entranced that she actually talked to him, rather than hiding and clamming up like she usually does. I can't blame her - he was sorta hot.

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