When I started my solo travels five years ago, I never thought about my health and well being. I felt I was still in my prime, even though I would have been considered “elderly” by the Center for Disease Control standards.
The last couple of weeks have made me reflect upon how quickly life can change. Again. My leg injury sustained on the Hunziker run at Taos Ski Area has me on crutches and using a wheelchair. And while I am mentally beating myself up over getting hurt, it’s made me realize I am not ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. It’s renewed my enthusiasm to “get back in the saddle” next season and continue skiing. I just have to recover from this injury, figure out hip replacement surgery and recovery and maybe move to Santa Fe.
I had planned on skiing Santa Fe for five days after Taos, but clearly that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I had a orthopedic doctor’s appointment in Santa Fe. I was under the impression that I was scheduled to have an MRI on my leg but that didn’t happen, either. Other details came running though my mind: since I couldn’t ski anymore, would the ski areas refund my money for my ski passes (Ikon and SkiSantaFe); I had a Worldmark condo booked for Winter Park, Colorado and needed to cancel and get my points back; I had a wedding to go to in Savannah and would need a wheelchair to get to and from the plane gate; what long term parking was I going to use at the Denver airport? Would I be OK driving from Denver to Minneapolis or would my leg give me grief? And how bad was my leg, really???
Leave it to me to worry and fret about every “what if” scenario possible. Making my angst even greater was my Santa Fe house hunting–the fact that I was finding nothing in my price range in the neighborhoods I wanted, with enough bedrooms and baths to meet my criteria. I spent a couple days with a realtor, each day ending in disappointment. I was royally bummed about the Santa Fe housing market and my inability to find a place to live in the community I wanted to call home.
I drove north out of Santa Fe, my eye wandering east to the Sangre de Christo mountains and the runs of Ski Santa Fe. I was well rested and looking forward to seeing my family at the wedding. At the Chimayo exit I decided to take the High Road to Taos, a cut across though the mountains. The extra half hour was well worth it–the High Road has some spectacular views and small towns. It joined the road we took from Taos to Sipapu where I had skied a week before. From Taos I took Highway 160 north through San Luis across the pass towards Walsenburg, Colorado. I love taking new routes and seeing new vistas. On the east side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains is a great view of the Spanish Peaks, two massive mountains to the south.
I made it as far as Pueblo, Colorado where I called it a night. The next day I got started on the road mid-morning, the day hazy and cloudy, another winter storm predicted for the mountains.
I hadn’t driven the road from Pueblo to Denver in maybe 40 years. I was surprised at how much the area had changed–housing developments, industry, new exits on the freeway. Colorado Springs had at least doubled in sized–it used to be such a small town. Denver I had been to several times since I moved away in my twenties. I am now 68. Denver changed as much as I have.
The beauty of the Denver Airport, touted as an engineering and technology breakthrough back in the 90s, is that it is built on the eastern plains of Colorado. Back in the day it was in the middle of nowhere. It still is, almost. The great thing for me the traveler is that there’s ample shuttle parking at a very reasonable rate. I parked in the Pikes Peak shuttle lot (a guy on a chairlift told me about it) for $8/day. Nowadays that is a bargain price.
I was flying from Denver to Savannah, Georgia for a family wedding. I’ve adopted the nomad’s way of life–driving wherever the snow might be and flying to events from the closest and cheapest airports. I figure the world is my oyster, and I should take advantage of wherever and whenever opportunity knocks. In this case it was the wedding of a close cousin of my kids. I define these cousins as “close” because technically they aren’t blood cousins. They just grew up like they were cousins. I have had the privilege and joy of watching this group of nine kids grow up together.
Savannah was an unknown commodity. My mother-in-law years ago had told me I would love it after she had visited the city with her sister. I am sure I did an absent minded, “uh huh” in response. Even as I met my brother, sister-in-law and nephew at the airport I was still skeptical as to why anyone would get married so far from home. My daughter joined us. None of us had ever been here before.
