Economic plan

This weekend I fretted slightly about losing my job. Not that I’m in danger at this moment of losing my job, but that doesn’t mean I’m in the safe zone. At any moment, any company, could find themselves in crisis due to the current economy and, being the junior writer here, I could find myself laid off. Very few companies can justify two technical writers through tough times and technical writers–whose jobs are questionable to most companies anyway as our product is not considered to directly make money–are often the first to go. I saw this happen at one of my former jobs. It took several rounds of lay-offs, but eventually they let the other tech writer go (and it wasn’t me, but those were different circumstances; I’m sure I’d be the first to go at this place).

So after I sufficiently freaked myself out, contemplating how I would make house payments and such if I lost my job, I decided that if I did lose my job, I would probably decide to just move back to Colorado. Not that the economic situation is any better over there (and, in fact, it might be worse), but I’d just use that opportunity to cut ties here and go back. I’ve weighed the good and bad between living in Ohio and living in Colorado multiple times in my head and Colorado always ends up winning. Sure, I’d miss my friends and everything–same problems as last time–but all I would have to do is remember the days and days of gray in the winter here and I’m sure I’d get through it. The only thing that would majorly suck is using vacation time to come back and visit everyone in Ohio over the holidays instead of using it for fun stuff like more trips to other parts of the world. But that’s one of the trade-offs I’ve used on my pros/cons list whenever I think of going back there.

I know everyone’s tired of me talking about it, making comparisons constantly to Ohio where Colorado comes out as sounding like heaven. I just think I made a foolhardy and hasty decision to return here. I was in a low period of my life and I bailed on a dream because it wasn’t instantly working out the way I’d hoped. Of course, if I hadn’t moved back, I would never have helped my friends Colleen and Gerry move there, and then I wouldn’t have more people to have there when I go back!

I suppose I wasn’t in the correct mindset when I moved there last time. I was determined to live out the dream my husband and I never got to fulfill. Now, I think I would go there with the mindset of fulfilling my own life dream and living for my own goals. I also think I was running away from something when I moved there last time. I thought I was burdening my friends with my grief and I figured I was doing them a favor by leaving when, really, I needed their support to go navigate the all-consuming rapids of my grief. I feel, in some ways, the relationships I left and returned to were damaged slightly when I came back (with a few exceptions). It was like some people had written me off when I left. I expected to return to the relationships exactly the way they were when I left, but, of course, that was not possible because life–and my friends–had changed and moved on without me there. It’s just like what I always say: You can never go home once you leave. I’ve had to rework my life around those bumps, but nothing has ever been exactly the same as it was since I returned. Which is okay because I’ve also gained new friends because I was forced to look elsewhere.

I think I’m definitely going to end up back in Colorado. Most of my friends in Colorado think the same thing… I don’t know exactly what part of Colorado I’d live in. I liked the areas north of Denver, closer to Boulder. Even though every once in awhile I think about how cool it would be to live in a little mountain town, I suppose I’d really get bored with that after awhile (not to mention not being able to find a job). I think when I retire I’m going to get some easy job at Breckenridge or Vail or something as a greeter so that I can ski for free all season. I bet those jobs are hard to get, though, as everyone wants them.

Anyway, if I lost my job, it would only hasten the process. At the same time, I’m trying to appreciate Ohio and all my friends here now–live in the moment without mooning over the “greener grass” over there. But that’s really hard to do on these dreary winter days…

Lost toenails, sore legs, and fast fathers: my climb up Mt. Elbert

Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak,
as viewed along Route 24 outside of Leadville.

It’s not that I expect to be good at everything. Hell, I’m not even sure I’m good at anything. Still, when your fifty-seven year-old father beats you to the summit of a 14,000 foot peak, you can’t help but feel a little miffed. Especially since the last time, along an easier trail, he couldn’t even complete the trip. (Well, as he always corrects me, he could have gotten to the summit that time if my mom hadn’t been afflicted with a serious case of altitude sickness and needed to be taken down the mountain immediately. Regardless, I was faster than him that time.)

