Friday, July 15, 2016

Best Week of My Life

It may sound strange that the best week of my life was spent in the cold and snow, but it's true. I can handle the cold when it's for a ski trip. And you best bet that nothing will hold me back from a Colorado ski trip. It's an experience like no other. This was my 4th trip there, and it topped all the previous (kindergarten-I had to go to a day of ski school and then got strep; second grade, freshman year). 
Though our flight wasn't until that evening, I started my day out early with a short run before breakfast. We left a little before noon, and I drove us the whole way to the Nashville airport, stopping for lunch at Chili's on the way. 

We ate at a Whitt's barbecue there in the airport, and it was a great little country meal!
This was something that you know only God is in control of!  Back a couple weeks earlier, one Wednesday night at church we broke off into random groups for discussion and prayer, and I met this girl that I never had before. Her name was Paulina. Then I came to know that she was a freshman at west and even on the track team!  (Short-distance, why I had never met her). I thought then that she was in my group that night for a reason; God put us together because we had some things in common. Well, if He really didn't want me to be able to reach her...!  At the airport, even our terminal before loading, I look up and there she is!  Both of our mouths just dropped open. She was also on her way to Colorado for a ski trip!  How crazy is that?  God is always working.

Whenever we travel in always searching out where I want to go eat and get dessert, so after Whitt's Dad took me to Freshens, a new place for me, but hopefully I'll be able to find more!  They have several options, but I got the swirled frozen yogurt in their largest size with some snickers inside-two cups even!-all for about $7. Because I go big or go home, I asked the boy making it if he would really fill them up, and he replied, "Oh, we always do them like that," and he wasn't kidding!  There was not a bit more yogurt that could've got on those things!  Sometimes I really do find good deals.

[Insert cliche "I have a beautiful window seat view" caption here]
After landing, we wasted no time in the airport, headed to get the rental car, then drive to Frisco. It was already late and the rental car place took forever, but we were excited to be put in a big-daddy truck!  It took a hour and a half or so from Denver to Frisco, but it was a near ride of seeing different parts of Colorado. They have a bunch of pretty snapchat filters, too!
Another weird thing I like is gas stations. Sometimes they're pretty fancy, and you can find some good stuff!  Especially candy, granola bars, ice cream, and drinks. These were two new ones that I got as a treat for the trip!
Made me happy. I do look forward to my daily coffee.
I can handle the cold. With about 3 layers or so.
This hotel has a beautiful view, especially in the breakfast area. (But aren't all the views around here beautiful?)
Day one was a beautiful blue sky day at Breckenridge!
Also the international day of happiness. Quite fitting.

This is called a T-bar. Why?  Because it is a bar shaped like a T. For those who have never been "really" snow skiing, you may have never heard of this, so I wanted to enlighten you. They are typically used where a traditional ski lift would be really windy and leading to tougher terrain. It's even a bit of a challenge to ride up let alone ski back down!
Photo credits: Dad.
It's hard to see here, but they were having races and competitions from way up that steep bank and cliffs!

I love how pretty the lodge at Breck looks!  This is where the shops and some restaurants and plenty of room to lounge are.
It was March Madness time as well as the best part snow ski season, but why sacrifice one for the other?  No matter where you went inside, you could find a tv with a game on, and out on the slopes, someone could give you an update, too.
The on-mountain dining at any of the many places you could go has not disappointed me anywhere, ever!  Yes, it's usually more expensive than a restaurant, but Dad and I have decided that we would enjoy the occasion and just do it instead of pack lunch like some days before. There is nothing better than hot soup in a cold body.  These places sure know how to make some of the best soups that I've ever had in my life. They also don't skimp on portions, flavor, or variety, so it's worth the money. And if I say it's got flavor and/or is spicy, you know it's true. My taste buds are very tolerant and love fiery flavor. If you can't decide on which one you want, they will even let you get some of multiple. That's what I did here!
Dinner for night #1 was in the town just over at Qdoba!  I love my Mexican!  We got there just in time, too. As soon as we ordered I had to snag Dad and me a seat because they got lined up out the door. As we ate we watched people have to get their food to go because they had nowhere to sit.
Next up was the search for dessert. The plan was to go to the frozen yogurt shop right next door, but we didn't know that it had just recently closed. So we headed back to Frisco for the one I know I can depend on-Foote's Rest Sweet Shoppe!  We found it on our last trip, and I fell in love. Homemade ice cream, fudge, candy, donuts, soups, coffee every day. Small, local, fresh-my favorite way!  I mean, look how cute that shop is!  Fun fact: before it was a shop, it was a family-owned gas station until the same family changed it after he gas station closed.
Those homemade napkin holders were just right for the shop too. Picture perfect scoops and doodles. Caramel flavor with butterfinger pieces.

