Weekend Recap: Vail Brew Fest and SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch

My weekend started off on the disappointing side – with rainy, cold weather that made me cancel plans to go to my work’s annual Promotion Day. Promotion Day is always one of my favorite days of the year – when we announce and celebrate all those who got promoted (we have one time of year for performance reviews / promotions, though we of course provide real-time feedback all year long). However, our Denver celebration was scheduled to be outside on a lake with boating and paddleboarding – fabulous when Colorado is having its usual sunny warm summer weather, but miserable-sounding when it was 40s and pouring rain :( If it had been closer, I would have gone anyway, but the venue was about an hour’s drive from my house, so I decided to skip it. I still feel kind of bad about my decision, but I emailed everyone I knew on the promotion lists and promised to celebrate another time!

My Friday night ended up being rather quiet overall – after getting done a lot of work in the afternoon that I originally thought I’d have to delay till Sunday, I then knocked out some chores, cooked dinner, and caught up on some blogging before heading to bed. I have been really delayed lately in getting out these weekend update posts, in particular, so it felt good to go into the weekend without already being behind on either work or writing!

I had spent the last week working out really hard – from my hike and long run last weekend, to a Body Pump class Monday morning where I pushed it hard with the weights, to three straight days of tough Orangetheory workouts in Florida. I was super sore by Friday, and that hadn’t subsided at all by Saturday morning. While I had originally thought I’d kick off Saturday morning with a long hike or trail run, the continuous rain turned that into a trip to Chuze Fitness, and my sore muscles turned my workout at Chuze from a Team Training class to some easy light cardio on the elliptical. Although I didn’t get to take class with her, it was still nice to bump into my friend Heather at the gym and say hello – hopefully I can catch up with her more substantially next weekend.

After the gym, I quickly showered, packed up the car, and then headed out to the mountains. The rain had stopped now that my workout was done (of course), and I ended up with a pretty, sunny drive out to Vail. This was good news, since the forecast was for rain! But within 30 minutes of my arrival in Minturn, the sky darkened again, and by the time I caught an Uber from my house to Vail Village, it was pouring and cold :( Not ideal for Vail Brew Fest!

I was meeting my other good friend named Heather, and her husband Kirk, and when I got to Vail Village and checked in at the registration tent, I texted them to see where they were. Turns out, they were holed up in another friend’s hotel room at the Sebastian, just above the festival. Much nicer than the rainy windy outdoors! I headed up to join them and we ended up having some wine and cheese there before finally coming back down to the beer fest. Wine and cheese was not quite what I had envisioned when going to Vail Brew Fest, but I was really glad that happened and grateful for my friends’ generosity :)

Unfortunately, the festival stayed pretty cold, windy, and rainy throughout – and I simply hadn’t dressed as warmly as I should have. I had been fooled by the warmth of the sun when I dressed to go, and now I was paying for it! Heather and I ended up ducking into one of the village shops and buying ski gloves to warm up our hands, and those helped a lot. Who would have thought we’d need ski gear at the end of June?! ;)

Beer_in_any_Weather

Beer IS delicious in any weather, but only if you have gloves on :)

Despite the cold and rain, we had a nice time catching up and sampling the beers at the festival. It wasn’t a very big “grand tasting”, and I’m not sure I’d go to this event again. Heather and Kirk had also attended a “WTF” (whiskey, tannins, froth) lunch tasting earlier in the day – each course was paired with either whiskey, wine, or beer, and attendees got to vote on which pairing was the best. Heather and Kirk said it was phenomenal and a must-attend – so perhaps I’ll consider that next year instead.

As for food this year, though, we all shared an Uber back to Minturn, and then settled in for cheese fries and boneless wings at Cowboy Bar… as you do after a beer festival :) We wrapped up our oh-so-healthy dinner around 6:30pm, and then I headed back to my house for some chit-chat with my roommate, followed by a super early 7:30pm bedtime. That bedtime wasn’t intentional – the original plan was for me to read in bed, but I conked out instead. And it was glorious!

Cuddling_with_Louie

I also snagged a little snuggle time with my roommate’s adorable dog Louie. He is the BEST!