Like a good sport, I should just take this moment of defeat as a life lesson. As my father always wittingly points out, no matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone better than you. I guess it wouldn’t be so disheartening if I didn’t remember all so clearly that I was always the slowest hiker in my hiking group with the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC). Even after living in Colorado for a year–fully acclimated and doing much more hiking than I do now–I was still the slowest. Walking, I guess, is just not my thing. It doesn’t mean I enjoy it any less. In fact, I think my slow mode allows me to observe more than those swift-footed fast movers.

That’s what I try to tell myself, anyway.

I should not let my disappointment overshadow the amazing achievement of my father’s strong comeback in his second attempt to climb Mt. Elbert. Not only did he beat me up the mountain, he beat me up by two hours, arriving at the summit in just over three hours. I maintained my normal 1mph average and arrived at the summit in five. I guess that’s what you get when you hike with a man who runs about five miles a day and purposely programs his treadmill for rough inclines.

In trying to keep up with him early on, I pushed myself a little harder than I normally do, resulting in a bit of altitude issues. When I realized at one point that my father was permanently out of sight, and as I was experiencing some lower abdominal cramping, I stopped to take a breather on a rock beside the trail. As I sat down, my vision went white, like what happens when you turn the brightness setting up too high on your tv. A feeling of nausea slammed my senses, dizzying me as the sound of the world around me grew muffled. I thought I would faint for just a moment because this is usually a prelude to fainting (I have been induced to fainting many times at the sight of blood so the process is pretty routine to me).

Life just above timberline along the north Elbert trail.

It was at about this time that I started to panic, noticing suddenly that the air seemed thin. I think the perceived lack of air had to do more with my panicked state than actually noticing the reduction of air in the atmosphere at 12K feet. I usually don’t notice the air quantity at 14K unless I’m trying to do something physical, such as run. For a few minutes time, a single thought raced through my brain, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

Then logical Mars Girl took over with a firm, “No, you can breathe. You’re just having altitude problems. Relax, drink something, chew on a Powerbar. Then decide whether or not you have to come down.”

Which is precisely what I did. The world slowly popped back into my eyes and ears. A few people passed me on the trail, asked if I was okay, and I tried to cover up my state because people get really serious about altitude out there… I didn’t want to have anyone insisting I needed to climb down unless I truly felt I needed to climb down.

The world drops below at about 12,000 feet. This is where I stopped
to take my breather during my plight with altitude.

Unfortunately, the cramping resulted in the sudden, unwanted urge to visit a few big boulders beyond the sight of those climbing up or going down the trail. It’s a good thing I always pack toilet paper in my day pack. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a run in with Montezuma’s Revenge on a high altitude trail above timberline. Good times. (For a more serious, in-depth discussion of this topic, read How to Shit in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer–I bought a copy for my husband for Christmas or his birthday one year. Though I did not, as this book suggests, use the environmentally friendly way (packing it out) of handling the situation…)

After about forty-five minutes of rest and other distraction, I found I was feeling much better and decided I could continue on with my “summit bid.” I was frustrated with myself for feeling the affects of altitude. The only other time I had an encounter with altitude-related illness was while climbing Mt. Bierstadt–another Colorado 14er–with a group of fast hikers in the CMC. Again, I kept pace with them and didn’t take the stops to rest that I usually do on the way up, and I found myself feeling as though I had a hang-over from about 12K feet to 14K feet. I sat on the summit that time in a lot of pain and trying to hide it from my peers so they wouldn’t chastise me for attempting the hike as I was classified by the club as an “A” hiker (lowest, slowest level) and that hike had been “C” hike (faster, higher level). That time, too, I’d had a panicky feeling of suffocating slowly.

