Princess: A non-Aspen Fourth of July
The Aspen Princess
You know you’re getting old when the thing that makes you happy is a tiny, little, remote barbecue joint.
I’m talking about Slow Groovin’ BBQ in Marble and how that’s become our new Fourth of July tradition: watching the parade in Redstone and then heading up the road to Marble for some Wagyu beef brisket and this amazing little drink that has vodka, lemonade and Stella Artois and is served in a bell jar with a lemon wedge.
I like the maple chicken sandwich — smoked pulled chicken marinated in a maple Dijon mustard glaze and served on a soft brioche bun with melted Swiss cheese and hand-cut fries. But anyone who is a true barbecue fan would not appreciate that. They’d probably be more impressed with Ryan’s choice, the Man Eater, which has a bunch of meat piled high with an onion ring — the kind of sandwich you burp for days.
It’s occurred to me that I could probably live in Alaska, because I love small towns and cooler weather. I love this rain. I’ve been hiking every day in a tank top and yoga capris with my arms spread wide and this huge smile on my face. I almost bent down to lick the beautiful little dew drops off a leaf and then remembered that time I got poison oak peeing in the woods during a run outside Boulder and thought better of it. I used to be all about the sun, and I still am, but if it’s over 80 degrees, I’m miserable, and so is my pug. I keep telling Ryan I need to live at a higher elevation, like Silverton or maybe not Leadville but Telluride.
Anyway, we pointed ourselves in an entirely different direction on the Fourth of July because Aspen is just too crazy, and truth be told, once you are outside the pearly gates, it’s just too hard to get back in.
The Crystal River Valley is a magical place, tucked behind Mount Sopris like it’s backstage, a labyrinth of rivers and canyons where all the people who are behind the scenes hang out with the stars. I love how all the valleys have a totally different feel from one another, somehow related but with their own distinct character, like siblings. The Roaring Fork is the oldest and the biggest, with his broad shoulders and big river, the tall peaks that give way to red-walled desert canyons. The Fryingpan is the stunning redheaded sister who is tall and thin and can’t really be trusted, what with her steep embankments and cliff walls and windy narrow passageways. The Crystal would be the youngest sister, a little more wholesome and sweet but still unapproachably beautiful and with some unexpected twists and turns, not to mention a few hot springs.
Ryan and I used to fantasize about buying this one house on the boulevard in Redstone that seemed to have our names written all over it. Ryan said he would sculpt furniture out of metal with a blowtorch and talk about his art with one of those fake rich-people accents and sell it on the weekends in the summer right out of our front yard. I’m kind of glad we didn’t do that, considering I feel like Seven Castles is remote enough, but it’s still a great fantasy.
The Redstone parade is a true small-town affair, even if it is mostly composed of families from Carbondale whose kids decorate their bikes and little mini cars and are allowed to be a part of it. It’s actually a little shocking Carbondale doesn’t have its own parade since its residents are the most proudest ever of their town. You would think they would eat that up. I guess they’d rather celebrate dandelions instead. Good for them.
Anyhoo, it’s a cute little parade and very quaint, short enough not to be boring and long enough to count. Mostly it’s just kids chasing the candy that’s thrown from the floats and collecting it in baggies and baskets and whatever they can find. It’s just a nice place to be, by the river, in a narrow valley that makes you feel tucked into a cozy, warm place.
Then we headed up the road to Marble for lunch. Despite warnings that it would be the busiest day of the year, we were still able to snag a seat at Slow Groovin BBQ without having to wait. The waitresses are all cheerful and friendly and cute. They don’t have that “This is our town” attitude you sometimes find in remote mountain towns and seemed happy to see us. The service is great and the food is even better. I’m still thinking about that coconut cream pie we didn’t get because I so often have not-buyer’s remorse instead of buyer’s remorse, like, “I should have gotten that!”
“Honey, but it’s your favorite,” I said to Ryan, thinking that might justify this one small indulgence after a lunch that probably had 10 times the calories I’m used to eating.
“How many times do I have to tell you I like banana cream pie?” he said.
It’s true I keep mixing up the kind of pies he likes with the kind of pies I like; funny how that works.
After lunch, we went paddleboarding on Beaver Lake on our brand-new stand-up paddleboard from our favorite local freeride company, High Society. (Thanks, Jason and Reggie, and here is that shameless plug for honoring our warranty: You guys rock.) Gertie has her own life jacket, and we’re quite the sight on our paddleboard, with her on the nose like a hood ornament. If you want attention, put a pug in an orange life preserver and then paddle around a lake. People go nuts for it.
You know you’re a long way from Aspen when you can find such cheap thrills. Speaking of which, I hope the rain never ends.
The Princess is losing her mind a little bit. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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