Thursday, July 23, 2020

Mid-Summer surprise and a pleasant one at that!

Surprises come in all forms. Sometimes it’s the uniqueness of the surprise while at other times, it’s the timing. An unexpected surprise is always a welcome distraction from the daily routines.  Just a few days ago Margo and I got to experience a very pleasant surprise and as for possible disruptions to our normal routines, well, we would just have to make do. No surprises here, as there really isn’t anything normal in this time of a global pandemic.

It was a Thursday afternoon when we texted our good friends Brian and Jan Kenny. They live in Simi Valley, down in southern California. I cannot recall the exact text that was sent but I suspect it had something to do with the arrival of our low platform bed. Moments later they responded with how they would like to see what we had just installed and without a second thought I suggested they come on by to see for themselves. Within seconds, they said OK!

Brian and Jan just love to fly and even though they had flown into Windsor once before it seemed to Margo and me that it had been ages ago. In the blink of an eye the response came back – surprise, surprise! How about we fly out to your place, tomorrow! And then the phone calls began in earnest. In business, there are many times where you do have to let your instincts take over and where you have to go with a program even if there is little data available supporting the program. And so it is maintaining friendships when all that is being talked about is social distancing.

The only real consideration that they had to give to this sudden development was the weather. On the previous occasion, they had flown south and well below any of Colorado’s 14ers. It would be this route they would take once again – over Phoenix, Gallup and around Santa Fe. However, the afternoons in the weeks’ leading up to this surprise had proved stormy and even as we talked on the phone, a quick look outside saw yet another storm cell developing.

Fortunately, the systems stabilized and we had an almost perfect three day weekend and watching as Brian landed his Cessna 182 at our local airport, we were still pinching ourselves over just how quickly this little endeavor had come about. Then again, the Kennys like the Buckles are never shy about making quick decisions. Recent experience in business left no room for dillydallying (yes, we have flights booked for a trip to Germany even if the likelihood of the event being held is in jeopardy), but there are times when you just have to make up your mind. And quickly: Spontaneity rules, OK!   

If the true purpose of the trip was to check out our new bar, then the trip had to be a success as we welcomed Jan and her Margaritas. We don’t have a swimming pool and we don’t have a hot tub but all the same, with or without paper umbrellas, the drinks Jan made certainly contributed to getting the day off to a good start despite the lateness of the hour. Somewhere, along some longitude, it was five o’clock somewhere.

Naturally enough, we had the neon in place that when lit, said exactly that. You may have missed reading the previous post so here it is again but this time, from a slightly different angle. And wait: We are now looking for neon that says something like the Bar / Pub Down Under as this is our downstairs outside summer-only gathering place. There is a custom neon vendor just down the road so a visit is now definitely in order. 

For some time now we have had house guests. When others may have been tempted to pull up the drawbridge and flood the moat, we had already extended a welcome to our dear friends Jim and Dale Miller. Jim and I had first met in the late 1980s when both of us were working at Tandem Computers. We attended the same introduction to Tandem courses for sales and marketing folks and while in Cupertino, California, Jim had arranged for a couple of rounds of golf on popular courses including Castlewood and Pasatiempo.
It had been Jim and Dale’s hospitality back in 2016 that first exposed Margo and me to the city of Windsor and following the sale of our Niwot, Colorado, home in 2017, we bought a home, then under construction, that was on the same fairway and not far from where they lived. They were adjacent to the tee box whereas we were adjacent to the green. No sooner had our home been finished and we had moved in, the Millers sold their home and moved to Arizona. However, with their families deeply ensconced in Colorado, spending summer in Colorado seemed natural enough when you consider how seriously hot Arizona can get at this time of year.

Having two families staying with us in the middle of the global pandemic might not appeal to everyone, but as it happened, both the Buckles and the Millers had been tested the week before and were given the all clear. A few days earlier, likewise the Kennys we given the all clear. You cannot say enough in these times about the sheer joy of having shared social interaction and watching the girls enjoying adult beverages masterfully mixed by Jan was not just a surprise but a circumstance that warmed our hearts. You just have to wonder though – and this is as much editorial as I care to provide – whether this nasty virus will be with us for a lot longer than presently thought and that any future social interaction involving friends and family are all going to require a doctor’s note before any festivities can begin.

