You can’t have high highs without some low lows. What started as an auspicious trip kick-off turned into a nightmarish situation Monday afternoon. The dust has settled, though — we’re not out of the woods, but we’re at least back on track.
Waking up in the comfort of a Vail hotel with family, we were able to work as normal and even enjoy some homemade waffles cooked up by Ryan’s cousin, Jason.
Ryan took the opportunity to fly fish during his lunch hour, during which he fell into Gore Creek (no injuries, a mostly comical scene that no one had the fortune to witness).
While I worked, I had my family’s corgi, Chowder, at the back of my mind. My mom had texted the night before saying he was going to the vet after not eating all weekend.
These unrelated hiccups coalesced in an ugly way around mid-afternoon. I was on a meeting when I saw multiple texts between my mom, sister, and brother coming in. Then my brother was calling. I couldn’t attend to any of this until after the meeting, but a lump in my throat was forming. When I got off the call, I got the news that Chowder needed to go to the animal hospital overnight to have exploratory surgery to try to find what was wrong and fix it. The vet was deeply concerned. I was absolutely crushed thinking of Chowder being in any pain, or worse, not making it through the night.
Meanwhile, Ryan had his own issue. After falling in the creek, his phone had stopped working. He had done some research to see if we could bring the phone to Apple in Wyoming or Montana, but there are no Apple Stores in either state — we’d have to go to Denver or Boulder to right the situation. Preoccupied by Chowder, I didn’t mind the detour; I was just glad that we were still close enough to the front range to resolve the problem before heading north.
I quickly contacted my family friend in Boulder, John (who goes by “Captain”), to see if we could stay the night. Cap has come to the rescue countless times before, and this time was no exception. Having secured a place to crash, I scheduled an appointment for Ryan at Apple in Boulder while he drove. It rained throughout the entire drive and we hit traffic at Denver, but we persevered. Ryan lightened the mood with several hilarious comments, including, “Are you crying because of how I sang that Justin Bieber song?” And, “All I remember from math is PIMDAS.” (Me: “you mean PEMDAS?”)
The sky was particularly ominous when we arrived, lightning and rain increasing by the minute. We were right on time and an employee (Salim) was able to see us immediately. Ryan quickly discussed with Salim his different options and they were moving efficiently through the trade-in process when we hit a wall with T-Mobile. His account was blocked for some odd reason, and since he wasn’t an authorized user (one of his parents was), he wasn’t allowed to purchase the phone. Queue an hour of phone calls between Ryan, T-Mobile, and his mom and dad to try to move forward. I downloaded Fruit Ninja in an attempt to distract myself. We left the mall with a brand new but unusable phone and our spirits broken. We had thankfully missed what turned out to be an insane storm, but it was still grim outside.
Captain made it all better. We got to his house by 8:30 and he gave us each an Imperial beer in our respective fragile states. As Ryan fixed some ramen for the both of us, I asked Cap all about his latest adventures to Alaska and the great state of New Jersey, plus he told us about his upcoming trip to British Columbia. It was such a welcome distraction from such a brutal afternoon. The best part of all was he had farm fresh chocolate milk in his fridge, as usual, which cures most woes.
I thought we’d just crash at this point, but as Cap showed us where we’d be staying in the basement, we couldn’t help but get deeper into conversation. He had laid out a bunch of gear for his BC trip — his first kayaking endeavor — so we naturally were discussing packing pros and cons. Then Ryan saw Cap’s work bench and was amazed by some of the tools laid out — in particular, an absolutely miniscule high key. “What’s this used for?” Ryan asked. He was not prepared for the answer.
Cap led us into his man cave, where there are around two dozen amplifiers he’s collected as well as nearly a dozen guitars. An electrical engineer, he takes these amps apart and then rebuilds them, ultimately improving their function through the wiring. He showed us on one of the guitars where he uses the teeny high key, then took us through the history of the different amps — which one he would sell last, the oldest amp (from 1952 I believe) and how it emits sound, the one he acquired from a church. Back at his workbench, Ryan found what looked like a complicated blueprint in a foreign language. “What’s this?” “Oh, that’s just a schematic to one of those amps. I stare at these for quite a while before taking them apart and putting them back together.” Ryan was in absolute disbelief.
I was equally impressed but not surprised. Cap and my dad worked at Bell Labs for AT&T when they were Ryan’s and my age, doing all sorts of early-stage computer coding that goes way over my head. Cap was always rolling up at my dad’s desk to convince him to go on some hair-brained outside expedition, to which Steve would typically agree, as long as Captain provided all the gear and technical expertise. Eventually New Jersey was too unsatisfying to fulfill Cap’s outdoor pursuits, so he moved to Boulder and has been there ever since, a vast majority of the time working for Ball Aerospace.
“How did you get into this stuff?” Ryan inquired. It began with an interest in music in high school, building some equipment. “I didn’t think I had any proclivity to electrical engineering, any natural talent. But I was flunking out of college and thinking, ‘This sucks,’ so I enrolled in an engineering program and just breezed through it. I loved it so much, and it came so easily to me,” Cap explained. I’ll say.
The evening ended with the three of us poring over a map of the US, discussing different points of interest. (I love maps and could stare at them for hours.)
When we finally settled down for sleep, I was exhausted, though I spent the night mostly sleepless, tearful over our dear corgi. I was terrified to check my phone in the morning, but relieved to receive news that Chowder had made it through the surgery and was stable, though still in critical condition. He had a perforated ulcer which was stitched up, and his vitals were being closely monitored.
Determined to start fresh, we started work over coffee supplied by Captain, who gave us some useful Sedona information for the latter half of our trip and showed us pictures. Before we left, Captain also gave Ryan the tour of his camper, which I’ve gotten a couple times. It’s pretty sick. We departed feeling so grateful for Cap’s time and hospitality.
Ryan dropped me off at a coffee shop to work while he resolved the phone situation with just a few small remaining headaches. I was doing OK, distracted by work, but knew I was going to hit a wall. I was having trouble thinking clearly and answering questions, so I asked my manager if I could take the afternoon off — I had gotten so little quality sleep worrying about Chowder and felt ill. I put in a solid 5 hours until we eventually packed up and headed to Fort Collins around 12:30, getting there for lunch at 2:00.
The next hurdle was Ryan’s Apple Watch — it wasn’t syncing with the new phone. I found a repair shop nearby and left Ryan there while I walked. When I returned, he explained that the only way to fix it was to send it into Apple. It would come back in 3-5 days, then we could leave for Wyoming.
I was too tired to be upset. What was there to be upset about, anyway? That’s life for you sometimes. We contemplated what to do for the evening, sorely in need of something to cheer us up. After debating between going to see Barbie, playing putt putt, or climbing, we nixed all 3 and went for a hike.
The hike was exactly what we needed. We were heading along the Poudre River, and there was a light rain coming down. I finally felt like I could think clearly and no longer felt like I had been hit by a bus. We were totally rejuvenated.
We drove further along the Poudre to our campsite, an excellent view point on the way to the CSU Mountain Campus.
When life keeps throwing curve balls at you, I tend to believe things will turn around if you remain calm and take them as they come. But on Tuesday it really felt like no matter how calm and collected we were, life was pegging us with curve balls.
I once texted Ryan, “Logistics are the only thing that are certain in this wild, wild world.” He didn’t respond for hours, and I didn’t think anything of it — he was visiting his cousin in Newport Beach, probably off having fun. Turns out, he read it and it blew his mind. He didn’t respond because he didn’t know how to respond. Remembering this story, I realized there really is only one response to life’s hurdles: logistics. Stay tuned.