music

What I Learned from My First Stagecoach Festival

This past weekend I went to the Stagecoach Country Music Festival for the first time. Leading up to it, I didn’t know what to expect. Stagecoach is held in the same venue as Coachella, which I’d actually been to before to watch my brother play lacrosse, but even so, I really had no idea what I was walking in to.

Now that I’m back (and still alive!) I thought I’d analyze what my friends and I did right/wrong, in order to better prepare us (or you!) for future trips.

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What We Did Right: We stayed offsite

After we bought our tickets, our #1 priority was to find the best/most affordable/most convenient lodging. As it turned out, this was a very intense and stressful process, because everyone else who just bought their tickets was doing the exact same thing. But we ended up getting a great place on Airbnb about 20 minutes from the venue and it was great to get away from all the madness each night.

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What We Did Wrong: Parked at the venue

One of the downsides of staying upwards of 20 minutes away is the need to, you know, get to the venue. On Friday night we decided to drive straight there and park in the lot. It was a relatively smooth process on the way in, but it took us a solid hour to get out of the parking lot after the show, 45 minutes of which we didn’t even move. (Note: a friend of mine who’s been to Coachella suggests that if you leave about 10-20 minutes early at the end of the night, getting out of the parking lot is not too bad!)

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What We Did Right: Parked at a friend’s house

After Friday night, we asked some friends of ours who were staying at a house in walking distance from the venue if we could park in their driveway. The walk from their house to the venue ended up being the same distance and took the same amount of time as parking in the parking lot did (about 30 minutes) but once we arrived back at our car that night, we were out of their neighborhood and on the freeway back to our house in approximately five minutes. Granted, this isn’t a luxury that everyone has when they go to Stagecoach, but if you do stay offsite and know people staying closer, it’s worth the ask.

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What We Did Right: Brought bandanas

One item we constantly heard as a recommended bring was a bandana, and even though we weren’t exactly sure why, we all showed up on Friday with one packed in each of our bags. This would prove to be on of our greatest choices because not only does the wind pick up after sundown, blowing dust all up in your business, but the walk back to your car/house/camp/etc. is essentially one big parade of dust. I couldn’t recommend them more.

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What We Did Wrong: Left our chairs at home

Overall, the first day was really one big learning experience. In preparing for the trip we had bought cheap chairs but weren’t sure whether they’d be too bulky/nerdy to carry around. So on the first day the four of us only brought a few towels and a blanket to sit on. On our walk into the venue, we quickly realized that EVERYONE brings chairs. And after spending the afternoon and evening sitting on the hard ground, we found out why. Needless to say, we proudly carried our chairs in on Saturday and Sunday.

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What We Did Right: Brought sunscreen

I get it. Applying and reapplying sunscreen isn’t something you want as your number one priority when you’re at a music festival and you’re trying to look cute and have fun and forget all your worries and all of that. But as the sun set on Friday and we took a look around at some of the people who didn’t take the time to apply (or reapply), it was clear they were going to be hurting for the next two days.

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What We Did Wrong: Didn’t bring blankets and (good enough) sweatshirts

As it turns out, when the sun goes down in the desert and the wind picks up, it can get freaking cold! Saturday was especially cold and had all of us curled up and shivering. So we made a note for next time to not only bring blankets, but maybe even a pair of pants and a bigger jacket. It might seem ridiculous when you’re walking in at 3:30pm and it’s 100 degrees outside, but you have the option to either rent a locker, or if you’re with a big group, you can set up camp by the main stage and rotate getting up for food/drinks/exploring.

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What We Did Right: Sang and danced as much as possible

One of the best parts about any concert or sporting event is collectively enjoying something with a bunch of strangers. It’s a very uniting feeling. And even though it might seem weird to sing at the top of your lungs and dance your damn heart out in front of all these strangers, it’s really the only way to go. Lose your inhibitions, have a drink and just dance! It’s fun, it’s freeing, and at night it’s the only thing that keeps you warm!

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Overall, I would definitely go again. Even with the slight bit of chaos it took to figure everything out, I had a great time and was so glad I went. For anyone thinking of going next year, I’d say go for it! Even if you’re not a big festival person, it’s worth going once to try it out, especially if you go with a group of people who are looking to experience it the same way you are. Plus, you really can’t beat live music. Especially live country music in the (almost) summer time. It feels good down to your bones!