I take back every mean thing I may have thought or said about the city. Savannah is the perfect site for a wedding, a girls-weekend, a bridesmaids party, a writers’ retreat. This first weekend in March blessed us with unseasonably warm weather, perfect for snow-bound Montanans and a lame skier. I was worried about keeping up with the bridal party and my family before during and after the wedding, so I Googled “wheelchairs for rent near me” and Mobility Bob’s popped up. Bob was so easy to work with. His wheelchairs were reasonably priced; he delivered and picked up at our inn. He had a fixed price for the week.
And it was a good thing I got the wheelchair. Savannah has 20+ parks, strategically placed a few blocks from each other. It has quaint and death-defying cobblestone streets and sidewalks. Our base of operation was at The Jules (julessavannah.com); a six suite historic home in the heart of the downtown. The Jules is on Chippewa Square, the one that Forrest Gump sits at the bus stop and offers his chocolates to a woman and says, “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.'” Ain’t it the truth?
The Imer side of the family was housed at The Jules, and it was the perfect inn. Each suite was complete with kitchen, washer/dryer, living room and bedroom. We had the two bedroom suite. The town is so historic and well preserved. Walking is the way to go, but there were hop on/hop off tours of multiple flavors; horse drawn carriages; Segway groups; bicycle tours; walking tours. I was severely handicapped with my torn calf muscle. I crutched it, and wheel chaired it, but cobblestones and old sidewalks are not ADA compliant. Fortunately The Jules is ADA compliant and we had a modern elevator to take me up and down the four floors but I longed to run up and down the elegant staircases and the impressive front steps.
Rooftop and patio bars are everywhere, and we took advantage of every one of them it seemed. We had great fun relishing the fresh seafood that we don’t get inland, and the 80 degree days that we haven’t had inland, either.
The rehearsal dinner was on the 15th floor of the DeSoto, the wedding performed outside in the backyard of the historic Harper Fowlkes House, and the reception was held at the impressive Soho South events center. An authentic live jazz combo performed, and at this relatively small wedding the dance floor was filled all evening. Warm sunny days and cool evenings made for the perfect setting for this Spring wedding.
Uber drivers made good money off us tourists, especially me. My gimpy leg made walking difficult and the rough sidewalks and cobblestone streets made wheel chair rolling a challenge. I did wheel myself to The Pink House one day to meet my daughter for lunch. Google Maps said it was .3 miles–child’s play under normal circumstances–but by myself, wheeling and pushing and hopping along the uneven sidewalks made for a crazy ridiculously long walk. After that episode, I resigned myself to calling Ubers and taking advantage of the convenience of four wheels and a driver.
This spring I re-listened to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. While it is a true crime story about the murder of a young man by an older antiques dealer, the descriptions of the various characters make it a colorful impetus for the revival of the city of Savannah. As I listened to the story for the second time I had a greater appreciation for the descriptive talent of the author. And now as I rode the Old Savannah bus tour and passed by the dealer’s home that faced one of the city squares, I was glad to have relived the book.
Now as the visit to Savannah comes to an end, I appreciate how lovely the city is and think I’ve got to get my girlfriends together to come back. A part of me shivered when we passed the Cotton Exchange building and I understood at a gut level that the beauty, the wealth, the gentile life of the past were all gotten from the backs of many slave laborers. And I think it strange that the city, defeated in the Civil war, was “given” to Abraham Lincoln from the defeated General Sherman as a Christmas gift.
But what are we if we don’t look at our past and strive to be smarter? We can appreciate the architectural art form yet temper our outlook knowing “all that glitters is not gold.” We move on. As I limped through the streets, unable to do all that I would normally have done, I feel the future closing in on me. It won’t be so much longer when it’s not just a ski injury that slows me down, but that grim truth of being “elderly.” And how is it that it all collides here in Savannah, where the Spanish Moss hangs poetically down the branches of Live Oakes, the clip clop of draft horses pulling carriages makes the past seem like today? In a day I will be back in the Rockies, snow capped mountains to the West, my truck waiting in Pikes Peak shuttle lot filled with ski gear that has no further use.
I wait for next season and all that it may bring: a healed leg, a new hip perhaps, hair more grey than not, letting go of youth, a new home in Santa Fe, writing more, publishing more, pushing toward goals that can never be reached.