I woke up Sunday morning at 5:30am (yay for an awesome night’s sleep, which I always get in the mountains!), and after catching up on some work, I packed up to head back to the Front Range. I was hoping to make it back for the Body Pump class at Chuze, but when I was halfway back, I realized the class time was 8:00am instead of 8:30am like I had been thinking, and I knew I wouldn’t make it in time. Instead, I headed to a different Chuze location – Littleton, which is pretty far from my house, but not far from the route I was taking to get home from the mountains. They had a Body Combat class scheduled for 8:30am, and I was excited to try something new.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t love the Body Combat class. I didn’t find it very challenging, and while the instructor offered some modifications to make it more difficult, my issue wasn’t necessarily the moves themselves; it was the breaks between tracks as she explained what was coming next, and the breaks within the tracks where we did the combos at half speed to learn them. I think for me, Team Training / Orangetheory are my cardio classes of choice; otherwise, I like classes only for weight lifting and prefer to get my cardio in the form of a run, hike, or time on the elliptical. Still so glad I tried this class, and the two-story facility was cool to explore!

I had originally thought I’d maybe stick around Chuze for the Body Pump class that was right after Body Combat (especially since my sore muscles had finally recovered), but ultimately decided that two classes in one morning was more time than I wanted to spend in the gym. I ended up being happy with that decision, as on my way home, my friend Chris texted to invite me to go rollerskating with her family in an hour. I was so glad I could say yes to join her! I haven’t been rollerskating since I was about 12 years old, but I used to love going to Guptill’s Arena as a kid. (And Ssssssssssssssssecrets… shout out to all my upstate New York readers who know how to say that with the appropriate reverb, and who I now have excited for the t-t-t-t-two water cannons.)

I was home long enough for a quick shower and a light bite to eat, then Chris picked me up to drive to the rink with her kids. Skate City was in a part of Westminster I don’t usually visit, and it was a little sketchy-looking from the outside. The inside wasn’t anything fancier, but it was a total blast from the past to see the small arcade, disco lights, snack bar, and of course, the roller skating rink, complete with everyone on old-fashioned four wheeled skates. Chris’ boys were laughingly guessing I was going to suck at rollerskating, but I managed to hold my own, and we had a great time skating all the way till the end of the two hour session.

Skate_City_with_Boys

They did not have a “couples skate”, which good because I wouldn’t have wanted to pick between the twins :)

When I got home, I had a little bit of time for a snack and some chores, and then it was time to dash out the door for one final activity of the weekend: my good friend Mike’s birthday party! I met Mike when we both went through orientation for my job together, and we became fast friends several years later when we both moved to Denver the same week (me from New York and Mike from Chicago). Mike has long since moved on to other jobs, but we’ve stayed close friends, and I was really excited to be in town for his birthday celebration.

Mike always knows the coolest hotspots in town, and his birthday dinner was so perfectly him – I loved every bit of it. Rather than a regular dinner, we went for a special “Sunday Supper” night at Jovanina’s Broken Italian. All the tables in the restaurant were pushed together to make one long banquet table (varying in shape / size down the line), and then guests claimed seats at the communal table while chianti flowed and a three course meal was served family style.

Jovaninas_Sunday_Supper

So much delicious food and wine!

The restaurant itself was beautiful, especially with the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the windows, the atmosphere was jovial and celebratory (there was also an engagement being celebrated at the end of the table!), and the food was delicious. And after dinner, we headed down to their amazing rustic wine cellar to open gifts and toast Mike a bit more. It was so relaxed and casual, yet at the same time, elegant. I really want to come back here for Sunday Supper again!

I called it a reasonably early night, since I was flying out Monday morning… but while I was still flying on my usual route to Florida, I was starting off with something fun. Several years ago, Craig invested in LightSail2, a solar-powered spacecraft. Well, on Monday, LightSail2 was finally getting launched into space, aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy! Craig got us “Feel the Burn” tickets to see the launch up close and personal (well, 3 miles away, which is as close as anyone can be), and I was really excited… both to see my first rocket launch, and also to see Craig for the first time in a week. I’m counting down the days till this weekend, when we both stop traveling and get to just be home in Colorado!

