Steamboat Springs, located deep in the Rockies west of Denver and Fort Collins, was Mary’s home for many years. She played music in Steamboat in a band with Joe and Rick, naming their band after their dogs: Leaner, Lunker, and Betsy. Mary left Steamboat for Los Angeles when ‘Torn’ was released to go on to bigger venues, but she always maintained strong friendships there, coming back to visit in subsequent years. Thus, the town readily accepted the return of the old band. She arranged the reunion to coincide with my trip to Fort Collins.
We flew into Denver International Airport in a large commercial jet and then needed to get to a smaller remote terminal. Once there we waited a bit and boarded a much smaller puddle jumper, a de Havilland Bombardier. It had its wings mounted at the top of the fuselage and was specially adapted to fly into the strong Chinook winds, which ferociously blew down the eastern side of the Rockies right at Denver.
We buckled ourselves into our seats. I looked forward to my favorite moment when the plane begins to accelerate when I felt my body pushed back against the seat, like a ride in an amusement park. The plane taxied to takeoff position and began its fast acceleration down the runway. It continued to accelerate, but we were still on the ground. I did not feel the normal acceleration jamming me backward. As the field raced by us and we still did not become airborne, I asked Mary if the plane was going to taxi to Steamboat, or if it might get in the air.
Although this plane is in Australia, it still is the same type Mary and I flew against the Chinooks to fly into Steamboat.By Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0 au, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28830234
Finally, the plane rose above the asphalt, and we headed into the mountains. The ride was extremely bumpy. The seatbelt signs never went off. The Chinooks beat the crap out of our little plane, lurching us to the right, to the left, and then dropping fast enough to make my stomach jump. I held Mary’s hand. Somehow the plane stayed together, and we slowly crept up the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains.
Ed and Mary met us at Steamboat Airport. Mary first met Ed long ago, when he was general manager at the Thunderhead Lodge in Steamboat, at the base of the ski runs.
Ed often hired Mary as part of the Leaner, Lunker, and Betsy to play gigs at the Thunderhead, spending time with Ed’s wife’s during the days, using her washer and dryer, two amenities my Mary didn’t have, their friendship strengthened by mutual housekeeping chores.
Ed made me much at ease as soon as I met him. He was friendly and seemed happy to meet me. Fascinating to talk to, he was engaging and attentive. The two of them were very gracious. We stayed at their place, and I was given the use of their car to drive the 160 miles to get to Fort Collins. Mary stayed in Steamboat to meet up with friends and to arrange the bands’ reunion.
Courses lasted Wednesday, Thursday, and Frida
After my course I returned, driving west into the Rockies towards Steamboat three hours away, arriving in time for the later half of the Leaner, Lunker, and Betsy reunion. Although it was a small venue, taking place in The Olde Towne Pub, the pub was jam-packed both nights.
During the day Mary and I were guests of Ed and Mary, who introduced me to the majesty of the fall landscape surrounding Steamboat Springs.
When viewed from afar, the mountains appear carpeted in a mixture of yellows and greens. Periodically these foliage-covered hills were crowned with jutting rock towers perched on the top of tall barren peaks. As we left the car to hike a local trail, I saw the green color was from conifers. The yellows were predominately aspen. Underneath the aging yellow canopy, the white bark of the aspen trees lit up the darker understory, punctuated by the brilliant red color of the fruit of the shorter serviceberry bushes. A creek was rushing downward along our trail forming white foamy caps as it descended among granite rocks. The scenes were breathtaking in their colorfulness and grandeur.
Audiobook coming soon