6:15am, Thursday morning, normal routine. Amanda gets up, showers, and does whatever else takes 45 minutes before coming to wake me up. “Honey, it’s 7.” It’s a standard wake-up-call from her, and an anything but standard response from me. “Come here for one second”, I say. “You know how you’re always telling me that I can never surprise you? Well, today that’s all about to change.” I get a long, drawn out, “…Okay…” in response, with extra emphasis on the “a” sound. I continue, “We’re on vacation, actually have been as of last night, and you have exactly 2 hours to pack and get ready until we need to leave the apartment.” The response? A simple, but totally genuine, “Huh?”. A few moments to sink in, and then she immediately says, “Well what do I need to pack?” “Everything”, I tell her. She asks “Plane or Car?” I respond with a quick, “Can’t Say”. “Warm or Cold?” “Can’t Say. Okay?” “Okay.” I tell her “I’ll go get the suitcases down, and you start packing, and now you’re under two hours!”
So that’s how the day started. I really didn’t sleep the night before at all, watching the digitized analog clock on my charging cell phone tick away from about 3am on.
Moments later I hear a loud, “What about the pets?” “Already handled, dog to your parents, cat stays here with a trough full of food.” “So they know what’s going on?” “No more questions until we arrive, okay?” “Okay!”
Amanda absolutely loves surprises, but also loves asking enough questions about things to ensure that nothing is ever a surprise. I think it’s one of those conundrums that makes absolutely no sense to anyone in the world but her, where it is of course completely logical. This time, however, I will not be accused of being bad at surprises. The old saying “Loose lips sink ships” is one that I kept in the back of my mind for the past 4 months, and aside from the man who I bought the diamond from, the woman who I bought the ring from, and her father, whom I asked for her hand, this was a secret that was all mine.
Packed, confused, curious, and very quiet, we loaded the car with suitcases (I’ll pluralize “suitcases” and just leave it at that) filled with everything from swimsuits to winter coats. We drove to her parents’ house to drop the dog off, stopped for breakfast, and sat in virtual silence while everything was working through her brain. Amanda still couldn’t process how her 11 am meeting had been canceled, and everything else that she had planned on doing that week/weekend had been rearranged without her knowing about it. I was starting to realize that surprises could in fact be fun, especially for me!
Stomachs’ full, driving on the interstate, we get to the junction of I-70. If we take I-70 west it means Colorado mountains, and if we go east it means we’re heading towards the airport. After I could no longer (safely) wait to make my turn, I quickly steer the car west. Now her brain is really narrowing down. “Where are we going?” might just as well have been written on her forehead.
After passing the Summit County mountain resorts of Keystone, Breckenridge, and Vail, we pull off in Beaver Creek, one of our favorite spots for R&R. Gas, Red Bull, and more driving…no Beaver Creek this time. More silence. More confusion. We are now further west than Amanda has ever been (within Colorado boarders) and her brain is cranking on all 12 cylinders. Turning away from Aspen, the resort towns are now essentially out of the picture, and now I’m feeling more of a “huh?” coming from the passenger’s seat than anything else. She’s thinking every exit could be ours, and it really was a cool experience. If you’ve never taken a surprise road trip, I highly recommend it.
90 minutes later, or 4.5 hours into the drive, we exit the tiny county road that we are on, and come to some really pretty Colorado wine country near the quaint little town of Paonia, CO. Google Paonia, and the map that comes up is actually quite cute; very simple. Finally, she says, “How cool, wine tours, I thought we may be doing this”. If she really thought that or not I will let you decide for yourself. But no, we have another 30 minutes to go outside of Paonia.
From here, the directions that I was sent from our final destination, read like this…and I quote: “You are now driving along a road flanked with cherry and peach orchards… Go 1.2 miles across some railroad tracks, and .5 miles further turn left… Continue on this road as it meanders through the lush farmland into an arid sagebrush ecosystem and back into farm and ranch land. As the road begins to curve right (by the bright blue house)… turn left. This road winds through some sagebrush dobbies (a new word for me, referring to the pattern of sagebrush that I’m apparently supposed to look for)…and after a ‘dangerous intersection’ sign, the road becomes dirt again for the rest of the way.”
Well the directions go on like this for a bit, and about 15 minutes later, after Amanda is convinced I am going to hide her body somewhere that she’ll never be found, we arrive at our destination. Just like that, voilà. The journey is just beginning…