boulder colorado

A Late September Adventure (Day 5 & 6: Boulder, Morrison & Home Again)

Day 5

Since we had fully committed ourselves to Boulder rather than Denver at this point, Allison and I woke up Wednesday morning and didn’t even think twice about where we wanted to eat breakfast.

Referring to this list this time, we decided on The Buff, mostly because I was hypnotized by the Pecan Caramel Quesadilla sampler.

Spoiler alert: it was everything I hoped it would be.

FullSizeRender 401

For our entrees, Allison ordered the Saddlebags which are pancakes stuffed with bacon, and I ordered the Granola Pancakes which, if I’m honest, I felt like I was expecting too much of after the crunchy granola French toast from Syrup in Denver. It’s not that they were bad, they just…weren’t the granola French toast from Syrup, you know?

Allison and I had kind of a tight schedule to fit today. Our primary reason for coming to Denver in the first place was to see two of our favorite artists, Needtobreathe and Gavin Degraw, join forces at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre for what was sure to be the concert of a lifetime. We’d planned our trip around the concert, scheduling it to be somewhat of a grand finale.

The concert was at 7:00 on Wednesday night in Morrison, which was 20 minutes from our hotel, but after a recommendation from a friend we decided to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was north of Boulder, just under 2 hours from our hotel. As we ate our breakfast at 11:30 in Boulder, we knew we had enough time, we just didn’t have enough time for anything to go wrong.

Misleading Spoiler Alert: Nothing went wrong.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain National park around 1:00. The cost for a day’s (or hour’s) entrance was $20, but trust me when I say that it is worth EVERY PENNY.

FullSizeRender 412

Allison and I pulled off the road at a couple of spots, taking pictures and making an uncontrollable amount of audible “OH MY GOSH’s.” The sky was absolutely perfect, the fields and trees were a living breathing kind of green, and every once in a while a burst of a breeze would blow right through you, forcing you to close your eyes and take a long, deep breath. It was one of those places that I don’t think you could ever feel like you spent enough time in. You become instantly attached to every inch of it, wishing there was some way you could keep it with you, to remind you how perfect the world can be at the times when it seems farthest from it.

Just before 7 o’clock, we pulled into the parking lot for the concert. We had plans of eating before we went, but ran a little short on time, so as we waited in line alongside the massive red rocks, we started brainstorming on what we hoped would be offered inside. And while it never would have crossed my mind in one million years, as is turned out, bratwurst was exactly what I was craving. Allison and I both ordered a beer and a bratwurst with cheese, chili, onions and peppers and my stomach all but applauded in thanks.

FullSizeRender 409

For the concert, the opening act was The New Respects, who kind of gave me a Jackson 5 vibe. They were very upbeat and melodic and made you want to dance right alongside them. The second act was The Lone Bellow. They ended up replacing Gavin Degraw due to unforeseen circumstances and had a Lumineers/Civil Wars sound. After their first few songs, the lead singer took the mic and addressed the crowd, saying, “I was at a bar in Denver last night, and I met the most beautiful soul. He was singing at an open mic night and I’ve never seen someone exude so much light when they perform.” He said he talked to the man afterwards and learned that at the age of about 60, the man had already beat cancer twice and was currently fighting another disease. But even amongst all of his struggle, the man said that when he sang, he felt no pain.

“So I thought,” the lead singer continued, “why don’t we bring him out to sing with us?”

The man then walked on stage with a wide smile spread across her face. I, of course, instantly started crying. And as the four of them started singing “Angel from Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt, the tears kept on coming. The lead singer had been right about the man’s ability to exude light when he sang and as I watched them all sing together, I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was witnessing something really special.

Next was Needtobreathe, who is not only my favorite band, but my favorite live artist of all time. This was my 5th time seeing them and Allison’s first, which I think is what made the performance my favorite of theirs by far. We danced, we laughed, we cried, we stood speechless, and to top it all off, we did so in by far the coolest venue I’ve ever been to. If you’re ever in the Denver area, please do yourself a favor and see a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. And if you’re ever in the Denver area—or anywhere else really—at the same time as Needtobreathe, please do yourself a favor and see them live. It will change your life.



