Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sun, Aug 26, 2007: Mt. Evans Chases Roommates off the Face of the Earth

This weekend was (somewhat) normal for me - "normal" meaning more like my life in Connecticut than the crazy running around and driving up and down mountains I've been doing out here. Friday night my roommates and I went out with my friend from home, her friend, and her friend's friends (confused yet?). I successfully alienated a guy who thought a good way to pick me up was to put his hands all over me like he knew me really well, then proceeded to have a fantastic time owning the dance floor with my friend and my roomies.

Saturday I went for a short drive in the mountains west of Denver, just for a chance to stretch my mental legs (since my legs weren't actually stretching at all...). I was restless and wanting to keep moving, always moving. I think I have a fear that if I stop moving my life will be normal again, I will be normal again, and that I will brood about what happened with my relationship. This fear is completely illogical since I am both always and never normal, but the brooding part is pretty grounded. Luckily I think I handled it pretty well considering I didn't spend the weekend doing crazy things.

On Sunday night I invited my roommates to come see the sun set on Mt. Evans with me, since I had such an amazing experience last time I went up there and wanted to share it with them. As we drove up to the fee booth, the worker there told us that he just drove down and saw bighorn sheep at mile 6, and goats at mile 13. I was totally excited about the possibility of seeing them!

As I was driving up the road I spotted a fuzzy thing perched on a rock and stopped my car in the middle of the road to holler about it. It was a marmot! Who even knows what those are?! It looks like a groundhog but more colorful, especially around their faces and chests. There were 2 of them, one sitting on the rock and one peeking out from behind another rock.

The next time I stopped my car and started yelling excitedly, it was because I spotted the sheep! We had a discussion about whether they were the goats or sheep since they kind of look like both, but one roommate promised us they were bighorn sheep.
It was strange to see them because their colors blend in so well with the mountain. The one guy in this picture who has one hoof on the road kept his eye on us the whole time and advanced slowly toward my car. He continued to approach even as I started driving slowly away. The guys in the back were saying "Keep driving, keep driving", and another roommate sitting on the passenger side rolled up her window so the sheep couldn't jump in my car and assault us all. Some of the sheep in the picture are babies and their tiny ears were so fuzzy! At one point several of the herd started pawing at the ground with their hooves to expose the water underneath, and they all lowered their muzzles to drink. It was really neat to watch them. You can't tell in this picture but they were all of like 5 feet from my car.

And, you guessed it, the next time I pulled over to holler at them was because we found the goats. Unlike the sheep, whose grey-beige coats blended in with the rocks, the goats were very white and dared us to overlook them (which, because they were grazing on the side of the mountain and were blocked by rocks, we might have done had a car coming from the other direction not been stopped to watch them).
Goats! The goats weren't aggressive like the one head sheep was; we were able to walk up pretty close to them and take pictures.

In the distance in this photograph, you can observe giant streams of rain pouring from the sky. We reached the parking lot and hiked up the short way to the very peak of the mountain. There were heavy rain clouds surrounding us to the north, west, and south, the east being the only clear direction. We were able to see Denver shining in the only patch of sunlight that was reaching the ground.

Insanely massive bolts of lightning fell from the clouds around us, and we started talking about leaving since none of us felt like being electrocuted or dead. As we discussed leaving, I gazed around in amazement at the beautiful light show being put on just for us (since no one else was dumb enough to be on top of a mountain with a lightning storm rolling in...). The lightning seemed to flicker and flicker, the clouds holding the light within them and illuminating themselves with shades of pink and electric white. The clouds rolled in from the southwest, and suddenly they were right on top of us. There was no lightning coming from the clouds we found ourselves shrouded in, but they were black and threatening. Tendrils of cloud floated downward like smoky fingers all around us, and then it started to rain.

I ignored the rain as we continued saying we should really head down (trust me, this discussion took all of about one minute, which was probably 55 seconds too long, but I was taking a lot in at the time) when one roommate said, "It's snowing!". She smiled widely and said it was her first Colorado snow, and looked down at herself to see the snowflakes falling on her clothes. We reveled in the snow for another half a minute, then booked it back to my car.

I was so bummed that we didn't get to see the sunset and that I dragged my roommates all that way just so we could get snowed on and spend all of 5 minutes on top of the mountain. I voiced this thought and one roommate pointed out that we didn't just get snowed on (which was cool anyways), we also saw marmots, sheep, goats, and were in the middle of storms in the mountains which was scary and beautiful (those are my words, not hers). This made me think, and I realized that we really did have a cool adventure!

Driving back down the mountain was intense. The stormy part of the dark clouds finally hit and there was lightning flickering all around us... at least, it seemed like it was all around us. For all I know it was probably miles away, which is my guess since we never heard a single crash of thunder. There was one particularly scary bolt of lightning that seemed to shatter the sky right in front of my car. I stopped and was like "Oh my god! Should I keep driving?!" One roommate reminded me that a car is the safest place to be in a lightning storm, which is good because I was ready to jump out and hide under a rock. I love lightning storms but this was *intense*.

