Aspen adventures

After weeks of cajoling—some of which I outsourced to willing friends—I sold Bryan on a relatively crazy plan. I wanted to head to Aspen a few days after the new year to catch The National, our very favorite band, as they played in a 400-person venue. I asserted we’d never have this opportunity again. Plus, it was reasonably close city, a great band in tiny little bar, and a few days of R&R following the holidays. Katie and Tom were willing to watch the kids, and I knew we could use some down time.

Once he signed on, Bryan insisting taking a few extra days. While I’m used to spending about 16 hours in any given city, Bryan likes to have some additional time, mostly because it gives him ample opportunity to get real nervous about the flight home.

So, we shipped out on Thursday afternoon, a day before our concert tickets Friday. We flew from Kansas City right over the Harlan County Lake. I look for Mom and Dave’s spot in south central Nebraska every time I fly west, but this was the first time I’ve seen it from the air.

That evening, we walked from our hotel through a chilly but gorgeous downtown, quickly debating the merits of securing tickets for the show that had been added that night. Impulsivity prevailed, and we found our way into the club. As Bryan bought our tickets, the soundcheck began, and we had a tiny but private little concert right there, due to nothing short of luck and timing.

We went back for the main event later that night, situating ourselves right next to the stage.

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The next day, we took a trip up the mountain. We’re not skiers, but we were amazed at the number of people who are (including little, little kids!). It was cold and gorgeous, and the lack of oxygen made a $6 cup of coffee seem perfectly reasonable.

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We did allow for an exception to our “no skiing” rule later in the day at the Aspen Brewing Company.

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Friday night brought the second show. While not as energetic as the first, our vantage point was perhaps better.

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Plus, several vodka cranberries made it seem like a really good idea to become close friends with everyone around us, even those from Missouri.

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We got an early peek at the setlist. (FORESHADOWING.)

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And, there was a toast to the crowd (or more specifically, to my new friend Emily).

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The lead singer headed out into the crowd, and required a bit of help to return to the stage. (FROM ME. I helped him back on the stage. It was me!! Why are there no photos of this, BRYAN?)

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The band closed by singing with the crowd.

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Bryan mentioned how awesome it would be to have a setlist, and so we waited by the stage as the show came to an end. One staffer said, “We’ll just see who waits the longest–that’s how I’ll know who wants it the most.” Turns out, all it took was a polite, Midwestern request to a new staffer a few moments later, and it was in my hands.

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We spent the next two days wandering around town, avoiding the Prada stores situated on every other block but drinking as many $17 cocktails as possible. (Turns out, Aspen isn’t really our scene.)

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The local paper reported on our show, and also mentioned celebrity sightings.

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While we managed to avoid various Hiltons and Kardashians, we did have dinner next to the NBA commissioner. And, check out who Bryan caught in what has to be one of his best selfies to date:

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Kevin Nealon! Mr. Subliminal himself. He’d come back into play a few hours later.

When we checked our flight status around 2:30 pm Sunday afternoon, we noted flight after flight was being cancelled. An “airport emergency” notice came up on the Aspen airport webpage. Bryan’s quick Twitter search yielded a stomach-churning tweet from Kevin himself: “Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport. Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet.”

Indeed, a small jet had crashed during its approach. News quickly spread to CNN, and we called the moms to assure them we were fine, not knowing how many weren’t so fortunate. We turned our attention to how we might still make our flight out of Denver, as Ava was ill and Katie was supposed to fly to Boston early the next day. We decided our only option was to rent a car and drive. A hotel staffer agreed to take us to the airport (the only place you can rent a car in Apsen, unfortunately), and for some reason, the police officer blocking the road allowed us through.

Nothing puts travel woes into perspective like seeing a smoldering plane on a runway, so please understand that we approached the next several hours with appreciation for our own safety and a heavy heart for those involved in the terrible accident.

The airport was chaotic, though within minutes we secured a 4×4 and, notably, a passenger. A couple approached us and asked if we could take their daughter, a medical student starting a new rotation Monday morning, to the Denver airport with us. Bryan, who very much believes in karma, agreed immediately, while the young woman’s mother noted, “You look like a very nice man, and you have small children, and I’m reasonably sure you’re not an ax murderer…” Good instincts.

Along the way, we learned that her father owned a biotech firm in Boston, and that one of his grad school classmates sits on Bryan’s company board. The world is small, but the biotech world is even smaller, apparently.

We hoped to make the trip in about four hours, but our Denver-based friend David said it could be quite a bit longer. As we moved into higher elevations, we found pretty intimidating conditions. (I’m sorry, Mom, I lied when I said the roads were fine…)

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Bryan drove through ice and snow and unbelievable traffic for more than six hours. He was calm and quiet and probably busily resolving to never travel anywhere with me again. As we drove, we tried repeatedly to contact United only to hear the recording say, “We’d like to transfer you to a customer service representative, but unfortunately…” Between the crash and the weather throughout the east, we had no way to contact the airline. They did let us know via email, however, that our flight had been cancelled. And rebooked for three days later.

When we arrived at our airport and said goodbye to our passenger, I headed for the ticketing counter while Bryan returned the rental car. My cell phone was completely dead, and although I travel a fair amount on my own, it felt worrisome to be separated. I asked the agent to rebook us on our flight—the one we were supposed to be on. She informed me that I was NOT supposed to be on the late flight to Kansas City, and that I was NOT scheduled to travel at that day at all—my trip was rebooked for Wednesday. I’d like to think Midwestern politeness worked again: We were booked standby for a flight with six open seats.

When Bryan returned to the terminal, we agreed that if we couldn’t get out that night or very early the next day, we’d drive home—polar vortex be damned. Thankfully, though, they called our names when the plane boarded (several hours late). We ran down the hall and out to the tarmac as someone yelled, “It’s the plane on the right.” Well, it was one of THREE planes to the right. We dashed across the ice, stopping at the first plane. It was indeed heading our way.

We were greeted at home by a weary Tom and Katie (and subzero temperatures) that Monday, incredibly glad for a safe return, and we agreed that we probably never needed to return to Aspen.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Karyl smith on January 8, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    wow, that is quite a story! I, too, did not realize what you drove through to get to Denver – I thought it was “slow traffic”! But, all of that aside, sounds like you had a very memorable trip – and maybe you won’t venture to Aspen again, but perhaps another promising destination!

  2. I love this story. It should end that the guy that owned the biotech company was opening up a branch in Omaha and that he is going to call Bryan and hire him at a salary of $550,000 to run it. That’s how it should end. Then Bryan would hire Rick, Sarah and I to help him. Rebecca would do PR. Doug would do the advertising. Dan would represent the company in all law suits.

  3. Posted by Laura on January 8, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I can’t believe this story!! I am so grateful both that you are safe and sound at home and that in spite of the difficulties, you got to see an amazing concert twice! I would absolutely die of happiness to hear Slow Show and Fake Empire in person. And This is the Last Time. And every other song on that list, for that matter.

    You should try to send this story to The National. Maybe if they hear of this devoted fan’s saga, they’ll play at a 400-person venue in Lawrence next time around : )

  4. Posted by Karyl on January 9, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Laura is on to something there!

  5. I like Laura’s idea. I love the National. (In fact, I’ve never even heard of them. When your children are in their 30s and 40s and you haven’t heard of the bands they like, you really feel old!) This is a terrific photo/essay, Rebecca, and it should be repurposed for Rolling Stone, or Huff Post or somebody!

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