Thursday, May 29, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – day 11

Good morning readers! This is it… the last day of tour. Today’s blog will be a teeny bit shorter due to the itinerary… and blogger fatigue. I guess you could call today a day off; we won’t be performing, but spending the day driving back to Denver. Yes, for us, at this stage of the game, that qualifies as a day off.

Everyone gets up and has breakfast on their own schedule today. We set a time to meet up last night before we all turned in. It was greeted with groans, but they’re all here and basically on time. We load the passenger beastie one final time and hit the road. We found out last night that Independence Pass is open (as of today) so we’re taking that route. It saves us whopping 20-minutes on our drive. I snap a few final pics of the view and the beautiful Columbines that are outside our hotel and we bid goodbye to Carbondale. What a fantastic place to end our tour!

We pass through Basalt and make our way to Aspen. The car is quiet; everyone is tired including the driver. Brett is my co-pilot this morning and does his best to program tunes to keep me awake. He settles on the soundtrack from Frozen (yes readers, even I can’t resist Let It Go). We’ll soon find out that this soundtrack proves to be oddly accurate. The valley here is unbelievably green and it’s definitely warmer than the higher elevations we’ve been visiting lately. As we make our way into Aspen, the mountains have just a touch of snow.

We make the turn that will take us to the start of Independence Pass; Ben is in the lead. We pass beautiful cabins and meadows with ponds full of frogs and begin to climb. The road is a bit narrow here and there, but not unlike others we’ve been on this trip. We come to a spot to pull off and we get out to stretch our legs and take a few photos.
Jared resumes his duties of co-pilot (I think I wore Brett out) and on we go. We go just a few hundred feet and things begin to change rapidly and dramatically. A sign says “road narrows.” No joke – is this a two lane road?! We come to a curve and another car is coming from the other direction. I have to drive on the edge of a cliff in order to make enough room for them to pass. Jared has quite the vantage point; by the end of the turn, he’s almost in my lap. Up and up we go. You know the term “white-knuckle?” Turns out, that’s a real thing. As the road gets even steeper and the turns sharper, I am demonstrating that phrase perfectly. When that no longer helps me, I begin to express feelings about the drive facially. Brett has the best seat in the house as he watches my display in the rearview mirror.

The drive is truly nail biting, but the view… indescribable.
We make it to the summit and it seems that the road was steeper than any of us realized. We’ve crossed over to Antarctica. At least that’s what it looks like. There is so much snow that you feel like you’re in a standing at the top of the world. We spend some time looking around and I watch as the 6 monkeys that I’ve brought with me tromp around in thigh-deep snow. Taylor is wearing flip flops, Colleen has very fashionable boots on while Louise is sporting ballet flats and Brett is wearing shorts and a wind breaker. Clearly we came prepared. Taylor and I have the Young Artists pose by the sign to take one final group shot. “Yeah Tour!”
They flash their best smiles. Then I say “Last day of tour,” expecting another pose. Well… I got one.
Seems we’re all ready to go home and have a little private time.

We manage to get everyone down the snow covered peak safely (opera men; strong like ox) and I take the chance to get a picture with me and the gents.
It’s rare and my opportunity to prove I was actually on this tour and not blogging from the comfort of my lounge chair. Louise, our resident artist, uses the time to leave her mark, literally. She carves “Opera Colorado” into the snow bank; creative lass!
Louise begins to hop which is a sign that the cold has set in and it’s time to go. There are other signs as well; Brett’s legs are blue, Colleen’s boots are frozen, Ben has a touch of snow blindness and Taylor has lost feeling in his feet. Jared…? He’s in heaven. This is a Florida boy who loves the snow. He also loves sharing snow with others. After I have removed Jared’s wintery gift from my shirt, we get back into the cars and continue onward.

The snow on each side of the road is higher than the beastie. While the others are admiring the view and Taylor is alternating between clapping for avalanches and thawing his toes, I notice that we aren’t climbing any more. No – we’re going down. And quickly. This is an adventure that I hadn’t planned on today; Alpine driving. The road literally skirts the side of the mountain. We continue to descend; there’s been so much snow that there’s some pretty substantial road damage that we have to navigate. Did you know that baritones can pass as sopranos when frightened by sheer drop-offs? News to me too. By the time we get to the bottom and make a pit stop, Jared actually has to pry my hand off of the steering wheel. The drive is much less stressful at this point, but I have something else on my mind. I have a promise to fulfill.

This particular promise is a year and a half in the making. For those of you who read last year’s tour blog, you may remember the now infamous hot dog incident of 2013. I promised Jared a visit to the Coney Island hot dog stand in Bailey Colorado. I was unable to deliver this promise as the establishment was closed. It was a dark, dark, day. Jared sulked in the back seat and grudgingly ate Twlizzer Bites, but I knew he wouldn’t forget. I’d have to make good eventually.  We make our way to Bailey and I bite my nails – what if they’re closed…? I have Twizzler Bites on standby, just in case. To my delight, and immense relief (because hungry Jared + cranky Jared = no fun), they’re open and we make our final stop of tour.

We order and sit outside to enjoy our last few moments in the mountains.
It’s a lovely setting with a river, a water wheel and hail the size of marbles. Yes, there’s nothing like it. Eating hot dogs in a hail storm. Colleen documents the weather and the fulfilled promise on video while the rest of us dodge the nasty little ice rockets. Taylor plays bus boy and we all pile back into our seats, ready to make the final approach into Denver. Jared, now sated and happy, will take this final stretch so I can sit back and reflect.

We’ve been gone for 11 days. We’ve traveled more than 1400 miles. We’ve seen some of the most beautiful scenery in all of America. That’s great – but it’s not why we came. We’ve brought opera to students and adults in 8 different communities; some for the very first time; all who have no regular access to it. We’ve worked with students who could be the next generation of performers. We’ve shared Opera Colorado’s mission. We’ve made lasting connections with people through an art form that tells a story through song.

It’s been quite a journey. It always is. Sure, we’re tired; but we’re also feeling pretty great about what we’ve done. This is a privilege and we all know it. I think that’s why we want people to experience it – opera changes you.

Now though, it’s time to put tour aside and focus on the Young Artists’ last week on contract with Opera Colorado. Our work isn’t done yet. I, for one, hope it never will be.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Until next year readers,


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