This trip came about through a rather long sequence of events. After finishing up undergrad I took an internship in D.C. with a startup consulting firm. I soon realized, this line of work felt more like torture (I do not use this term lightly) rather than a career path. So, I made a crazy decision. I stopped working there and found a career path that I liked.
What do I like? Getting wasted with friends, playing sports, and my super-hot girlfriend. Unfortunately, drinking -at least, in excessive amounts – is terrible for you, I’m not good enough at sports to get paid to play, and hot girlfriends don’t like washed-up alcoholics…Life’s tough, man!
So, I thought about other things I like. Long story short, I like physical therapy. Having worked and schooled in the field for the past couple of years, I’m now able to apply for graduate programs. I applied this past Fall and thought, “I love the outdoors and Denver, Colorado would be a pretty awesome – if not, totally awesome – place to live while working towards my degree. It was kind of a long shot, spur-of-the-moment application that I submitted to Regis University. However, my application looked good enough for an invite to the campus for interviews. If nothing else this made for a great excuse to set foot on pastures anew in an area I’ve always (or at least as long as I’ve fished and snowboarded) wanted to see.
I arrived to Denver International Airport bright and early, sometime around 9 AM. the view coming into the airport is hard to beat. The plane took a hard left turn towards the landing strip and when this happened, the view of the mountains truly woke me up. I’m an East Coast guys, born and bred. It’s simply where I’m from. So, this was the first time I set my peepers on such elevated peaks.
I took a 40 minute, $9 bus to downtown Denver, grabbed lunch in Union Station at Zoe Ma Ma, walked around for a bit, and made another bus trip to my Airbnb. I booked the Airbnb last minute and therefore, received a really good deal. The place was an old mansion in the Highlands neighborhood, just Northwest of Lodo (Lower Downtown, Denver). The area had a sort of, half rundown, half up-and-coming feel to it. Evidently, Denver’s a very fast growing city. This is somewhat due to the outdoor experience, but mainly because of the legalization of Mary Jane. At the very least, this explanation comes up more often then not when you ask any of the locals. Granted, for me, these interaction and conversations generally take place at bars (could be the same clientele).
Getting back on topic, my place of stay was pretty cool. The owners used to run a murder mystery overnight inn here, but I guess now it’s more lucrative to just Airbnb it. Strange how creative destruction works in so many different ways.
After checking in and getting settled, I went for a run. This run sucked. I completely forgot about the high altitude of this “Mile High City”. After a few short blocks I sucked in the thin air so hard I sounded like a smoker of 50+ years, with asthma, cancer, and a cold. My legs were heavy and my stride looked more like a brisk walk. I pushed through without walking, showered, then headed back to Lodo for dinner and evening exploration.
Downtown Denver: a cool place. Being the capital, it houses political offices, a large business section, Coors field (home of the Colorado Rockies), and lots of parks. Since this trip was mostly business … and snowboarding pleasure, I decided to pay a visit to a fly shop and pick up some swag. I felt almost ashamed, embarrassed that I came all this way and wouldn’t even throw a line in the water. So, some type of memorabilia would have to suffice. My destination? Trouts Fly Fishing. On google maps, this looked like a reasonably short walk; less than two miles. After a long day of hauling around my life for the next 6 days, plus my snowboard boots and bindings – luckily my brother planned on coming in Sunday night and brought my board – in a 90 liter Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag tired me out. It’s probably the most comfy bag you can travel with due to the backpack straps, but it weighed around 40 pounds and even in-shape people (I think I qualify for this category) would become worn out.
So, after the long walk past skyscrapers, the state capital building, the public library, and other miscellaneous shops, I arrived at Trouts. The dude behind the counter was awesome. Paul, or Jon, or Mike (I think his name is Mike) showed me around the little homelike shop and introduced me to their vast collection of hats. I was excited to find a lot of Flood Tide Co. apparel in Trouts. This is a company from down near Charleston, S.C. who carries some artsy, fun, and fly fishing unique designed gear. After much mental strain, I settled on a more traditional style hat with the Trouts emblem in navy blue and white. I like the hat.
From here I walked across the street to My Other Bar, at the recommendation of Mike, and had a couple Graham Cracker Porters from Denver Beer Co. and a nice burger. The locals say the beer hits you harder at the higher elevations (at least I know the running does). Either that, or the lack of sleep and jet lag made these beers taste extra delicious and extra strong. I felt them, that’s for sure.
