Finally, the mountains! Real ones. Fourteeners all up in your face. Crisp, fresh air and crystal clear water. It REALLY felt good to be back.
While there are several places to park the RV along the Front Range, once we narrowed things down, a private RV park in Golden edged out a County Park just out of town and up I-70 a bit. This was a good call. Though the RV park itself wasn’t much to look at, it had all the amenities, was clean, and was essentially right in town. I very nearly wrote that the kids appreciated this, and they do, but really that’s a cop out. The truth is that we, or I at least, have reached the point in our journey where power, water, a sewer hookup, clean bathrooms, and solid wi-fi / cell signal assume far more importance than they did in the first few months, and I’m not ashamed. I guess how I can best interpret this is that I’ve come to accept that we’re not needing to be too hard core about it all; I no longer feel any obligation to “rough it” more than is necessary. We’re not camping, we’re moving our home around the country. A half year’s worth of public toilets and showers, giving your waste euphemistic names (“grey and black water”) & storing it with you in a small tank that fills quite quickly, and keeping close track of various levels (battery, propane, the aforementioned grey and black water tanks) all get you to a point where a few creature comforts are treasured when they’re available.
Plus we have friends in Golden whom we were hoping to see. And it’s a cool place, as we quickly discovered.
Once again I needed to leave the family behind and fly a trip for work very shortly after arriving, but I was fortunate to be able to connect with another old squadron-mate and friend who has been a Golden resident for quite some time, and who now flies for Delta. He’s yet another spectacular individual from that time of my life – stellar pilot, top notch mountain biker, and ridiculously intelligent, yet known for his slow, deep style of speaking and generous use of the word “dude,” or more accurately, “duuuuuuuude.” He’s the only person I know who takes the time to write a handwritten, personalized (and humorous) note with every single Christmas card he sends. At any rate, I had hoped just to say hello, but he surprised us by offering to swoop us in his minivan and give us a grand tour of town, which we’d have been crazy to turn down.
So as I mentioned, Golden is a cool place. It’s surrounded by parkland and open space, and criss-crossed by dedicated biking / walking trails.
It also is more or less bisected by Clear Creek, which is exactly what it sounds like, and provides not only a nice set of streamside trails right through downtown, but tubing for the more adventurous – we saw quite a few tubers get flushed off of their tubes and into the rapids in the short time we watched. I loved it.
And then there’s of course the beer scene. Naturally there’s Coors, who I learned essentially owns the town. My friend talked about how when he first moved in he had to sign an imposing pile of paperwork which turned over, among other things, the right to turn off his water to the Adolph Coors company. It’s not as ominous as it sounds (at least I don’t think it is), but definitely an interesting anecdote about the consequences of a town’s existence being so tied to one company. But back to the beer scene, the Denver/Boulder/Longmont area, and I think it’s safe to include Golden in that, seems to be one of the current meccas of the country’s craft beer explosion. Up there with both Portlands, Asheville, Burlington, and San Diego, to be sure. Beer tasting wasn’t why we were there of course, but we did get to grab a flight at Golden’s second largest brewery (The Golden City Brewery – and yes that’s how they bill themselves), while buzzing though town.
Upon my return from my work trip, I managed to talk Keeper into doing a bit of mountain biking with me. I had seen that we were staying very near Apex Park, which appeared to be flush with Colorado singletrack, and hoped that it wouldn’t be too sporty for him (or me). He was game as usual, but found the climb up the road just to get to the park a bit more exhausting than he had bargained for. I probably forgot to tell him that we were at about 6000’ too. Oops (sorta). We made it though, and started up the trail, only to find, at the point where it diverges into a loop, that this trail system is evidently popular enough that the city decided to make the trails one-way on certain days, our day included. I had sold this ride to Keeper on the premise that we would climb as high as he wanted on the trail, and if it got to be too much, we’d just turn around and ride back downhill. I realized fairly quickly that that doesn’t work if the trail is one-way, and had a brief moral dilemma in which I considered “not realizing” it until we were half-way up, but decided that our father-son mountain biking career as a whole was far more important than this particular ride. Plus there’s the whole not-lying thing, which would be nice to pass on to him. So we aborted the ride and headed back down to the RV park.
