Still recovering from vacation

20140803_145557I have a vacation hangover.

True, getting away for a week to the beauty of the Rockies and the “newness” of Denver (my first visit to the city that lasted longer than a 2-hour airport layover) was, literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air. I needed that vacation, more than I even realized. It had been six years since my last vacation, and that was a whirlwind weekend in Phoenix where I stayed with a friend/cousin. There have been overnight getaways but nothing like this, where I actually had the opportunity to unpack things and leave them for several days before rounding them up again.

We’ve been back for a little more than a week now and I still haven’t gotten this blog written or posted. When I’m not at work, sleep always seems to get in the way.

But here it is – a bit more on the wonderful trip to Denver.

Our first full day in Colorado we went to the mountains, driving to Mount Evans. Although I’d spent seven years in Alaska growing up – Dad’s uncle helped built the Alcan Highway and told great stories to his nieces and nephews, making my dad determined to live there one day – I still found myself caught up in the peace and the beauty of everything the mountains had to offer.

Young mountain sheep

Young longhorn sheep

We drove to the summit of Mount Evans – 14 miles up (the highest paved road in North America, according to the website) and 14,000 feet above sea level. On our way we had to stop for young longhorn sheep, and a mountain goat (yes, there’s a difference) met us at the top.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

The drive up was interesting: I remember once we left Alaska my dad would tell stories of the mountain roads we had to take to get to our hiking destinations – long, winding roads barely wide enough for two vehicles, with steep mountain going up on one side and going straight down on the other.

I didn’t remember the roads being as treacherous as he made them seem, and I do my dad is a bit of a storyteller (blarney runs deep in our blood), so I just dismissed it at a bit of an exaggeration.

Then we drove up to the summit parking lot at Mount Evans. Mountains straight up on one side, straight down on the other, and despite the steady speed of about 25 mph, there were many curves on which we slowed down considerably.

Ummm ... don't look down.

Ummm … don’t look down.

I drove us up, Mark (thankfully) drove us down.

Once we got to the top, I found myself experiencing a bit of altitude sickness. I got a little dizzy and had a hard time drawing a deep breath at first. My speech was slurred, almost like I was drunk, and I just fell a little … off. I sat down and took some breaths and started to feel better – until I realized how cold I was. The outside temperature at the base of the mountain was 85 degrees; at the peak, it was 50.

Our second full day, Monday, was a trip to the Denver Zoo. It was hot and there was little breeze, so many of the big animals weren’t out. Mondays must also be the day zoo staff clean the cages, so to speak, so in some exhibits we saw humans instead of the lions or bears we were hoping to see.

The last night in Denver, Tuesday, included a Rockies-Cubs game with club level seats Mark’s daughter and son-in-law had won at an auction. There were a couple of firsts that night: I’d never seen the Cubs play live, and I’ve never sat in club level seating in a baseball stadium.

One of the things that was most striking about our vacation was that we traveled nearly 800 miles from home to learn just what a small world it really is. Either Mark or Nate, his son-in-law, was almost always in some kind of Hawkeye gear and that drew the attention of many people in our hotel and in the places we visited – not because they were interested in learning more about our state but because they were from our state. There were at least a half-dozen families from Iowa staying in our hotel at the same time we were there, most of them from Eastern Iowa. One of the ushers was originally from West Branch and still has family there. The restaurant we went to on game day, Stadium Club, was first opened in Iowa City, and a customer at a nearby table grew up in Iowa and moved to Denver just five years ago. Even the owners of the marijuana shop we visited (we were in Colorado where it’s legal – the curious cat in me had to go in just to see what it was like) were from Iowa – one was a University of Iowa business school graduate.

It’s always a nice reminder that, no matter how far you travel, you’re never too far from home.

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