28th February saw us up at 6am excitedly heading off to the Airport for our flight to Denver. (Thanks Neil for the Dinghy taxi). We flew via Miami and arrived in Denver to be met by the smiling faces of Aid (Squander) and his brother Andy who had very kindly driven over to pick us up. It was quite a change to see snow again and it was so soft and powdery…. It took us a couple of hours to get to Breckenridge which is located in the Colorado Rockies and is to be our home for the next 5 weeks and, yes, we were exhausted.
A good night’s sleep was followed by an early morning shop to get the necessary Skis, Boots, Helmets, Goggles, Ski Pass etc plus of course a visit to the local Supermarket – Wow, what a change from the Caribbean Food Shops. You can get just about anything and, with the luxury of a Freezer, we certainly stocked up with Ice Cream – just because we could !!
That evening Aid (plus his friends) had been invited to the Chalet of a friend of his and Jan’s who they had met earlier in the season (they have been in Colorado since October). Gerry is a retired US Air Pilot and he and his wife have a beautiful home which they designed themselves. The term ‘Chalet’ is very loosely used over here as we could fit our chalet into his property about 20 times over !!
Friday saw us finally out on the slopes and Roger on skis for the first time ever.
We left him on the Nursery Slopes with his Private Instructor (Aid) whilst Vicki joined Jan, Andy and his wife Teresa (who also happens to be Jan’s sister) on the easy green runs. Luckily, Vicki seemed to remember most of her previous basic skiing techniques from 16 years ago but, with Aid’s help, is hoping to improve dramatically…
At the end of the day, we returned to Tiger Run for a planned Swim and Hot Tub. However, this was not to be as it seemed like a good idea to celebrate our first day of skiing with a quick drink with Aid, Jan, Andy & Teresa… The quick drink turned into a few drinks and then a few more…Luckily, Jan had cunningly prepared a meal earlier in the day which was easily split between 6. So, we ended up missing our swim but at least we all enjoyed the Ice Cream!
The next day we visited the neighbouring Town of Frisco to see some Dog Sledding. To be honest, when we saw it advertised, we thought that we would get a ride for US$5 but when we got there we realised that the rides were for Children only!! Never mind, instead we visited the local Brewery and tasted their various brews – all 7 of them ! Then, being Brits and it being a Saturday, we headed for the nearest Indian Restaurant for a Curry – not bad except there were no poppadums and the Naan Bread was Deep Fried – different…
Andy had us in stitches laughing at his impression of the "Churchill Insurance Company Bulldog" and the expression "Oh Yes" quickly became the Holiday Catchphrase...
Back to skiing on Sunday and Monday in Breckenridge followed by a meal at “Eric’s Bar” on Monday night.
A great place where the Beer and food are both reasonable and tasty.
On Wednesday 4th we skied at Keystone for the first time. We have both progressed well thanks to Aid (and Jan)’s heavy supervision and extreme patience and we’re feeling much more confident. We managed to ski a 4 mile run 4 times and returned home to a lovely BBQ cooked by Roger.
The weather has been so warm that we all sat outside for our aperitifs although we did leave Roger and Andy outside by about 6pm and the rest of us hid inside in the warmth.
Andy and Teresa were flying back to the UK on Friday so we decided to spend Thursday at Keystone again. Sue came with us but, sadly, she met with a nasty accident and hit a brick wall on her second run. She was taken off in an Ambulance with Roger accompanying her (as Brian was skiing in another resort) and we heard a couple of hours later that she had managed to break 9 ribs, her collarbone and suffered a partially collapsed lung. Roger spent the rest of the day in the Hospital so missed out on some fabulous skiing especially as the weather was so warm and sunny.
Poor Sue is being kept in Hospital for at least 5 days. Thank goodness she has ski insurance as the bills are certainly mounting up but at least she is receiving excellent treatment and being really well looked after. Hope you feel better soon, Sue.
People say that the “Apres-Ski” makes a skiing holiday even more than the Pistes and we have certainly been enjoying both to the full. Saturday 7th saw Aid, Jan and us partaking of the “Gold Bar” Happy Hour followed by a Live Band who were pretty good.
We eventually caught the 11pm bus home – far too late for us “liveaboard yachties” who are used to Legitimate Bed Time (LBT) being 9pm….
