Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Peach of a Time

Hello everyone!

You might be interested to know that you’re talking to a lady in possession of about 20 pounds of peaches. Yes, the trip to Palisade paid off, both in beautiful vistas and luscious produce. Of course, my peach stores have gone down just a bit since I went on my trip, after I made some amazing peach ice cream and ate a bunch just sitting around my living room. A peach buckle or cobbler is next on the list, and them I’m going to make the rest into “freezer jam”, which should be interesting and might even make the trip back with me to Iowa!

I must say that the Peach Festival itself was a bit of a letdown in terms of show-stopping excitement and the number of vendors selling actual peach-oriented items, but I got to eat my annual corn dog, so I’m not complaining too loudly. J

The most amazing thing about the whole Peach Festival was the drive out there. It was held in Palisade, which is very near the Utah border and about a 4 hour drive from the ranch. The scenery changed dramatically along the way, from luscious green, pine-covered mountains, to brown and red towering mesas (sort of like flat-top mountains).

I got a really great tip from the ranch foreman (who has lived up here for years) about this sort-of shortcut to connect with I-70 called Trough Road. Since it didn’t involve going over a mountain pass, I was all for it! As it turned out, I drove on it for a few miles, and then rounded a bend to discover that I was VERY high up on the side of a mountain, looking down onto a gorgeous valley with a wide green river running through it. There was a lookout station, so I naturally swung my car right in and took a bunch of pictures. It was truly breathtaking. I could see the rapids, and I even managed to get a picture of them.

The rest of this road was great because not too many people use it and it’s really wide, so I could pull over to the side and take pictures whenever I wanted, without worrying about having someone behind me. But, once I got onto I-70, there was no stopping for anything, so I had to take all my pictures one-handed out the window. Still, I got some great shots of the mesas and the surrounding area.

Once I got into Palisade I stayed at the Peach Festival for literally like 45 minutes (after driving 4 hours!), but there was really nothing to do there. There were all sorts of stands selling jewelry and knick knacks that I couldn’t afford and didn’t want. I bought one of the biggest peaches I’ve ever seen and ate it, dripping all over the place, as I walked around and tried to forget that the sun was beating down on me and I’d forgotten to factor sunscreen into my daily plans. Eventually I’d toured the entire grounds and was just *done*, so I left. I had seen some fruit stands on my way into town, so I stopped at a couple on my way out of Palisade and bought a ½ bushel of peaches and a few ears of famous Olathe corn (which, upon cooking, revealed itself to have NOTHING on Iowa corn…you can’t fool a corn-fed girl). Anyway, it was a great trip and I’m so glad I went!

Aside from that, not too much has been happening around here. Balbir and Dick keep asking me if I would like to stay here over the winter and work in the office taking reservations for next season. Needless to say, my answer is always a polite “No Fucking Way.” I think I would lose my mind if I had to stay here all winter. Balbir keeps talking up how we can go skiing and snowmobiling and to all these great winter resorts around here. Yeah, right. No thanks. Today Dick asked me AGAIN if I would stay. He said that they really like the quality of work that I do and that they would love me to stay or just even come back at some point during the winter to work even for a little bit. I, once again, told him a firm no. He said that they would really like me back, so that’s why they want to offer it to me first before they advertise for a new person. I appreciate that, but there’s just no way that my sanity (or budget) could stand staying out here in the depths of winter. Not to mention the strain on my poor little Ford Focus!

Anyway, my working day is almost done. Today has been super slow, but I don’t mind that so much.

Take care everyone and I’ll talk with you soon!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hello from Colorado!‏

Hello everyone!

Well, another couple weeks have passed up here on the mountain. I can hardly believe that we’re already getting to the end of August! I never thought that it would arrive. Of course, I came here thinking that I would be leaving in mid-September, so it’s a little sad to think I’ll have to stick around here up to a month longer than that. But, the core group of people who will be staying aren’t so bad. Plus, I found out that Evil Chef Scott will probably be leaving as soon as the guests peter out, leaving us all to cook for ourselves. Woo-hoo!!