I felt much better the rest of the hike up Mt. Elbert. I was a little miffed at my father for taking off and deserting me, but I decided to just pretend I was hiking alone, which is more fun to me anyway because I don’t have to match anyone’s pace. This trail I’d chosen–the north approach from the trailhead at Half Moon camp–was a lot harder than I remembered. It doesn’t really have switchbacks–maybe one or two–above timberline and goes straight up the north side of the mountain. The last time I’d used this trail (for I’d been up Elbert three other times), I found it to be the prettiest of the three major trails. I suppose it was due to the sweeping views the trail offers once you get past timberline. The last time I’d hiked this trail, I was a seasoned Colorado hiker, having lived there for several months. It probably was a lot easier on me then.

Plus, any difficult hiking I’d endured that day was completely underscored by the experience of “walking above the clouds” I had. My hike had started out on a drizzling morning and, as I crossed the threshold of timberline through what my mind perceived as simply a thick fog, I found myself walking above the clouds. It had been absolutely breath-taking, indescribably beautiful. Especially since the other two hikes I’d made up that mountain had been tempered by feelings of stress that matched the thunderstorms storms that chased me down (especially the day I put my husband’s ashes up there). To me, that single, beautiful experience was almost like a sign welcoming me atop that mountain for the first time on my own terms. It was the one time I didn’t bring a camera so all I have is the memory of standing above the clouds with the peaks of many neighboring mountains, and Elbert’s false summit, jutting up majestically through a ruffled blanket of white.

On this climb up Elbert, though, the sky was spotted with higher altitude cloud puffs. Four years have passed since I was a resident of Colorado and my blood is once again that of a flatlander. That mystical moment I shared with only myself–stuck forever in my memory–was not to be repeated this time. Every hike, even when repeated, is it’s own experience. If I am to take any memory from this particular hike, I will remember the brisk wind that almost blew my cute little hiking hat from my head (forcing me to put it in my backpack).

As I made it past Elbert’s false summit, I was greeted by some hikers on their way down who informed me, as every hiker does, that the real summit wasn’t that far away. The same sort of hopeful information is passed from ride leaders to cyclists all the time–“There’s no more hills for the rest of the ride,” they will say. I knew to take this information lightly.

This, my friends, is what a false summit looks like…
can you see DISAPPOINTMENT etched in its stone?

A few people passed to tell me that they’d seen my father on the summit and that he was worried about me. About a half hour later, twenty or so minutes’ walk from the summit, I found my dad making his way down the mountain. I was kind of disappointed that he was already descending and it kind of deflated my drive to finish the summit push, but, to my great relief, my dad decided to turn around and go back to the top so that we could take pictures on the summit together. It’s good that he actually wanted, like me, to share the father-daughter bonding moment, even if his first crossing of the summit was not mine to witness.

The last few steps toward the summit are always the most difficult. You’ve been climbing for hours and spring is the last thing in your step, even when you sight the top and the crowd of people gathered there. I still had to pause for a few moments after several steps. I couldn’t believe I was this badly out of shape. Maybe I really am getting old.

The north trail intersects with the south trail right before the summit. We encountered a couple of very gleeful men about my dad’s age coming up the south trail who, I was to learn later, had carried a flask of Scotch whiskey to toast to at the top. The one guy explained to me that Elbert was his elusive summit, that he had had to turn back right below the summit some 29 years ago due to encroaching darkness (is that all? I would have gone to the top anyway!), and he’d never gotten the chance to attempt it again until now. I guess that certainly constitutes a moment to enjoy Scotch on the summit of a mountain!

A group of young hikers passed us. A religious group of some sort, as the blonde girl passed me, she exclaimed with an elated smile and a maniacal trill in her voice, “Jesus is alive! This is the proof!”