How to Keep Your Christmas Decorations Up All Year Round (List-cember #7)

My least favorite part of Christmas is the moment it ends. Right after that clock strikes midnight, everything is over. All the planning, all the stress and anxiety, (probably) all the Christmas cookies. Like the day itself, they vanish into thin air, leaving only the memories behind.

Tonight, as I wrapped presents for my family and friends, I sat on my couch, basking in the season. I took a good look around my house, marveling at all the decorations we’ve hung up, dreading the day we’ll have to take them down and leave the walls plain again.

Decorations have always been one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I love the lights and the sparkles and all the red. I love the pride people take in filling their houses/cars/desks/etc. with Christmas spirit and the tradition of strangers coming together to marvel at that pride. It makes me wish Christmas lasted all year long. Though I suppose that would take away the novelty of it all, wouldn’t it? Then again, should we really need to consider pride, spirit and community a novelty? Shouldn’t these actually last all year long?

This got me thinking. What if when we took down our decorations, we took what they represent with us? For example:

1) Christmas Lights

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These quite simply make people look and awe. Whether it be with their colors, their arrangement, or their uniqueness. In many ways, even though we look at Christmas lights our whole lives, every year it feels like we’re seeing them for the first time. This is the same way I feel about people when they show unwarranted kindness or unthinkable bravery. It’s not that I forget these qualities exist, it’s just a pleasant and inspiring surprise when I come across them. So in this upcoming year, what if we made an effort to be these displays of light? I think it’s safe to say, especially in today’s society, the world could always use some more light.

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2) Ornaments

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I love ornaments. (So much so that I hand out superlatives every year.) I love that—at least the way my family does it—they are all unique and have a different story and memory associated with them, and that after all this time we still tell them. Pictures have this same quality. Unfortunately in this digital age we so often exile photos to the Internet and never think of them again. We need to print more pictures. We need to put them on display and remember the memories they capture. That way, in the moments we’re feeling low or nostalgic, we don’t have to scroll through our phones and try to dodge the pressures of comparison, we can simply look up at our wall or on our desk or bedside table and remember a moment that meant a lot to us.

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3) Paper Chains

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By now this might be a rather outdated decoration, but I still love me some paper chains. More than anything, they remind me that I can make things with my hands and they don’t have to be perfect. These days with the constant access to websites and services that will do practically everything for you, it’s easy to forget that we have hands of our own built for crafting. Then again, with all the Pinterest wizards dominating the Internet, it’s easy to get discouraged when we try. But, like a paper chain, things we make by hand, whether it be home improvement projects, gifts, or a hot meal from scratch, it feels good to sit back and realize that you made it; that you put in the time and did it yourself.

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4) Snow Globes

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My sister collects Christmas snow globes and is always one to walk over and shake them in a store. I think they give her, and me, and most of the general population a minute or two just to breathe. With a few shakes we stand and watch the snow or glitter fall, listening to the song that winds down, and for a moment we’re transported somewhere far away. While this might be harder to do in the general chaos of life, we can always take a second to stop and breathe; to take in the sights and sounds and smells around us and just be in that moment, completely as it is, just as we would until the song ended and we put the snow globe back on the shelf.

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5) Christmas Music

I know, I know, this isn’t technically a decoration. But when you consider that Christmas music is playing from every speaker, everywhere you go, for almost two straight months, it kind of turns into one. Call it an atmosphere decoration if you will. Granted, this “atmosphere decoration” technically exists all year round, chameleoning to fit the designated atmosphere (i.e. “elevator music”). But there seems to be this general agreement that in November and December you only listen to Christmas music and in January-October you listen to everything but. As I elaborated in this post however, I say listen to whatever you want, whenever you want. Decorate your atmosphere with music that makes you feel good no matter what time of year it is and no matter what anyone else thinks.

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So, as you start to de-decorate your house in the coming weeks, try to remember what it is about the decorations that draw you to them. Is it the light? Is it the color? Is it the associated memories? Then go out and find it in the confines of an average day, or create it yourself. Magic is not dictated by a calendar, and neither is goodness or glitter for that matter. So spread it around and soak it in, no matter the season.