 

Day 6

Our last day in Colorado came with an early wakeup call. It wasn’t our earliest, but it was by far our hardest. We packed our bags and gathered the last of our belongings from our hotel room. We checked out, returned our rental car and took a shuttle to the airport. There was mild conversation, but it all had an invisible weight brought on by the prospect of leaving.

In a couple hours, I’d be on a flight back to California and Allison would be headed back to Oregon. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, and we were well aware we’d be going back to a friendship that mostly exists through texts, emails and phone calls squeezed in between our very busy and very different schedules.

Our gates were right next to each other and our flights were leaving one minute apart, so once we got through security, we sat side by side in a pair of chairs directly between the two doors we’d soon be walking through. We watched the screens update our flight information and we listened to the intercom announce the arrivals and departures of surrounding planes. We fantasized about getting on a different plane. Making this vacation last a little longer. Avoiding responsibilities for even just a day or two more. But then a woman’s voice came on the speaker and announced it was time for us both to board. We stood from our seats and gave each other a hug, both of us feeling the separation anxiety starting to set in quick.

I walked up to the counter and scanned my ticket with the agent, then walked down the jet bridge alone. I waited in line behind a man with a giant carry on suitcase and then took my window seat near the back of the plane and plugged in my headphones. As the rest of the passengers continued to board, I got a text from Allison.

FullSizeRender 421

I looked out the window of my plane, over at the series of windows on the neighboring plane, wondering where my best friend was sitting, feeling weird that after almost a whole week of being together 24/7, we weren’t sitting together. Then, as my eyes grazed the middle of the plane, I saw something.

giphy (23)

FullSizeRender 422

I smiled. It was moments like these that made me feel confident in the upcoming days and months we’d spend apart. Because even when things got tough, we’d always be there for each other to shine a little light and help each other out. So as my plane backed out onto the runway, I leaned back in my seat, sad this trip was over, but optimistic and excited about the many adventures to come.

A Late September Adventure (Day 4: Boulder, CO)

After another slow, relaxing morning, Allison and I made our way back into Denver for breakfast. This time we referred to this list, and decided on Syrup, not only because the name screams BREAKFAST, but also because the menu boasted items such as “breakfast pizza” and a “pancake and waffle flight.” I ended up trying the “crunchy French toast”, which is the breakfast classic fried in granola and I was instantly obsessed.

The restaurant was found inside a suite in a downtown building, so when we walked back outside, we expected to be thrust into the hustle and bustle of the city. Strangely, however, we found the city to be a far cry from those we were familiar with. The streets were almost silent. Coming from Los Angeles, I felt a strange yearning for honking and cursing and yelling and then immediately felt ashamed about it. Maybe cities could exist without all of that. But then, as we drove around, checking out Coors Field and the surrounding streets, I also started to wonder, was I too far gone to enjoy a city that didn’t?

“Okay, things to do in Denver,” I mumbled to myself as I did a Google search on the side of the road. “Uhhh, want to go see this nosey blue bear?”

“Sure,” Allison said, and she got to work on directions.

Meet the nosey blue bear, also known as the “Big Blue Bear” that stands outside of the Colorado Convention Center:

IMG_2744

giphy (22)

To be fair, I’m not sure if we totally gave Denver a shot. After checking out the Baloo the peeping bear, we drove around a little bit more, before ultimately heading back to the city that had stolen our hearts: Boulder.

We made the 40 minute trek, found a parking spot just outside the Pearl St. Mall and spent the next few hours walking from store to store. We walked up both sides of the mall, taking in the many unique art installations that peppered its sidewalks, we browsed boutiques that boasted price tags we could only dream to ignore, and we spent far too much—which really means not enough—time in a local bookstore.

Around 4 o’clock, we got back in the car and once again let our Googling thumbs decide where we should go next.