If not the parameters of their dogma, I could understand their fervor. It’s always been at moments like these–atop mountains, pumping my pedals hard on a beautiful summer’s day, swinging a raft along a river–where I’ve found felt my place in a part of something larger than myself. Whether you call it God or Jesus or Mother Nature or Planet Earth or the Great and Grand Mystical Universe, it is truly awesome. It’s moments like these where I feel the most alive and the most connected with not only myself but with the life of which I’m apart. It certainly is no mystery why I left my husband’s ashes atop a mountain. He shared my love of the outdoors and that pioneering spirit that always made us thirst for more adventures in exploration. I know he’s happy with the resting place I chose for him.

I almost shouted back cheerily at the group of young Jesus enthusiasts, “Praise be!” My fear of other hikers misinterpreting my response held my tongue back. (Not everyone wants to be identified as a religious enthusiast among seculars. And I do care about my image. Maybe too much.)

At the top, after exchanging cameras and picture-taking moments, I plunked down on a rock and soared on a long-missed climbers’ high as I looked down at the jaded peaks surrounding me. All of the trials of my hike, including the altitude sickness, just floated away from my thoughts, lost in the thin air that surrounded the peaks. Despite the strong winds pushing at me on the climb up, the summit was unusually quiet and still and I was filled with the peace found only at the summit of a high peak where a silence surrounds you as if you were inside a bubble. The guys with the Scotch offered me a sip and I took a little. Even the small bit that rolled on my tongue intoxicated me instantly. It felt good for a few moments.

I quickly inhaled a turkey wrap I’d lugged up (partly to reduce the weight in my day pack) and then pulled Tanya’s ashes from the canister in which they had come to me. I waited a few moments for the small crowd to finish taking pictures around the little wood post erected next to the USGS marker. I found a little niche beneath the mound of stones holding the post in place and emptied the bag of ashes into it. Tanya was released to Mike, her favorite human, at last, after three years of patient waiting.

Tanya’s resting place (circled lightly) at improvised summit marker.
Mike’s ashes were left nearby at the USGS marker seven years ago.

At that moment, a black bird of some sort swooped over my head and across the summit. For a few moments, the bird rode the wind current like a para-glider. I could see its feathers ruffling in the current as the bird floated surrealistically next to the edge of the summit.

My dad joked, “That bird is saying, ‘Why you stupid people walk up this thing? Just fly!'”

We chuckled and watched as the bird floated off. It was one of those moments where you wish you could have attempted to get a picture. Of course, by the time my fingers reached for the camera, the bird was gone. Maybe it was supposed to be that way–another Elbert memory committed only to memory. A memory made at a particular moment when I’d returned my cat’s ashes to the side of her master. It makes you wonder. I’ll leave you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions about this event, for I’m totally wiped out of spiritual philosophy this evening… But I will point out that Tanya was a black cat…

Anyway, we stayed up there about forty-five minutes, and then headed down. My dad was kinder on the descent; though he wanted to go faster and very well could have, he waited for me every time he got too far ahead (but not without commenting about how much faster he could have gone down if not for his slow daughter). I was having an unusual amount of trouble on the descent–more than usual. I think the boots I was wearing were not tight enough around my ankles, for I kept having problems with my ankle twisting on some of my downward steps, which caused me to fall twice. More of a hurt ego, though, than true injury. I kept telling my dad that with the way I was supporting myself so heavily on the hiking poles (definitely could not have made it down without them) that I looked like a polio child. Cruel joke, I know, but so true. I did look like a child with polio the way I was walking. Or MS or something. It was obnoxiously bad.

My boots had also failed me miserably in the comfort department. I managed to badly bruise the toenails on both of my big toes on the descent. Now, over a week later, the skin beneath the nails is a very deep shade of purple, so much so that it looks like they simply have nail polish on them. I’m definitely going to lose the nail on the left toe and the one on the right–the one that I recently lost as a result of skiing earlier this year–isn’t looking too great either. The joys of being an athletic woman: I will never have pretty feet. I’m thinking of masking the grossness for awhile by painting the rest of my toenails purple. I’m pretty sure I have a shade of polish that matches the hue of the bruising.