We all agreed that being up there during a rain storm was stupid and dangerous, but in our defense it didn't start looking bad until we got to the very top of the mountain. But, looking back and knowing that I'm safe, it was worth it.

Next weekend I think I'm heading down to the Telluride Film Festival. One of my roommates is a film major and invited us to go down with him since he'll be working there. It'll be really neat to see a new corner of the state and drive around like a maniac again! Oh yeah, and maybe see some films. : )

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sun, Aug 19, 2007: Rt. 14 and Mt. Evans

(This one has a preface: Many people have told me that I seem like I'm doing well and am really happy... and I am. But in many things that I do there is an undercurrent of sadness; after all, I did just have my heart broken and I'm not the type of person who recovers from emotional damage easily. Anyone who believes me when I say I'm happy and everything is fine, after having experienced something as shattering as I have, doesn't really know me very well. : ) Sometimes I don't feel sad at all and it doesn't even occur to me to question the circumstances under which I ended up out here. Sometimes I do, such as today. Attempting to drive down Mt. Evans and wipe away tears at the same time isn't really a good idea, just fyi).

Ok so here is my trip for today! (This one will be short because I'm tired!). I was planning on heading up to some lakes that my friend told me about, but I wanted to sleep in and wasn't able to ask any of my roommates if they wanted to join me for a hike. Since I'm still not about to hike off by myself, I figured I'd just do something involving more being in the car and less me wandering around the state of Colorado on foot and getting lost.

I took Route 14 and was able to drive alongside the Poudre River for most of the trip, and I was pleased by my watery companion!
I stopped in Walden for lunch and was oblivious to the fact that I was missing a pretty bad rainstorm until I stepped outside and saw the black clouds. As I continued down the road I noticed some piles of white... snow?! I jumped out of my car and checked, discovering that it was not snow but hail.
I continued down Route 9 to 70, stopping in Silverthorne at the outlet shops to buy a pair of pants since the day was surprisingly cool. This also taught me an important lesson about Colorado that I should have mastered by now, based on the number of people who have given me advice regarding the topic: I need to pack extra clothes in my car!

Heading up Route 103 toward Mt. Evans, I saw a white mist covering Denver and some of the prairie lands to the east. This was interesting because usually when I see rainstorms out here they are dark grey. I was lucky enough to see a piece of a rainbow, the 3rd rainbow I've come across since my arrival. There is also some weird black speck in the picture... I can't figure out if it's a bird or an airplane.
The drive up to Mt. Evans was very beautiful and the road was much more driver-friendly for at least the first half than the road up to Pike's Peak. I passed a section of road that was badly damaged by the weather and wondered if my car would even make it up the mountain. There was a neat little section of grasses near Summit Lake among which small puddles of water had formed (seen in the lower left corner of this picture).
You have to do a bit of work to reach the very top of Mt. Evans, since the road only takes you to the base of the jumbled rock pile which comprises the summit. I walked up the winding path and perched myself on top of the mountain, in the company of 3 film students, their equipment, and one student's father. I was just in time for the "show"... fyi, on August 19th the sun sets on Mt. Evans at a bit after 8pm.
I chatted with the student's father (whose name I wish I could remember...) while taking photos. I think this picture is so neat! The dark shadow on the ground is the shadow of Mt. Evans. If you look closely you can see "rays" eminating from the point of the mountain. (I have other pictures that showed the rays more clearly, but this one shows the shadow best).
The wind was freezing, and I kept looking down my nose to see if I could see my breath coming from my mouth. I couldn't, but that's how cold it felt. I was so happy I bought those pants!
The student's father was a very nice man and we chatted the whole time we were on the peak. He told me about his son's film project and his wife's book (which is about marriage... she surveyed people who were divorced and asked them one question: "What did you wish you knew then, that you know now?"). He asked me the inevitible question, "So what brought you out here?" to which I gave my simple answer, "I got an internship out here". He pressed a bit farther with a disclaimer that I didn't have to answer, and I gave him the short version of my original reasons for coming out here, complete with failed relationship. I have thankfully become much better at condensing my words on this matter. : )

He seemed like just an ordinary man as we were chatting, but when I told him my story his reaction really touched me. He said, "I'm really sorry to hear that happened to you", and he said it with sincerity conveying that he meant every word. Then he said something to me, and the only way that I can think to describe it is a prayer. His intentions were with his words and his attention was there with me. He said, "I wish you luck in finding someone to love you, someone to be kind to you. You don't need to settle for anyone, there are so many people out there. Don't settle." Of course his kindness and sincerity made me want to start crying on the spot, but I kept my eyes open and the wind wicked away the tears as I said thank you.

The film students and the father departed, and I received a warm handshake from the father and a reiteration of his wishes for me. I intended to stay until the sun disappeared behind the mountains but now that the mental distraction of conversation was gone I was left with the realization of how cold I was. I stayed for another couple of minutes, then headed down.

