Wide-Open Spaces

Travels with Smartacus. Part two

I’m standing in a hotel hallway, swiping the key card, and having no luck whatsoever, as with slot machines, or any other type of investment. I swipe, a red light blinks. I swipe again. Nothing. I swipe-swipe-swipe … gratefully, I’m in.

It’s the world we live in: Nothing works the first time. Every day, there’s some new digital challenge to solve, including those Q-card menus you now have to read with the phone, another glory of modern life.

I am not yet the kind of old grump who gives a wait staff a hard time about hassles like this. But wait ten years.

For now, we have followed the Oregon Trail east, and now find ourselves in this fancy-schmantzy hotel in Ft. Collins – The Elizabeth — a respite from the cruddy digs we’d stayed in the first two nights, the ones with the paper walls and the crying baby in the next room, a grunty Romeo and Juliet on the other side. The crash and burn of life. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a diaper smell you can’t get out of the sofa no matter what.

My baby is suddenly 17, and part of this little road trip is some college visits, which brings us to Ft. Collins, Colorado, where the papers say they just found a squirrel with the bubonic plague. My timing has always been kind of exquisite.

With my luck, the squirrel is staying in the next room. Still, it would be a step up from the Days Inn, where the ventilation fans are made by Boeing, and the other clientele all rise at 4 a.m. and shower simultaneously, then slam their doors all at once.

Ka-boom! Good morning! Welcome to the Great Plains, land of the ICBM.

Best Westerns. Grand Tetons. Great Plains. They never undersell anything out here.

Gotta say, Wyoming was really interesting. The gasoline had ethanol in it, and so did much of the food. That’s in no way a criticism. It’s just the way things are in Wyoming, and a little ethanol in your potatoes never hurt nobody.

Leave it said that we are now loving Colorado, plague and all, especially Ft. Collins, a true college town, with faded old-timey murals on the brick buildings, flowers overflowing their boxes. It’s what summer in the Rockies looks like, and we are a little smitten.

Honestly, is there any place better than a college town? There’s a bearded Bolshevik in the next booth, the campus itself is immaculate, and the surrounding neighborhoods have a thrift store vibe. College towns seem locked in the ’70s (as do I).

Smartacus is ready to pick out a dorm room, seriously. I’m not quite ready to let go, and he has yet to apply, so the dorm room may be a little premature. I am happy, though, that he found a college that makes his heart skip a beat.

Speaking of hearts, another point of our tour is for me to meet up with old high school girl chums and ask: What made me so irresistible in high school, and how do I get that back?

Generally, they laugh when I ask this, then remind me that I was far from irresistible in high school. At best, I was mildly entertaining, and mostly scared out of my wits. Come to think about it, not much has changed, except for the entertaining part. Now I’m just a spectacle, as Smartacus will attest.

Road trip II: Wyoming was really interesting. The gasoline had ethanol in it, and so did much of the food. #ChrisErskineLA #roadtrips #summer

He had to sit through a long boozy dinner with me and Becky Green Eyes, and listen to how I used to drop her off at her college, on the way to mine. I didn’t even charge her gas money. Once in a while, we’d make out in the front seat a little, that was it.

“She was all hands,” I said.

“Oh, shut up,” said Becky Green Eyes.

“Waiter!” I yelled.

Poor Smartacus.

But generally, I think this trip has been a positive experience for the young lad. We are seeing these wide-open spaces of the American West, appreciating the majesty of the landscape, “a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture,” to borrow from Bertrand Russell.

Yep, we still love the adventure of it all, living out of suitcases, and not knowing where we’re going to eat the rest of the day. Or even what town we’ll rest our weary heads.

We’re just two cowpokes, riding the range, blissful in Ft. Collins, a place we like a lot.

Ride along on our three-week road trip, with posts Wednesdays and Saturdays. Next stop: Mt. Rushmore.

17 thoughts on “Wide-Open Spaces

  1. It’s a great school, in a fabulous area of America. It’d be hard to do better.
    CSU ‘71 (I was on the 5 year plan – wish I took 10).

  2. Hey travelers, I hope you get to see the Crazy Horse Memorial just around the corner from Mt. Rushmore. The entire Mt. Rushmore carving would fit on the side of Crazy Horse’s head. It is fabulous. South Dakota is a delightful state to visit. Real people live there, not like the denizens that infest California.

  3. My late husband and I did a road trip which, so far, was very close to where you’ve been traveling! Thanks for sharing this memorable trip! Drop down to Boulder and Smartacus might be even more smitten by CU! Go Buffs!!!( my Alma Mater!)

  4. On Mt. Rushmore trip make sure to visit Bear Country and the Reptile Gardens. dgm

  5. Love “going along” with you on this trip. Interesting fact on the wide open spaces: Do you know how much of the US is actually inhabited? Less than 15%! Happy Traveling!

  6. Agreed! Nothing like a quaint old college town. When we dropped our daughter off at UC Davis I didn’t want to leave. Davis is stuck in the 40’s! I hear Princeton is nice

  7. This trip sounds fabulous. So enjoy hearing of your adventures. Hope the playlist is working out! Stay safe and keep on truckin!

  8. Susan and I are living vicariously through this trip. Are you going to stop in Madison? No college tour can be considered complete until you’ve seen Camp Randall Stadium and had a beer on the terrace of the Union looking over Lake Mendota

  9. I’m not sure what I’m enjoying more – your road trip itinerary itself or the charming, laconic way in which you describe your days on the road and ponder deep thoughts!

  10. I would LOVE to see your road-trip playlist. When my youngest daughter and I took her car demo SMY (Dallas) to University of Denver we each compiled a playlist of our ‘road trip favorites’. Surprisingly we had a few duplicates 🙂

    1. Your comment is awaiting moderation. CORRECTIONS:

      I would LOVE to see your road-trip playlist. When my youngest daughter and I took her car from SMU (Dallas) to University of Denver we each compiled a playlist of our ‘road trip favorites’. Surprisingly we had a few duplicates 🙂

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