I also have a broken blister on the back of my heel that is struggling to mend itself (it keeps getting reopened by the backs of my shoes). I was pretty sore for four days after the climb, the first two days being the worst with walking up and down stairs being a struggle. Turning myself in bed was a painful experience. I don’t think I used to get that sore.

My dad was pretty proud of his success on the climb. In a moment of competitive jealousy, I told him that I could kick his ass on a bike any time. Of course, if I bettered my dad on the bike, it would only inspire him to work harder for a goal, and the next thing I would know it, he’d be riding with the hammerheads of the 6pm ABC ride on Thursdays, leaving his athletically-retarded daughter in his dust. He’s just more of a natural with athletics than me; I think I take after my mom, a little bit less sure on my feet. Unfortunately, I got my competitive nature from him and my unstoppable drive to push myself towards a challenging goal until I achieve it. I guess those are good qualities, even for a dunce like me. My mind is always willing when my body isn’t always ready to meet the task. But you bet I’m going to push myself onward anyway, no matter what the cost and no matter what negative comments the naysayers will shout. I think that’s why husband used to tell me that I’m a survivor. It’s the survivor in me that made me get up on those cold mornings after his death; the survivor eventually dragged me out of the valley of despair that threatened to consume me.

Well, I’m proud of my dad too. He may have kicked my ass. But maybe I need someone to sober the overbloated sense of entitlement I have in my athletic pursuits. I admit to an elitist competitive streak that I’m sure my friends and family find frustrating. I struggle to contain that. Having my dad kick my butt up the mountain was just the cure. I guess I’m willing to share a hobby with my father. Though, it really won’t stop me from wanting to try to better him next time.

Mars Girl and Mars Dad, together,
on the summit of Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft).

Colorado the skinniest state

I just perused the 2008 results of an obesity survey and, as I’ve stated to many people in the past from my own observations, Colorado is the skinniest state. Another reason why living there was so great. If you are an endurance athlete, such as I’ve been defined, it is the best place to live because the entire state is your playground, chalk full of parks, hiking trails, bicycle commuting trails, mountain biking trails, campgrounds, ski resorts, cross country skiing trails–whatever your pleasure! I did notice while there, without any prompting, that there were a lot less fat people there than Ohio. Turns out the reason I noticed that was because Ohio is the 15th fattest state!

I personally think that the reason Ohio ranks so low is because we have such a long winter with clouds that makes it extremely uninviting to go outside. In contrast, Colorado has so many more sunny days in the winter so even when it’s cold, you want to go out and do something. And there’s plenty of outdoor winter activities to pursue. When I lived there, I skied every other weekend (passes at resorts come fairly cheaply to residents).

Another thing I noticed about Colorado is that a lot less people smoked. Again, when you’re running around doing healthy things that require a lot of air in the lungs, you’re less likely to want to much them up with tar and whatever other garbage you throw into your lungs through smoking. When I returned to Ohio, I noticed that I was encountering a lot more clouds of smoke wherever I went.

Just something to think about. I know I accolade my favorite state a bit much. But, hey, you can’t argue with the facts! And I have seen first hand the proof of these statistics. I lived it.

Ten things I love about Colorado

My friend, Colleen, whom I helped find a path for moving to Colorado, emailed me a list of all the things she misses about Cleveland, which ended up also revealing some of the things she dislikes about Colorado. She asked me to respond to remind her of all the things that stink about Cleveland so that she can compare the lists. As I thought about this topic, it occurred to me that it might be a good one to blog about since no one seems to rightly understand my obsession with Colorado, even though they sympathize with my dislike of Ohio (no one hates Ohio like Ohioans, but if you’re from out of state, you would be in danger to criticize). As what happened in Colleen’s statements to me, my list about what I like about Colorado also reveals what I dislike about Ohio (or Cleveland).

