A vacation from holidays | AspenTimes.com

A vacation from holidays

Alison Berkley

When you live in the mountains, holidays are nothing to celebrate.That’s especially true in the summer, when every yahoo east of Avon cleans out all the gear in the garage and straps it to the roof or crams it into the back of the SUV and hits the road for a tour of Colorado’s illustrious mountain towns. It seems that July is the summer equivalent to Christmas/New Year’s, except with more traffic. My favorite is when it comes to a standstill from East Main Street to Buttermilk. The private jets that roar overhead every 30 seconds are a great reminder that millionaires really are above you and don’t have to sit sweating in their cars. What I don’t get is why all the radio stations have to play all their ads at the exact same time. Couldn’t they get together and like, figure out a way to time it a little better? The other thing I’m curious about is if the parking Nazis multiply in summer, like when you tweeze a hair and then two grow in. I mean, they are so on it. You can’t leave your car for even one minute after the meter has expired. Don’t even get me started on how many $40 lattes I’ve had this month. Heaven forbid I should run into someone at Zele and have a conversation that lasts more than 20 minutes!In an effort to escape the crowds, I bailed out of town and headed to my parents’ place in Steamboat over the Fourth of July weekend thinking, “Who in their right mind would want to go to Steamboat?” But the situation wasn’t much different there. Traffic jammed every major thoroughfare, including the Yampa River. Drunk people floated by at a snail’s pace in old inner tubes, metal canoes, and blow-up rafts from Wal-Mart, hooting and hollering as they crept by. Cops hid behind every corner ready to pounce on anyone who went more than one mile above the tricycle speed limit. Even the Doggy Police were out, swinging out of the trees on vines Tarzan-style to nab anyone whose pooch was not sufficiently in bondage. So while everyone else was packing their coolers with 200 pounds of cheap beer for the Fourth of July parade, my parents and I were greasing our chains and inflating our tires, filling our CamelBacks and cramming Powerbars into our pockets. Our mission: to get as far from the crowds as possible on our mountain bikes.We chose a trail that was almost an hour drive away, toward Clark. We took every alternative route possible and weaved our way through Steamboat’s busy downtown streets. We headed east out of town toward Hahn’s Peak, the pyramid-shaped mountain that stands out among the round, low foothills of the Western Slope. When we finally arrived at the trailhead and got on our bikes, we were awarded a gentle climb up a smooth dirt road through Aspen groves and pine forests with views of vast remote wilderness – and not another person in sight. After about an hour of climbing, we picked up one of the best single-track rides I’ve seen anywhere in the state (No, I’m not going to tell you where it is). It was smooth dirt with the occasional surprise, the kind of trail where you can really find your rhythm so you’re not as likely to stop or hesitate at the sight of the first threatening obstacle. In this instance, it was a river crossing I never would have considered had I not been having so much fun. I let go of the breaks and kept the speed I needed to sail through it, at the same time acquiring the coveted mud splatter on my calves and shins that proved I had done it.It’s amazing how a little ego-boost can make your ride, and I was invincible after that. Steep climbs with roots? No problem. I hauled right up those things. Loose sandy descents with tight switchbacks? I just threw on the back break, stuck out a foot and skidded around it like a pro (wondering all the while where in hell I learned how to do that). And last but not least, I champed the last section of the trail, a steep, rocky descent right into the parking lot with my parents watching me. (Even at 35, there is still some gratification in the old, “Mom! Dad! Watch!”)Instead of red, white and blue, I saw pastures of tall green grass filled with bright yellow flowers, clay-red dirt, gray rock, and mint-colored sage. I saw purple lupine so vivid it looked fake, and I marveled at the dainty light-blue and white columbine, with those miraculous, delicate tendrils sailing behind the petals like a true work of art. Instead of cheap beer I drank Cytomax. I filled my tummy with whatever sustenance would fit in my pocket instead of gorging on hot dogs and pie.It wasn’t until we pulled up to the long line of cars at the Starbuck’s drive-through for our post-ride iced drinks on the way back to my parents’ house in Steamboat that I remembered why we decided to escape in the first place. My dad kept trying to order while my mom and I screamed in the background.”No! Tell him we want soy!” we demanded. “Blended! Not on ice!” You would have thought we were giving him instructions to revive a dead person, not fix us a coffee drink.When we pulled up to the window, the expression on the face of the poor local who had to work on a holiday said it all: Stupid tourists, he must have been thinking, get out of my town.The Princess’ condo is very hot in the afternoons, which makes her a little more irritable than usual. Anyone who wants to donate a swimming pool/central air-conditioning system/water fountain can e-mail the Princess at alison@berkleymedia.com