I Uber-ed back, took a shower, reviewed my interview schedule and typical question responses for the following morning, then called it a night. T’was a solid first day in this new city. Oh yeah, and the weather was beautiful. Sunny and a high of 70, in January! I could get used to this. I was also sunburned.
Damn, that was a very in depth first day. Day 2 will be much, much shorter. I promise…
Woke up early, and Uber-ed to Regis for the 7:30 sign in. The interviews lasted till about 1 or 2 PM and they went really well. I liked the school more than I expected. Being a Jesuit Institution, I thought I would have my reserves, but the grad school is not very connected to the said beliefs and much more centered on excellent education in whatever field of study.
A post-interview run, bath, and a chapter of Sex, Death, and Fly Fishing by John Gierach while in the bath followed. Before you judge, the ex-murder mystery dwelling had an awesome Jacuzzi tub. Then, dinner with a couple other interviewees at a rather pricey (for a kid wondering how in the hell he’ll afford grad school), but delicious Brazilian eatery.
After dinner, we met up with a bunch of the interviewees and current students at a happy hour. Again, alcohol supposedly hits you harder out here. So, I limited my consumption for as long as possible for fear of slurring my words past the point of even slight recognition of a spoken language. A couple of us who got along pretty well, left, stopped at a liquor store for some “road beers”, then continued our walk to another bar. I ended up back at the mystery mansion around 3 and felt pretty shitty the next morning. Could have been worse, could have been raining…
I woke up feeling like death. Luckily, a discount (think, Aldi) grocery store was less than a block from the mystery mansion. I wondered over, grabbed OJ, yogurt, an apple, and my dignity, took a quick shower, packed up, then headed back to Lodo. My girlfriend flew in and arrived around 11 AM. We ate at Hopdoggy Burger Bar. Burgers were great, milkshake was better. Oh, yeah, and again, the weather was perfect. Just like the past two days.
We walked around the downtown mall area, and once our Airbnb was ready (different one for the next couple of nights), we Uber-ed. This place was nice, small, and in the Washington Park area, located south or Lodo.
We were both pretty tired and therefore, took a longer than expected nap. Then, headed out for dinner and nightlife. First, however, we stopped to pick up tomorrow’s ride. I rented a 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX from Turo. Turo is like the Airbnb of car rentals. I enjoyed the experience and highly recommend it. The car was a sweet stick shift with a nice turbo once your hit 3500 RPMs. Additionally, the AWD comes in handy when snow and ice covers the roads.
We tried to grab dinner at a fancy restaurant whose name escapes me. Lucky for us though, My Other Bar was within walking distance. We ate, drank, and planned our next move. Having looked up concerts earlier, I stumbled upon a Mustard Plug show at the Bluebird Theater. Awesome! I used to listen to these guys a lot and even still there are few genres of music that sound better to me than live than ska music. Something about the horns really puts a big fucking smile on my face.
It was a gorgeous night, not too cold, but colder than the past few days, snow was falling, and the Bluebird was bursting with old punks, skinheads, and dirty looking people. I love these crowds; once you’re inside and rocking the fuck out, the audience becomes like family. Granted, they are a moshing, skanking, pit dancing family, but family none the less.
Unfortunately, the sign on the front door of the Bluebird read, “sold out”. Man, I really didn’t think a late 90s and early 2000s ska band would sell out (Reel Big Fish reference). Why the hell didn’t I buy the tickets online when I looked up the show? I don’t know, man. Maybe if I went I would have got my ass kicked for looking at someone wrong or for having a hot girlfriend. Fate is strange sometimes and it was a Saturday night in a big city. Probably should have known it would sell out… Next time, Mustard Plug, next time.
Made breakfast at the place, took our time, then headed off to Echo Mountain for a day of fresh powder. Last night’s snowfall was good for us. The mountain is small, but I liked it. It’s charming, cheap ($50 lift tickets), and all we needed since the lady friend is still in the beginning stages. The fresh powder made her falls a little less painful and gave her some different terrain than anything she previously experienced on the East Coast. We had a blast!
