Camping on a Moment’s Notice

Every year, our little farm town gets the jump on the competition by putting on it’s impressive, Fourth of July fireworks display on the Third of July.  They’re fired from Snooks Bottom, which is almost directly across the Grand River from the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park Fruita Section. 

We figured we would grab a bottle of wine, pick up some sandies from Jimmy John’s and head over to the park sometime in the early evening for the show.  Dianne stopped by to check it out after church.

“Space is limited and the entrance will be closed when the parking lot fills,” the gatekeeper at the park told Dianne.  “This is a really popular place.  You’d better get here before 5:00 p.m. in the evening to be assured entry.”

Dianne saw what looked to be some empty campsites at the park.  Robb Fruita is an extremely popular campground, usually requiring reservations months in advance.  The folks who reserved those sites probably hadn’t yet arrived, we assumed.

Anticipating disappointment, I went online just to check it out.  By some quirk of fate, one site with electricity, water and a tent pad remained available for tonight.

“Damn the credit card balance!” I screamed, giving it my best Admiral Farragut imitation.  “Full speed ahead!”  With my fingers flying across the keyboard, I snapped up the site. 

At first, we thought we’d just use the campsite as a viewing platform and head home after the show was over.  Then we got to thinking.  We had never put up our replacement tent for the one that was stolen and we’d never tested our new full-size air mattress in the tent.  We could use this as an opportunity to check everything out.

We got the new tent set up almost as if we knew what we were doing.  The extension cord I brought, however, wasn’t long enough to reach the air mattress inflator.  A quick trip home (about three miles) to grab a longer one solved that problem.  Hamburgers were soon sizzling on the grill (a replacement for the one stolen) and the first bottle of wine (a nice Cab from South Australia) was opened.

We invited some friends from the south side of the tracks to join us.  The four of us toted our folding chairs to a gravely clearing a dozen yards from the campsite and watched as Fruita celebrated American Independence with flaming displays of Chinese gunpowder.

Concerts at the Vineyards

A few years ago, Dianne’s younger brother attended a concert at one of the wineries in Calaveras County, not far from his home in California.  Dianne was so jealous.  The band was the Moody Blues, and my lovely wife is a longtime fan who owns every record they’ve ever made.

Well, we have concerts at our wineries out here in the Grand Valley.  They feature local bands who haven’t quite achieved the success of that British group her brother saw in California.

The local Art Center Guild sponsors monthly “Music in the Grapevines” concerts at Two Rivers Winery, which is located a few miles down the road from us.  They’re held on summer evenings, and patrons can bring a picnic dinner with wine available for purchase by the bottle or glass.

Where I grew up, a picnic meant chicken.  Dianne dutifully air fried a bird in her new oven.  We bought a chilled bottle of Chardonnay to go with the main course.  For dessert, it was chocolate brownies with a glass of the winery’s Vintner’s Blend red.

The band played some country-rock tunes including a few Marshall Tucker covers.  It was fun to sit back, sip wine, listen to the music and just enjoy the surroundings.  We were so impressed, we’ve already bought tickets (a mere $15 each in advance) to the July grapevine event at Two Rivers.   

On Saturday, we joined friends for the weekly “Band in the Barrel Music Series” at the Restoration Vineyards out in Palisade.  Concerts there are held in the afternoon, so for our heat-hating, Midwestern-refugee friends, shade was a must.  Fortunately, there are plenty of umbrellas planted for couples and their dogs.  Our party managed to commandeer a table under a small awning.

Decades ago, Dianne and I bought tickets to a concert in Boulder featuring a new group from Canada called the Cowboy Junkies.  The event took place in a bar.  Patrons were playing pool, chatting away and not paying a lick of attention to the band that they paid to see.

The event at the Restoration Vineyards was a lot like that.  Behind us, folks played a thumping game of corn hole.  Our group was engaged in never ending conversation.  The band’s amps were turned down low, so the music never reached us anyway. 

I have no idea what they played, but it didn’t matter.  The camaraderie was pleasant, the wine tasty and the band was definitely not the Moody Blues.

Headless in Fruita

Colorado certainly has some unusual festivals. 

In Nederland every March, they celebrate “Frozen Dead Guy Days” with a weekend-long event honoring the dead guy who remains cryogenically frozen in town.

In the middle of July, Telluride celebrates their “Nothing Festival,” a weekend event celebrating absolutely nothing. 

Out here in Fruita, we have the annual “Mike the Headless Chicken Festival.”

The event celebrates the life of a young rooster that had its head cut off but refused to die.  The repentant farmer kept the bird, feeding the feathered survivor with an eyedropper. The rooster lived for 18 months in his headless state. 

[The story of Mike can be found at]

Fruita’s noggin-knocking event features a pancake breakfast (we didn’t attend), a 5K run (we didn’t suit up), a disk golf tournament (we left our Frisbees at home) and a car show featuring some pretty attractive machinery (we didn’t enter our trailer-towing truck). 

There were vendors (mostly selling clothing items), food trucks, a beer tent and a grassy lawn with a stage featuring concerts by local musicians. 

We caught Stray Grass, our favorite local blue grass band along with Head for the Hills, a blue grass band from Fort Collins. 

Between sets, we slurped down brews from one of the local brew pubs.  Hitting the roach coaches for dinner, Dianne ordered a barbecue pork sandwich while I honored the festival’s origin with an order of chicken wings (chicken heads was not an option).