Back in November 2014, Southwest Airlines fares to Denver were ridiculously cheap. I decided that Craig and I should book the tickets for spring 2015 ($249 round trip for BOTH tickets!) and then decide what we were going to do once we got there. I love the Rockies. I found out that there was going to be a hot air balloon festival in Erie, which is one of my bucket list items. So that was that (or so I thought.)
About four weeks before our trip, my father died. Craig had taken a lot of time off of work and needed to reschedule the trip. I decided that since I already had everything planned, it might be a good time to get away with my oldest daughter and her two daughters, so we just went for it. And aside from a very weird AirBnB experience in Boulder, it was a great trip.
As it turns out, the hot air balloon festival was part of an annual town fair in Erie. It did not disappoint Haven and Storey (or the grownups.)
I really wanted to get up a little higher in elevation and we wanted to hike. But my sore back and two little kids didn't add up to a full-fledged hiking adventure. I was content to drive in the mountains and stop along the way. We flew by the seat of our pants by driving up the Peak to Peak Highway with no agenda or destination in mind. After turning off on 116 we found that the road was closed due to snow. A few people were headed up to hike (hint: they had poles and hiking boots on.) I was skeptical. Amy, who has long been an outdoor adventurer, convinced me to take a short walk... that we'd stop when it got to be too much snow. This woman was wearing slip-on flats, and was carrying a 25 pound kid. She gets the all-odds-against-you hiking award. (After all, in addition to what she had on her feet and what she was carrying, she was hiking with an 18 month old, a six year old, and a 53 year old with a cranky back.) Each time it looked like we'd have to turn around we somehow made it through it without busting our butts. It was so much fun, but it did get a little tiring for Haven (the beauty of a closed road is that you can plunk yourself down in the middle of it.)
On our way up the Peak to Peak Highway, we saw a sign for the Carousel of Happiness. Amy and I looked at each other at the same time with raised eyebrows, and said "What is THAT??" Storey had just fallen asleep in her carseat, so I ran in and checked it out so we could decide whether or not to stop on our way back in to Boulder. It was indeed what it sounded like. The Carousel of Happiness is "Nederland Colorado’s magical menagerie featuring 56 whimsical, hand-carved animals on a restored 1910 Looff carousel, turning to the music of a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ." AND RIDES ARE ONLY $1. By the time we got there, Storey was out cold from our walk and Amy questioned whether or not we should wake her up. Mama was thinking about how cranky this toddler would probably be since we had been waking her up all day. But Gia pulled the grandmother card... "She's GOT to experience this! It will be magical!" And of course it was. Check out the pre-ride anticipation.
Meanwhile, Amy was having a very serious conversation with the gorilla. (Don't worry, the kids had very secure seatbelts on.)
I was pretty disappointed that the evening balloon glow was called off due to wind, but we got up extra early for the launch on Sunday morning in the hope that they'd all fly. There were supposed to be about 30. And even though the wind seemed very still on the ground, it was much more blustery up in the air, and most of the balloon owners packed up and went home. Thankfully, a few went ahead and inflated to please the crowd, and a couple of them even launched. The guy who drove (navigated? manned?) the Wicked balloon was staying at our hotel. Haven was so curious about him and kept calling him "The Wicked Balloon Guy." He popped up many times in our conversations often over the next day or so. [Haven: "Hey, so about that Wicked Balloon Guy..."]
We had time to kill before our evening flight out of Denver, so we went to the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science.
As you can see, Storey had a little dance on the way out of the museum. One of my very favorite things about her at this age is that if you start singing Taylor Swift, she will stop whatever she's doing and start dancing. I think that should be a law for all of us or something. When we were hiking, Storey took the lead at one point... at least until Amy started singing (click on photo below for a taste of her enthusiasm.)