The closest I have come to being a waitress was when I had a job at Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Parlor in high school. Serving people cones and sundaes is certainly easier than serving them a full meal. Cleaning up dirty napkins and wiping ice cream drips off of tables is nowhere near as nasty as bussing a table after a three course dinner. Yet my limited experience does make me sympathetic to how hard servers work, and it does make me prone to leave good tips.
But the tips I’m leaving today are of a different kind. We have had some lovely meals on this vacation. But three times servers have made dining out a disappointment. I’m not going to name the restaurants, but here are three tips for Colorado servers.
We had lunch at a barbeque restaurant, and BBQ chicken salad was on the menu. At first I thought this was going to be a BTD friendly restaurant. They listed several choices of sauce in the menu, and they noted which ones were gluten free. I asked the server what was in the chicken salad, and she said “lettuce tomato, chicken.” That sounded fine. However, When salad arrived it had also had raw onions, carrots, and finely grated cheese. I was glad to have the carrots. The raw onions were in big enough pieces that I could pull them out and give them to HH. There was no way I could get the cheese out of the salad. I went ahead and it. A little cheese is not going to ruin my day, and I didn’t want to waste the food. But it made me think of several friends who have serious food allergies and the difficulties they face when a server gives bad information.
Tip #1. If a customer asks what is in a menu item, give them accurate information.
We were in a location where we had purchased tickets to get into a park. We had finished eating in the concession area. I wanted to refill my water bottle before we resumed our walk, so I asked one of the servers where I could find a water fountain. I was told in a very curt voice that there was no water fountain, that they SOLD water bottles. I left without buying anything else, and stopped at the next convenience store outside the park to buy water. If the server had said, “I am so sorry. We don’t have a water fountain. But our bottled water is only …” I would have pulled out the wallet.
Tip # 2. Politeness will increase sales.
We arrived at a restaurant and were seated by an obviously overworked server. He appeared to be the only server at a moderately busy lunch hour. To his credit, he served his customers in the order in which they arrived. However we watched as he refilled water glasses, took dessert orders, and bussed tables, while we sat for 20 minutes with our menus. All of us had decided what we wanted to order. I was having a chicken salad with artichoke hearts, avocado, mushrooms, feta and craisins. We weren’t in a hurry. If the server had taken a moment to just bring us a glass of water and write down our order, we could have visited quite happily while we waited. As it was, we couldn’t even leave the table to wash our hands for fear we would miss him.
Tip # 3. Give new customers just a little attention before waiting on those who want a third glass of soda.
One more tip for future Colorado travelers. If you are in Estes Park and want elegant service, BTD friendly food, and a fabulous view, go to The Shores. It was a delightful dining experience with attentive (but never pushy) servers.
I made my first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park when I was 9 months old. This is my 21st trip to what I think it is my favorite place on earth. And my favorite place in Rocky Mountain National Park is Bear Lake. Though Les has been to Colorado and to RMNP, he had never been to Bear Lake. So we spent the past two days exploring in the Bear Lake area.
One day we took two short trails. First we walked around Sprague Lake. From the road, Sprague Lake is ho hum. It is in a marshy area, and we have been told that a moose family lives there. If you walk around to the back side of the lake, you get a nice view of the mountains, but it has never seemed to me to be a spectacular view. This week my opinion of Sprague Lake changed. In the fall it is truly beautiful. The aspen groves on the sides of the mountains add touches of gold among the dark green spruce and fir forests.
I walked alone along a path by the stream feeding the lake, hoping to get a photograph of wild life, but it was a “wild moose chase.”
Then we took the trail around Bear Lake. It is a short trail, that can turn into a long walk when you stop to take pictures every few yards. The shear face of a cliff on Halletts Peak rises above a blue lake that looks like a gem. Trust me, it is so beautiful that there is something worthy of a photograph at every turn of the trail.
The next day we returned to Bear Lake, to take what my family has always called the trail to the three lakes. The trail to Nymph Lake is very easy. DD took this hike when she was 3 years old. The trail continues to Dream Lake, but it becomes a little steeper. To me Dream is the prettiest of the three lakes. The third part of the trail to Emerald Lake is more strenuous. HH was not sure that he would try to go all the way to Emerald. His knee does not like inclines and it doesn’t like stepping around rocks. The trail to Emerald has both. We took it slow, and I think it helped that I stopped often to take pictures. He made it all the way. Emerald is dramatic. It is right at timberline, so there aren’t many trees. The water color is stunning, and the rocks are sharp. The mountains rise straight above you.
We sat on the rocks, ate our lunch, and soaked in the view. I had trail mix, an apple, carrots, and beef jerky. HH had a turkey sandwich, carrots, and chips. The chipmunks were delighted to have my apple core.
Rocky Mountain National Park is my favorite place. Bear Lake is my favorite part of Rocky Mountain. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 121:1-2. I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
At each of the lakes I looked at the mountains. I was reminded that whatever national or international crisis was on the news; whatever difficulty confronts my family; God who created this majesty cares for me.
The weather forecast has been a little questionable the past two days. Clouds and snow flurries were predicted for yesterday. This morning the website said that Trail Ridge Road was temporarily closed. We decided to stay at the lower elevations.
