07.20.11 – Front Range Stop #2: Boulder & Denver

Heading down to Boulder, I was pretty excited to visit Jim and Sarah. Jim’s an old friend from school now working on his PhD and Sarah is a friend of a friend whom I’ve never met. Jim is cyclist and also enjoys a lot of outdoor activities. I know he’s loved living in Boulder so I was excited to experience it through his eyes. Sarah informed me she enjoys mountain biking, hiking and the like so I figured she’d be a good person to show me around town as well. As soon as I got on the road, I came across an older gentleman on an old, beat up mountain bike with a rack that had been shoddily modified to hold larger bags. His name was Dan Brown but could be more widely known as “The Silver Fox.” I don’t exactly know how this nickname came to be but it fit him fine since his grey hair seemed to have a shiny hue to it. The “Fox” part was hard to understand until he bid me goodbye, signaled left, and slipped quickly through the yellow light in front of us letting out a big old “yehaw!” I hope I’m that exciting when I’m his age. The rest of the ride down was short and pretty uneventful but I did find a new hood ornament, a little plastic lime green lizard. Until recently, he didn’t have a name. He would have to wait all the way until Salt Lake City for my friend, Kristen, to brand him Limey. The only other exciting thing about the ride down was my ability to avoid small clouds of rain. You see, out east it’s virtually impossible to see where there’s rain simply by observation. However, out here in the west you can easily see where the storm clouds are and whether or not there’s any precipitation. Near a particular rain cloud to the west, my original route would have taken me directly under it. Instead, I changed my route and slipped past the cloud. It felt good to use my eyes and ears instead of my smartphone to tell me where the rain was heading.

Arriving in Boulder, I visited Jim first. He lives in a small house with a few roommates near the University of Colorado. We went to Mountain Sun Brewery and I got some good nitro beers with a big tasty plate of nachos. One of my favorite beers is a java porter and Mountain Sun had both CO2 and nitro versions. At several times during our dinner conversation, my eyes slipped to the mountains outside the window and it was here in Boulder that I really noticed the amazing sunsets that occur along the Front Range. The varieties of cloud types that linger from the afternoon showers add white highlights to the fiery orange sky. It’s pretty radical to a newbie. The next day, Jim showed me around the pedestrian mall in the center of town and told me about living in Boulder. He explained that he likes the area because you can be skiing in the morning and rock climbing in the afternoon. Of course, any place is only as good as you make it but he seemed to imply that if you like the outdoors, it’s a pretty easy place to enjoy oneself. To prove it, he took me up to the top of Green Mountain, which is just above the Flat Irons (big slabs of rock that look like clothing irons on the nearby foothills). Looking west, we could see many of the 14ers, the mountains that sit above 14,000ft. To our east we looked out over Boulder and could easily see Denver about 35 miles to our southeast. When Jim headed out of town, I went to stay with Sarah.

Before we even met, she offered to cook me anything I wanted for dinner. Apparently she rarely gets to cook and hosting a hungry traveler is a pretty good excuse to go crazy. I arrived at the house and though I usually shake the hand of someone I’m meeting for the first time, I was ambushed with a big warm hug that felt more like something you do when you’ve known someone a very long time. Caught off-guard (and a bit sweaty from the bike ride), I was happy to be in the presence of such a welcoming person. While Sarah cooked dinner, we talked about my travels and I learned that she’s taking a couple months to fly fish in Alaska, Germany, Ireland and Spain. How cool is that!? See? I’m not the only crazy person to go off on my own! I just learned that she’s actually already begun her adventure. Follow her blog! I also learned that some people buy giant books on astrology and make their guests read it. I’m a believer now…I swear…okay maybe not. Sarah made a great big breakfast the next morning (again with the stellar cooking) and we went to check out the local farmers market. Boulder is interesting in the sense that it’s pretty gung-ho about local agriculture and local goods in general. There were just as many local baked and prepared food vendors as there were actual farm vendors. I had originally planned to leave boulder around noon or one and head to Denver but Sarah said it would be a shame not to see Nederland, a small mountain community about 20 miles into the foothills. My desire to ride through suburbia was easily pushed aside at the opportunity to see more!

