Traditions matter deeply to me. (Even traditions at their genesis.)
Which means, on this day, on the way into the ranch, we would be stopping at The Donut Mill in Woodland Park, Colorado.
This time my dad was able to join us for our adventures, making even these sticky sweet treats even sweeter.
We all oohed and ahhed over their unnecessarily gigantic cinnamon roll (large enough for an entire family) and we all enjoyed our ice cream or our donuts. (My choice was a maple glazed donut. I just loves me the maple.) I asked again, the same as last year, “Hey guys – doesn’t this donut shop have the best view of any donut shop ever?” (It does.)
And then we drove right on, down the picturesque road with views for days, past the tiny town of Deckers – a “town” apparently consisting of one shop, one restaurant and a beautiful wide river made for fly fishing.
Turn left on the dirt road. Okee Dokee Brothers turned on to “Good Old Days”. (A song we all agreed not to listen to on the entire 25 hour drive out just to save it for this particular moment.)
And I slow it all down.
Nine miles of dirt and narrow lane, wide views and rising excitement.
I’ve already switched my phone to airplane mode (where it will rest happily for seven glorious days) and I want time to come as close to standing still as it possibly can.
The plan is to Make It All Linger.
Yes sir. Yes sir – those days were fine.
Yes sir. Yes sir – but these are the good old times.
We’re all quiet, but united in our affection for this ranch. The boys are anxiously awaiting me to grant to them permission to stick their heads (eh, their entire bodies) out of our sunroof.
My dad is in the passenger seat and I’m behind the wheel and I’m grinning and then I feel tears (you know how I do) and I have to say out loud, “Oh you guys. You know me and you know I have to just say out loud some ridiculous things I’m feeling.”
Rushing wind from the rolled down windows and the open sunroof and Lost Valley Ranch dust settling in the car and sweet silence and attentive kind ears.
“Last year this ranch was a divine miracle for our family. And I was so grateful for what it gave to us. I never thought we could have a second year. And we even get to bring Grandpa along too.”
I sigh. Deeply. The satisfied variety.
And Piper Finn, always my advocate, chirps up. “That is NOT ridiculous Mommy. I think that’s beautiful.”
The turn in the road arrives that is our mark for heads out the sunroof.
The boys have unbuckled and burst through before I can blink. I laugh and we talk about their view and Dad looks at me, “You want to join those boys, don’t you?”
Suddenly I realize that he is right. I do.
And so we switch drivers and I poke my body up through the sunroof with my sons and I get to be both the mom and the daughter all at once and it feels like the perfect way to start this week. Piper embraces her fear of all the dangers and warns us continuously about the dangers of what we are doing. Until Grandpa makes an offer. “Piper, it’s safe up there and lots of fun. I’ll give you $5 if you just give it a try.”
Seat belt off and blonde haired daughter perched with us in a matter of seconds.
All it took to conquer her fear was $5?
We’re greeted at the cattle guard with an oooooh-ahhhh and a pair of smiling cowboys.
If last year’s entrance was all Anticipation and Novelty, then this year’s entrance was all Enthusiasm and Homecoming.
Almost every one of the guests at the ranch this week are returning guests from last year. Piling out of the car it was hugs and high fives and how’s it going?
How good it is to be welcomed.
The same sort of magic is here to greet us. Logs stacked in our cabin’s fireplace – just so, top log branded LVL. Names on the door as a welcome. Tidy rooms. Welcome notes. Snacks and drinks awaiting.
I felt like family. Like we belonged.
The kids’ comfort levels were through the roof.
At the corral, we’re assigned our horses – Otto gets his Ace and Bergen will eventually saddle up on Joanie – Mosely’s trusty steed from last summer. London is on Annie, Dad gets Dallas. When they ask me if I want last year’s ride I confess that I do not. “Shiloh just wasn’t speedy. Can I get a faster horse this year?”
I find it ironic, superstitious, suspicious even, disconcerting, hilarious, when the head wrangler Anthony smiles at me and asks, “How about Kansas?”
I know this could end badly. Let’s hope it’s redemption and not foretelling. Fingers crossed that Kansas doesn’t turn out to be a tornado under my saddle.