We woke up pretty early, although this would have been our day to sleep in, so we had breakfast around 7 and checked out of our motel early, after the usual cereal breakfast with terrible coffee, to drive down the Big Thompson Canyon to Loveland. Again, we were on the lookout for signs of change caused by last September’s floods, and we were amazed at both how much change there was to the river banks and a number of homes that had been washed away, or even more dramatically, torn in half, and at how fast the repairs to the roads have gone. There were a number of completely new stretches of road all along the way, and several very dramatic-looking washouts; even a park that was probably designed as emergency flood plain was basically completely filled with mud and dirt. We stopped several times to look, but still arrived in Loveland very early, at 9 am or so. We drove past the house where Mark’s maternal grandmother and grandfather used to live, and he told me all about how, when his family used to stop by here on their summer camping trips, grandma’s house was the only house in the whole area (very close to the lake in the middle of Loveland). It is now completely built up, as is the rest of Loveland — we didn’t realize until we looked it up that it had just a little less than 9,000 people living in it in 1960, while 70,000 live there now! That is pretty enormous growth, and accounts for Mark barely recognizing Loveland today. The downtown area, however, is the classic rundown 1950s Main Street (complete with many closed stores and the usual run of antique stores that do not make money, and the requisite coffee house, where we had coffee, tea, and a scone). After we had strolled there for a while, we drove to the park at the west end of the lake, and also walked around there for a little. The park is public, of course, but the lake is private, so there is only the tiniest area for swimmers, and the rest is off limits.
At 11:30, we took off to meet Jacquie and Ginny (my former mother-in-law) at the care facility where Ginny now lives in assisted care for memory-impaired seniors. She was happy and surprised to see Mark and me, but I am not quite sure she knew who we were, although she knew who her daughter Jacquie and her dog Rusty were. We drove to a nearby state park and met up with Alan, her son who lives in Fort Collins, and who brought everyone–his wife Sue and his two sons Tony and Lee–so we could all have a picnic together. It was great fun, and Ginny had a good time–I think it helps that no one was trying to argue with her or correct her when she was a little confused. The conversation stayed very light, and that accounted for her good mood.
After lunch, we got directions to Alan’s house up a canyon from Fort Collins, and drove the hour or so to get there after we had picked up some groceries. They had never gotten a Christmas gift from me, so I picked up ingredients to cook for them that night. When we got there, though, we went for a walk first–just for about 45 minutes, but it was a nice change from a mostly sit-down day. They live in a house up the side of a mountain that had a major forest fire 2 years ago, and we got to see where in the surrounding area some of the trees and homes burned down. They were very lucky–the fire came close enough to burn one of their cars and scorch another, but the house remained unharmed. We looked at another property where a cabin had burned down, so it was pretty spooky although the vegetation is coming back, especially this year with the extra rain.
When we got back around 5 pm, I started to cook chicken biryani, while Mark showed his Madagascar photos on their big TV screen and Tony played guitar (his favorite musician also happens to be one of mine, Eric Clapton, so I have rarely enjoyed a 14-year-old’s musical performances more!). Mark and Alan also played chess, we admired a rainbow after a big downpour, and finally all six of us had dinner–I was very proud of the result; the biryani, the green salad with mango and red onions, and the lemon curd ice cream with strawberries all came out really well! Tony and I cleared the dishes, and then Alan and Tony treated us to some more music with two guitars, while I actually worked (a bit fanatically) on a puzzle that was sitting around partly done. The finale was a guitar and trumpet version of “Moondance” by Van Morrison, which was both fun and appropriate, since we had one of those not-so-rare “supermoons” yesterday. We stayed up until almost 11:30, but went to bed good and tired!