23. VAIL, CO

As we approached the famed snow-sliding slopes of Vail, CO we were reminded of a trip we planned last winter that never came to be.

The first iteration of this trip, albeit a slightly altered version, was to load up our boards and drive to the mountains of Colorado for a couple weeks of fun in the snow. We planned to hit as many States and sites as we could on our way to and from the Rockies.

While I was happy to see the plan evolve into our current expedition, at the time I was rather panicked as the opportunity slipped away. As far as I was concerned, after years of overworking, we couldn't hurl ourselves into a life revolving around travel fast enough.

Ironically, navigating the village's confusing traffic patterns that evening challenged both my nerves and my patience. It was getting dark, spitting a damp rain and I had been trapped in the car all day trying to work on a shiny laptop screen winding through mountain passes.

This wasn't at all how the original, fictitious trip to Vail had gone in my head.

Our first attempts at dinner were thwarted by an explosion of families and their soda-powered kids who remained oblivious to our first world problems. Even the hostess was all too eager to turn our tired, weary, huddled masses away.

Dejected, we left the popular Blue Moose Pizza through a chandelier-clad corridor and shuffled over to a consolatory, apres-ski pub.

The wood-filled restaurant was packed with half drunk people talking too loud and high-def screens of MMA fighters bruising each other in slow-motion. I escaped to the bar's restroom to refresh with a splash of cold water.

Gazing up from the sink, I was horrified to see the small stand of grey hairs, who'd previously escaped coverage, were multiplying like zombies from Michael Jackson's Thriller video. This reflection jolted me world's away from the sassy snowboarder that joined me on previous trips.

I returned to our table and picked up my menu, overdue for a cold drink and hot food. The logo on the cover proudly boasted "Garfinkel's — since 1993" as though 21 years was kind of a big deal. Seriously? Since when did the year I graduated high school qualify an establishment for historic bragging rights?

Too exhausted to toy with my middle-age metabolism, I ordered the lettuce wraps from our young waitress and settled in for a colorful meal. Fantasies of my imaginary self sustained me through the meal as I wrapped over-seasoned chicken in iceberg lettuce. 

In these escapades, I am always young and tall and infinitely more fashionable than I have ever been in reality. My skin is always perfectly sun-kissed and I speak fluently — in several mediterranean tongues — as I order a cocktail I'll likely ever drink in real life.

Like a smell that can instantly transport us back to childhood, or a song that transforms us into a an air-guitar playing teenager, travel can be as sobering as it can be intoxicating.

As my blood sugar recalibrated, I could feel my energy begin to return along with my sanity... just in time for the last 100 miles.