Another feature of our RV park was a pool and a hot tub. While this isn’t an especially uncommon amenity among RV parks, I’d put the running percentage of “RV park pools I’d actually put my body parts into” at around 25-30. Bozeman and Las Vegas were notable exceptions, but one was a natural hot spring and the other you definitely paid for up front. This one wasn’t bad at all. The girls wanted to get some hot tub time in, so Tacco and I took turns supervising, while Firebolt made friends with all the kids within 3 years of her age as usual. She tells us that she’s “shy,” and we tell her “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means…”
Before heading up into the mountains we had wanted to check out Boulder as well. For whatever reason, possibly the fresh mountain air, maybe the miles and miles of green/flowery (it’s May – I’m sure that changes) open space, certainly in part the obviously athletic and outdoorsy residents… most likely some combination thereof, our “auditioning places to settle” radar began to sweep and net us some promising returns. Sorry if that was too radar-geeky – I promise it makes sense if you’re used to operating a radar… Golden piqued our interest when we started looking at a Denver airline commute, from which I could fairly easily go either east or west. Boulder, being a college town of a little more size and renown and a bit deeper into the mountains, struck us as possibly further up our alley.
We made the relatively short drive up there via highway 93, which was sort of an impossibly pleasant meander along the front range via the iconic Flatirons.
We also made a stop at Eldorado Springs, which I’m not even sure how to describe, so I’ll initially let Wikipedia do it. This is about all Wikipedia has:
“In 1910, Eldorado Springs was a resort community, known for its Big Radium Pool, then the largest swimming pool in the United States. The pool, along with several other smaller ones, was known as “Coney Island of the West.” Also known for its good tasting spring water, “Eldorado Springs” bottled water is sold in stores around the U.S.”
“Big Radium Pool” and “Coney Island of the West.” OK. This in a town of 585, with dirt roads. And a “you’re still in 1910” feel, but with a heavy hippy vibe, and tucked deep into a canyon, surrounded by high peaks. “Hey kids, let’s grab a couple hot dogs and then take a dip in the Big Radium Pool after we go freeclimb a cliff!” Interesting place…
Pearl Street is Boulder’s main drag, and we walked the length of it in both directions before settling in for some lunch.
Unfortunately the friend of mine who lives in Boulder was working, but we were able to exchange a few texts. Guess we didn’t need to be physically in Boulder to do that, but it was a good excuse.
Boulder is impressive. The climate, the vibe, the people, the food&drink… in fact we were impressed enough to pull out trusty Zillow right there on the spot to see what we might be able to afford, home-wise. Nothing at all, as it turns out.
I guess we aren’t the only ones to find Boulder impressive. So that fell back off of The List after a very short stay on it. Golden is still doable, as are the eastern outskirts of Boulder, a bit further from the mountains. We discussed it, though, and it was actually my friend from Golden who confirmed several things we were thinking. Though he very much enjoys it there, he listed several things about it that are less than ideal and angles in which Bend has it beat, at least for the lifestyle we want. He was insightful as usual, and pretty much dead on.
Lastly, and I hate to be repetitive, but my leg / sciatica is becoming even more of a factor. At one point on the way back from Boulder, with Tacco driving no less (driving tends to aggravate it), it became excruciating enough just sitting in the front seat that I had to have her pull over so that I could get into the back in order to try to maneuver into a position I could tolerate. We need a plan here, one that doesn’t involve pain killers. Fortunately the position in which I’m sitting when I fly doesn’t aggravate it, and therefore it hasn’t yet affected my work. But the prospect of continuing to wander around the country in that type of agony isn’t appealing. Tacco has been doing some acupuncture work on me, and we have another friend in Albuquerque who can do some work as well. I’m also reaching out to friends in Utah for some medical recommendations, under the assumption that either we’ll be back there soon or it would be easy for me to fly there. Time to take action.
In the meantime, we’re getting into the mountains for real tomorrow with a drive up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, and we’ll stay at high elevation for the foreseeable future. I’m stoked!