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A Rocky Day

August 10, 2011

With so many hours in the car together over the past few days, Sam and I have had some pretty great conversations. My absolute favorite was Tuesday’s:

Sam: “This road trip was really a great idea.”

Me: “Yeah. It’s been super fun.”

Sam: “I know! And it’s going to get me lots of popularity points at school!”

By far the most interesting, though, was on Sunday when he was remembering the family trip we took to Denver a few years back. The reason this was so interesting is that we took no such trip. Neither of my kids had ever been to Colorado before Monday evening. The only time I had ever been in Colorado was a single day I spent in Denver with my friend Jeremy a few years ago (we toured Coors Field, then toured the Coors Brewery, then ran out of things named Coors to tour, then saw a Rockies game, then flew home).

I explained all of this to Sam but he insisted that I was remembering things wrong, or that maybe I didn’t come on this phantom Denver trip and it was just him, Sarah, and Abby. Not only was he absolutely sure he had been to Denver with his sister and at least one of his parents, but they/we all went to a Rockies game, too. After getting nowhere with him on this I dropped the subject, hoping that being in Denver would make him realize he had never been in Denver before.

I love Denver. (The city, not John Denver, whom I could take or leave.) It’s pretty, efficiently designed, well suburbed, and has a great downtown. It’s big enough to have a big-city feel but small enough not to feel overwhelming. There’s plenty of traffic but it moves–Denver drivers somehow manage a perfect balance of being in a big hurry and not afraid to ignore the speed limit yet not overly aggressive like the drivers in, say, New York or Boston. The weather is terrible nine months a year but is perfectly reasonable in the summer–hot but with very little humidity. And there’s a sense of fun, too. Example: The Denver Convention Center, a big, modern glass building that would look pretty serious if it weren’t for the hunormous blue bear peering in from the street.

I might seriously think about moving here if they had an ocean somewhere nearby.

And yet I’ve been dreading the Denver part of this trip for months. that’s because our time in Denver perfectly coincided with Tisha B’Av, an annual day of mourning for Jews worldwide that includes, among other unpleasantries, a 25-hour fast.

I tend to fast better than most, but even so I figured we would keep things low-key for the day. So instead of enjoying all that Denver has to offer, all we did was climb a 14,000-foot mountain and drive a few hundred miles.

I woke up Tuesday morning already horribly thirsty and unable to do anything about it. The Hamster, who is not yet old enough to be obligated to fast, decided he’d give it a try anyway, so we were both a little out of sorts and just hung around our hotel room, taking our sweet time getting dressed and packing up. By the time we left the motel it was 11 am. He caved and had some Reese’s Puffs.

Our first stop was Coors Field for a tour of the ballpark (the Rockies, like us, are currently on an extended road trip). Having taken this exact tour four years ago (without Sam), so I voted to skip it, but Sam insisted. Having little energy to argue or find alternatives, I relented and we went. Our tour guide was pretty boring but there’s a lot to like about Coors Field, even when you’re hungry and cranky. Despite having almost no history the team does a nice job of connecting the ballpark with the team and the city. The view of the Rocky Mountains beyond the outfield wall is extraordinary on a clear day, and the purple-colored level of seats that’s exactly a mile above sea level is a cute touch. I wouldn’t put Coors in my top 5 favorite ballparks, but it’s definitely in my top 10, so despite the redundancy it was nice to see it again. Plus I learned something new this time around: the grass has an underground heating system to help it green up during the cold Denver spring.

Sam, meanwhile, had a great time on the tour despite noticing that the visitors clubhouse is not as nice as the one in Cleveland.

Just to be obnoxious, I asked him how it compared to the last time we were there. He sheepishly admitted that maybe he had been wrong about going to Denver before.

Sadly, that was about all the downtown Denver I had energy for as my hunger grew, so we headed south to Colorado Springs, home of the U.S. Olympic Committee and, more important, Pike’s Peak.

[Side note: I have to hand it to the marketing folks in Colorado for the way they’ve managed to completely steal ownership of the Rocky Mountains from the rest of the West. Their baseball team is called the Rockies. Their national park is called Rocky Mountain National Park. The Rockies are on their license plates. When you think about the Rockies, you think about Colorado, and vice versa. It’s even in the song. Meanwhile, Sam and I could barely look anywhere in Montana or Wyoming or Idaho or Utah without seeing Rocky Mountains but you don’t hear a peep about it from those states. The Rockies stretch from New Mexico up into Canada. But if you listen to Denver (the city or John) you’d think the whole mountain range sits inside Colorado. Marketing genius.]

I’ve done a fair amount of research about Pike’s Peak. I’ve even written about the Unser family’s early dominance of the annual race to the top of the mountain. (That race is the second longest-running auto race in the country, behind only the Indy 500.) But to be quite honest I still don’t fully understand why the mountain holds such supposed importance in American history. But knowing it’s important even if I don’t understand why, and knowing that it’s pretty much the only “real” mountain (i.e., more than 12,000 feet high) that you can drive up, I figured it would be worthwhile. Plus we’d get to stay seated until we got out of our car at the summit, which is about all I had the energy for anyway.

The mountain was pretty cool. The road is so ridiculously steep and windy that they warn you at the base to turn off your A/C to keep your engine from overheating, and on the way down they tell you to drive in the lowest gear possible because otherwise you’ll literally wear out your brakes before you get to the bottom. And if you can handle the thin air at 14,110 (Sam got a bit of a headache), the views from the summit are extraordinary in ways not done justice by the following video.

Once down from the mountain it was on to Kansas. Well, toward Kansas, anyway. I was hoping to cross into Kansas and thus the central time zone in time to shorten my fast by an hour, but it didn’t quite work out. After I was finally able to wolf something down at a rest stop off of I-70 at 8:34 pm, we elected to crash for the night a few miles before the eastern end of Colorado. We need our rest–on Wednesday we’ll be making our most important stop of all.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeremy Chwat permalink
    August 10, 2011 10:22 am

    I got a shout out! Woohoo!

    As an aside, wasnt it a fast day the last time we hit Denver as well?

    Denver and fast days… you just can’t get enough…

  2. ABH permalink*
    August 10, 2011 10:18 pm

    I don’t know why I can’t seem to make it to Denver on a day when I’m able to eat.

  3. August 12, 2011 8:30 am

    Especially since there is some kosher food there!

    Binyamin wants to know if you can see Israel from Pike’s Peak…”cuz it kinda looks like Israel”…Well, where we live, anyway.

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