To every Family Reunion there must come the Group Meal.
When the destination for the vacation is a locale where nobody in the gang resides, that adds to the inherent challenges. Who likes what type of food? What time does everybody prefer to eat? (Don’t forget to factor in the time zones everybody involved started out in before the reunion.) What place can comfortably seat all these bodies at once.
At my dear wife Karen’s first Family Reunion in Estes Park, we did well.
Off the top of my head, niece Kimi was a vegetarian, and niece Stormy was gluten intolerant. Sister Jana offered early on that Mexican was probably a good solution. Yes, two en masse dinners of that distinction were indeed done well.
That first Thursday night, though, mere hours from landing and driving from Denver, my dear wife Karen and I met up with the families of brother Steve and sis Jana at the main drag pub/grub joint Local’s. We were drawn by the name only. It turned out to be an Italian spot. People were so happy seeing each other for the first time in many, many years that the food didn’t matter. The beer and wine went down easily. Introductions were made for daughter Elisabeth, boyfriend George Three and I. We three New Yorkers did not much like our pizza. No matter.
Click on any gallery photo for a description. Click and hold on the bottom right photo of any gallery for an enlarged slide show.
Sister Lynne texted and said they’d arrived in town and were ready to meet up. We told them of the open-air bar we’d spotted in our early afternoon walk. That’s where the family settled in for hours of beverages and conversation. The guy at the bar charged me two bucks too much for my red wine and Karen’s pilsener. Aw, heck. My just-met relatives were justly indignant on my behalf.
Lynne texted Karen on Friday with the news that they were waiting for us at a local brewery. She was there with her Stormy and Kimi and Jana’s Dacia and Drew while Jana hiked with Steve and his family. Hell, yeah. George had cooked us up a cottage breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. We were fortified.
The Estes Park Brewery declared it had a Beer Garden. Enticing.
They’d finished eating when we walked up, and we all decided to move the party to a table outside. The Beer Garden menu featured many locals. George went for the Stout, Karen the raspberry, and I chose the Honey Wheat. All three of us liked our beer very much. Elisabeth went for a fruity red drink instead.
Later, she and George went downstairs to taste some free samples. He said they were all good. I think my daughter, not being a beer drinker, gave her allotment to her beloved.
Jana got hold of Dacia, and Stormy took Lynne’s SUV up the road apiece to brig her into the mix. We waited to hear from Steve, Joan and Ross, who were adding niece Flynne and her husband Jordan and baby Lainie to our gang. Stormy ordered a couple of apps.
My usual case of ants-in-the-pants took hold, and I walked off the premises to investigate two neighboring attractions.
To one side sat an adventure park that featured a rope-bridge and climbing apparatus. The line of takers wore helmets. We have an indoor thing like that at WonderWorks in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA, and I haven’t tried that, either.
Kitty-corner was a Go-Kart track. I watched the drivers race round and round the twisty and turny course. Yes, Karen and I are NASCAR fans, and have attended three different Sprint Cup tracks for live races. Sunday, in fact, the drivers are just up the road from us at Watkins Glen International, a road course like this one in a far grander scale. We’ve been. When Karen asked if I’d like to go again this year, I figured I would rather watch on TV, factoring in expenses and the fact that anywhere you sit at a road course — just like this photo above shows — you only have a view of one small segment of the race.
Steve called to make his connection, and Flynne pulled up with a rental truck behind his rented Toyota. I said that because we didn’t want to eat here — Lynne and the others had been customers since lunch and it was after 6 p.m. — we might best walk down to the parking lot to greet them before then all came up.
Searches were made on cell phones, and Joan declared that Pepper’s Mexican looked pretty good.
It had a parking lot, which I pulled into, while the others used the familiar public library spaces just down the road.
It was take-your-tray, slide-through-and-order.
George and I both ordered a combo that gave us a beef taco and huge cheesy beef enchilada as well as rice and beans.
The upstairs seating was wide open, and we took three tables for the 14 of us. Much conversation went around, and everybody loved cooing over Lainie. Everybody worked to get that in; we found out those three were staying Sunday afternoon before work responsibilities necessitated a return home to Oregon. I was amazed and everybody was quite thrilled that they took the time and effort to make it here with a baby.
Sunday night, Karen finally got the chance to hug brother Scott. They hadn’t seen each other since 1986, she figured.
The place was Casa Grande, and the setting was to me just perfect. Scott sat at one end of the table of 15 and my dear wife the other. I could feel the love everywhere. Yes, my marinated flank steak ready to roll into little fajitas filled with peppers, onions and guacamole was tasty, too. But mostly I munched, drank my plain iced tea and listened.
Tomorrow: Travelin’ Show
Monday: Sock it to me and take it home
What style food would you choose for your Family Reunion meal, and why? What drinks would be the favorite at your Family Reunion, and why? What photo is your favorite, and why?