The pass that Dad and I get for our trips gives us access to any of the Vail-owned resorts and ABasin. The lifts have these fancy scan things that even goes through your clothing to track where you go all day and how much vertical you get!  It works kind of like the scanners at cross country races. It's really cool to look at!
Day two we headed to Copper!  It's not on the Epic pass, so we had to buy separate passes for this day, but it's well worth the money. Dad and I both agree that Copper and ABasin are probably our favorites.
While dad was in line for our tickets, I went in to the bathroom, but as usual, got distracted by a coffee shop. Copper has a couple Camp Hale Coffee places with tons of stuff!  I would've loved to spend my money on some of the fancy and fresh flavors and those honkin, yet also locally made and fresh, treats, but I can't do it all. I let my eyes admire and my camera capture. 
But I just knew that I wanted to go in there and look!  To my pleasant surprise I turned around to a rack full of snoopy shirts!  What are the odds of that!  THIS is the kind of thing I save my money for!  The times when my heart just leaps for something, and I know I really want it, those times when you think you may never get that opportunity again. There is only ONE Copper Mountain Ski Resort and I was there for ONE day of this trip, and these shirts are therefore one of a kind. If I had not bought them I probably would be looking back on this crying for my mistake.

This is one of Dad's favorites for an obvious reason!  "Andy's Encore"
These trails were tough, hence the black diamond, but we actually loved them and did them several times. They were filled with moguls and rough stuff and gave our legs a nice burn, but that's the fun part!  In reference to the sign, too much?  No such thing.
Ski lift selfie
"Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep.  You, Lord, preserve both people and animals."  Psalm 36:6
There were a couple trails that I took that really challenged me!  My goal was to do the most I could without falling or stopping. This one was probably the toughest run I did all week-the moguls were huge and the snow fresh and thick!  I also wandered through some trees, and got stuck in one place up to my knees (yes it rhymes but that is no lie. I spent about 10 minutes trying to get out and cover about 3 feet across). By the time I reached the bottom my legs were on fire and I was breathing like I had just run up it rather than ski down, but it was awesome. Needless to say I did it again. And a couple more times after that.
But see that little dot up there on the hill?  That's dad. I was the only one around for quite some time and I began to worry that he had taken another turn or something, but he was just taking his time. Once I stopped at the bottom, I thought to myself, "Dad's gonna kill me if he ever makes it through this."  He didn't kill me, but he said the run killed him, so we had to take a break at a convienient little picnic table (Swarm/Foursquare named) shack in the woods.
The mid-mountain cafeteria at Copper, Solitude Station, is amazing. Like at Breck, beautiful views, tons of choices, hearty portions. They have a bit different variety though, and I couldn't decide what to get!  I debated several different genres, all new things to me, but chose a bowl from the Thai station.
I got the chicken green curry bowl which had snap peas, sweet potatoes, onions, mushrooms, bean sprouts, bok choy, herbs, and obviously chicken, with a green curry sauce.  I added some roasted chickpeas, onions, jalepenos, tomatoes, and hot sauce from the topping bar, too!
It was a beautiful day, so we took the opportunity to eat outside!  Why wait for summer for a picnic?
Views and chews
For dinner that night we headed back to Downtown Breckenridge for another one of Dad's favorites, Downstairs at Eric's. It's great having only two of us because we rarely have to wait to eat anywhere.  Another thing I love about Colorado is that there are basically no chain restaurants, and if it is, there are just a few, or it's something like Starbucks, hotels, and a couple fast food places. You won't find another Downstair's at Eric's, and if you don't know what you're looking for, you might even miss this one!  It's called "Downstairs" because it's literally under the street level.