Another storm moved in so, we didn’t stay till nightfall. On the plus side, we stopped on the way out of Echo and came to our primary first person encounters with elk. They were probably about 100-200 yards away, but you could still make out their figures, horns (on the males), and coloration. A very cool experience to say the least. I’ve been up in New England on numerous occasions and have yet to encounter a moose. So, I really wasn’t expecting to see any elk. Although, I think they are more prevalent than the aforementioned moose.
After showers, we met an old high school friend, her husband, and my oldest brother who flew in that evening, for drinks and dinner at Williams & Graham. This was an old speak easy in the prohibition days and still ran in very much the same manner. Elaine, my old friend, was a great help with planning this trip. She Google mapped me the best places to eat and drink in the city and therefore, I rarely strayed from her recommendations.
We all got along splendidly and enjoyed catching up over more food and drinks (not necessarily in that order) at Prost and another eatery whose name escapes me (had quite a few rounds by this time). What I do remember from our final stop of the night is that it used to be a crematory. We laughingly confused this with creamery and would have enjoyed ice cream had it not been snowing outside. Funny joke, I know… Then, I found $5!
We woke around 5 AM, dropped the GF off at the airport (she had mandatory work meetings), then hightailed it straight for Breckenridge. The drive was amazing. I’ve never seen mountains like these before. My thoughts were, “out here, there are places where man has never set foot”. That’s pretty cool. The roads weren’t the best and the drive was a little scary at times, but the Subaru Outback my brother rented using Turo performed excellently, well. We arrived around 9, bought lift tickets, and headed up the mountain.
First off, this place is huge… We overheard a guy who worked there while speaking with his coworker say, “top 5 day of the year, bro!”. Needless to say, we lucked out. The runs were long, beautiful, snow covered, and not that crowded. Thanks Monday.
We did run after run and worked our way to the highest peak. Yes, you have to take multiple lifts to reach the top. At the top, we could breath, but it wasn’t exactly an easy task. The wind howled, the clouds covered the view, and dynamite exploded on the ridge next to use. Dynamite? Yes, dynamite. The first few time I heard it go off it scared the piss out of me (maybe a little), and I became disoriented, probably more out of fear than anything else. They were blowing up the snow on a ridge to make it safe from avalanches. That’s just crazy. Due to the adverse conditions at the peak, we only went all the way up once. However, the runs just below the peak, where the treeline began were the best I’ve ever road. Think two feet of soft, fluffy snow with berms, moguls, and lots of untouched powder every where. So much room to play! I was happy. Like, live ska music happy. Only more relaxed and probably at lot happier.
We called it a day on the mountain around 3, checked into our room, showered, hot tubed, then headed out for dinner. Evidently, in Colorado, it’s illegal to enter the hot tube before showering. Who knew?
Dinner was good. Breckenridge it a tourist’s dream, and for that reason, incredibly beautiful. I mean the views are amazing, but the town itself is gorgeous little building after gorgeous little building. After dinner, we grabbed a couple rounds at (insert name here when I remember). A nice old wood cabin that served “Tequila, Tacos, and Whiskey”… My kind of place.
It was an early night. The Iowa Caucus was on and I didn’t make it past 9:30 PM.
We planned on getting a half day in, but the weather looked ominous and we had a flight to catch that evening. So, we left B-town, arrived in Denver and ate lunch at a hole in the wall Hispanic restaurant. It was delicious and cheap. I liked that. Then, off to the airport to watch Liverpool lose (a rather common thing these days) and wait for our flight. I read a little more of Sex, Death, and Fly Fishing.
We boarded the plane, it left late, and the ride sucked. Two high schoolers who no doubt came out to Colorado more so for the weed than the snowboarding kept kneeing the hell out of our seats. Oh well, I listened to Danzig’s self titled album and channeled my rage through the music. It’s funny, I heard the two brohams conversing before our landing. They spotted the Pentagon and were confused. They thought it was a fake pentagon because the real one was out in a field in Pennsylvania somewhere. The dumb-asses weren’t too far off and truth be told, if it weren’t for a plane flying into it when I was 11, I’m not totally sure if I would have known it’s location during my adolescence. My brother and I gave each other quizzical looks as if to say, this is the future of our race. We were probably no better.
Awesome trip. Awesome time. Awesome place. Awesome school. Awesome snowboarding. Awesome friends!