“The whole family should move out here, mom – you and Ted, Jason and Blair, Matt and Julie and the kids.”
Blake has said that several times in the almost-year he’s lived in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and he said it at least a dozen more times while we were visiting. Now that I’ve seen the self-named “biggest small city” or “smallest big city” in the state, I can easily see why he keeps suggesting it. Ft. Collins is a gem of a place to live – much larger than I had pictured with information researched on Google. It spreads out across a flat plain just east of the Rocky Mountains Front Range foothills and welcomes you in with state-of-the-art conveniences mixed with old-time Western flair. Ted and I both loved it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First . . . . we had to get there.
Whenever we fly – which isn’t often anymore – I always do our booking on-line. After searching all the “cheap flight” web sites, I finally chose to go directly through Delta because 1) it’s the only airline that serves Albany, GA, and 2) we wanted to leave from Albany – if the price was right. This time it was. For only $79 more dollars, we could take the 50-minute flight to Atlanta from Albany and save a three-hour drive, the hassle of Atlanta traffic and parking, and the craziness of security at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Well worth the $79!
Only two little concerns. Concern #1: We had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning so we could leave the house at 4:30 and get to Albany by 5:30 – an hour before our 6:40 flight to Atlanta. Concern #2: We only had a 40-minute layover in Atlanta to catch our connecting flight to Denver at 8:10. If we were lucky, when we deplaned in Atlanta, our outgoing flight to Denver would be from the same concourse. They were both Delta flights – so wouldn’t that make sense to you? Really? It didn’t to Delta either.
Our 6:40 flight out of Albany left at 7 a.m. We met some friendly folks on board from a neighboring county who were going to Denver on the same flight we were. We talked about what a short time we would have to catch our flight, and everyone crossed fingers, hoping for very little space to cover after we landed. Finger crossing didn’t work. When we landed it was 7:50 – 20 minutes before our next flight, and a quick look at the monitors informed us we were four concourses from the Denver departure.
We took off at an all-out sprint through the Atlanta airport. Down the escalator to the trains, jump on board, wait through three stops at other concourses, exit at the right concourse, sprint up the escalator. Would we be lucky and have a gate at the top of the escalator? Oh no – it was 12 gates down the concourse. Our new friends from the plane arrived enough ahead of us to alert the attendant that the two senior citizens were on the way. Ted, bless his heart, was carrying both his and my carry-ons, while I just had my purse and our coats. We skidded up to the gate – with hearts pounding and lungs heaving – at 8:09. The eight folks waiting on standby moaned in unison – with our arrival, the flight was officially full.
Less than three hours later, and through the miracle of crossing two time zones, we arrived in Denver at 9:30 a.m. Blake was at baggage claim waiting on us, and – I could not believe it – my checked bag made it to Denver on the same flight!
And so began our trip.
After the hour drive to Ft. Collins, we dropped our luggage at Blake’s condo and went downtown for lunch. Ft. Collins is a bustling college town (Colorado State University), and the downtown area is a mix of restaurants, shops, and outdoor malls. Officially called Old Town, this was the historical beginning of the town, and the early 20th century architecture has been preserved.
In 2010 Money Magazine named the town #6 on its list of America’s Best Small Cities. With a population of around 140,000, the recession seems to have skipped Ft. Collins. Colorado State University employs over 7,000 people, and the second largest employer is Hewlett-Packard, which announced worldwide layoffs in June of 2010 but added employees at its Ft. Collins location.
By afternoon, Ted and I were fading fast. The two-hour time difference and the early morning awakening led to a little power nap back at the condo where we met Blake’s roommate, Tim. That night was the huge (in Colorado) playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. We watched it with a group of Blake’s friends and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. Great food, great fun. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost.
We attended church with Blake on Sunday morning, then headed back downtown for lunch.
We spent Sunday afternoon exploring the Horsetooth Reservoir, a large man-made lake and recreation area, constructed in 1949 and nestled in the foothills above Ft. Collins.
When we returned to town, we ate dinner out then went back to the condo. Weather reports were scary for the next day. Where we’d be traveling to the Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, CO, snow and blowing snow was forecast, with icy road conditions. We decided to leave at 7 a.m. the next morning to try and get ahead of the storm.
On Friday: Cathedral mountains and silver clouds. Here’s a little preview.