You’re Free to be Great, So Go for It

This past week I officially hit the 900 mile mark of my 1000 mile running goal for the year. It’s been a trying 11 months to get here, and I have a feeling this final month will take everything I have to finish. My body is tired. It’s been sore and achy and fatigued more days than it hasn’t. And yet, I still feel strong. I feel like I can do anything.

Over the course of this year, I’ve looked for and found a variety of different things to listen to/watch while I’m running, the most prominent being my ever changing playlist on my phone, aptly titled “Running.” Consistently among my favorites on the playlist is “The Greatest” by Sia.

The song starts as follows:

Uh-oh I’m running out of breath, but I’ve got stamina.

Uh-oh I’m running now I close my eyes, well I got stamina.

And uh-oh, I see another mountain to climb

But I got stamina

For obvious reasons, this first verse makes sense on a running playlist. I mean what else besides stamina—and the slightest bit of insanity—do you need to get yourself running? To add to that, in the next part she sings:

Don’t give up

I won’t give up

Don’t give up, no, no, no

Which again, is exactly the kind of mindset you need to have while running.

The part that really hooks me though, is the chorus:

I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive

I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest

The greatest, the greatest alive

The greatest, the greatest alive

I tell ya, whenever that chorus kicks in while I’m running, I break out into a sprint. Because aside from being the kind of inspirational “go team” type of sentiment that I need when I’m exercising, it fills me with motivation that I can take further.

I’m free to be the greatest, she says, I’m alive.

In other words: I’m free to be the greatest I can be, in anything I choose to try, because I have the great privilege of being alive. I firmly believe that the idea behind these words is what gets me out there running every day. It’s what put the idea in my head that I could run 1000 miles in the first place. For there’s truly nothing greater than making your dreams a reality and your doubts fiction.

So, I encourage you to chase them with everything you’ve got. Because as of today, as of this moment, you are completely free to be the greatest you can be, so you might as well go for it.

 

September/October 2017 Favorites

I always have trouble knowing exactly how to start these blog posts because I feel like the meat of the post is in the favorites, you know? So if I spend all this time in the intro trying to get you excited for the favorites, I’m just wasting your time because every single extra word I type with my unpainted fingernailed fingertips is one extra word you have to read before you can get to the part of this post that actually matters. So really, the introduction is just rude. Because a part of you feels like you should read it, just in case you miss something wildly important, but then the other part of you just wants to skip it and read on, because clearly nothing important is going to be said in this intro, is it? But the curiosity still lingers, so you read the whole thing, and then you get to the end and realize you totally could have skipped it.

Sorry.


 

Insanely Chill w/ Cody Ko Podcast

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Unlike some of the other podcasts I’ve recommended in previous favorites posts, this one doesn’t necessarily have a specific theme. Cody Ko started on Vine and then shifted over to YouTube and in the last year made his way into the world of podcasting. Insanely Chill is essentially a space where he just talks about whatever is on his mind. I like it because each episode is like one long conversation with a friend, except that friend is doing all the talking, but somehow it’s okay because that friend is pretty funny and clearly needs to vent about a few things. So you listen, and even though you don’t get a single word in edgewise, you enjoy yourself and then sign yourself up to have these conversations once a week.  (Find it here)


 

The Hollars

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Have you ever watched a movie and had it be exactly what you needed to watch in that moment of your life? Well in the middle of September, while my best friend and I were on vacation in Denver, we turned on The Hollars in our hotel room after a long day of exploring and it could not have been a more perfect choice. It is John Krasinski’s directorial debut and it makes me hope with all my heart he has more projects in the works. It makes you feel all the feels and I can’t recommend it enough. (Find it here)


 

Gaga: Five Foot Two

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I’ve always been a Lady Gaga fan, but after watching her Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, that respect and admiration tripled. It follows her journey to record her fifth studio album, Joanne, her struggles with fibromyalgia, and her performance at the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime show. My favorite line from the documentary is said in regards to Lady Gaga’s newfound maturity as an artist, but I think can relate to everyone: “I’m a woman struggling now,” she says, “rather than a girl.” (Find it on Netflix)

 


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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells

Throughout this entire book I was torn between wanting to binge it and needing to put it down. Written by Jeannette Wells, it is the story of her unorthodox (to say the least) upbringing. It is a hard story, but an important one. It’s a good reminder of how many different lives are being lived around you. (Find it here)

