Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Surprise in Steamboat

My husband isn't big on his birthday; doesn't like to celebrate, doesn't want a big deal made and in the past five years has managed to avoid it by working out of town or something. Well this year he turned thirty and I was determined to surprise him if it killed me.

My best friend Malia and I began brainstorming places to go about a month ahead of time because we just happened to be planners down to the last detail. We came up with the perfect destination that was close enough for all of our friends to join us but far enough away to be a weekend getaway. That destination was Steamboat.

Steamboat is a three hour drive from Denver in the summer. It's billed itself as Ski town, USA but also prides itself on its being a cowboy town. It just so happened that the weekend of Chad' s birthday was also the Hot Air Balloon and Art Festival. Unfortunately, this meant that most of the cheaper places in town were booked up. So after some research I booked a condo at The Pines from The Lodging Company. There weren't a lot of dog friendly options that were available (of course we had to bring Bebe) and this one was advertised as having dog friendly condos. Buyer beware though, if you are going to bring your dog, don't try and be sneaky and NOT tell them you have a dog to avoid the fee or else you will end up in a condo that doesn't allow dogs like we did and end up sneaking yours around all weekend long. Luckily we weren't caught and evicted. Lesson learned!

Chad had no idea what he was in store for. He came home to the house on Friday after work where he was met by Jason and I who told him we were going out to dinner. Once we started heading on I70 West though he knew something was up and then it was just process of elimination to where we were going until we reached the point where it was either Kremmling or Steamboat...and nothing is in Kremmling so naturally Steamboat was the obvious choice. Our friend Jeff was about 15 minutes behind us in arrival so once he arrived (which was a big shock to Chad because he just thought it was the three of us) we went to dinner at Tequila's. After some awesome mexican food and margaritas we went to the Tap House for beers where we were soon met by Malia and Geoff, then Todd and Kelsey and Travis and Jill. Needless to say Chad was very surprised and the weekend was off to a great start.

On Saturday morning when we woke up we saw the hot air balloons being raised in the field right across from the condo and then they floated overhead in the area which was very cool to see. I've never seen anything but pictures of hot air balloons so to have them so close was a treat.

Malia and I had arranged 9 holes of golf for the boys at the Steamboat Golf Club (www.steamboatgolfclub.com). For 9 holes it was $28 each (add ten dollars if you wanted to rent a cart) and it was a great chance for the guys to all get together and goof around. There are three or so golf courses in Steamboat (one I believe that is exclusive to members only) but this one turned out to be perfect because it was more laid back (read: not for the serious golfer). While the guys golfed the girls all went to the farmer's market which is held every Saturday in the summer. They had everything from baked bread to elk meat, fresh produce and pork sandwiches and jewelry and clothing. We bought some cherries which were excellent and managed to kill enough time before meeting back at the condo for lunch with the boys.

After lunch it was off to tube the Yampa. Malia had found a place called the One Stop Ski and Sport (www.onestopskiandsport.com) where we could rent tubes so we made a reservation for 1pm. Now everyone except Malia and Geoff owned their own tubes as we traditionally tube in Golden or Boulder most every weekend of the summer. We bought some heavy duty tubes with handles a couple of years ago from Dick's sporting goods and it's turned into a favorite weekend activity. We however, told everyone not to bring our tubes because we had arranged tubing from this shop and they were provided to us. The cost was $17 to tube which included being picked up from the end spot (they have designated areas of the Yampa to tube due to fisherman) and brought back to the shop. We were all OK with paying the money seeing as it seemed hassle free but it wasn't until we arrived at the shop we realized the fee didn't include unlimited trips down the river. I guess the city limits the amount of tube trips the company can do a day thus limiting us. While it was cheaper than white water rafting for sure, and less of a pain to not bring the tubes up, wait to inflate etc. it def isn't something I'd pay for again. Bring your own tube to truly enjoy the float!