Our flights were scheduled to get in within 20 minutes of each other, and both were luckily on time. Our plan was to pick up a rental car and head for Cape Canaveral, but since we landed at 1:30pm, I texted him that I wanted to stop for lunch on the way. Craig is well aware of women’s tendency to get hangry (he frequently quotes something about women’s blood sugar levels dropping off faster than men’s?), so he greeted me with a pack of Lifesavers “to buy him time and literally save his life till he could get me actual lunch” :) Too cute! And we did indeed make it to Chipotle with me still in a fabulous mood :)

We checked into our hotel in Titusville and I settled in for a few conference calls; then it was off to pick up our tickets and head to Kennedy Space Center. We arrived at KSC around 6pm, which we thought would give us about two hours to check out the exhibits before catching a bus over to the launch viewing spot.

Sitting_Wrong_Way_in_Rocket_Ship

We had fun exploring the grounds and various museums / activities. I clearly know very little about space, as I was sitting the complete wrong way in this rocket. But “when you’re invited to get on a rocket ship, you don’t ask which way to sit… you just get on.” ;)

Unfortunately our two hour estimate was totally false! Right when we got in line for the bus, the launch got delayed… until 2am. Big bummer!

Arriving_Kennedy_Space_Center

But three hours was pretty minor in the grand scheme of things… we were just thrilled it wasn’t scrubbed till the next day!

But one of the best parts of this night ended up being because of that delay. Craig and I had joined a Meetup group for the launch, and people were posting updates all throughout the weekend. However, there was one guy who seemed really intent on always being the one to break the latest news. Out of boredom, while waiting in line, I was checking various Twitter feeds posting Falcon Heavy updates, and I noticed another delay till 2:30am, so I posted that on the Meetup group only a few seconds before the other guy. Craig thought it was hilarious that I “scooped” this guy, and spent the rest of the night replying to all his other updates: “Sure, thanks, buddy… Laura, can you confirm?!” By the end of the night when we were feeling extra punchy, I was doubling over with laughter whenever Craig posted and set me up as the launch expert. (“Laura, keep those updates coming for us in the cheap seats!”)

Although the launch was delayed, we decided to still head over to the Saturn V viewing center as planned, so that we wouldn’t miss dinner. It was a loooooong hot wait, but once we got on the air conditioned bus, I was a lot happier. And the Saturn V center turned out to be really big inside, so we had no problem staying cool there!

Saturn_V_Museum

Some pretty cool things to look at, too!

We chowed down on a surprisingly delicious buffet dinner of grilled shrimp and mac & cheese (okay, there were other options but those were the ones that kept us going back for multiple helpings), sipped coffee, and cracked jokes to pass the time. Finally around 2am, we left the museum to claim some outdoor spots to actually watch the launch. Since we hadn’t been on the first few buses, we knew we had no chance at getting bleacher seats, which was why we stayed inside; but to our delight, it ended up working out really well to just grab standing spots on the lawn. We found a spot with a clear view of the launchpad and a few palm trees providing ambience, and I think I ended up with a pretty awesome video of the actual launch!!

We were all a little nervous about how the launch would go, since it’s my understanding that this was the first time recycled boosters have been used to launch a rocket. Craig explained to me that once the boosters got the rocket going, they would detach and drop off, then be remotely piloted toward drones that were waiting to catch the boosters and reuse them again. Really amazing that they can make it work – and they did! That night, two of the boosters were caught, and the third was just missed. But even catching two of the three was a huge win, since they cost $30 million each. Someday, it may be downright affordable to send things into space!

Once we saw the boosters come down (I didn’t film that, but it was pretty cool… like giant and insanely fast moving shooting stars), we hightailed it out of there… and made it on the second bus to leave. Hallelujah, because some others in the Meetup group said it took three hours for them to get out of Saturn V! With the late launch, and me having work the next day, I was thrilled that we were able to get back to the hotel and to bed by 4:30am. It was a late night, but it was so worth it!

I have to admit, I got a little teary while we were counting down and then witnessing the spectacular launch. How incredibly lucky am I?! To get to watch this technical miracle up close in person, under the stars in Florida, with Craig by my side?? Life is pretty amazing right now, and I’ve been so lucky to have so many things going so well for me over the last year. From my work promotion, to my election, to buying my mountain house, to meeting Craig… this last year has been a series of big wins, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

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