 

 

How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky9780147515995

Watsky is one of those people who I’ve seen around but never really known a lot about. Thankfully I picked up How to Ruin Everything at a bookstore in Colorado, thus introducing me to the world of Watsky. The bio on his website describes him as “a rapper, writer and performer from San Francisco now living in Los Angeles. A versatile lyricist who switches between silly and serious, technically complex and simply heartfelt,” which I think is a completely accurate description of his book as well. How to Ruin Everything had me laughing out loud, contemplating life and underlining phrases I hope I’m clever enough to emulate in my future writing. I’d recommend looking into all of his projects, including this book. (Find it here)

 

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The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

I read Rupi’s first book, Milk and Honey, last year and was instantly hooked and The Sun & Her Flowers continues with that addicting, must read quality. So, if you’re in the market for some poetry, I’d recommend Rupi one thousand times over. She is one of those people who can find words to express emotions, leaving you feeling like there is someone out there in the world who gets it, you know?  (Find it here)

 

 


 

Music

I’ve have been absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of good music the last two months have brought. It seems like every week there has been a new song or album that I am playing on repeat.

My music library has been looking like this:

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(the hamburgers, of course, being high quality musack)

I could recommend so much, but here are a few of my favorites:

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Kesha, Rainbow

For the most part I’m hit and miss with Kesha’s music, but this album got me! It’s such a good combination of mature and silly and it does a great job at showcasing how talented she’s always been behind all the glitter. (Find it here)

 

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Jessie Ware, Glasshouse

A few years ago I was obsessed with Jessie Ware’s album, Tough Love, so when I saw she had a new album coming out I was pumped and immediately preordered it. It did not disappoint. (Find it here)

 

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JP Cooper, Raised Under Grey Skies

I was first introduced to JP Cooper when he was featured on The Shed Sessions, a series on the Jacksgap Youtube channel. Since then I’ve checked in with him over the years, and was excited to see him release his first full length album. It’s absolutely beautiful. (Find it here)

 

268x0wDemi Lovato, Tell Me You Love Me

I’ve been waiting patiently for an album of Demi’s to perfectly showcase her voice and DAMN, if this doesn’t do it. I’ve been playing this album on repeat, loud, so I can pretend I’m hitting all the notes she does. (Find it here)

 

download (4)Hoodie Allen, The Hype

Similar to Watsky, Hoodie Allen is someone that I’ve always heard about but never really dove into. That being said, I decided to shuffle his Spotify station while I was on a run one day and immediately came home and snatched up some music, including his brand new album, The Hype(Find it here)

 


 

Pecans

If you’ll recall from my last favorites post, I introduced my new obsession with Honey Vanilla Bourbon Pecans. Well let me tell you, these past two months, I have dove head first into the world of pecans. I’m serious. For the longest time I just assumed I didn’t like them and then I actually tried them this year and spoiler alert: pecans are freaking delicious. Everywhere I go I try pecan flavored things because I feel like I’ve wasted so much time eating non-pecan flavored things. Among everything I’ve tried while out and about, these are two of my favorite pecan flavored products I’ve found in the grocery store.

I’m in so deep guys. If things carry on this way, come 6 months from now I’m going to be that person on social media using tags like #justpecanthings or #allpecansallday. Pray for me.


 

Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See my previous favorites post here.

If I Were on Carpool Karaoke

Unlike most guests, I obviously wouldn’t have a successful discography to sing along to as James Corden and I drove around downtown Los Angeles, thus making the call from The Late Late Show rather surprising. Had they heard my music turned up to a volume that blocked out my voice, thus leading me (and possibly them) to believe I sounded exactly like the artist actually singing? Had they caught me on one of those days when I forgot there were other people on the freeway and I thrust my body around behind the steering wheel, wobbling my car between the dotted lines? Had they somehow managed to get their hands on old family videos where my sister and I wrote songs while we were out on the lake fishing, our most prominent hit being, “My Butt is Sore”?

Why did they want me here? I would wonder to myself as I stood on the sidewalk outside CBS studios, and then I’d open the passenger’s side door of a silver SUV and James Corden would say, “I just really need some help getting to work.”