They have a great menu of sandwiches and burgers and way you want it, as well as some other meals and tons of pizzas!  It's all so fresh and mostly local too!  (Fresh bison meat for my burger makes the best burger)  The foods for the theme of the restaurant which is a sports bar. If you're a college basketball fan here during March Madness, this is your happy place. TVs line the walls of the entire restaurant, no dumb channels or shows, all sports.
Downtown Breckenridge favorites in my opinion are the unique cafes and shops. Dad is not the kind of person for those things at all, but bless his heart for walking the streets and stores so that I could explore. I wish that we were able to come to downtown in the mornings, too, because there are so many shops that do fantastic breakfasts and brunch, including this one. (I will one day). This is Clint's Bakery, home of some more of the best homemade ice cream in Summit County!  They also have tons of coffee, espresso, tea, and related drinks, and fresh cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, etc that will make your mouth water. I could've eaten them all, but our wallets don't allow that. They're also so pretty to look at!  Fresh and local, too.
Flavors I tried here:  pumpkin chip, smores, peanut butter fudge, chocolate raspberry mousse, coffee toffee, and salted buttery caramel.  I had to get a little bit of each for my first trip.
Shopping in downtown is lots of fun for me too!  Like any tourist place, there are tourist shops with the typical tourist things-coffee cups, tshirts, buttons, stickers, and plenty of things to make you laugh.
Considering it was mid track season and I love running, I hit up the treadmill each morning before breakfast. As any cross country runner would likely agree, treadmills are mostly of the devil, so I usually avoid them at all costs, but I couldn't run around Frisco alone, so I did what I had to do. It was actually really fun!  Everything is better on vacation. I didn't go that far and made each run a progression run to keep my mind occupied, so with the increasing intensity finishing with an all-out sprint at altitude, it was quite the workout.
Heard of Vail?  It's the biggest and most expensive and fanciest place I've ever seen, but after this trip I think I've seen it for the last time. It was not a good experience. That's what dad and I are saying. We did it for the experience and won't be going back. Weather was awful, the crowd insane, prices of everything through the roof, trails so icy, and they ended up closing half of the entire resort, making the crowds even worse. After standing in line for 45 minutes and moving 5 feet, I said let's leave and dad didn't argue. It was not worth it at all.
It may be way over the top, but it is beautiful.
This lounge and coffee shop were really cozy, too!
When one rides a gondola, she must always take a cliche picture.
Now I like this picture!  And the smell!  Sorry you can't smell it, but something in there was putting out an amazing aroma. It's called Buffalo's and is at the topic one really high spot, so it has an awesome view!  If we had stayed, I wanted lunch from there. I also really like buffalo/bison (the animal and to eat, as well as my college mascot).
Blue sky basin, what I see as trails for people who don't want any challenge burnish to take in some gorgeous views. Even though this is Colorado skiing, there are trails for anyone. These wind around and around and around and around....
See!  Perfectly smooth winding around and around with beautiful views!
One of many humorous signs that dot the slopes
Back to Breckenridge for dinner again!  This time we actually had to wait a bit, but we shopped at the place next door where I found that pin and moose mug. I really wanted that moose mug. 
We didn't shop there because it is expensive ski gear and other clothes that I don't even need right now considering I'm not growing, but ya know..goats.
This time I got a personal pizza!  Like at Ultimate California Pizza at Myrtle Beach, you can choose your crust and toppings, but these pizzas were much bigger!  Since I like to try new combos, I got this one with pineapple, peppers, and shrimp. Like a beach food, but not at the beach at all.
Yay for Clint's again!  Local and homemade, one of a kind ice cream is my weakness, and this stuff is just so good. This time I got more of the flavors that I liked the best, though that was hard to choose.  Dark chocolate raspberry mousse, smores, salted buttery caramel, and tried the butterscotch pecan with this one, too.
Wasn't that the truth.