Right near the tubing rental shop was the park where the "Art in the Park" was going on so we decided after our 30 minute float trip we'd check the art out. There were some interesting booths, but for the most part it was the same things you see at pretty much any festival during the summer (People's Fair, Golden Art Fair, etc) but it was very nice to all relax in the park and enjoy some music.

Todd's sister, Angela lives in Steamboat so after tubing, art in the park, some relaxing and grocery shopping we headed up the hill to her place for a little BBQ. Todd's parents also happened to be in town and Angela had some friends over so between them and the ten of us it turned into quite the get together. We had bought some blue cheese burgers from the grocery store that was conviently next door to the condo and Jason did an excellent job grilling them up. There was also croquet to play and ladder golf which Chad and I were miserably beat at by Geoff and Jeff. Kelsey had the blender going making some delicious daqueries and considering we were going to just make tacos at the condo, it turned out to be a fabulous way to wind down the already amazing day. I had bought a cheese cake for Chad so Kelsey and I had Todd gather everyone around the deck while we lit the candles and came out to have everyone sing happy birthday to Chad. Jason and I had found an enormous singing card which I had everyone sign in secret throughout the weekend and we presented that to Chad as well. I couldn't have been more excited for him!

After the BBQ, before the sun set, the ten of us made our way to the Strawberry Hot Springs. There's two miles of unpaved road (strange because it's such a popular spot you would have thought it would have been fixed up a little better by now) so I would definitely recommend an SUV to get up there. Unlike the Sulphur Springs we had visited in May, these hot springs do not smell like sulpher and the pools are a lot bigger. In fact I think I only saw one or two small pools with the majority of people splitting there time there between the hottest and more bath water type big pools. What's cool about the place is that it has a natural spring flowing through too of water that was pretty cold so you could get out of the hot water, jump in the cold and swim then back into the hot. You have to get there before dark because it gets pretty crowded and you want to stake a spot out for all your stuff...and a good spot at that because there are no lights there. I can't believe they are allowed too, but there are absolutly no lights in the whole spring area which of course is because it's clothing optional after dark (and make sure if you bring a flash light to shine it at your feet!). At just about dusk some guy stood on the side of the pool totally naked and yelled, "let's get naked!" and jumped in. Apparently those in our group who were moving around from pool to pool saw quite a few naked people (well what was visible anyways) but I didn't see any. The hot springs were only $10 and definitely worth it, very peaceful and one of the best I've been too in the state.

Sunday the plan was to get up early and watch the balloons being inflated for day two of the hot air balloon rodeo but unfortunately only Travis, Jill and Todd and Kesley were in their right mind enough to get up at 6am. The rest of us slept off our frozen daqueries and beer. Since we had to check out at ten we were still up early enough to see several of the balloons floating overhead and there was even one to land in the field right by the condo which we got to see them deflate and pack back up in the trailer that had been tailing the balloon. Once we all regrouped we headed into town to have a light breakfast at The Steaming Bean (where I had the best soy chai of my life) and then walked the length of the main street and window shopped. At about noon we decided to head back towards Denver so we could stop and eat a late lunch/early dinner at TommyKnocker. TommyKnocker is a local brewery in Idahoe Springs and while they have many amazing items on their menu, a little known secret is they have the best wings in town. They are also the biggest wings I've ever seen, even though we were told they were smaller than usual so the cook gave us 17 instead of a dozen. They have unusual wing flavors like raspberry chipolte and pineapple but the batter they fry them in is more of a tempura batter giving the wings much more of a crispy thin layer. Lunch there was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.

So much planning went into Chad's birthday and I'm just glad he enjoyed it all, even if he doesn't like surprises or celebrating his birthday. He does so much for me and all his friends every day and I'm just so grateful everyone could come and celebrate. Hopefully I can keep surprising him for many years to come....although I would like to make steamboat an annual trip. What's not to love about a summer weekend in the mountains?

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