Kind of reminds us of our childhood when heading off to school for the first time. On the other hand, here in northern Colorado you really have to look hard to find evidence that there was a global pandemic under way. For Margo and me very little has changed in terms of our daily routines. We still shop for food, visit the post office regularly and dine out occasionally. Yes, there is the presence of the ubiquitous face mask but even so, once in a restaurant, they are quickly put to one side. Pulling up to the gas pumps at our local Costco there is no requirement to wear masks at all as the distance between cars at the pumps is already well beyond six feet.  

No visit by the Kennys to our Windsor home would be complete without a roadtrip. Once again, it was a drive up to Estes Park this time, via an alternate, lesser used road. As Estes Park was absolutely packed, we decided not to hang around for too long, but rather look for scenic spots where we could pull in to enjoy the view. Of course, one regular stop for us whenever we have the Kennys here is the old church along the peak-to-peak highway. On this occasion we elected to drive the BMWs and they looked right at home in the church’s parking lot.

The Kennys have never driven the same car twice whenever they visit us. It’s a standing joke amongst the families that there will always be a surprise awaiting them once they step into the garage. While they had heard about our BMW i8 Roadster, this trip gave them a chance to put a lot of miles on the clock and predictably enough, over dinner that night, talk was centered on just how and when the Kennys might be tempted into acquiring one for themselves. It always happens. Cars were what started the friendship and it was our collective fondness for cars that fueled our interest in track days as well as long trips on different continents.

While we entertained the Kennys, grandson Colton Herta was hard at work piloting his Indy car around Road America. Coming away with a 4th and a 5th place finish over a double header weekend earned him the nickname of Mr. Consistency. With four rounds completed he was the only Indy driver to have four top 10 finishes including 3 top 5. This was enough for him to be in second place overall, but unfortunately, after the Kennys returned home, the following double header weekend in Iowa was eventful in other ways that ended up costing him a couple of places in the championship standings. There will be more on this in a subsequent post so look for a more complete update shortly.

 Food is a constant whenever we entertain the Kennys and this weekend was no exception. Lots of grilling took place even as we squeezed in a return trip to the 801 Chop House in Cherry Creek, just south of Denver proper.  Our new outside bar may have been the center for all social interaction over the weekend but there was just as much time spent hanging around the grill. A little bit of history was created this time around, as we grilled on our trusty Coleman propane grill for possibly the very last time. As much as this had been our mainstay grill while camping out in our RV, after three years it was time to move on to something a little more permanent.

We had hoped that our new Weber Genesis II four-burner grill would have arrived before the Kennys flew in, but it wasn’t to be – it arrived just after they left. This is a grill and the pictures may not do it justice, but this bad boy is 65” wide (1.651 meters for those who are metric challenged). During the construction phase of our home, we had made sure the builder ran gas lines to both upstairs and downstairs patios but the decision has now been made to install the Weber upstairs. By the time you read this hopefully the plumber will have been around to connect it to the mains natural gas supply. It really didn’t look right sitting inside the garage!

A good surprise is always something that you enjoy. Participating in such a complete surprise, as was the case with the unexpected arrival of the Kennys, is even better. Having other friends on hand as was the case of our current guests, the Millers, simply added more spice to the occasion. It was a fun weekend and one where business and the crisis in healthcare were put to one side, albeit for just a couple of days. But the biggest surprise of all was possibly the simple fact that even in times of a global pandemic, good friends can spend time safely socializing when steps were taken to test for the virus. And be clear of any presence of nasties.

One thing that needs to be said, however, as a surprise it provided a wonderful distraction even as we were neither careless nor unaware of our surroundings. Sensibly conducted, it’s good to know we can still have a little fun even as we know we can still enjoy each other’s company. Mid-summer surprises just have to be the best! Spontaneity has always been both family’s strong points and being able to respond just as important. When it comes to entertaining good friends, it’s good to see that the wings of spontaneity haven’t been clipped. It was only a few nights ago that we had our outside party lights installed and suddenly, our new bar was transformed into a Tiki Bar – one that we know for sure, the Kennys just have to fly back to fully enjoy. Yes “the Tiki Bar is open; come on in and open up your mind!” 

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