This picture does not do it justice, and it only continued to snow more and more!  We woke up this morning to a downpour!    Fresh and fluffy, it had covered everything
This was probably the best day of skiing in my life!  I was worried about it at first because there was so much snow. It was pretty windy, too. On our way to ABasin, everything was so white everywhere, we missed the turn so had to go back!  Needless to say, it was not crowded at all. This resort is more backcountry than any of the others we go to, totally different, but it is a unique experience. And beautiful.
This was just the morning accumulation. We got well over a foot that day.
After a few runs on the front side, Dad and I decided we would ski over and see what Montezuma Bowl looked like. Best decision we ever made. I was having so much fun that Dad just let me keep going and going and meet up with him later, especially since the bowl closed earlier than the front side. Back here you can go literally anywhere, wide open, hike-to-only, and through the woods. My favorite is through the trees!  It's tough having such small places to navigate through, but the fresh powder helped me stay slower and weave around. It was so quiet and peaceful; I was just in awe of God's creations back there. 
(This photo was also featured by The Weather Channel)
View from the Montezuma lift back up the bottom part of it. You might be able to see Dad coming down.
Look how cute the little lift operator hut is!  But these guys are awesome. They have such great attitudes and are always fun to talk to.
Black Mountain Lodge. Best mountain food ever. You would have to go there to understand, but it is really unique!  Check out the menu up there to get an idea. Everything local and fresh, cooked right up on the mountain by the chefs.
My cup runeth over. Literally. In food and joy of this trip and beautiful day.
My meal of choice was bison stew!  This huge cup was literally overflowing with chunks of bison, corn, peas, carrots, potatoes, onion, tomatoes, beans...and all the fixins you wanted to add yourself!
 Great way to commemorate this awesome experience. My hands were so numb by the time we went in to eat, that I had to wait for someone to open the door for me then dad to unzip my jacket because I seriously couldn't move my fingers. But it was worth it.

The lodge isn't just for lunch, but on special occasions they host great, fancy dinners that people can ride up the lift to. They also host personal events like weddings. That's my plan. Save your money for a plane ticket now!

I always say that my Dad is such a selfless person and goes SO out of his way for me to take me places I want to go and do silly little things I want to, and this wasn't even my suggestion!
He was worn out, and we stayed until they closed, so it was also later. Dad knows that I am in love with Whole Foods, and there just so happened to be one in the same shopping center as our hotel, so Dad suggested that we go there for dinner!  As if the day couldn't get any better!  He wasn't too wild about it, but he knew it thrilled me even more.
This is also something I plan to do every once and a while during college to pick up some fresh, healthy, quick food either for a night when I don't or can't go to the caf, want something different or a treat, or need to get some stuff to have in my fridge. And to get gelato. And just to shop through their plethora of...everything!  So this is on my wish list of things that I want/need.
This was something I have never seen before!  Fire in the table!  I wanted to eat outside again, but this time dad was not okay with that.
I explored the hot foods stuff, soups, and the salad bar, getting little samples of tons of new/different/favorite items, and dad got a sandwich at the deli.
This was a unique attraction at the Frisco WF:  a gondola!  (Just for looks, though)

Not just the bar for dinner that I love, but also the variety of food on the shelves. I looked around and bought some chocolates, yogurt, gelato, and granola bars to have for sweet snacks in the room. Well, I thought this was yogurt. I had seen this brand, elli Quark, before and thought it looked delicious, so when I saw it in the dairy, I grabbed a couple!  Then when I gave it a closer look later, I realized it's not even yogurt; its cheese!  That's how the Germans do it. You can learn something every day.
Back at the hotel I decided that it was time to channel my inner child and get out the coloring book that I had saved for some snow days since my friends got it for me last year.
It was a perfect ending to my blissful day. 
"Happiness is a child, [some skis], and a hill."
I would live here if I could. Beautiful, happy, healthy, active town.  And the same name as my dog.
Back to Breckenridge for the final day!
I was seriously upset that the hike-to that I had done the previous trip was closed. That was one of the toughest, yet most fun things I've ever done, and I was really hoping to do it again, but not this trip. The wind and visibility were just too dangerous, so it was closed. However, we still made it up to the highest ski lift in North America!
We stopped at a different cafeteria this time, but just as good!
 Another slope, another soup for me.
The pizzas and everything else they made were just the way you wanted them, which was really cool. Basically like Subway, but for way more than sandwiches!
I was so sad for this to be the last day, but I could rest assured that it was the best trip ever. Dad was so dead that he couldn't hang on, so he waited down at the bottom while I skied some more runs until time to close.
As you can see, I was not about to stop.
I'm sure you've seen people out on the lake or at the beach wind surfing, but I bet you've never seen someone windsurfing (maybe called wind boarding?) on the snow.

