Tag Archives: Rocky Mountains

Getting Our West-of-the-Mississippi Fix

In the thick of another hazy morning in downtown Los Angeles, my thoughts were clear. We had spent too much money on travel in 2013, and I knew we had to change our ways. A two-week summer trip that combined Los Angeles with Monterrey would be expensive (and totally awesome, but expensive), and if 2014 was going to be our year of a self-imposed travel diet, of putting money towards upgrading our old house and following “the rules” a bit more by spending less and saving more, then we needed to skip California in 2014. We had been flying out West almost every year for a number of years, and it was time to take a break I told myself, looking out at the Hollywood sign and the stillness of the palm trees outside our apartment window. I didn’t want to skip California, but I thought we should. My husband agreed. Our daughter was disappointed. For years she had referred to this corporate apartment in downtown Los Angeles as “our summer home,” as if it were some charming, private chalet in the mountains, not a two-bedroom in a high-rise. Everyone concluded California wasn’t going anywhere (or so we hoped), so we’d be prudent in 2014, and return another year.

And so what happens? I’m flying to San Francisco next month, and I’m flying to Colorado next week. And it won’t cost me a thing. I had enough frequent flyer miles for both trips, and Mike’s company is paying for the hotel in San Francisco because he will be working from their Golden Gate office. And relatives have been kind enough to put us up while visiting Colorado. The travel gods were generous.

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We’re returning to Fort Collins, Colorado, later this month to see family, welcome a new baby (theirs, not ours), and hang with Mike’s super cool literary agent, the Divine Miss Sara Megibow. Fort Collins is a pristine place criss-crossed by bike paths. It is a beer snob’s paradise, and one of the few American towns I’ve come across where I can get Himalayan food. Fort Collins’ secret of being so awesome and clean and friendly has gotten out, and the long-timers there seem annoyed because they don’t want more people moving there wrecking a good thing, and they don’t want Fort Collins to become the next Boulder with its boutique-y ways and soy latte lifestyle (for the record, I love Boulder). Speaking of Boulder, if you live there or you’re passing through on July 2, swing by the Boulder Book Store . Mike and Sara will be hosting an event, and discussing Mike’s second book.

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Two weeks after that trip, we’re back in the sky heading west again to San Francisco, a city I tried to unsuccessfully move to, yet the jobs led us elsewhere. Mike will be there for work, aka his day job, and I’m tagging along because I had the frequent flyer miles. I plan on jogging along the waterfront, hanging out on the beach again like I did during that freezing August afternoon in 2012, giving vintage store shopping a go (I lack the patience to pick through all that clutter to find the “find” but I’m going to try because I like vintage things), and eating so much Japanese food it will feel like I’m back in Japan (gosh, I LOVE that country!).

So I will get my yearly California fix after all with a side of Rocky Mountain awesome. And the main floor of our house is getting painted and a few minor nips and tucks in household renovations are being made this summer. Not bad for a travel diet.

Sharing My Rocky Mountain High

Mike and I were in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York last week, looking out on to the blue mountains, which can fall in the range of 4,000-plus feet, and thinking about Lewis and Clark (because that is what geeky, literary couples do). The Adirondacks are moving in their own right, blue peaks undulating north. Yet, while there, we were remembering our encounters with the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and how amazing it must have been for Lewis and Clark to see the Rocky Mountain range for the first time, with East Coast mountains as their only frame of reference. Fly over the Rockies. Hike them. Whatever your vantage point, from the clouds or from the soil, they are huge, regal, quiet beasts of rock that have stopped man and animals in their tracks, reminding them to take notice of who is really in charge.

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One of the best places to enjoy the Colorado Rockies is in Fort Collins, Colorado, which we visited two summers ago. That trip stayed with me, and now my piece appears in today’s Los Angeles Times. It’s my second story for this newspaper (my first piece ran in March and was about my obsession with hotel pools), however, the Weekend Escape format doesn’t do the town justice. And now there’s the new Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, which opened in 2012, and seems like a vacation-must, especially if you have kids. My daughter now talks about going to college at Colorado State in Fort Collins because she loved its landscapes. New York City, she says, “doesn’t have landscapes,” for to a tween-age girl, landscapes require, well, land.

Downtown Fort Collins inspired Main Street, USA, in Disneyland, yet downtown in 2013 isn’t filled with mouseketeers but with beer lovers, bikers, hipster chicks wearing funky floral dresses with funky floral cowboy boots, artists, families, and old people who stay young living and loving the outdoors. Money magazine named Fort Collins one of the best places to live in America, with its artisanal shops, affordable houses, bike library, and copious bike paths. Fort Collins is the new west, trendy and amenity-friendly, still rugged, but now more accessible. The city received more than a foot of snow on May 1, but Fort Collins hums this summer with outdoor festivals celebrating beer, bikes and art. Nothing slows down this town. We can’t wait to go back.

Coming Off My Rocky Mountain High

Monday through Friday, I drive from one aggressive region of the United States (New Jersey) to work in another aggressive region of the United States (the Bronx), so I do not get a lot of opportunities to zone out from the backseat of a vehicle and take in a view…any view. Needless to say, it was a visual treat and somewhat of a sensory overload to let someone else drive me around while I drank in the Rocky Mountains from the backseat of a minivan. When this is what lies before you, you can’t help but feel the possibilities.

And who wouldn’t be happy waking up to this every day?

Or this?

Coloradans are a happy people and why wouldn’t they be? You’ve got purple mountain majesties and abundant sunshine smiling down on you morning, noon and yes, even the early hours of night. It’s called Big Sky Country for a reason–the sun doesn’t seem to budge and the sky is as endless as the sea. I couldn’t distinguish 11 am from 3 pm for mornings felt as hot as afternoons. It was just one long day of fun after another…I was blissfully disoriented and completely unaware of the time for once.

I’ve been to Colorado before, but that was before I lived nearly eight years in the New York City metropolitan area; Colorado doesn’t know an authentic bagel from hardened moose dung, but by God, this state is drop-dead gorgeous, and I don’t need to eat as many bagels anyway. Antsy East Coasters looking for a new life on the frontier can’t help but stop, breathe it all in and decide this is where it begins and ends for them. I also discovered Colorado is far more of a foodie state than I expected. You can buy chocolate bars containing cherries AND chilies for under $3 thanks to a delightful chocolatier called Chocolove that’s based in Boulder. Bacon bits in chocolate? That’s so 2010. Chocolove throws sea salt and orange rinds into its candy bars. And don’t think Colorado is just a land of steak and sides; Californians who need their sunshine and mountains have gravitated to Colorado in search of cheaper real estate and hungry diners eager to feast on dishes beyond burgers (Coloradans cook, too…just saying I noticed an influx of Californian influence). Funky new restaurants are popping up like wildflowers. More to come about the beer, chocolate, beef and Tex-Mex that added up to an extra two pounds on my five-foot-three frame. Oh, and the Buddhist temple we visited and the shopping in Fort Collins!!! I know…you might be wondering how we mixed a core Buddhist principle–detachment–with materialistic consumerism? Well, Colorado makes it easy. And out west, anything is possible.