Yesterday morning we walked along the River Walk in Estes Park. Living in South Texas, we have been to the San Antonio River Walk several times. There the river is slow and peaceful. The River Walk in Estes Park is beside a rushing mountain stream. The water makes a delightful noise as it tumbles downhill over the rocks. We walked for nearly an hour and never came to the end of the paved path. But we were getting hungry, so we headed back the other direction.
We are sharing a condominium with a long time friend named Les. He and HH wanted to go to Subway for lunch. Subway is ok. I can always get a salad, but just around the corner from the Subway I had seen an India Buffet. While they got sandwiches, I went to the buffet. We met to eat at a table beside the river.
There were two vegetarian entrees on the buffet. One was mostly eggplant, so I didn’t taste it. The other was really good, after I picked out the cauliflower. There were three chicken entrees, and all three were outstanding. Chicken Curry, Chili Chicken (which is nothing at all like Mexican Chili), and Chicken Masala. They had green beans cooked with onions and seasoned perfectly. But the best dish of all was called Swag Mushroom. It was made with spinach and it was delicious.
The men had an ordinary lunch, but I had a feast. The irony was that I paid less for all I could eat Indian food than they each paid for sandwiches and chips.
When I got back to the condominium, I googled Swag Mushroom. I got a lot of random results from tents to urban slang, but no recipes. I’m so disappointed. I had wanted to make it when I got home.
After lunch we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and went to the Alluvial Fan. Les and I climbed to the brink of the falls. There isn’t a trail. You just pick your way over the boulders until you are at the top. HH did not think his knees would like that kind of activity, so he sat in the shade and enjoyed the view.
Today we took the trail to Cub Lake. It is near Moraine Park, which is one of the places the elk are hanging out this year. Our trail passed 20 yards from a heard of elk resting under the trees. The unique thing about Cub Lake is that water lilies grow all around the edge. From the ridge above the lake the dark blue water and the light green lily pads are striking. The trail went through several aspen groves that were at their peak. I never put my camera away. I was taking pictures constantly. It was a feast for the eyes.
We had a gorgeous day for our trip to top of Pikes Peak on the cog train. Someday I would like to ride the train to the top and walk down, or perhaps even hike up the mountain and ride the train back down. But that would not happen this trip. It does take a day or two to adjust to high altitudes, and we only arrived in Colorado last night.
We had expected the view from the top of the 14,110 foot mountain to be spectacular. What we hadn’t expected was such a lovely ride up the mountain. The aspen were bright yellow, and the streams were sparkling white. We saw a golden eagle soaring on the wind currents.
When we arrived at the summit, the views in every direction were breath taking. We literally felt like we were on the top of the world. I was not surprised to learn that Katharine Lee Bates wrote the words to America the Beautiful after a trip to the top of Pikes Peak in 1893.
The people who run the food service at Pikes Peak have a rule against bringing picnic lunches on the train. They want you to buy their boxed lunches. I had asked in advance if they could prepare me a lunch without bread or potato chips. They said that they could not and were agreeable that people on special diets could bring their own food. I enjoyed my asparagus and salmon while those around me ate boxed lunches.
If I am going to eat an avoid, particularly wheat, I want to make it memorable. Ordinary, everyday wheat, like sandwiches, tortilla chips, rolls, and pizza, are not worth compromising for.
Pikes Peak is famous for something besides the beautiful views – high altitude donuts. A man named Lewis began making donuts to sell to tourists on the mountain in 1889. They are world famous, and I am told that they do not taste the same when they are made in mile high Denver, much less in the flat lands of Texas. I decided that the experience of eating a high altitude donut on top of Pikes Peak was worth it.
I bought one for myself and one of HH. They are cake donuts, so they do not melt in your mouth the way a hot fresh Krispy Kreme does. However, they probably have the best flavor of any donut I have ever eaten.
We have driven to Estes Park and checked into our condominium. We are looking forward to a week’s hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.
When I think back on today in years to come, I will probably not remember the donut. But I will remember the majesty of the mountains, and my heart sings...
“O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!”
We had two delightfully uneventful travel days. No bad weather, no car trouble, no problems with reservations. The worst difficulty was that wifi at the hotel the first night didn’t work, so I am late posting this blog. I am thankful to God for His travel mercies!
We had a Fitness Room in one of our hotels. The equipment was really nice and I got in a much needed workout after a long day sitting in the car. One wall of the room was a ceiling to floor mirror. As I ran on elliptical machine, I watched myself in the mirror. I was confronted again with how I appear to be a combination of Hunter and Gatherer. The top half of me looks like a Hunter. I am sinewy, bony, and angular. But the bottom half of me is just the opposite. I look like a Gatherer. There is just no denying when I'm in running shorts that I'm well padded on my legs and thighs.
I thought I had put this conflict with the GTD out of my mind, but I’m revisiting everything since finding the two polyps. Someone posted a great idea on the Forum about asking their dentist to clarify about Carabelli's cusp and incisor shoveling. I’ve made a note on my calendar to do that at my next dentist appointment.
As we drove through New Mexico, we saw a record number of antelope. HH and I laughed as we remembered an early vacation when DD called them cantaloupe. We sent her a text, and she texted back warning us to stay away from Colorado cantaloupe because of the listeria problems. I guess we can’t order fruit salad as a side dish without checking whether it contains cantaloupe.
We asked at our hotel in Manitou Springs where we could get a meal with meat and vegetables. They recommended the Mason Jar. We were happy with a good and BTD friendly dinner. Today the weather is good, so we are going up Pike’s Peak.