Fri Aug 15 13:02:04 2003
I'm definitely Not in Kansas Anymore -- Boulder, CO

I wound up spending three full days in Denver, relaxing, exploring, and waiting for a set of spare tires to be moved from a warehouse in the South of Denver to a bike shop in downtown Denver. The first day, Monday the 11th, I spent mostly waiting for the locksmith to arrive and cut my lock open. When I got to the park, some homeless folks informed me that the park maintenance guys had been by and said if the bike wasn't gone within an hour, they were going to come back and cut it off and take it away. So I had arrived just in time, evidently. Once the locksmith arrived, he cut the shackle of the combination lock with a bolt cutter. It took about 5 seconds. We spent longer trying to find parking for his van. He told me to get a better lock, and I did, but now I'm nervous; next time my lock jams up, will it be more difficult to cut? This is already the second time a bike lock has jammed on me, I seem to have terrible luck.

Anyhow, with bike happily in hand I spent a little bit of time exploring the city and doing various errands. I visited Denver's Union Station and spent a while reading at the Tattered Cover bookstore. In the evening, on my way back to the hostel, a fellow on a payphone stopped me and asked "Are you from Ithaca?", pointing at my "Ithaca is Gorges" t-shirt. Turns out he's from Utica, which is right nearby. We chatted a little and he told me his friend Todd was having a birthday and he was about to head over to a nearby bar to celebrate with him. He invited me along, and I complied, happy to have a little company. The bar, Nob Hill, was a great little dive bar, owned by Todd's dad. We were probably the youngest folks there. There was a great doorman named Jack who wasn't quite toothless but whose facial expressions made you think he was. After a few drinks we went to visit a bar with a Grateful Dead theme. Evidently they have Dead cover bands play there all the time. By that time, though, I was way past my normal bedtime, so I had to wander home and collapse in a heap of exhaustion. I had gained a roommate while I was out, but didn't meet him until a couple of days later -- our schedules did not often meet.

Tuesday the 12th I spent again touring the town. This time I discovered the 16th Street Mall, a fun little walking district downtown. I also visited the Colorado State Capitol building, supposedly second-prettiest in the States (after the DC Capitol). I think it definitely has a good claim to the title. Along with tremendous amounts of brass (polished by four full-time brass polishers), the Capitol is home to the world's entire supply of rose onyx.

In the evening, I met some more of the hostel's residents and spent a lot of time hanging out on the front porch with them, before going out on the town briefly.

Wednesday the 13th I headed down to the bike shop bright and early, hoping my tubes would be there, but they weren't open yet. And naturally, when they opened they told me the parts wouldn't arrive until the afternoon. But I did some shopping to kill time. I had been meaning to get some clipless pedals and biking shoes, to improve my performance slightly, especially when spinning (pedaling very fast). I've always felt that clipless pedals were a sign of a serious cyclist -- perhaps a bit too serious, since they require that you change shoes just to ride your bike. As Thoreau once wrote, "Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes." But they do make a huge difference, I've discovered. I'm glad I got them, even if it makes me a "serious" cyclist.

Once I'd got done spending money, I went out to kill some time until afternoon. I discovered that Denver has a beautiful system of bike paths, running all over. I rode down Cherry Creek Trail to Confluence Park, then spent a couple hours swimming and letting the currents carry me over a series of mild rapids. It was like a natural waterslide. I could get used to this town.

Once I dried off, I rode South on the South Platte River to the edge of town, then turned around. By the time I got back to the bike shop, my parts were there, but it was getting dark. I rode South again, this time on Cherry Creek Trail, and camped out by Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Thursday the 14th, yesterday, I rode to Boulder. It was a much shorter ride than I had expected, and even taking a couple good solid breaks I made it well before sunset. I toured the town a little bit, declared it good, then rode up West into the mountains to find a campsite.

The mountains were beautiful, very unlike the older Eastern mountains. Not only do these peaks reach higher, they are sharper and there is less bare rock. Unfortunately for me, though, the road I was following went alongside Boulder Creek, through a steep canyon, so there was very little in the way of flat camping space. Eventually I found a parking spot that extended into a short gravel spur, hidden from the road by a set of jersey barriers. I simply sacked out there, under the stars. It was cold and breezy enough that mosquitoes were not a concern. The stars were amazing and bright. When I woke up in the middle of the night to the light of the just-risen moon, I thought somebody had turned on a spotlight, it was that bright. I slept fitfully but well.

This morning, Friday the 15th, I rolled back down the road into town again. My friend Becca is possibly planning to fly out to visit and go hiking for a few days, so I am down here awaiting news. Meanwhile, I want to see a bit more of the town and get some good food. I think perhaps I am becoming decadent and slothful with the prospect of the mountains ahead, but I am glad to have gotten up into them a good distance and find I wasn't overmatched.