I love that moment on the drive to Colorado when the mountains begin to swallow the sky. The nearer I am to them, the closer I feel to God.
Craving that feeling of alignment with the universe, my husband David and I drove the five and a half hours from Rapid City to Fort Collins a few weekends ago. We’d both been stressed, David at the law firm, me with grad school assignments. We decided a dose of clear mountain air and Colorado sunshine would be therapeutic.
I set a personal goal: to wear less makeup as we explored Fort Collins. Although I normally wear foundation, powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara and red lipstick-always red lipstick-I felt like going close to au naturel for this trip. I’d try some light foundation and powder, topped with shimmery Burt’s Bees lip gloss. How would I feel showing off my nearly naked face around a town I’d never visited? I was about to find out.
I’d messaged my friend Brent on Facebook before we arrived in Fort Collins, asking him for recommendations on coffee shops, restaurants and bars – the places David and I would most likely want to visit. Brent responded with many suggestions, including the Colorado Room for lunch, Restaurant 415 for dinner, and O’Dells for a brewery tour. “The patio at O’Dells is perfect for soaking up the Colorado sunshine!” he wrote. “No matter what, you have to try Scrumpy’s Cider Bar downtown. They have the best drinks in town!”
My husband and I took Brent’s advice. After arriving in Fort Collins, we stopped at O’Dells, where we scrunched our noses at the hoppy beer samplers but closed our eyes in gratitude for the sun. Next, we located Restaurant 415-where I enjoyed steak skewers and quinoa-and then Scrumpy’s: it was time for some real drinks.
Scrumpy’s was dimly lit, playing triphop music (I recognized a Portishead tune), and not too packed or loud. We sat in a plush, roomy booth, noticing that we could actually carry on a conversation. The other customers were mostly college kids wearing hipster corduroys and vintage t-shirts, their bicycles tied to posts outside.
“What will you have tonight?” our waiter, Justin, prompted. He wore a long ponytail, glasses and a worn Colorado State University hoodie.
“I’ve never tried cider; what do you have?” I asked.
“I recommend these four.” Justin pointed at the menu. “These four are brewed in the alley out back.”
The choices were cherry, apricot, blueberry and raspberry jalapeno. I chose the cherry, David picked blueberry.
Upon first sip, David and I chorused, “Mmmmmm,” which caught Justin’s attention. He winked at us.
I asked David to take a photo of me on his cell phone to document that we’d made it to Scrumpy’s. Tonight, I had on my full face of makeup – mascara, eyeliner, blush and red lipstick. I instantly approved and posted the photograph to Facebook and Instagram.
The next night, we returned to Scrumpy’s for round two of cider Heaven, me sporting light makeup for the first time in years. David snapped another photo of me at the same booth. I wanted to like the photo-to feel victorious against makeup-but I just couldn’t. I didn’t look, or feel, like myself. I warily posted the naked-faced photo to my social media sites: now the world would see my flaws, including that blossoming zit on my face. I assured myself I’d return to my signature makeup for the remainder of the trip.
Before leaving Scrumpy’s, we asked Justin about other Fort Collins hot spots. “If you like tea, visit Happy Lucky’s Teahouse and Treasures on Walnut,” he said. “It’s a nice coffee shop alternative. I always do my homework there, because they have free WiFi.”
As we strolled through Old Town Fort Collins the following afternoon, we spotted Happy Lucky’s, which was conveniently connected to a used bookstore. Ducking inside, we were greeted by a man dressed in a collarless Tibetan top, his long dark locks flowing freely.
“Hi folks, I’m Wren. I’ll be your Leafster today.”
I wanted chai, so Wren helped me select the store’s best blend. “This earthy blend will mellow you out,” he promised.
“Can you make that a latte?” I asked.
“Of course,” Wren said with a coy smile. “That’s what we do here at Happy Lucky’s-we make the customer happy.”
He prepared my chai tea latte, handed me the drink, and said shyly, “By the way, I love your red lipstick. It’s very Bettie Page.”
“Thanks!” I said, flattered that Wren thought I looked like my favorite ’50s pinup model.
I sipped the hot chai, my lips leaving a crimson print on the Styrofoam cup. I usually erase those lipstick marks with a napkin, but today I let them stay.
Author’s Note: Some names have been changed.