1. Winter. In Colorado, no matter how cold it gets and how much snow is dumped on you, it is inevitably sunny. Conversely, a huge blanket of clouds rolls into Cleveland in November and does not leave until mid-May. For people like me, with a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the dark Ohio winter sends us into a pit of depression where we lack to motivation to do anything, even exercise. I usually just feel like I want to hibernate after work–eat, curl up in a ball, watch TV despondently, and then sleep.

2. Skiing. Related to the winter topic, but still completely separate in my mind, I miss Colorado skiing. You can’t ski in Ohio (I will not lower myself to go to Boston Mills/Brandywine… so boring!!). You can go to upstate New York for a weekend and have descent skiing, but the conditions may or may not be less than ideal–it’s always a roll of the dice. It’s a lot harder to find the nice powder days, and even when you do, the powder out east is nothing like the wondrous fluffy white stuff you encounter in Colorado. Oh, yeah, and then, there’s the sun, which is, of course, out while you’re skiing. Skiing out east tends to be a colder experience.

3. Healthiness/activity level of the population. In Colorado, just about everyone is into some sort of outdoor activity. There’s so many to choose from. In the summer, you have white water rafting, hiking, cycling, off-roading Jeeps (if you like that sort of thing, I was too much of an environmentalist to bear the thought), running; in the winter, you have downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and snow-mobiling. There’s probably a lot of other things I am forgetting too. Needless to say, Denver is definitely the healthiest city I’ve ever lived in. The amount of obesity among the population was significantly lower than Cleveland. Significantly.

I guess the downside to all this activity is that most of the sporting activities are extreme. An
easy” hike begins at a trailhead that immediately heads up. A bicycle ride is not tooling around your neighborhood, but spending hours climbing a pass. The MS 150 out there was monster-hard. I used to commute by bicycle to work–20 miles each way–and it was uphill, literally, in both directions. I guess that’s why I only weighed 130 lbs when I lived there.

So, essentially, Colorado attracts sporting extremists. Which is totally my mind-set.

There were bike shops and outdoor gear stores in every plaza. Unfortunately, also a chiropractic clinic. I guess they go hand-in-hand!

Also contributing to the healthy attitude of the state, most companies provided showers on their premises because it was natural for people to bicycle to work or jog during lunch. If only Ohioans and their employers would take up this healthy attitude. In Colorado cycling to work was nothing unusual; whenever I cycle to work in Ohio, people raise eyebrows and gave me the shocked-pitying look one gives the insane. It’s almost as if I’ve come up with the craziest idea ever heard. Especially if you ride more than three miles to get to some place. People seem to find a distance of 20 miles a shocking distance by bike.

4. Rustic atmosphere. I don’t know how else to describe it. The west just sings to me with its wild newness. As a transplant to the area, I never lost the feeling that I was a settler, conquering the dangers of the west. Perhaps I over-romanticize America’s western past. Still, some of the old towns made me feel as though I would see a high-noon show-down in the middle of the street at any moment. It was exciting, and I am not even a fan of western movies!

Along with the rustic, unconquered wild west feeling, people tended to be a lot more casual in Colorado. A night out seemed significantly less made-up and dressy than is expected in Ohio. People seemed a little more earthy and ready at any moment, to run down a hiking trail should the urge overwhelm them.

5. Bicycle friendliness. Have I mentioned cycling in Colorado yet? It’s not that every driver out there embraces cyclists as their brothers and sisters; however, most drivers were definitely more accommodating. Yeah, you still had the butthead who would scream, “Get off the road!” (I had that happen once to me while I was in a bike lane along a road near my house.) But there were a lot less of these jerk-offs than there are in Ohio. Sometimes in Ohio I feel as though I’m taking my life in my own hands to cycle. And I’m still confronted regularly with people opining that they don’t feel bicycles belong on the road. That was no longer a debate in Colorado. Especially in my beloved Boulder, where every subculture is allowed room to thrive.