“Do you want to go to The Leanin’ Tree?” I asked Allison.

“What’s that?”

I shrugged and clicked to view the Yelp reviews. “This person says, ‘Amazing and free’”

At the sound of our two favorite words, Allison immediately buckled her seatbelt and typed in the address.

About 15 minutes later, we were pulling into a parking lot. A small “Leanin’ Tree” sign let us know we were in the right place, but when we parked our car and looked out the passenger window, passed the wooden fence marked “Leanin’ Tree,” we were still unsure. It was a park with a bunch of bronze sculptures grouped closely together.

“I was kind of expecting a…uhhh…a tree,” Allison said.

“Me too.”

Allison went to work on her phone, trying to figure out where exactly we were, then she looked up at me with a frown. “I think it’s closed.”

I glanced down at the clock: 4:15.

“Dangit. Did it close at 4?”

Allison shook her head. “No. I mean, I think it’s closed forever.”

She showed me her phone. An article read: “Boulder closes Leanin’ Tree Museum after 40 years of service.”

We both sighed. The article was dated only a few weeks ago. I sat back in my seat, wondering what we should do next and Allison leaned into the glass of her window.

“You know,” she said. “The gate is open.”

We got out of the car. At the very least, we figured we could at least get a closer look at the statues and maybe take a picture with one or two.

(Which we did)

IMG_2728

We walked through the gate and followed the sidewalk around to a set of double doors.

“Should we go inside?” I asked.

Allison shrugged and opened the door.

Inside we found a large desk with two women sitting behind it.

“Hello,” the woman on the left said. “Feel free to look around. To the right is our Christmas room.”

This woman then walked away. As if “to the right is our Christmas room” is a completely casual thing to say. Allison and I exchanged a look, and without saying a word, we both b-lined to the “Christmas Room.”

What is a Christmas Room you might ask? Well, it’s EXACTLY what it sounds like. After turning the corner in the beige walled, grey-carpeted lobby, we were thrust into a candy apple red, frosted shelf, Christmas trinket wonderland. Tables and shelves were COVERED in Christmas decorations, holiday knick-knacks and seasonal greeting cards. Santas came in every size. Everything was sprinkled with glitter. Every closed box promised the potential of a jingle. Allison and I looked at each other and immediately started laughing.

WHERE THE HELL WERE WE?!

We stood in the Christmas room for a few minutes, until we felt we were composed enough to face the women at the desk again, then walked back out into the lobby. This time the woman on the right stood to greet us.

“Hello,” she said. “Do you know what we do here?”

“No,” we said desperately in unison.

“Well we used to have a Western Art museum, but that recently closed. Our main source of work here, however, is greeting cards.”

Greeting cards?

She gestured to her left. “Feel free to look around.”

We followed her hand to the room on the other side of the desk. Inside we found a collection of, well, everything. There was jewelry, there were t-shirts, there were hand painted wooden signs that mom’s hang in their garden. There were candles and perfumes and purses and a collection of 50% off posters of the western art the museum used to display. To top it all off, when you moved to the back of the store, you were led into another room FULL of greeting cards. We’re talking aisles and rotating displays and shelves and tables full of greeting cards for every occasion.

Again, we asked ourselves, where are we?!

Regardless of the answer, we spent a good 45 minutes inside, looking at absolutely EVERYTHING. Just after 5 o’clock, we made our way back to the counter, where we purchased the following items:

A Colorado post card

2 greeting cards

A child XL t-shirt with a brontosaurus standing under the night sky

A mason jar with an apron inside that said, “you look radishing”

Only the essentials, obviously.

When we got back in our car, we calmly set our purchases in the backseat, buckled our seatbelts, then looked at each other and let out another loud, long laugh. Once we were composed, we went in search of a snack before dinner.

FullSizeRender 400

We had planned to watch the sunset up at a friend-recommended spot known as Realization Point, and thought that popcorn sounded like something good to munch on. Long story short, we spent the next hour looking for Doc-Popcorn, which our maps had two locations for in Boulder, only to find out that neither of them exist. SO, we settled for smoothies instead, stopping at a place called Wonder to satisfy that craving.

