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This family tootles. We consider the small road trip superior to almost any other form of integration. Something about the combination of the containing space The Zoom Car provides and the scenery passing by as we drive solidifies our sense of self, so this first full day of The Grand Otter's visit found us tootling. The Muse chose the destination: Estes Park, a place neither the Otter nor I had visited before. I suggested the route, the Peak To Peak Highway, a route which would keep us in back country, safely off any interstate.

I probably should't mention this, but the scenery outside hardly matters. We've successfully tootled through the widest variety of territory. The space inside, with The Muse skunking both The Otter and I in that day's installment of the infinite SlugBug game, me in a particularly jocular mood, and The Otter declaring this then that, we started getting know each other again.

In Colorado, a decent lunch generally appears even in the hinterlands. We found one of those, then The Otter and The Muse browsed in a couple of hippy shops, rock shopping, while I sat on a warm stone bench and people-watched. Resuming the drive up out of Nederland, I felt not as though we were heading into the middle of nowhere, but into the middle of somewhere for a change. So much of our lives seem governed by one or another imperative, the schedule dictating the route, that a day isolated from every obligation feels like substance. We're less lost than indifferent. I know where we're going and couldn't care less when or even if we ever get there.

Peak To Peak seems like a metaphor for one way to parse life. Even I tend to punctuate my experience by measuring the distance between peak experiences, as if that space in-between signified nothing, mere hollow ground. I eyed the woods as we passed, wondering if morels grew at altitude, feeling Springtime completely surround without smothering me. The road signs said nothing. Small towns hardly registered as we passed.

Inside The Zoom Car, we were steeping in the warmth of the sweet sunshine, windows down to catch the absolutely ambient atmosphere, the altitude fuzzing perspective. We spoke of almost nothing, which I distinguish as perhaps the very most important kind of conversation. Were we to sit in even a comfortable room for most of an afternoon, boredom and impatience would soon overtake us. On the Peak To Peak, some interesting something always seemed to keep the boredom at bay: another curiously shaped mountain, endlessly twisting road, cloud shapes, leaving ample space for the occasional important disclosure, the significant utterance.

The Peak To Peak seemed to be entirely peak experience, though the subtle kind. No cheering crowds venerating our passage, no significant milestone accomplishments. Arriving in Estes Park felt anticlimactic, though we spotted trout from a bridge overlooking a river and narrowly missed stepping on a couple of snakes thanks to The Otter's sharp eye.

Frank Lloyd Wright's progeny designed the National Park visitor's center, leaving a building almost indistinguishable from its surroundings, save for the rusting joins between girders and stone and the stick-on coat hangers rangers embellished the inside window frame with. Outside, The Otter spotted a chipmunk or kangaroo rat and was transported back into a delighted eight year old again. She stalked a small herd of remarkably tame deer, thrilled that they did not bolt as she neared them feeding.

Home much later, after stopping for her to take a panorama shot of the view from near the top of Lookout Mountain, we found the neighborhood elk grazing in the meadow across from the house. The Muse agreed to torture chicken for us as I went to watch the male elk maul a sapling, scratching their antler sprouts, while The Otter showered off the road miles.

Nothing much happened all day. Nothing much more than the full immersion in absolutely ordinary time surrounded by the most extraordinary people and, oh yea, scenery. Peak experience seems over-rated. Our insistence on measuring life from the top down ignores our most familiar existence. Disneyland serves as the odd exception to what really rules our time here. Neither striving nor arriving, we most properly tootle around, breathing in thin air, talking about that ever-essential nothing much at all.

©2016 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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