You can blame Colorado for nurturing my cycling obsession. This state took me from casually toodling along bike paths to seriously long and strenuous road challenges. I found a new love that eclipsed my love of hiking by far.

6. Sushi. No kidding. Don’t ask me how a land-locked state happens to have some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted, as well as the most sushi restaurants per square mile, but somehow Colorado has managed to have decent seafood.

In general, Colorado’s cultural diversity is much more homogenized than Ohio so you have trouble finding food that is quite familiar in the Midwest, such a perogies. And you can’t locate an Ethiopian restaurant or a German restaurant so readily. But were plenty of Japanese, Mexican, and Indian restaurants. More chain restaurants, sadly. Some interesting gourmet places (I used to love this place called Vesta Dipping Grill in downtown Denver).

7. The scenery. There was not one day that went by where I became immune to the scenery. Daily, I either drove or rode my bike to work from Broomfield to Boulder, which headed me west towards the mountains. I never got tired of staring at the Flat Irons. I never lost a fascination with the deep blue skies–Colorado blue, I used to call the color because no other place I’ve been has skies even remotely close to that particular shade of blue.

Admittedly, I prefer the soaring vast openness of the view at the top of a mountain to the claustrophobic tunnel of trees. I love Ohio’s vivid green colors and vast expanses of lush woods; however, I will always prefer an overlook that allows me to see a world stretching out below me. In fact, when climbing mountains, I often get impatient with the hike while it’s still in the trees. I look forward to the moment when I pass treeline and I emerge into a world of valleys and peaks and clouds. There’s nothing at all like that. It’s like walking with God. All of my major “religious experiences” have occurred while hiking amidst the boulders of a treeless mountain top.

Once, I heard–yes heard–a raptor fly over my head. It was noise like a zipper coming undone. Quiet, whispered, but heard. I looked up and saw the raptor with its wings spread, sailing on an unseen wind current above me. I realized, chilled with awe, that I’d just heard the wind in a bird’s wings as it glided past me. It doesn’t get more magical, more spiritual, more life affirming, than that!

8. Proximity to other beautiful western states. Within eight hours of Denver, I could get to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming (Nebraska and Kansas, too, but the key word here was beautiful). Also, plane travel from Denver to most other places in the U.S. took about the same amount of time. For example, about two hours via a direct flight on Continental to visit Cleveland and about two hours to get to the west coast. A lot more direct flight options, at least four years ago.

9. Microbreweries. While not a state known for producing good wine, Colorado has an almost over-abundance of microbreweries. Every bar had ten (or more) good local microbrews on tap. It was a dream to a beer lover. Even better, Breckenridge Brewery was one of the sponsors for the MS 150. At the end of the first day, you were welcomed to the campus of Colorado College with a beer tent at which you could get as much free Breckenridge Brewery beer as your dehydrated and overheated body could handle. (Which, you realize, really wasn’t as much as it sounds, being dehydrated and tired, but it was still refreshing after that long, torturous ride.)

I loved to microbrews in Colorado. I almost forgot that Miller, Budweiser, and, yes, even Coors, existed. (Coors, in case you don’t know, is based out of Golden, Colorado, and is really a bad example of the beer Colorado produces. But they do have a great tour and tasting room where they allow you three free beers. I’ve done the tour three times! And would do it again.)

10. Whole Foods (and other health food stores). We have some of these in Ohio, but you have to drive further to get to them. I got addicted to edamamae (soy bean pods eaten with a little bit of salt at a lot of Japanese restaurants), which is really hard to find in Ohio. I liked the access to organic options. Even in the regular grocery stores, the organic sections were a lot bigger. I don’t eat this stuff all the time, but it was nice to have the option more readily available to me.

So… later maybe I’ll write a list of my favorite things about Ohio. I thought of some as I wrote this list…