While seated at a table in the very trendy, brick walled café, Allison put both hands flat on the table.

“I don’t feel very well,” she said. “I feel like I’m about to have a panic attack.”

I’ve never had a panic attack, but I’ve read enough to sympathize with their unpredictable nature and paralyzing symptoms. I took a big gulp of my smoothie. “How can I help?”

FullSizeRender 387

Allison stood from the table and we made our way back to the car and up the hill to Realization Point. She said she wanted to take in the sunset and then we agreed to pick up something light for dinner and head back to the hotel to watch a movie. As we drove, she apologized, feeling guilty even though she had no reason to. I knew she felt like she was “ruining the evening” and I worried she had thoughts she was somehow ruining the trip.

I think we all tend to put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re on vacation. Like we need to feel our best all the time or we’re just wasting our time. So often we forget that part of vacation is rest. It’s having the time to recognize the feelings our busy workdays may require us to harbor.

Allison and I spend most of our time thousands of miles apart, so the best part of any vacation together is that freedom to get be on vacation together. Whether that’s going on some crazy, adrenaline pumping adventure, or staying up late talking about everything, or tucking in early to call it a night. So as we made our way home with some soup and a movie, I had no worries this vacation was in danger of being ruined. In many ways, it had already been more that I could have ever imagined.

A Late September Adventure (Day 3: Denver, CO)

In an unfamiliarly cold haze of morning déjà vu, my alarm once again went off at 4:15 a.m. on Monday. Unwavering from its first episode, I blinked my eyes slowly open, pondering the “what if I just slept through this?” narrative. But as I trudged my way into the bathroom, my toes cold and my stomach surprisingly empty, I once again gave into the promise of adventure. Allison and I were headed to Denver for the second leg of our vacation, and if all it took to get there was to fight through an early alarm, we were in a pretty good spot.

Mike was gracious enough to drive us to the airport, singing and chatting all the way. Allison and I smiled gratefully, both of us an equal level of non-morning person, and we wished him well as we made our way inside. Uncharacteristic of the small Redmond Airport, the security line wrapped around the lobby. Allison and I looked at each other with big, tired eyes, worried our early wake up call wouldn’t prove to be early enough. Luckily, the line moved quick and with a good helping of time to spare, we boarded our flight, took our seats, and promptly knocked out.

Upon arriving in Seattle, we had a slight increase in energy, though nothing more substantial than a battery’s last-ditch effort to power a children’s toy. Quickly after boarding our flight to Denver, we were once again asleep, Allison with her head on the fold down table, and me with a book open on my lap. Thankfully, this nap would prove fruitful, as we touched down in Colorado feeling excited, rejuvenated, and starving. We picked up our bags, took a shuttle to our rental car service, shed our jackets in the warm Colorado sun, and hit the road to downtown Denver.

Now, one thing you should know about the way Allison and I travel is we don’t do a lot of planning. We get the basics settled: the hotel, the rental car, the flights, etc. but from there we tend to wing it. So once we were on the freeway driving through the flat plains surrounding the Denver International Airport, Allison went to work finding us a place to eat lunch by Googling “best places for lunch in Denver.” We referred to this list, and settled on Olive & Finch, whose cute name and unique menu got our taste buds salivating.

I ordered the Hens Can Crow sandwich, whose focaccia bread I will dream about for months to come, and the blueberry lemonade, which I will now inquire about at every restaurant until I find it again. We sat out on the patio, trying to take in the fact that, after months of planning and hoping this trip would come to fruition, we were actually sitting at a restaurant in Denver, and we looked at each other with a smile.

“What should we do first?”

giphy (18)

Remember how I said that Allison and I aren’t ones for planning? Well, lucky for us, we do tend to be, well, lucky. We remembered the Coors Brewery is in Denver, so while we ate lunch we looked up the details involved in taking a tour. As it turned out, tours are only available Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and seeing as it was Monday at 2:30 p.m. and we were leaving Thursday at 10:30 a.m., we really only had one shot to make it and it just so happened to be right then. So, we hopped back in the car, made a quick pit stop to check into our hotel, and headed straight for the Coors Brewery, where we got in line for the last 5 or 6 buses of the day.

