Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday Jesus/Rachel in the Rockies

Happy Birthday to Jesus today! He is 25 and feeling all of it. His birthday plans include starting his first day of parkour training certification and hopefully exploring Boulder later today. I, on the other hand, have the whole day to myself to explore. And what am I doing? Sitting in the local Starbucks, mooching their free wifi (and hopefully some electricity eventually...waiting for the guy next to me to free up an outlet). I need some Internet/lazy time before I head out and see what Boulder has to offer.

Yesterday was a long day--and I'm not even exaggerating. With our flight west we gained an extra hour, so what felt like a 25-hour day actually was. We began the day before the crack of dawn, watching the sunrise from Midway. Jesus and I both slept most of the flight to Denver, and once we arrived, luggage in hand, we set out to find some food.

I had several "buy a drink, get a bagel free" coupons for Einstein Bagels, so we checked with the front end manager if we could use them at their airport location. He approved them, but our cashier was unsure how to ring up the discount, so we ended up getting breakfast for free. So far we like Denver.

Next, we found a bus to take us into downtown Denver. The first thing I noticed driving in was how Denver's simple skyline is dwarfed by the Rocky Mountains. Several skyscrapers, as impressive and beautiful as they are, cannot compete with a mountain range. Their arrangement at the foothills served to complement Mother Nature's grandeur.

It didn't take us long to realize Union Station is under complete renovation, so we had to schlep all of our stuff to the next major bus depot to figure out our plan of attack for the day. The end goal was Boulder, about 45 minutes north, but there was no rush. It was only 11 AM and we had the day to explore Denver. Unfortunately, we also had several heavy bags each. The solution was simple: we rented a locker at the Greyhound Station a few blocks away. For $5, our load was lightened for the day.

At this point, we also learned that Denver has a free bus shuttle that runs along a pedestrian mall. We used this to our advantage the rest of the day, hopping on and off at our convenience and interest. We checked out Skyline Park, home of a fountain that has been on Jesus' parkour bucket list for about four years. It was nice to play around on this fountain, which begs to be climbed, soaking our tired feet in the cool water (me) and honing our athletic craft (Jesus). At one point, another kid came around and started running, jumping, and flipping on the structures. Surprisingly enough, Jesus met another parkour friend who was only stopping in Denver on his way to Wyoming from California for a family vacation. His dad, mom, and brother watched from the edge of the fountain as he got some monkey play out of his system and they were on their way.

We also got to see the Capitol Building, Civic Center Park, and more of the 16th Street Mall. There are restaurants and retail stores, food trucks, interesting art installments, and free pianos. Making our way back to the bus station, we decided it was time to head further north, to Boulder. We found an express bus and got there in about 45 minutes. After showering (a homeless man gave us a pro tip to check out the YMCA since the gym we are staying at doesn't have a locker room/showers), we dropped off our stuff at our home base for the week, Apex Movement. We found dinner at a small drive-thru/walk-up burger joint. The food was great, reasonably priced, and we ate on their outdoor patio. At some point Jesus found his second wind and he spent the night exploring the gym, which is a giant warehouse converted into a traceur's heaven. I found my sleep mask and crashed on an air mattress in a semi-private corner.

We will go back to Denver this weekend, but our first impressions are that it's clean, pretty, and NICE. People on the street approached us if we ever hesitated at a corner, asking if we needed directions. Cars slowed wayyyyyyy down to let us cross the street. All of the bus drivers and station attendants were well informed and gladly directed us what lines to take, where to get off, and even if we needed change for fare.

So far Boulder has been similar. Trees and flowers line the wide, newly paved streets filled with Jeeps and Subaru Outbacks. Bikers abound. Everyone is pleasant. We've not even been here 24-hours and I already know the lay of the land, for the most part. I was able to give a biker directions earlier, to my own personal delight. That's what happens when you spend the week before your vacation studying maps and researching your travel destinations.

Since Jesus is doing his parkour certification, I have today, tomorrow, and Friday during the day to explore, read, write, relax, and take myself on all the day dates I could ever want. This afternoon I hope to take a tour of a tea factory. I'm also looking forward to discovering parks, pools, farmer's markets, and museums. Oh, and getting closer to these mountains.

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