Having enjoyed a few more days of skiing in the Sunshine, we packed up our bags on 12th February and left Breckenridge to spend Valentine’s weekend in luxury in Las Vegas.
We stayed at The Mandalay Bay Hotel (thank you Troy & Winnie for the recommendation) which had the most comfortable Bed we have ever slept in. Vicki spent ages rummaging around prodding and poking to work out what type of mattress she now wants on El Vagabond…
Vegas is the sort of place that everyone should visit once and probably only once !! We have never seen so many slot machines in our lives….. There were hundreds of them in each Hotel and even with the present “Credit Crunch” there were still thousands of people filling them with coins in addition to betting at the actual gaming tables.
We are not Gamblers but did have a little flutter on a few of the 25c “BlackJack” machines (the only ones we understood).
We managed to stay ahead until our last evening when we lost $4 in our excitement of finally realising that the drinks were free (yes, free) if you were gambling on the machines…. Why hadn’t we known that 3 nights earlier ??
While we were there, we saw “The Rat Pack is Back” in downtown Las Vegas which was a great show and which we couldn’t possible miss bearing in mind it starred Dean Martin (well, a very good imitation).
It was brilliant and we even had a Booth all to ourselves which made our evening seem even more special. This was followed by a meal of Shepherds Pie in a local Irish Pub !! Being yachties, we had worked out very quickly that you can buy Show Tickets and Meal Tickets at half price if you go to the right Agencies early in the Morning !!! Downtown was also about a quarter of the price of Restaurants on ‘The Strip’
We also saw the “Tournament of Kings” Show which was based at the Excalibar Hotel. This involved the audience shouting encouragement to their “King” during various demonstrations of strength and agility including Jousting, Sword fighting etc. It also meant eating Dinner in the traditional Medieval way (ie no cutlery) which added to the fun of the evening… Yes, Roger did manage to get gravy all down his shirt…
The biggest treat however was on Valentine’s Day when we went on a Helicopter Trip over Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas Strip.
Neither of us have ever been in a Helicopter before and it was an amazing experience.
Being non Lardy-Assed yanks, we were the smallest couple in the Helicopter which meant that we were sitting in the front with the pilot – what a fantastic view. The Photos just don’t do the Grand Canyon justice but believe us when we say it was a wonderful couple of hours.
Who said “Romance is dead?”
Roger treated us to a very Romantic St.Valentine's Dinner of shared Chilli, Cheese Chips in a New York style Deli followed by a bottle of wine and ice cream in the Bath once we had got back to the Hotel…
The weekend flew by far too quickly and we didn’t manage to see all the sights on Offer but we gave it a fair try and we returned to our cosy Chalet in Breckenridge for a rest on Sunday !!
Back to Breckenridge
More skiing ensued over the next few days to get our practice in before Alan (Thoy) and John (Dalby) arrived to join in the fun on the 18th for 8 days. Aid has now banned us from the easy Green Runs and is pushing us down Blue and Blue/easy Black Pistes.
We are still improving daily and laughing more as each day progresses. We even had a full collision with each other when we were concentrating too hard on where we were trying to go….. luckily, no damage !!
Alan and John are both experienced Skiers and we were very grateful to have had such fantastic tuition over the past couple of weeks to enable us to be at least able to ski on the same slopes as them even if they are a lot faster and far more stylish ! We spent their first evening with Aid & Jan back at the ‘Gold Pan Bar’ in Breckenridge followed by traditional Ski Grub of Stew and Mash back at the Chalet…
We had warned the Guys that their accomodation was "unusual" but we don't think they were quite prepared for the "dwarf quarters" they encountered.
Luckily, they are pretty adaptable so coped admirably with crawling around on their knees !!!
Friday saw Aid, Roger, Alan & John off skiing at Arapahoe Basin whilst Vicki & Jan took a well earned break. Actually, Vicki was being a bit of a wimp as she was complaining about a sore neck having bounced a bit awkwardly the day before.
Whilst the boys were attacking Moguls and the like and Rog was being affectionately nicknamed a “static spastic”, Vicki was flicking through the local paper where she found an advert for some Havanese Puppies. Not knowing what Havanese dogs looked like, she had a quick look on the Internet and discovered how cute and fluffy they were….. Oh no, what a mistake !!! Of course, we had to call the Breeder to find out a bit more about the puppies (as you do) and discovered that he was based in Colorado Springs - about 3 hours drive away……
Sadly, Aid & Jan decided that it was time for them to head back East to launch Squander but, before they left, we celebrated Aid's 50th Birthday (late) and Al's 60th Birthday (early) with a BBQ and, of course, a Birthday Cake....
