Traveling with small children is like Napoleon invading Russia. You bring a ton of stuff, you’re constantly on the move, always repacking, and you never bring enough of the right things. This is especially true when you’re traveling in mountain country where summer weather can go from sunny and hot, to raining, cold or even snowing.
One 4th of July weekend three years ago, my husband Paul, our two children Nathan, who was four then, and Lucie, who was 15 months, and I took a trip to two of Colorado’s mountain hot springs resorts. Since it was a holiday weekend, it was impossible to get two nights at a resort. Even with the extra hassle of having to change hotels after one night, I was looking forward to relaxing in the soaking pools and not having to cook.
We had an easy drive. The kids slept most of the way and didn’t get antsy until we stopped for lunch in Buena Vista. The public restrooms were small with only one toilet and no changing tables. This resulted in long lines, which my family only made worse since Nathan took a long time and had to visit the toilet twice.
People didn’t seem to mind waiting since a feature of mountain towns is lousy service. It’s slow and provided by mountain folk who are brain dead from the lack of oxygen at nearly two miles above sea level. After a trying lunch where the food was good, but the kids impatient with the wait, we finally made it up to the first hot springs resort.
A Night at the Drive In
After an unusually quick dinner that night, we took the kids to an old-fashioned drive in. Lucie started whining from her car seat immediately after Nathan and his dad left to get some snacks. I took her up front with me, figuring the mountain air and a bottle of milk would quickly put her to sleep. Instead, she went into hyper-overdrive. She wiggled around on my lap, honked the horn, and tried climbing out of the window. Exasperated, I put her back in her car seat. When she protested, I gave Lucie her baby doll, covered her with a blanket and commanded, "Go night-night NOW!" She finally gave up and went to sleep after a brief cry.
Nathan stayed awake for most of the movie with the help of a cup of lemonade and handfuls of malt balls. But between the day’s long drive, soaking in the hot springs, and trying to see the movie out of our not-so-clean windshield, I was tired, had a headache, was happy to drive back to our motel after the movie was over.
A Hot, Sleepless Night
However, when we got there, I immediately changed my mind when I spotted a large cat eating an even larger rat in the hallway. After waiting for my husband to retrieve the room key from the car, we got our completely awake kids into the hot and stuffy room. Very few mountain motels feature air conditioning. The thinking behind this is that since it drops down to 40 degrees at night, the rooms must cool down, too. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen until 4 a.m. even with open windows, and floor and ceiling fans.
To make it even worse, Lucie refused to sleep in her playard, and screamed when I put her in it. At home, I’d let her cry, and she would eventually fall asleep. However, I didn’t want to wake our neighbors, so I got into one of the beds with her. Paul slept in the other with Nathan. Lucie awoke every hour fussing and crying in the warm room, and we barely slept that night.
The next morning, we went into town and ate breakfast while watching a steady stream of people use the restrooms, including Nathan – twice. We drove back to the resort, and Paul and Nathan left to go fishing. Unfortunately, they forgot to take the camera and didn’t get a picture of the rainbow trout that Nathan caught. While they were gone, I packed and tried unsuccessfully to get Lucie to nap. She was more interested in climbing on the bed and hanging from the wall lamps.
Our Next Destination
I was glad to leave for the next resort, as it was more family-oriented. The rooms were nicer, and the view of the nearby 14-ers (mountains over 14,000 feet) was amazing. I just wished I could have sat there, sipped a glass of wine, and enjoyed it. However by that point, all I wanted was a nap, and Paul took the kids for a walk while I slept until dinnertime.
We made our way to this resort’s restaurant. Paul entertained Lucie between bites of food and reminding the ditsy waitress about his drink order. Nathan polished off a plateful of spaghetti. I quickly scarfed down my chicken so Nathan could put his head in my lap and rest after his meal.
Hey Baby, It's the Fourth of July
Paul and I were excited to take the kids to see the fireworks that night. However, by the time we got there both kids were out. I tried to wake Nathan, gave up, and joined Paul on the top of the embankment next to where we parked. We watched the fireworks and talked while the kids slept. It was the only time alone we had all weekend.
We drove back to the resort, and put Nathan to bed. However, Lucie was wide-awake and refusing once more to sleep in the playard. Again, I slept with her, and Paul with Nathan. Even with no air conditioning, we all managed to get some sleep that night because we were beat.
On the Road Again
The next morning, after soaking in the hot springs, we packed up and left for home. Stuck in heavy traffic, we stopped in Georgetown where the kids had the most fun of the entire trip.
We dined at a creek side tavern, mostly filled with tourists, bikers and mountain people. It was loud and Lucie was able to play in her roomy high chair and sing and yell to her heart’s content. Nathan quietly watched two women play pool, made their acquaintance, and learned how to rack pool balls. Tired, Paul and I ate our meal in silence and watched the children enjoy themselves. We got back on the road and arrived home at 9 p.m. Glad to be back, the kids didn’t fuss when we put them into bed.
It’s wonderful to spend time together as a family on the 4th of July. The country may be celebrating its freedom, but even in the Colorado’s mountains we can’t escape the needs of two small children and the fallout from a weekend trip. Between the fatigue, dirty laundry, and upset sleep schedules, we all needed a few days to recover from our vacation. Can’t wait to do it all again on Labor Day.
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