Just as I was nearing the end of the Geowoodstock to TBEX tale, life got in the way… the relocation of the Val in Real Life headquarters has proven to be quite an undertaking especially amongst all the other chaos of life and the holiday season. But as I mentioned, I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things here at Val in Real Life. And it’s about time to finish up the tale of this adventure…
We played most of our five-week Geowoodstock to TBEX summer expedition fast and loose. There were only two events set in stone… Geowoodstock and TBEX (a travel bloggers conference for those of you who aren’t up on the lingo). Other than that, we were free as little granola-munching birds deciding when and where to go.
And so we wandered our way from the festivities in Indiana to the excitement in Colorado, exploring places like Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Custer State Park along the way. Our meandering route put us in Estes Park in the days leading up to TBEX but as I mentioned, we cut our time short which meant an early arrival in Keystone for TBEX events…and a little extra time to explore. Once TBEX started though, it was a whirlwind.
The Inn at Keystone…
Fred and George were giddy at the thought of five days straight in a hotel. After three weeks on the road, mostly living out of a tent, you’d think they’d arrived at Disney World by their delight.
I’m not going to do a review of the hotel but I do want to give a little credit where it’s due as follows: the staff was beyond excellent, they took dog-friendly to new heights, and the in-house restaurant was pretty damn good. So yes, if I have to stay in a hotel, this is the kind of place I’d pick. With the Snake River meandering its way through the resort, a quick dose of Rocky Mountain grooviness was always at our doorstep.
So what to do with three days to kill before TBEX? Aside from some logistics like gathering some basic food supplies and just decompressing after three weeks in the car, we also had to get the Disapproving Beagle to a local vet for routine maintenance. That would be the ever-chill-inducing anal sac expression that’s even more disgusting than it sounds for those of you who are not familiar with this foul-smelling affair. Throw in that he was impossibly dirty at this point (and my sensitivity to that level of filth in a very clean hotel) and a bath was in order for His Beagleness. Yep, Keystone proved to be the height of indignities for The Disapproving Beagle.
For we human-types however, our pre-TBEX time was filled in with a little geocaching and sampling of local restaurants.
Dreadful Day in Denver..
You know how I like to keep things real? Well, I would be remiss in not including our day in Denver… (cue ominous music)
See, when you’re on the road with the kids and you have to be at a conference, you have a child-care dilemma. You need to be able to focus on the conference and all that jazz without trying to keep tweens entertained who think this is probably the most boring stuff in history. Ever.
So why not have Jester fly in for the weekend? It was Father’s Day weekend after all and hanging out in Colorado with the minions and pup so Mom can get down to business without a care in the world seemed like a brilliant plan. And it was really but…
I also had the great idea of heading to Denver early to spend the day then sweep through the airport that night, collect Jester, and head back to Keystone. I hadn’t made any concrete plans, just thought we’d explore a bit. Which we did.
With a little of the dog-juggling that’s required when traveling with a pooch in tow in the summer, we managed to visit the REI mothership. We couldn’t buy anything with the car already busting at the seams of course, but I wanted to see one of REI’s flagship stores with my own granola eyes and bask in its glory.
Not having done any previous research on what we might do in Denver for the day, I didn’t realize there was a river playground of sorts right next to REI… and Fred and George’s swim trunks were inconveniently stowed away in Keystone an unsightly 90 minutes away. Opting not to shell out for new swimwear for an hour of water play, we wandered a great nearby park, letting Dobby stretch his legs and to possibly get a little geocaching fix.
Unfortunately, the little Camp Granolans were simply grumpy. That’s just how it goes. It happens at home, it happens on the road, it can happen anywhere. There’s no place the grumpies can’t penetrate when they want to and they hit full-steam while stranded in Denver… too far away from Keystone to go back and cool our jets at the hotel and Jester’s flight still hours from arriving.
So with minions not in the exploring mood and me a little worn out from trying to keep the grumpies at bay, we headed closer towards the airport to see what we could find for an early dinner and break free from the navigation hassles of the downtown area. Being unfamiliar with Denver however, that turned out to be a bad idea. There’s pretty slim pickings out that way so this was one of those hindsight scenarios where I should have stopped for a few minutes to make a short-term plan instead of flying by the seat of my pants.
Anyway, we were near the airport with an early dinner behind us. Unfortunately, we had yet more time to kill and we were firmly planted in the land of strip malls and franchises. The minions were a little happier after some refueling but not reinvigorated enough to embrace their adventurous sides again and get excited about exploring. Nope not even geocaching. And I was just fatigued enough to not have the energy to try to talk them into it.
So we muddled our way around, ran a couple of errands, watched a few episodes of How the States Got Their Shapes and headed to the airport parking lot. Yep, I put the kids to sleep in the car in the airport parking lot. Because the icing on this cake was that from about dinnertime on, we were getting updates on flight delays… and more delays… and more delays. What was already going to be a late night stretched on and on as we dozed in fits and starts, the promises of the flight actually taking off being dangled in front of our tired noses like the proverbial carrot.
So we waited and waited. The wee hours of the morning crept up and finally we took possession of Jester and limped our way back to Keystone, bleary-eyed and disgruntled.
As it goes whether you’re at home or traveling, sometimes things just don’t come together. The Dreadful Day in Denver was at least behind us and we could focus on the days ahead because at least we were still in fabulous Colorado…
With Fred and George now occupied by Jester, I could dive into TBEX and soak up all there was to learn. I won’t lie. It was overwhelming as conferences frequently are. They’re designed to be jam-packed and my granola personality only does “social” in fits and starts which means TBEX was like an assault on the senses… trying to learn everything you can in educational sessions then flitting to a lunch, then a session, then a dinner, a little sleep then back to a session, then a dinner… no a lunch, wait it’s a meet-and-greet, then there’s a vendor fair, run to another session… So yes, there were many times I stepped out to the nearby Snake River to collect granola myself.
In spite of the vortex of information and activities, I absolutely adored meeting fellow bloggers in person that I’d only known online. I also met a lot of great new people and got to reconnect with Family on Bikes so within the whirlwind there were wonderful perks!
I know the question is raised of course… knowing the breakneck speed conferences run at and TBEX in particular… and given my limited stamina for that level of freneticism, will I be going next year? You betcha! I took a lot away from the experience and the pain of the shell-shock of the pace always fades away quickly. Brace for impact Toronto, we’ll see you there…