Happy Valley (with sand and water) | VailDaily.com
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Happy Valley (with sand and water)

The very first thing I noticed upon walking into our “sweet” (my wife’s word as we entered) was the scale.What self-respecting, overpriced Caribbean resort providing idyllic tropical paradises of luxury, leisure and abundant food and drink would place a personal pudginess reminder prominently on the floor for all to see?Aruba, apparently. Visiting for a week or so, we had to remind ourselves of the adult lesson hopefully learned last October which – as you all know – is to never rent a local hotel room during Halloween parties masked as fundraisers for your kid’s school and drink like a parched fish during the live auction with your right arm pumping up and down like you’re asking the teacher if you can go to the bathroom (in a hurry) and end up paying around double what a “special” trip package is actually worth.Aside from that, though, what an amazing little island, shorter in length than driving from Edwards to East Vail and narrower than our county commissioners long-term economic plans.But I must mention before continuing that it seems no matter where we travel, no matter how far away or how obscure a locale, we run into someone from Happy Valley in one way or another, and this trip was no exception.While being guided to a table for our very first breakfast, my wife casually said, “Oh, look, they’re from Vail,” with all the emotion of Ben Stein ordering a bagel.Upon further inspection, which involved a somewhat uncomfortable but also casual, “Excuse me, but you wouldn’t happen to be from Vail, would you?” Sure enough, they were.After brief introductions and the sudden realization that I was indeed “that jerk from the paper,” they requested Tipsline status (anonymity), and will certainly receive such from me.But it was cool, nevertheless.And then we took a helicopter ride with a Dutch pilot who has an uncle who plays apres ski in Beaver Creek, and the guy’s coming to ski Vail for the first time this December.Weird, huh?Anyway, the entire island of Aruba is little more than a volcanic rock with truckloads of white sparkling sand sprinkled throughout, yet is filled with the nicest island folk we have ever had the pleasure to experience (i.e. hand over wads of cash), effectively washing away the ridiculous sand castle theories espoused by the media concerning the tragic disappearance of an Alabama high school student.These people smile everywhere, every day, and genuinely seem to mean it as sincerely as a Jewish lift-op working Christmas morning. To top it off, while Colorado’s license plates say “Colorful Colorado,” theirs say “Aruba – One Happy Island.” Can you imagine Vail Resorts having an ad campaign based around the phrase, “Vail – One Happy Ski Mountain”?Nope, me neither.But Aruba is only tropical in a logistical sense, as nothing grows here but cactus, lizards and rocks.They have more cactus per square foot (the really big ones too, like giant olive-colored pickles waving needles of destruction to anyone who dares come close) than we have pine trees.They have giant lizards (iguanas, actually) like we have marmots, only their critters change colors, climb trees to sleep undisturbed at the top, and never whistle when humans come too close (I don’t think they have lips).Their most popular single attraction (besides the knockout white sand beaches and year round season-free temperatures) is a rock outcropping stretched across a natural beach known as the Natural Bridge. Taking over two millions years to form, it is visited by hundreds each day, who come in Jeeps, buses, cars, or ride horses, ATVs, or dune buggies to glare at nature’s creation.Unfortunately, on Sept. 2 , just a few weeks before our arrival, it became known as the Natural Pile of Rubble, as sometime during the night it collapsed into the ocean darkness, thus erasing eons of erosion and years of income from the gift shops and restaurants sitting adjacent.Such a natural shame, but still kind of neat to see. It would be like the cross on Holy Cross suddenly losing its “cross-ness,” as if that could ever actually happen.Aruba was wonderful up until the very, very end. Everything had been going so perfect that we felt blessed (oh, stop it, you know what I mean) during our brief drive back to the airport. I’ll sum it up this way: rental Jeep driving, rain soaked streets washing, electricity outing, stop lights blinking, brakes stop working, little old man driving, rear-end plowing, $500 deductible paying.Hey, life could be worse. We could have spent the entire time back here watching snow ruin the golf courses. But I never did understand the point of that bathroom scale.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.net. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado


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