Boulder For Real
Nine days after that somewhat mawkish “love at first sight” post, I am still romanticizing Boulder. Colly recently voiced my feelings while she was in the midst of a lesson at a local gymnastics gym (speaking of which, she and Kyle helped me produce a little movie yesterday about their time at that gym; scroll to the end of this post to see).
Colly’s face, which was flushed and beaming from the discovery of the high-quality facility and friendly coach, momentarily clouded over as she said, “The trouble with travel is you find a place where you want to stay, and then you have to leave.”
I pointed out the glass-half-empty perspective (i.e. if not for travel, we would not have experienced this place at all), but I also agreed with her. The trouble with Boulder is that we had to leave today.
Boulder seemed to click for our family; from Day One, we found our way around, fell into a routine and felt comfortable in the community. It’s not perfect (I’ll mention a few disappointments below), and I wouldn’t say it’s the most charming or gorgeous Zip Code in the state. But with its university vibe and just-right size, Boulder feels very real and livable. It’s also one of the healthiest places, with the most fit-looking people, I’ve ever visited. A guy selling ice cream from a cart in the park, for example, looked like a Runners’ World cover model, wearing a 10K shirt and Ironman cap.
The city and its people seem to lean into the Rocky Mountain foothills, running up the slopes to its fin-shaped Flatirons as if to escape the flatness of the landscape to the east, which spreads unchanging as far as the eye can see.
Perhaps my view is colored by happy times with friends. We experienced a veritable influx of visitors, and oh how nice it was to socialize again! First, an ultrarunning couple we got to know back in Oakland, Garett and Holly, came over for dinner with their toddler son, and then longtime friends Adam and Jennifer, in town for business, spent Saturday with us and brought their girls Zoe and Julie.
Colly was ecstatic to have friends for the weekend, and even happier when they whisked her away for a sleepover at their Denver hotel.
And what about Kyle? He was overjoyed for two days because one of his closest friends from Piedmont, Patrick, showed up to spend the weekend with us while his mom, Kia, was in town for a Buffs game. The boys spent hours splashing in Boulder Creek and transforming our living room into a fort, always in their own world and laughing at private jokes. While it was precious to watch, I also felt pangs about separating him and Colly from their friends for the whole school year. To friends who are reading this: If you plan to travel, please check our itinerary and consider crossing paths with us — we’d welcome you!
Here is a brief rundown of what our family will miss about Boulder — and what we recommend to anyone visiting there.
The trails: Boulder has over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, 35,000 acres of open space — and we tried to sample as much of it as we could. As lovely as the Boulder Creek path is, especially where it winds up Boulder Canyon, the real treasures are the trails branching off from places like Chautauqua Park and Marshall Mesa.
Pearl Street: Boulder’s historic downtown district struck me as a friendlier and cleaner version of Santa Cruz’s Pacific Garden Mall. In just a couple of blocks, between 9th and 11th, we discovered three great restaurants: Centro, Bacaro and West End Tavern. (Don’t bother going to the over-hyped and always-crowded Rio Grande around the corner — the food and service were barely passable, but most people seemed to be drinking too much to care.) The kids repeatedly dragged us to Powell’s candy store on Pearl, and we were happy to comply. On Saturday night, we experienced the full spirit of Pearl Street and Buffs pride when we got caught up in a pre-game rolling pep rally with CU’s marching band. The kids grabbed pompoms, caps and toy footballs.
The gym: Colly and Kyle fell in love with the Colorado Athletic Training School (CATS) and a coach named Gordy. Check out their movie below. I think we were all relieved to discover that the kids don’t have to completely give up sports and hobbies during travel; with a bit of effort, we can find places along the way where they can do their thing.
The house: As the last post detailed, I fell in love with 207 Pearl Street — the house and its location — in spite of the unpredictability of its hot water supply and wi-fi.
What’s not to like? The mall sprawl around 29th Street, overpopulated by franchise theme restaurants and big-box stores. I felt as though we were in Sacramento’s suburbs. And we were disappointed by the Fiske Planetarium at CU. We signed up for a “Moon and Lasers” presentation designed for school-age kids. What could have been a “stellar” learning experience turned out to be a bust because of the speaker. With virtually no introduction or context, she haltingly mentioned factoids about the autumnal equinox and moon cycles, nonsensically beaming a laser pointer around solar and lunar images projected on the theater’s dome. Then, without making time for questions or answers, she abruptly started a laser show. We found ourselves staring at psychedelic geometric projections while retro “space tunes” such as “Walking on the Moon” by The Police played. The kids left completely confused, and I left with a headache. At least it sparked our interest enough to further investigate the science behind yesterday’s equinox on our own.
So goodbye, Boulder. Now we’re making our way back through Telluride and Arizona, briefly stopping at the Grand Canyon and Sedona, and then to Southern California by early next week. At least we enjoyed a taste of winter today, hitting a glittering snow storm that coated the pines and enhanced the golden hues of the aspens. Our one day of winter, before heading to spring and summer in the Southern Hemisphere, won’t be forgotten!