Friday, June 28th, 2019. Fort Collins, Colorado.
We touched down in Denver at 5pm, scoring a total of two hours of time travel despite the pilot’s inability to get the plane off the ground for forty-five minutes. I found my dissatisfaction was shared by a particularly vocal baby, two seats behind me.
The Denver airport is a city in and of itself with its own poorly-labelled subway system. We asked how to get into town proper and the clerk at the info desk told us to descend into the subterranean cavern network and give $11 a head to the subway operator.
The plan had been get into Denver, grab dinner, then grab an Uber and shoot up to our hotel in Fort Collins. Since Denver is a good 20 miles from its own airport, that got nixed. We were running on the brunch sushi we got before the plane, seven hours ago, and though Ladygirl has been known to occasionally have sleep for dinner, I had a wendigo madness setting in. My fellow travellers were starting to look like giant cartoon hams.
Our Uber driver was an old buck named Michael with a Chrystler roughly the same size as our plane. The interior was leather, the maintenance, pristine. He had an air of a Zen master about him.
Michael was a masterful conversationalist, which is something you only notice when someone is really good at it. Ladygirl and I were floored by the scenery, and Michael appreciated that, and let us bask in reverent silence until he felt the vibe shift sufficiently to start talking again.
“See that?” he said after one of these lengthy pauses. “That’s called virga. It’s raining up there on the mountain, but it’s so hot that the rain is evaporating before it hits the ground. It makes that long line across the sky.”
I murmured something dumb. Mountains get me humble. I came up out the valley, and I always found the little mountain ranges enclosing the Home Pits to be awesome in the traditional, archaic sense of the word. On the Left Coast, they’d call them hills.
“Looks fake, don’t it?” Michael asked.
He told us about the area, the legendary Redrock ampitheater, and a thought experiment in serial killing as an Uber driver. I drove Uber for six months at the end of college, and we commiserated on our mutual disdain for teenagers.
“I won’t even pick up the drunk kids anymore,” he said. “It’s not worth it. This is real leather. They smell bad, and they don’t stop yelling… I pretty much just do the airports now.”
Despite Michael’s staunch teen-avoidance policy, his radio selection demonstrated he would literally die for pop punk. Blink 182, Simple Plan, Jimmy Eat World, even old Green Day. My mans was playing the hits, and exclusively the hits.
He dropped us off at Equinox Brewing in Fort Collins after an hour of quiet, contemplative conversation and “hey dudes are you ready to”.
A pair of teens caught us at the door, offering us fresh-cooked borger, made to order. It had the feel of a boy scout troop bake sale, but it would have been the wrong foot forward to spurn these young entrepeneurs and their local business, especially in our time of need. Ladygirl ordered borger with everything, and the teens promised that they would “come find you when it’s done.”
I made a beeline to the restroom and relieved myself as three abstract lions stared at my wiener.
I returned to the bar and ordered whatever IPA was strongest, I don’t remember. Outside, in the biergarten, an experimental funk trio who looked like tall versions of the Stranger Things cast were soloing over the top of one another’s solos. It may have been too close to jazz for my simple aural palette to appreciate.
After three minutes, a middle-aged fae materialized on the bar next to me. She had little understanding of personal space and no volume control. Boisterous and hatter-mad, she immediately explained she was a retired legal assistant (and thus went into my travel notes as “Insane Law Fairy”) who originally hailed from Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
“How did you know we were from Philly?” Ladygirl asked.
“Oh, I can smell Delco girls!” she whooped. Then sniffed at her.
Ladygirl was delighted, and they fed off one another’s energy, growing louder and more manic with each second. The law fairy’s husband was a thin, quiet fellow in a cowboy hat who contributed zippy one-liners whenever she allowed enough space in the conversation. I liked them both a lot.
The law fairy howled at the bartender until he brought her a drink, then bought us drinks, wished us good travels, and flitted out into the beer garden to get funked up by the gangly adolescent virtuosos.
The grilltenders arrived with a surprisingly large cheeseburger, which we made short work of. We finished our second beers, genuflected beneath the watchful gaze of the Peeber fish, and proceeded into the night.
Pizza desperation was the rule of the day, but every single storefront was a brewery. This would not have been a problem under any other circumstances. We eventually tracked down a place called Slyce who specialized in just dumping whatever was left in the fridge onto a pizza and charging $5 a slice. This would presumably make a pie $40, but this was no time for math. I ordered some sort of taco monstrosity, and Ladygirl got “the garden pizza”, which you can achieve at home by overturning the crisper drawer.
Our last stop for the night was an old man bar called Cooper Smith’s. Aside from the bartenders, the only other person in our age demographic looked like a steampunk version of Oswald Cobblepot. He ordered a flight and gave the bartender tasting notes. We ordered some kind of green chile IPA. It burnt the throat as it went down, but very subtly, and otherwise tasted sort of like a green smoothie.
“It’s so vegetal,” Ladygirl told me, again and again. I kept agreeing with her. This didn’t phase her.
Eventually I replied with, “You know, this is pretty vegetal.” She got mad at me, but only briefly.
We caught an Uber back to the Super 8. I made certain it was a Super 8 this time, and Athena, how my heart sang when I lay eyes on the cardboard cutout of tuxedo Tormund the Super 8 Mage.
Our driver was a skinny little dad in a trucker cup with a ridiculous hipster mustache that didn’t look like a hipster mustache because he was discernibly a dad. He’d already earned it. He played nothing but Led Zeppelin.
“What brings you to Fort Collins?” he asked.
I was going to tell him I came to get the led out, but Ladygirl cut me off with, “We’re going to the beer festival tomorrow.”
“Oh, that’s great,” he said. “That thing is huge. And it’s the anniversary, 30 years. It’s gonna be just, massive.”
His favorite turned out to be Soul Squared brewing, and he strongly advocated an imperial red. I vowed that I would not rest until I tried it.
We got back to the Super 8 and immediately rested. It was cold, massive, clean, and surprisingly chic. It might have been the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Yes, that’s correct. The Super 8.
Unfortunately, I woke up and stayed up at 4am the next morning, because my haunted body would not be convinced that we’d crossed time zones.