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The first trip that Lisa and I took together centered around an electrical engineering symposium in Denver, Colorado.  I was going to be working for my father, watching a booth on the trade show floor.  Lisa was enlisted to help keep me company, as my sister Claire had to stay home for both tennis and marching band.

We were seventeen, and it was several weeks before we were to start our senior year of high school.  Lisa was my bestest-best friend and always up for an adventure, so she was a natural choice to fill the spot of my sister.

We were staying at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Denver, which is now the Sheraton Downtown Denver.  I only know this fact because I will be staying there next week for the fifteenth anniversary of said symposium.  The Adam’s Mark was a very fancy hotel, especially for the two of us who really thought any hotel was great at that point.  My father was the President of the society that was putting on the symposium that year, and because of this he was given the Presidential Suite on the top floor of the hotel.  We had just a regular room a floor or two away.  Honestly, we could have slept in the living room, dining room or one of the four bathrooms in the Presidential Suite.  They had pretty much just combined four hotel rooms.

But, we were excited to have our own space and the first night we were there, my parents had a soiree to attend sans teenagers.

So we stayed in.  And ordered room service and dyed Lisa’s hair in the bathtub, using REAL glasses to rinse out her locks. They delivered Ben and Jerry’s to the room and we rented a movie as well—as far as we were concerned, we were high rollers.

The next day we began to work to pay off our debt.  The morning started with a dash upstairs to what I BELIEVE was like the Mark Room or something like that.  It was reserved for people on my parent’s floor to have snacks, their own bartender and breakfast!  We weren’t exactly sure if we qualified for this fancy room since we weren’t on the floor, but my mom told us we could eat in there.  So we did…we just ran in grabbed food off the counter and returned to our room.  We did this EVERY DAY.  Upon the day before check-out, we were in the room WITH my parents, and the Chef came out of the little kitchen and demanded to know what we wanted to eat.  “I have watched you run in here every day and I have not cooked for you.”

Apparently, we were not as stealthy as we thought we were.

But that first day of “work” our first job was to ensure that the booth actually made it to the convention center.  My dad told us there would be a bus that would take us there.  He did not mention that the bus was a free shuttle.  We thought he meant the city bus.  We did not have funds for that, so we borrowed a luggage cart from the hotel and we pushed the booth the six or seven blocks to the hotel.

When we arrived to set it up, we discovered our error in judgement.  But it was Mission Accomplished.

That first day was the easy part.  We left after that and went shopping at the big fancy “Ski Lodge Mall.”  I had never driven in a rental car before and I felt like such a grown up getting there.  Although, of course, we did get lost.  We ended up in the parking lot of what, we believe now, was Columbine High School.  In less than nine months, its images would flash on television screens around the world and we would have only our memory of an insignificant school parking lot with which to compare the schools.

Back in downtown Denver, we were required the next few days to sit at a booth and sell standards.  What does that mean?  We had to sit there and when people asked us questions, we just smiled and said, “I have no idea.  You need to ask Dan.”

We did get some good food out of the week and a Colorado Rockies game.  We also visited the Science Museum for a gala event.  The weekend after the symposium was when we got to have fun.  We took two trips away from Denver.  On the Friday, my dad had meetings.  Lisa and I really, REALLY wanted to go white water rafting. It seemed to be the epitome of cool summer things to do in Colorado.  So God Bless Rosemary, she packed us in the rental car and drove a couple of hours up into the mountains so we could go rafting.  The rapids were relatively tame, and really it was like canoeing back in Minnesota only with a bunch of people in the raft.  But there were cute guides and my mom looked like an Ewok in her get up.  AND WE HAD GONE WHITE WATER RAFTING.  Life List – CHECK!


The true adventure came after. 

We did not think to pack food as we were traveling lightly from point A to point B on the river and back to point A.  By the time we had driven two hours to the start of the adventure, driven from the headquarters to the boat, ridden the river, driven back to the headquarters and began to head back into Denver, WE WERE STARVING.  Before Lake Kejimkujik, this was our epitome of hunger episodes that we would use for comparison.

The Wendy’s that we stopped at, was heaven sent.  Those Frosty’s and Baked Potatoes and Fries were the best thing I had EVER EVER eaten. 

Amazing how much food plays into your trips.  Especially on the Colorado trip.  The next day we traveled with both of my parents to make the drive up Pike’s Peak.  We had stopped at the Air Force Academy earlier in the day to take a peek, and look up one of the guys that had just graduated from our school.  When we called up to his room a very military voice answered, “Cadet BLAH BLAH BLAH(I couldn’t understand him) how can I help you, ma’am?”

I probably sounded really stupid because it too me a second to respond, I couldn’t figure out how he knew I was a girl!

Anyway, the cadet we knew was out training so we never got to meet Cadet BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Instead we took the death defying drive up and down Pike’s Peak.  There were many times that I would stick my nose in the book I was reading so that I wouldn’t see how close we were to the edge.  Lisa kept asking me how my paper smelled.  We got to the top safely.  Looked around, hung out with some Piku’s…these crazy little mammals that hide all over Pike’s Peak.  Then we hopped back in the car and drove down the mountain—and we survived.

To celebrate, we got ice cream, thus beginning the Hoolihan tradition of rewarding ourselves with ice cream at the bottom of mountains.

Of course, we drove back to Denver while enjoying our tasty treats.

But it got weird. 

My dad, who was driving, had some mechanical malfunctions with his cone, thus spilling chocolate ice cream all over his khaki shorts.  My mother, sitting in the passenger seat, leaned over with wet naps and napkins to clean up.  Lisa, my poor innocent friend, and I were sitting in the back.  For some reason mom completely disappeared when attempting to wipe up the mess in my father’s lap.  We commented on this, and then the moment I knew my relationship with my parents was changing happened.

My dad began to make obscene noises from the front seat with my mother’s head in his lap.

We were seventeen.  We got it.  But those were my parents.

We were scarred for life…or at least the next few weeks until we realized how hilarious it was.

Needless to say, after that car ride it was time to return to Minnesota.  Lisa, always the trooper, got up early to attend 6:30 mass the next morning before we flew home.  She was not Catholic, and found “the great Catholic twitch” to be a phenomenon she was unfamiliar with.  I now, thanks to Lisa, think of the blessing before the Gospel as the great Catholic twitch.

It was definitely time to separate the two of us, so we flew home, having survived our first trip together of many more to come.