As a big thank you for everything, we treated Aid & Jan to Sunday lunch at the Alpenglow Stube Restaurant at Keystone which was really lovely.
You can ski to the Restaurant and they provide you with cosy slippers but, as Aid & Jan had stowed all their gear ready to leave the next day, we took the Gondola which was actually a pretty good idea bearing in mind the copious amounts of wine that were consumed over lunch!!!
Lunch was followed by one or two drinks in a Keystone Bar before catching the bus and heading back to Tiger Run where Alan & John were waiting with more beverages…
We went back to Keystone skiing the following day with Alan & John and had a great day on the slopes. Unfortunately, when we came out of the Bar after a quick drink, we discovered that Vicki’s skis and poles were no longer there….. Thinking that this was gong to be a real pain, we went back to Breckenridge to see the chap at the Hire Shop who couldn’t have been nicer – no Insurance details required, no hassle, he just gave her another set (actually, slightly better skis) and said that this happens all the time, they would find their way back to him and not to worry……. Wow, what a pleasant surprise !
Tuesday 24th was Mardi Gras and this was heralded by a small Parade down Main Street – you couldn’t really call it a Carnival – during which beads were thrown at you from all directions. I think the idea is to collect the most beads you can although what you do with them afterwards is anybody’s guess !!
Alan & John treated us to a smashing meal afterwards at a little Steak Restaurant they had found on one of their jaunts and the food was super.
It was Alan & John’s last day on Thursday so we skied at Breckenridge all day and even had a Slalom competition which John won.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Alan had a little tumble (trying to go too fast) so Vicki actually took second place…..
We couldn’t possibly let them leave Breck without visiting Eric’s so we went there for a Farewell Dinner. The weather was dreadful when they left, heavy snowfall and very grey and miserable so, rather than go out in it, we spent the day contacting the Grenadian authorities to see whether we could arrange a Permit in time to take back a Puppy with us on our plane (bearing in mind our flight was only a few days away). It did seem possible so we arranged to meet with Don Patterson (the Havanese Breeder) the following day. Luckily, he was already going to Denver so we arranged to meet him halfway with both available male puppies. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems as this meeting involved hiring a car and driving in what could have been dreadful weather based on the previous day.
However, we made it to Buffalo Bill’s Grave and the meeting place at Genesee Park in plenty of time. It was so green it was hard to believe we were only a short distance away from all the snow.
Don arrived and we were introduced to 2 bundles of fluff. Poor Roger knew it was a mistake to go and see them and, well, there was no way we were leaving America without taking one of them with us……… but, which one and would we manage to get all the paperwork completed in time ?
In the end, the Ginger ears won the day and we picked the Champagne pup.
Don had already contacted his Vet to establish what paperwork needed to be in place to export a Puppy and had arranged a tentative appointment with both his Vet and the Denver Representative of the US Department of Agriculture who would need to check all the paperwork was in order before allowing the Puppy to leave US soil. It was all getting very complicated and I think Roger was regretting ever agreeing to contemplate such a silly idea…..
Anyway, to cut a very long story short, in 2 days we did manage to get the Permit faxed over from Grenada, Don got all the US paperwork sorted out and we succeeded in getting the Puppy booked onto our American Airlines Flight for only USD100.
All that was needed now was a suitable name……. We drew up a list and finally got it down to Pugwash, Sinbad, Muttley or Monty.
Eventually, Monty won and we took delivery of him in a Hotel in Denver the night before our flight.
American flights are great in that you can take small animals on the flight with you as Hand Luggage and put them on the floor by your feet. Monty was so well behaved and just slept all the way from Denver to Miami where we had to wait for a few hours before our flight to Grenada. He must have been a “good luck charm” as we were upgraded to Business Class for our flight from Miami and we ended up with the posh people up front… We even managed to get him out of his Travelbag for a cuddle as there was so much room !! We finally arrived in Grenada about 10pm and would you believe it, after all that effort, they didn’t even glance at Monty’s paperwork…….
We got back to Prickly Bay where Dave Dog had kindly put our Dinghy ready for us and finally introduced Monty to his new home.