Each bus held about 10-15 people and a tour guide sat in the driver’s seat, pointing out key points of interest en route to the brewery. The ride and tour are free, as are the three beers available to you in the tasting room at the end. Allison and I jumped off the bus and led our group inside the main building, where we were immediately shuffled in line to take a goofy souvenir photo. You know, the kind you never really think about buying…usually.  

giphy (20)

From there we each grabbed an audio guide that you held up to your ear like a telephone. We walked side by side from point to point, fascinated by the brewing process and its history. Occasionally we would look over at each other with wide eyes and dropped jaws, shocked by a shared factoid, such as the plant’s distribution of its by-products to aid in the production of cat food.

Once we reached the tasting room, we immediately hopped in line to order the first of our three free beers. We each started with a Sandlot, which is brewed by Blue Moon, a Coors affiliate. We clinked our glasses and made our way through the room whose walls are covered with old Coors advertising memorabilia, and found a high table to lean our elbows on and enjoy our beers. We also made a stop at the vending machines stocked with salty snacks and split a bag of pretzels before getting back in line for our second drink. On this round, I ordered a Coors Banquet and Allison got a Killian’s Red. Halfway through this beer, we found ourselves a little lighter. We leaned against our table and laughed at old stories we’d told each other time and time again, and then got in line for our third and final beer.

“Oranges or no oranges?” the bartender said as he poured our Blue Moons. I said none, Allison said she’d take mine, and then we cheers-ed. This time we turned a different way away from the bar, landing us face to face with the photo counter that offered the souvenir photos we’d taken at the beginning of the tour.

“Oh my gosh,” we laughed into our glasses, “we HAVE to see these.”

After seeing the end results, we decided we also HAD to buy them. I got this one, where we’re just a couple of gals in cowboy hats, standing in the middle of a river:

58C3A3AB-0312-41E3-9187-84D9D83A630E

And Allison got the same picture with other available background, making us just a couple of gals in cowboy hats, standing in front of the Coors ice mountain:

IMG_5370

Neither purchase was met with even an ounce of regret.

FullSizeRender 378

From the Coors brewery we took the bus back to our car and drove around downtown Golden for a little while. We stopped at a picturesque park full of runners, bikers, and loungers alike. We drove through the campus of the Colorado School of Mines, slightly jealous of the scenery they are surrounded with, though not jealous enough to wish we were back in school. We traversed the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, constantly oohing and awing at the views it offered at every turn. Then, in another predictably unpredictable decision of an Allison/Kim adventure, we decided to drive 40 minutes into Boulder, Colorado to look around and eat ice cream.

giphy (21)

We stopped at Heifer and the Hen, a little ice cream shop outside of downtown Boulder that had swings to eat your ice cream on. I ordered the burnt honey in a waffle cone, the taste of which was delicious, though not as delicious as it could have been if they hadn’t run out of candied pecans.

Dear anyone in Boulder or its surrounding areas, if you happen to stop by Heifer and the Hen, please try this combination and report back whether it’s the greatest things you’ve ever tasted. Also, request to name this order “The Kim” on the menu. Thanks.

From there we drove through downtown Boulder, noting the Pearl Street Mall as a possible destination for the next day and then headed back to our hotel.

Even though we were tired from the day’s travels, we lay on our neighboring beds and talked for hours, about anything and everything, some things we probably didn’t even know we wanted to talk about. It was one of those conversations that goes in every direction for as long as need be; the kind of conversation we all hope to have once in a while; the kind that makes you feel known and understood. So as our eyes started to get heavy, we got under our covers and turned the lights out.

“Good night,” we said to each other, and it wasn’t because we felt we had to or because we couldn’t think of anything else to say, it was because it was true.