It may sound a bit silly, but we had KFC for dinner that night. I was disappointed at first because when on vacation, why do that?  But it turned out to be delicious and a great, fast choice.
After that, we took one last stop to my favorite-Foote's Rest. It did not disappoint. The girls working this night were so sweet and fun to talk to, too!  It's great when unexpected light is shined into your life, even so simple. That gives me motivation to go do the same for someone else. Even just smile!  You never know how it may encourage someone!
The flavors were even better this time, too, and the girl who scooped it gave me all that cup could handle!
This time they were even tastier, a great way to end my trip:  half Butterfinger and the rest caramel Twix!
Boy did we wake up to a surprise. 
I knew that they were calling for some snow and figured dad did too. I woke up and did my usual run on the treadmill while dad showered and took the luggage to the truck. But I was a bit startled when he came running down the hallway and stopped at the fitness room window, banging on it and throwing his arms around like in a panic, saying, "It's snowing!  It's snowing!  You better stop and go to breakfast right now; we have to leave!"
We ate breakfast and got out the door as fast as we could. We laughed as we sat in the truck while we filled it up with gas and the snow just kept coming down harder. I called it a blizzard. We couldn't see much farther than across the parking lot!  It was truly a memorable sight.

Every morning he got up and looked out the window very first thing to see what it looked like. He also checked the weather on his phone. I assumed he did the same thing again, but apparently not, because he had no idea and was now afraid that something bad would happen on the interstate and we wouldn't make our flight. The airport and parts of the interstate had been closed a couple days earlier, so this was not a crazy thought.
It was a slow drive for sure. Traffic was down to one lane, and we just prayed that they wouldn't close the interstate to those who didn't have chains (even if we did you can't put them on rental vehicles) or to everyone completely, and that there would be no wrecks. We made it, slowly but surely!  Barely. An 18-wheeler was the next car behind us, and he didn't make it. Nor did anyone who got stuck behind him. That was a close one!  The goal was to make it to the Eisenhower tunnel and we thought from there it would be okay, and we did!  If you've never seen this tunnel, it's over a mile long, so if it got closed, too that would've caused some more problems.
Ah finally some sunshine!  The closer to Denver we got, the temperature sky rocketed, and you would have had no idea that just two days before they had a blizzard and the roads and airport were closed. Almost everything was totally melted.
There are some really cool sights along the drive between Frisco and Denver!  I enjoyed getting to see some cute little towns and scenery.

More of Dad going out of his way to let me explore new things!  I found Mod Market on Instagram one day, then later found out that there was one at the Denver airport. The Denver airport is huge. Among the three concourses there is just about any kind of eating you could ever want!  You just have to take the subway speedy-quick if you want to go to a different one. Well, we walked around all of them so dad could have Quiznos, I could have Mod Market for my meal, then around some more to Caribou Coffee (got two places checked off my bucket list in one!), then finally to TCBY to finish up.

After a week of skiing and running a bit, now that it had hit me it was time to go home, I was even more hungry.
On the ride home Dad drive this time instead of me. Kinda funny, we ate at the exact same Chili's that we did on the way there!  It's just one of our favorites!  This time, though, I tried something new, another winner dinner. There is just something about fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat that is so satisfying. Maybe I should've grown up in Hawaii.
From the first to the last, skiing in Colorado with Dad is a blast.
Thanks to video, Dad and I were able to get some great footage to share with people back home and then screenshot some action shots, too.

This is my favorite one of Dad!

There is always a good backdrop around, too, whether it's the sky or the land.
  Once we were back home, I continues to post pictures for at least a week!  There was just so much more I wanted to share, but I still didn't post them all. Most of the pictures ended up on this blog though. We also took ideas that I used to screenshot some action. I also used this cool app I have to combine some pictures and videos, too!  

There is still more about Colorado that I would love to share, but it's just too much!  Basically, I love it because it is such a unique experience in nature and God's creation. The atmosphere is uplifting, both from altitude, fresh air, adventure, and the communities. There are many local businesses, too, and you can tell that they also really love where they live and work. I realize now that I'm older that very few people get to experience this once, let alone four times in their life!  Looking back on these memories does and will continue to help me see how blessed I really am. And I WILL go back!  (Dad wants to go, too)