On Monday morning we availed ourselves of the hotel's hot tub, probably the most welcome amenity they could have provided to the friendly not-so-local endurance bikers. Then we piled into cars and onto bikes and headed for the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
I had seen the theater last year with Ann when we went to an Alabama Shakes concert, but this time we walked down to the trailhead center and walked the 1.4 mile loop below it. Dawn, Kelly, Scotty, and I grouped up by our pace. It was beautiful but hot, and we'd had fewer than 24 hours to adjust to the altitude. By the time we arrived back at the visitors' center, we were ready for a break. But I had plans in Boulder, so I walked back up the road, discovering that it was longer than I remembered. By the time I was halfway up the stairs to the main parking lot, I felt like I'd run a race. Fortunately Kimmy and Cider chose that moment to appear and ask me where the rest of the group was, and I took a break to chat.
"Oh hey," I said to Cider as they went on their way again, "Can you help me upright the bike so I can leave?" I'd parked it with a lean toward the left again, and I knew I'd need a hand.
"I could," he said, "But you can't leave."
"Your helmet is in Scotty's car."
"Fuck." No longer in a hurry, I wandered to the parking lot, had a snack, and waited for Scotty. He appeared pretty shortly, jogging and out of breath.
"I hope you didn't run for me!" I said.
"Nah," he panted. "Dawn and I had a deal. We ran."
He gave me back my helmet, and by the time I was ready to go, the group was starting to filter back. Cider helped me upright the bike (after the necessary moment to laugh at me, of course), and I was off to Boulder.
I found my destination with relatively few wrong turns, and soon I was sitting on a wicker bench on the porch of a beautiful corner house, waiting for the occupants to come home. There was a breeze rustling the plants and trees in the yard, and I was grateful just to be sitting still in the shade.
It wasn't long before I heard a voice calling from around the corner in the front yard, and Jayne appeared. I jumped up from the bench and down the steps to give her a hug. When I stopped to do the math later, I realized we hadn't seen each other in sixteen years.
I'd followed her inside when another voice called hello from the yard, and I realized that Jon was there, too. I returned to the outdoors for another hug.
Jon brought me a giant mug of iced tea, and we sat in the living room and tried to catch up on a decade and a half of news. It took us all evening, a walk with the dog around Pearl Street, and a wonderful dinner prepared by Jon. I had all but forgotten it was a holiday, and I couldn't have spent it in a better way.
As I geared up to roll at the end of the evening, big thunderheads were appearing toward the south and along the mountain ridge, teasing me with lightning. I did up my rain gear, with a promise not to wait another sixteen years to get together again, and took off south.
The rain stayed in the foothills, and my drive down I25 through Denver was clear, hot, and spangled with fireworks in every corner of my vision. I must have seen twenty different shows happen, red and green and blue sparkling flowers blooming everywhere as nighttime took over the sky and celebration of independence exploded over the city.