Speaking of the kitchen help, we had another disappearance last week. Dick hired this Becky girl from Maine to come here as a dining room server. On her resume, she had a special section labeled “Personal”, under which she listed her vitals as: age 25, 5’3” 105 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes. So, needless to say, everyone was expecting this blonde bombshell to show up. I was the one sent to pick her up from town when the shuttle dropped her off and it was quite surprising when she stepped out of the van and revealed herself to be a 12 year old-looking ugly brunette. Bit of a letdown, what?

So, this chick shows up with nothing but a “back to school” backpack, and doesn’t even have toiletries with her! Well, no problem with that because Corky can get her stuff from housekeeping. No money to buy a shirt, so Tanja (Balbir’s assistant who’s from Germany) loaned her one of hers. But this girl just seemed fishy from the start. At first glance, we perceived her to be very simple-minded, like fresh from the farm if you know what I mean. But, she went to hang out at the barn on her second night and started telling everyone how she loves to have sex with black guys, etc… A bunch of other crazy stuff came out of her mouth, and eventually we all decided that she was a nut job. But, we needed a server, so whatever.

Well, until she starts telling us all that she’s going to leave! And that she’s planning on leaving before the 16th (which is the day that a huge corporate group comes and the ranch is entirely full). The weird thing is that she gave a different reason to every person she talked to. There were rumors of another job, going to Europe, eloping with her boyfriend, etc… Eventually, she left about 4 days after she got here. The following day, we got a phone call from her parents in Maine. Turns out that she’s a 16 year old runaway!! Man…the weirdos this place attracts...

On a positive note, we did get a new Sous Chef who is FANTASTIC! His name is Singyn (I think this is how it’s spelled—it’s British) and he cooks about 10 times better than Scott. Plus, he’s more vegetable friendly and easier to get along with, personality-wise. Everyone can tell when he’s cooking because A) the food is tasty and there are several dishes to choose from at one setting, B) we get dishes (such as eggrolls, vegetable quesadillas, etc…) that Scott would never dream of making, and C) he actually sets out accoutrements like sour cream, melted butter for corn on the cob, etc… that if we asked Scott for would get us nothing but a big Fuck You. So, everyone can tell when Singyn is cooking, and we compliment him all the time (the vegetarian girls give him hugs because they have full tummies for the first time in months). We’re terrified that he’s going to run away! But, so far he seems to get along with Scott, so it’s seemingly all good.

What isn’t all good is how many redneck racist bastards work here. It is amazing to me that so many of the staff (mostly the Texas wranglers, but also just random others) will casually use the words Sp*c or N*gger in conversation, like it’s totally appropriate. I’m sure that to them it is, back in the great state of Texas. Seriously, this has gotten worse and worse as the weeks have passed. One of the wranglers, Josh, was sitting down at Pioneer one night talking about how in Texas they believe that people should stick with their own race and shouldn’t mix. He also said that all w*ggers, n*ggers, and sp*cs should be taken into a field and shot along with all the f*ggots---if you can believe it!! And this just said totally casually, with not a shrug of embarrassment or anything. Needless to say, I told him where he could stick it and that he should keep that shit down in the barn, where it belongs. But other people tell racist jokes all the time, or just make little comments. My favorite was when one of the new girls, Kim, told a racist black joke, and as soon as she was done with it she said, “But I’m not racist.” So I immediately added, “I just tell racist jokes.” A few of the liberals in the room got a laugh out of that one.

Anyway, the only real highlights of the past couple weeks were when a coyote ran right in front of my on our road, and getting to see marmots every time I drive by our lake. Pathetic, yes? But still, it’s cool that I see this same marmot (I prefer to think it’s the same one) in the same exact spot every time I drive by. Actually, there were a few times I didn’t see him, and I was afraid one of the coyotes got him, but he reappeared, so that was nice. Other than that, I still haven’t seen any moose and it’s starting to make me mad! Everyone has seen one but me. However, I’m planning to go on a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park before I come home, so I will hopefully see some great wildlife up there.

