Writing Switch: Hobbies include hanging out with family and friends | AspenTimes.com

Writing Switch: Hobbies include hanging out with family and friends

Benjamin Welch and Sean Beckwith

Travel writing seems like the opposite of lost art. So many people fly to places around the globe, gawk at tourist traps and snap photos with the lone purpose of likes that a picture of the Maroon Bells is now the travel equivalent of grainy concert footage.

Reviews and recommendations are helpful to ensure that your vacation runs smoothly. GPS helps avoid wrong turns and “shortcuts.” But what about vacations that go wrong? What would “Family Vacation” be now that Clark Griswald has the tools to review every potential hotel and route? That movie would suck if the Griswalds had a flawless/mundane trip to Wally World.

The best stories result from trying that eatery named “Italian Restaurant” that gave you food poisoning or from temporarily losing your child at Sea World. So this week we have two writeups from vastly different trips — Ben’s shit show in Las Vegas and Sean’s pretty pleasant family golf outing/reunion in Denver — to see which one is more entertaining for readers.


SB: After checking into the Aloft hotel in Broomfield, we rushed over to Masa, a high-end Mexican restaurant a quick stroll from the lobby. The appetizer round began with mini quesadillas, guacamole and ceviche. The quesadillas and guac — featuring thinnish slices of radish and jalapenos — were fine. Ceviche can come a million different ways; this iteration had dark red sauce and was almost soupy, which is probably why saltines accompanied it rather than chips. Again, not bad.

For dinner, I ordered three different tacos — barbacoa, adobada and tilapia — each of which came predressed. As an advocate of the taco condiment bar, that’s not always my favorite route. They were tasty, particularly the fish. However (small Mexican food tangent), I’m fine paying for upscale Mexican food but I’m not sure the right people are making it. White people charging exorbitant prices for under-seasoned tamales is asinine. Start with a taco stand and get the approval of actual Latinos and then you can toss chile arbol aioli on whatever you want for the collared-shirt crowd.


There are certain times when something that is objectively bad exceeds expectations, like when Taco Bell doesn’t give you heartburn. The Par 3 course selected for the family golf outing was not one of those times. You know that course you wish hackers would go to before they back up your weekend round? This was that course.

The combination of dried-out dirt spots and actual grass made the greens a funhouse for putting. Finding a patch of grass to hit off of on the tee box was similarly frustrating. However, moseying around a golf course with family and a couple morning beers is never not fun, so when your teammate runs a ball up the dirt path where rough is supposed to be, it makes up for the three approach shots masquerading as golf holes.

Failed float

This is the part of a travel story where you play the optimist and talk about how you discovered a great pizza place after your first trip to Turquoise Lake got rained out. (Technically, we found a tasty slice but it’s not as fun when you eat it behind the wheel with your shorts sopping up the grease.)

Nah, I’m not going to let Ben win this write off. If you thought I was going to try to find the silver lining in stormy clouds — a phrase that made me cringe writing it — you’re wrong and should probably turn the Travel Channel back on. I packed all my gear simply to unload it back into my closet. The only good to come of it, other than the pizza, was making it back in time to catch “Once upon a Time in Hollywood.”

Friday in Sin City

BW: Four days and four nights is a long time to visit Las Vegas, especially when you’re staying with your freshman dormie who used to blow snot rockets onto the carpet and piss in the sink. 

“Jesus, Trent, you need to get some Comet for that thing,” I said upon first witnessing his lavatory after flying in. 

“What’s that? Oh, like one of those brushes?”

Maybe the accommodations weren’t the greatest, but I knew most casinos kept their facilities in solid condition, so I would make do. I’m not much of a gambler these days, having been weaned off taking out cash advances to hop on the motorcycle and make that midnight run across the Missouri River to Harrah’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa. That afternoon we joined a tournament, I won it, and that night we feasted at the buffet Golden Corral-style before descending on the Strip.

I hated every second of it. For decades, Vegas has pumped billions of advertising dollars into creating the illusion that it’s the playground for the rich, and if you’re not rich, you’re about to become rich — that everyone’s hopped up on drugs and banging each other and having the times of their lives (hmm this is starting to sound familiar). What it’s created is thousands of people who can’t hold their alcohol stumbling through the streets, buying cocaine from the homeless of Vegas outside CVS and accidentally prostitutes (Disclaimer: I declined both of those offers).


We met up with my friend Blaine, who is a professional Michael Phelps impersonator on Fremont Street, in the hipster district, which was actually a few bars and shops in shipping containers placed in a circle. I thought I would be among my people but perhaps I belonged with the inebriated tourists after all. We opted to transfer for a round of BJ. 

“F— you, Ben! You dragged us here!” Blaine yelled after spending $200 in 10 minutes. That was not true; I recall the decision as rather unanimous. 

“What’s his problem?” the dealer asked as Blaine stormed off.

“He doesn’t gamble,” I replied, amused. “He can’t yet internalize the emotional swings of winning and losing money.”

Soon after, Trent sulks back to the nearest Uber bay alone because Blaine and I were “walking too fast.” 

“I see how it is,” he texts. 

“Please leave your door unlocked and don’t throw my crap in the street,” I write back, nervous that I’m about to be homeless in Las Vegas.

Sunday/Monday (they blurred together)

When Trent awakens at 2 p.m., he comes into the living room, where I had been provided one of his bedsheets and a blasting A/C vent turned to 65 all night. 

“Let’s just forget about yesterday,” he said soberly. 

I agreed. On the docket was relaxing at the Tropicana pool and taking in a show of Michael Jackson impersonators. I had even brought my sequined glove that came with the preorder of the Wii dance game. 

Sometime between the first and second events, Trent had forgotten to flush after taking a dump, because that’s definitely not something you have done a hundred thousand times. So that caused some commotion and delay as we aired out the evening’s clothing. “It’s Vegas, everyone’s late,” he assured me.

By the time we made it across town to the Strat and stood in the wrong box office line, the show was over.  

I took a spot at the hold ‘em table while Trent yanked his shirt off and went on a slot walk. 

When I peeked at my phone a couple hands later, I had numerous missed calls and texts. “Hold my seat I have to pee.” “Hey asshole tf are u?” “Get over here now.” “I called 17 times your such a b—- bud.” It’s at this point I realize I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship with my ex-roommate. “We can’t be friends after this. I’m literally over you,” Trent finishes. I don’t respond — not even to point out that’s not proper use of literally — and retrieved my belongings from the room and went back to the game.

I walked out of MGM Grand in the morning surprised the sun was out, so I began the 2-mile trek to A.J. McCarron Airport, passing through the intersection where they killed Tupac. At least he didn’t get stabbed in the back. But the money I won from zombie gamblers overnight while screaming “BISCUITS AND GRAVY” was stuffed in my pocket, and when you party like it’s the end of “Ocean’s 11,” you can’t complain about being tired.

sbeckwith@aspentimes.com bwelch@aspentimes.com