Riding the Storm Out
Well, not quite.
Months ago, when I was planning my “Restitution” book signing tour, one of the first bookstores I contacted was Macdonald Bookshop. There were a couple reasons for that: they’ve been one of the most supportive indie bookstores to me since my first novel released almost a decade ago, and they’re located in the mountains of Estes Park, Colorado, which is one of my favorite places in the world (I’m frankly always looking for excuses to get up there).
Understandably, the shop-owner suggested at the time that we wait until late May to hold the event, since the winter weather would be over and the town would be filling up with visitors for tourist season. So, I’d been looking forward to this particular event, scheduled for last Friday afternoon, for quite a some time. To further take advantage of the locale, my wife and I planned an overnight Estes stay around it.
But things started getting a little sketchy early last week. A freak May snowstorm turned up in the weather forecast for Friday and Saturday (the temperature dropping by 40 degrees). And by Thursday morning (the day before the signing), predictions had worsened to two-to-three feet of snow (the very wet kind) for the mountains, with over a foot predicted in downtown Estes (where Macdonald’s is). Other areas of the state were set to get hit hard as well, with Denver news-station meteorologists promising round-the-clock coverage.
Colorado is notorious for its rapidly changing weather, but the daily forecasts typically end up being pretty reliable.
On Thursday, I got an email from the bookstore-owner who believed, based on what she was hearing on the news and also from patrons, that people would be holed up in their homes, rentals, and hotel rooms on Friday to ride out the storm, and thus few (if any) would show up at the store for the signing. I half got the impression that the store (and lots of others in town) might not even open up that day. After all, school closures for Friday had already been announced.
So, we rescheduled the event for Friday, June 17.
But my wife and I, perhaps stubbornly, weren’t ready to throw in the towel on the Estes weekend. We had Friday night reservations for a hotel, restaurant, and show, and after quite a bit of deliberation, we decided to weather the storm through the winding drive up Big Thompson Canyon, and crossed our fingers that the rest of our itinerary would remain intact. We left early enough that we were confident the worst case scenario would be reaching the hotel, getting snowed in there, and watching a movie in our room while eating popcorn from an old-fashioned popper in the lobby (a charming little extra that particular hotel brags up).
Being closed off from the rest of the world for a while didn’t feel like a terrible alternative, especially since my wife needed to get some work done anyway. And maybe I’d even find some writing inspiration, since rumor has it that the next Sean Coleman Thriller will have a Colorado snow-storm flare to it. (Heck, it worked for Stephen King and REO Speedwagon.)
But while we did hit steady snow on our way up the mountain, Estes Park looked a bit different than expected upon our arrival. In fact, the below picture was taken right around the time my book signing was supposed to take place.
While the mountains south of us (and even areas of Denver) were reportedly getting hammered, Estes, despite being pretty cold, was actually faring pretty darned well. And since a lot of travelers stayed away because of the weather forecasts, there wasn’t much of a crowd… anywhere.
It was pretty awesome.
We had a nice lunch (in a mostly empty burger place), did some shopping (in mostly empty stores), and rode the downtown trolley for the first time (which was vacant besides us and the driver).
Later that afternoon, while my wife caught up on her work at the hotel, I drove into Rocky Mountain National Park, and checked out the wildlife and some favorite spots (again, with hardly anyone around).
Determined to actually find some snow, I drove all the way up to Bear Lake, and lo and behold…
So, at least there was that.
That night, the snowfall finally made its way to town, but it never came anywhere close to the hype. We ate dinner (for the first time) at The Post Chicken & Beer at The Stanley Hotel, which I can’t recommend highly enough… especially if you’re a fan of ostrich-sized fried-chicken portions on top of a waffle.
We topped off the night with Aiden Sinclair’s Underground show, also at The Stanley. We’d been to a magic performance at the hotel’s speakeasy theater before, but this was more of a séance, and it was a lot of fun (including my wife’s tarot-card reading, which was hilariously off-base).
By the time we got up the next morning, the snow had stopped, the sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was back into the park (this time with my wife) to enjoy a little more wilderness-time before heading back to Greeley. We saw a couple moose (they were too far away for a decent photograph), lots of elk, and again… very few people.
It was a fantastic, reclusive weekend, and I suppose a reminder that with great risk sometimes comes great reward. Thanks for doing us a solid, Mother Nature.
And Estes Park, I’ll see you again next month… this time with some books to sign.
Regular Features Will Return Next Week
Since Substack is telling me that I’m pretty close to the maximum email length (all those pictures), I’m skipping “Random Thought”, “Obligatory Dog Shot”, and “Featured Vinyl” this week. They’ll return next week.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!