Well, this email has gotten as long as the Nile, so I should probably say my goodbyes. Tomorrow I’m off to the Peach Festival in Palisade, Colorado. My grandpa and I saw this festival on the Food Network last summer, so there’s no way that I could miss it being out here at the right time and all! So, wish me luck on my journey…supposedly I’ll be driving through some of the most beautiful scenery in this part of the state, so I’m very excited.

Talk to you all soon!

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Don't take your guns to town

Hello everyone!

Not a whole lot to report this week, but I wanted to give you an update on one of the activities on my list that I finally got to!

Thursday was my day off, and I originally just had plans to meet up with Joy and her family in Grand Lake (they were camping in Rocky Mountain National Park). This was going to be way more than cool enough for me on my day off because I just wanted to do something fairly low key, plus I was super excited to see someone from home. As it turned out, we had a really cool time walking all around Grand Lake (their main street is a lot like Valley Junction, but with mountains in the background).

But, the morning before I left to meet up with Joy, I finally got to go Skeet Shooting!! I have wanted to do this more than anything, but we're not allowed to go up at the same time that guests go, which is a bit limiting. Anyway, Greg, the Activities Director, told me at dinner the night before that he could take me on the morning of my day off, before he took guests up. That meant cutting it a bit short, but I didn't care.

So, we drove up Skeet Hill in the ranch Jerokee, and it was a crazy rutted bouncy ride all the way to the top of the mountain. I got some great pictures of the surrounding mountainside, but it was totally cloudy. However, I think that was good for shooting since the sun wasn't shining too bright to see the clay pigeons.

Now, I've never ever held a real gun before, so I was really surprised at how heavy it was!! I shot a .20 gauge shotgun, which wasn't the biggest one (I think the biggest we have is a .12 gauge). Greg shot one shell so that I would know what it sounded like before I shot it myself. Holy crap. It was SO FUCKING LOUD!!! I'm so glad he did that otherwise I would have shot it right by my ear and probably jumped a mile. As it was, it took a bit of getting used to the noise. But, Greg showed me how to hold the gun so that it didn't hurt my arm when it kicked back, and I didn't end up with any bruises, which was good. However, the weight of the gun took a toll on me and all that day and the next my arms were ridiculously sore!! I could hardly lift up my left arm (which was the one holding the weight of the end of the gun). I couldn't believe how sore it made me.

But, the good news is that I hit 3 of the clay pigeons!! Of course, this is out of a box of like 20 shells, but still! Pretty good start for a beginner. :-) I found myself getting very competitive (this is a real shocker, eh?) and it took almost no time at all for me to be shouting out "PULL!" like a pro. I took to it like a duck to water. I just wish that I had had more time that morning. I am definitely going to go shooting again, and I'd like to be able to use the .12 gauge before the end of the season. I think I'll have to work at it with the 20 for awhile first, though!

Anyway, not much else to report around here. We got a couple new people this week. One of them is a guy from Tennessee who looks and sounds exactly like Monty, which is a little creepy. But he's very nice, and so are the two new girls, so I think it's going to work out. We were so short handed for so long that we hardly know what to do with ourselves now that we're mostly staffed.

Oh, I almost forgot that I wanted to mention something to everyone. We are allowed to have visitors here, like 2 or 3 visits per season. None of you have been able to make it out here yet (and we've been pretty well booked, too), but if anyone would like to visit between the end of August and the end of September, we have plenty of room. The rate for you would be FANTASTIC!! If you stay in a guest room but eat with the staff, you can stay here for $45/night/person, for up to three nights. A regular adult guest would pay $750. If you'd like to eat the fancy guest food, it will cost something like $65/night, but staff food is pretty decent. Plus, I could put you in one of our best rooms at that time of season. So, think it over, and let me know if you're interested in taking a little trip west! :-)

Talk to you soon!