Boulder For Real

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Teddy looks over Boulder from the Red Rock trail in Settlers' Park. Could it be he's sad to leave, too?

Teddy looks over Boulder from the Red Rock trail in Settlers' Park. Could it be he's sad to leave, too?

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. (more…)

Love at First Sight in Boulder

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I have been in Boulder, Colorado, less than 24 hours and already feel as though I found a home away from home, or perhaps a home to move to in the future. Or maybe I lived here in a past life, about 140 years ago, when the home we’re renting was built — who knows? The fact is that even though I can’t yet find my way around town, I experienced love at first sight when we pulled into our destination. (more…)

Magic at Mesa Verde and Along the San Juan Skyway

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Looking through a window in time in Mesa Verde's Balcony House.

Looking through a window in time in Mesa Verde's Balcony House.

Morgan crawls through the tunnel exiting the Balcony House cave dwelling.

Morgan crawls through the tunnel exiting the Balcony House cave dwelling.

Inside a cave perched high on a cliff face in Mesa Verde National Park, where remnants of rooms built from stone have stood for more than 800 years, I got down on my hands and knees to crawl through a dark tunnel only a few feet high and barely wide enough for my shoulders. I crept forward on all fours like a baby in order to follow an exit from a cave dwelling known as Balcony House, which Ancestral Puebloans built under the overhang of a massive rock. Soon — thankfully — I reached a point where a shaft of light filtered in and the passageway opened up nearly high enough to stand, and I gazed up at a perch where the park’s archeologists theorize a person would have sat guard to stop or allow those who tried to enter the pueblo. Then the tunnel narrowed to a crawl space again, and I took a deep breath to keep claustrophobia at bay before pushing through to reach sunlight and a spectacular view of a canyon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from our trip to Mesa Verde, but I didn’t expect this: to squeeze between rock crevices and climb up 30-foot ladders, and then to walk through the homes and gathering places where people thrived and a society developed to surprising sophistication in this spot for some 700 years, around 600 – 1300 AD. Never before had I experienced such an intimate and not-entirely-safe visit to a national or state park. (more…)

36 Hours in Telluride, CO

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Subtle graffiti on this sign on the way into Telluride ("pricy" conditions may exist) signal locals' ambivalence toward the town's growth and gentrification.

Subtle graffiti on this sign on the way into Telluride ("pricy" conditions may exist) signals locals' ambivalence toward the town's growth and gentrification.

This weekend, Sept. 4 – 7, Telluride’s annual film festival will transform the town. Its population of about 2200 will triple and its main street, Colorado Avenue, will be packed with visitors. I’ve never actually been to Film Fest but hear the scene is undeniably cool, and my family got a kick out of spotting Ken Burns outside of our favorite burrito place (La Cocina de Luz) the other night.

As a quasi-local lifelong lover of Telluride, I can’t help feel some reverse snobbery and sadness that a lot of these festival-goers — like a lot of skiers who briefly visit in winter — miss out on some of the more authentic, historic and out-of-the-way treasures that make Telluride what it is. For them, I offer this alternative weekend guide to Telluride, with apologies to The New York Times Travel Section for copping its “36 Hours” format. (The Times published its own “36 Hours in Telluride” in January of 2005, which was geared toward winter activities and dining and shopping downtown.)

Friday afternoon: Arrive in Telluride. Got that? TELLURIDE, not Mountain Village. I have heard dear misinformed friends say, “Oh, I love Telluride!” and then reveal that they spent a week in Mountain Village over Christmas break, as though the two towns were synonymous. They are not. Mountain Village is an oversized, overpriced and soulless master-planned golf and ski village-with-no-sense-of-community carved into the mountain above Telluride in 1987 and connected to town by a gondola. (more…)

Transitioning in Telluride

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

the cabin 2009The rectangular, one-story cabin six miles from downtown Telluride still looks pretty much the same as it did in 1975, when I was 6 and my parents hired locals to build it from a Lincoln Log-style kit on a five-acre piece of ranchland.  This morning I woke in one of the cabin’s four small corner bedrooms and looked out the window to watch the sunrise move shadows over the two mountains dominating the view, Wilson and Sunshine, which sit side by side like thrones and peak around 14,000 feet. Rolling meadows and aspen groves blanket the land near us, and only the ongoing construction at the nearby Telluride Airport blemishes the view.