Once I was in the car, he would ask if he could turn on some music and I’d nod. In a perfect world, he’d play “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston first. It’s my ultimate jam, my #1 song requested at every wedding I’ve ever attended, and the true key to receiving my trust for this musical journey we were about to embark on.

We would jam our faces off and I’d probably ruin any hairstyle the team at CBS had given me before we left. I’d also undoubtedly be sweating by the end, and I’d zone out for a few minutes post-Whitney, wondering if I’d worn a post-Whitney worthy, sweat disguising t-shirt. What am I even wearing? I’d ask myself. Am I wearing anything?! I’d look down at my body, ensuring it was in fact clothed, and when James saw the wave of panic followed by an immediate wave of relief wash over me, he’d ask if I was okay.

“Oh yeah,” I’d say, “I’m fine, I was just making sure I was wearing clothes.”

Not knowing what to do with this response, he’d smile politely, make a turn to shorten our originally planned route, and turn the radio back up.

The second song would be another well-known anthem or perhaps a legendary ballad. Something everyone should know in the hopes of distracting the audience that I—someone nobody knows—am in the passenger’s seat, rather than the likes of Bruno Mars, Adele, or Harry Styles.

I’d do my best to sing along, keeping my volume a few notches below James, who actually can sing. About halfway through the song, I’d start to worry I was getting carsick, and even if I wasn’t, I would worry that I might become carsick. And since I still wasn’t used to the fact that I wasn’t alone in my car making deliveries for work, but was instead sitting alongside James Corden being recorded by 6 different cameras, I’d zone out on this thought for a while. Am I going to puke? I’d wonder. Or am I only making myself think I’m going to puke. Did Harry Styles think he was going to puke? I bet Bruno Mars NEVER pukes. You can’t get vomit on silk. The dry cleaning bill would be outrageous.  

“Do you mind if we play a little game?” James would say once we were finished with the third song. “Sure!” I’d reply enthusiastically, my posture growing worse and worse as I got more comfortable.

James would propose a speed round of song identification in which a snippet of a popular song would play and the first person to guess it would receive a point. I would nod politely at the rules, camouflaging the competitive side of myself that was screaming WE MUST WIN THIS OR OUR LIFE MEANS NOTHING.

By the fourth round of the game, we’d be tied, and my heart would be pounding. Again, I’d completely lose sight of the fact that I was being recorded for television and focus only on the game…and this incredibly slow driver that will not get out of the way!

“EXCUSE ME,” I would say to the navy blue Prius in front of us as my LA traffic demons rose to the surface, “WE HAVE PLACES TO BE.”

James would smile, remaining professional, and I’d start to come back to him, only to have the Prius turn on their reverse lights IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” I’d yell. “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!”

I’d then return to James, having completely blacked out until the Prius was out of the way, unaware of anything that might have come out of my mouth.

“Shall we continue?” I’d say sweetly.

“We shall,” he’d say, and then I’d mysteriously win the game.

On the final lap of our drive, I would get quiet as I started to overthink everything that may have happened during the car ride. Was I funny? Was I crazy? Should I have just stayed in my car? Do they regret inviting me on this show? Do I regret coming? Where even are we?

Just then, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding would come on. It’s another one of my favorites. A wave of calm would wash over me as James and I sang along, and soon I’d be consumed by the song, rolling the window down and holding my hand out to feel the outlandishly hot air characteristic of a Los Angeles autumn.

As we pulled back onto the CBS lot, we’d be whistling to the end of the song. (Him more than me, I’ve never been quite able to whistle correctly.) And as the song came to a close, I’d realize why musicians—and other celebrities if you count the Apple Music extension of the series—sign up to do this. It’s the same reason why (most) people that sit in traffic don’t kill each other. It’s the same reason why, in this fictional story, the CBS producers recruit me: Music can bring out the best in people, and can bring even the strangest of stranger together.

So as Otis Redding faded out and James Corden put the car in park, I’d smile, knowing that yes, while I was probably a crazy person sure set the gif-ing Internet on fire, I was also just a person, sitting alongside another person who appreciates music. And even though there were a bunch of cameras on us and I had sweat under my arms and was still a little nervous I was secretly carsick, we had shared a moment. An experience that no one could ever take away. And that’s really what music is all about.

 


 

Also check out: If I Were on the Bachelor, If I Were on Dancing with the Stars

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 his 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.

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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.

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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.