We drove up the canyon, which was exciting in and of itself. The river that flowed alongside the road roared over boulders and around turns that seemed pretty intense and yet apparently people still kayaked down it. Sarah used to work up in Nederland and her old car had some overheating issues so halfway up the canyon she would stop and fly fish for an hour while the car cooled off. Talk about turning a bad situation in a beautiful one. Throughout the afternoon I would come to learn that Sarah seems to do be able to do that with most bad situations she comes across. We visited the brewery in Nederland, ate some amazing wings and I finally got to try beer from the Left Hand Brewing Co. We arrived back home in the late afternoon and I as I got ready to ride to Denver, clouds rolled in and it looked like rain. Though I would’ve been fine, I didn’t really feel like riding and Sarah suggested I just kick it with her for a while longer and she’d drive me down to Denver. Turns out she was headed that way anyway and I was more than happy to skip over some suburban riding. So instead of riding, we watched a documentary about the famous Mount Everest tragedy and counted our blessings. Afterward, we cruised down to Denver and met up with my friend from college, Mike Davies, for some dinner and beers. The night progressed to a bar where Sarah’s friends were hanging out and 2-4-1 Long Island Iced Teas were in full flow. A bit tipsy, we walked home and Sarah took off having not drunk much at all. I truly enjoyed the company of someone so seemingly excited simply about life itself. I felt I was beginning to learn what it means to enjoy the people and places right in front of you for they may not (and in my case, will not) be there tomorrow. As with Sarah, Brian and the Dissel/Briest family in Montevideo, if I’ve really connected with people on this ride, it seems that worth it to spend a few extra unexpected moments, hours, or days in their company. Try it with those around you. See how it feels to spend an additional unexpected few moments with everyday friends and you’ll probably find that friendship grows.

The following morning, Mike and I cruised to a fancy breakfast joint where my friend, Alyssa works. I met Alyssa through my old roommate, Leif. We traveled to Bozeman, MT a few years ago to winter ski and see Yellowstone. Alyssa lived in Bozeman (or nearby) at the time and hosted us at her custom built super log cabin mansion getaway resort spa thing…built by her family! Can you tell I loved it? Anyway, Alyssa has since moved to Denver to attend school and was glad to host me while in town as well. The rest of the day involved some relaxing in the park, Frisbee, and a jazz festival. Did you know smoking marijuana is legal in Colorado? It seems to really come out during the festivals. Oh yeah, I had a HUGE turkey leg for dinner. I hadn’t eaten one of those since high school so I was super stoked. Mike had some other guests over that night so I crashed at Alyssa’s and since she had off the next day, I stayed an extra day since I hadn’t gotten to really see her yet. Hooray for impromptu plans!

We visited a farmers market, some bike shops for route advice, ate Ethiopian food, and swam at a nearby lake. The Ethiopian food was really great. It’s eaten with your hands and a porous, soft flat bread of sorts. It was all incredibly tasty and even the Ethiopian stout beer that I had was smooth and flavorful. Try something new as often as you can! Swimming at the lake was really nice. To be honest, I don’t do well in large bodies of water where you can’t see your knees in waist-high water. Call me silly but it’s like walking around an unknown place in the pitch dark! Anyway, I figured Alyssa would be eaten first by the fresh-water lake sharks in the middle of Denver so I swam a good ways out. It was a nice and relaxing way to end the day. After some shopping at the Asian supermarket, Alyssa made some great stir fry and it was bed time before we knew it. In general, I enjoyed my time in Denver and there certainly was a lot to do. It’s a bit far from the mountains to do some spontaneous hiking or biking so I’m more attracted to Boulder because of that. That being said, there seems to be more cultural diversity in Denver, which would be nice.

The following morning I would head out to Colorado Springs to visit with SRAM/Rock Shox and check out the local attractions like Garden of the Gods. Check back soon for my Colorado Springs update!

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