Then I lay back in bed and studied the swirls and knots in the cedar log walls, seeing patterns and faces in them just as I did as a kid, and contemplated what we’re doing here.

It’s been one week since we left home, and we’ll be here another three weeks. We’re living with my brother and sister-in-law here on Last Dollar Road, where I spent every summer of my childhood. Morgan started coming here with me when he was my boyfriend in high school, so it feels like a second home to him, too.

Morgan and me on the back deck of the cabin in the summer of '85.

Morgan and me on the back deck of the cabin in the summer of '85.

Some people have wondered why we’re starting a round-the-world sabbatical in a place so familiar and not exactly adventurous. Let’s see if I can explain.

We gave a lot of thought to making the transition away from regular routines  — from a well-off, large-scale, high-speed way of life — into a simpler, more transient lifestyle. We felt the need to unplug, decompress, and adjust to a more flexible and natural way of life. So we came here, to a place where the weather sets the agenda and water from the well is never taken for granted; where laundry is hand washed or taken three towns away to the nearest Laundromat.

The cabin, now home to my brother, David, and his wife, Karen, promised to take us in and help us recalibrate. They did not disappoint. (more…)

Good “Car-Ma” For Long Car Trips

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

We took time to stop at parks, like this one in Fallon, NV. The kids were delighted to find rusting and not-entirely-safe playground equipment from a previous generation. Colly forgot the word for "merry-go-round," since she so rarely sees one, and said, "They have one of those tables that spins!"

We took time to stop at parks, like this one in Fallon, NV. The kids were delighted to find rusting and not-entirely-safe playground equipment from a previous generation. Colly forgot the word for "merry-go-round," since she so rarely sees one, and said, "They have one of those tables that spins!"

The four of us plus the dog just drove 1100 miles from Northern California to Southwestern Colorado, and along the way we avoided family feuds and never resorted to Happy Meal bribery (as in, “If you can be patient until the next town, then we’ll stop at McDonald’s”). The kids agreed it was one of the “funnest” long car trips in recent memory, and they didn’t seem to mind that we had no DVDs, no video games and limited personal space in the tightly packed Subaru Outback wagon. Here’s what I learned or was reminded of regarding car travel with kids as we passed the miles:

  • Take time to get there. We divided the trip into 3 days and 2 nights, even though it can be done pretty easily with just one overnight. Arriving at our midway destinations with time to spare allowed the kids to swim in the motel pool and play at local parks.
  • Share the music and listen together. We all have our own IPods and could have driven with earbuds firmly implanted, in our own little worlds. Not that there’s anything wrong with that for some of the time, but we chose to listen to one IPod at a time (trading off between the kids’ playlists and ours) and played it through the car stereo for all to hear. The upside: the conversation kept going, and the kids were happy that we were willing to listen to their music. (more…)

The Sappy Departure

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

All packed up and ready to go. Goodbye, home!

All packed up and ready to go. Goodbye, home!

“Why are you crying, Mom?” Kyle asked this morning as I pulled away from my next-door neighbor’s hug. “Are you sad or happy?”

I thought about what had unleashed the tears: the final walk through our bedroom, where the hardwood floors echoed from emptiness because nearly everything is in storage. Then the last good-byes. It hit me that I will miss our home and neighborhood terribly. It also hit me that everything we had planned during the past six months had come down to this moment, and all the work and difficult decisions had made us ready to go — and we really, finally were ready to go — so I was crying tears of relief. And also, I was indeed happy that at this crossroads in our lives, when a great deal is transitioning personally and professionally, we had chosen to go in a direction that Morgan and I believe will keep changing us for the better even after the trip is over.

“Both,” I finally answered.

“Well,” Kyle said, “if you’re sad and happy, that makes you sappy.”

I am sappy, so much so that the family began mocking my sentimentality last week. “This is the last time we’re going to Crogan’s,” I said the other night as we approached a favorite pub. “Awww,” said Colly, her voice dripping with pity, “and this is the last time we’re touching this crosswalk button!”

“The last time” became a running joke until Morgan got the last word on our final morning at home. He marched to the bathroom after coffee and Cheerios and proclaimed, “This is the last dump!” (more…)