As I was driving down the road I passed the father and the film students. The father waved to me and I waved back, thinking that he was signaling a goodbye... until I noticed the sun behind them. It was a flourescent orange globe just nestling between the shoulders of the mountains, illuminating the clouds above with shades of gold. He wasn't saying goodbye, he was saying "Wait! Don't miss this!". I turned my car around and pulled over to the shoulder of the road. I wasn't quick enough with my camera to take a picture, but I drank in the scene with my eyes and reveled in its beauty. All I have is a picture of the aftermath:
I wish I knew how to do time-lapse photos on my camera because the lights of Denver were very beautiful as they beckoned me home. On the way down the mountain, which I safely navigated despite my tears, I saw a doe on the side of the road. She had one hoof on the road and was regarding my car carefully as if trying to read my intentions. As I watched her, I realized that I have seen all of my totem animals since arriving in Colorado. There were groundhogs along the sides of the roads, reclining on their haunches to watch the cars pass; the fox trotting across my street only a couple of blocks from my house; clouds of dragonflies bigger than any I've ever seen at the Flatirons; and a tiger on a billboard (ok so maybe a billboard is lame but there really aren't that many animals on billboards...plus I'm not sure I want to see a live tiger running around out here). I looked at the deer and said hi to a friend in my head (one of her totems is a deer), then made my way home.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sat, Aug 18, 2007: Exploring Denver

I went out last night to the Oriental Theater with my roommates, where we saw some films by a guy named Haze, some crazy dancers dangling from the ceiling by hoops and fabric, Ian Cooke who was a fantastic cellist and singer, and some interesting artwork by local artists. While driving to the theater we passed Speer Boulevard and I yelled, "Hey I know this road!" I was so excited because it was one of the streets I traveled in Denver when I was out here in the spring. (I am still trying to revisit everything I did while I was out here so that it feels like "mine" instead of being attached to memories of the relationship... so far I have been very successful with the exception of the roads we traveled in Denver).

Today I wandered around Denver for a few hours in my car, driving up and down and trying to make connections between my map and the few roads I know out here. I decided to drive past Washington Park because based on my Speer Boulevard discovery, it seemed like it was most likely the park that I went past this spring... and I was right! Another place discovered and reclaimed.

The only place that remains to be found again is this series of gated communities. The streets looked fairly short and each little community was bordered by a tall wrought iron fence; lucky for the rest of us I think they serve to keep those people in!

I hope the weather is nice tomorrow, I'd like to possibly hit up a lake my friend told me about... and maybe try Mt. Evans again for the sunset! I hope I can find the lake, I think a day of lounging near the water would do me a lot of good. Though if there are no trees near this lake, there's no way I'm hanging out in the sun all day!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tues Aug 14, 2007: One Month Anniversary and Dueling Pianos

Today is the one month anniversary of my arrival in Colorado and breakup... it hasn't been a particularly fun day, though the appearance of the kids at school (today was their first day) provided me with a lot of distractions.

My roommates and I went out to a brewery in Denver where 3 crazy-good musicians were dueling each other on the piano. At least half of their songs contained references to parts of the female anatomy, they reminded me of Tenacious D. I had a delicious drink, laughs, and confirmed that men playing instruments are really hot. I love my roommates.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mon, Aug 13, 2007: Thoughts for Someday

Being single again is strange, and for the first time in years I couldn't care less about finding somebody to be with right now. I don't think that's ever been true before in my life; even as a little girl I had my feelers out to find "the one". My favorite days were spent playing in my forts in the backyard, pretending that I was lost in the woods and forced to learn the ways of the wild to survive. Inevitably a handsome prince would cross my path and rescue me... nice and independent, right? Not to discredit my value on self-reliance, allow me to interject that I generally ended up taking care of my prince in the woods, since he was often helpless in my home environment.

Some days I convinced him to stay in the woods with me, and some days it was he who convinced me to join his world. But meeting him always marked an important point in my daydreams: he made my life complete. He never had a face or a name, just a spirit which gained more depth and texture as daydream followed daydream.

Looking back at this now, I find myself wondering where I came up with this story, one that I replayed week after week, year after year throughout my childhood. Is this some sort of past-life memory that I can't move past? It has been in my head so consistently, from such a young age, it begs examination. Though I suppose I should point out that ever since I was a little girl I always thought I would be married at 28... and as it's going to take some time for my broken heart to mend I'm thinking that's not going to happen.

The idea still appeals to me, and I find myself wondering if I should move up to the mountains somewhere and wait for him to cross my path, maybe on a horse as he often was.

On the first day of my road trip out here I fell in love with my car and have since spent some time thinking about why I love it, and that I wish it would transform into a person. It is dependable and adventurous, loves music and fresh air, is soft and cradles my body, is fast and strong.

There are not many things in my life right now that I "like", mostly I just am in love with everything. This realization is making me examine the reasons why I get into relationships, this plus my Gemini/Cancer cusp tendency to enchant people. I feel funny saying this but I feel that is sometimes true, or perhaps I am a person onto whom people can easily project whatever traits they want to see. Another part of this is that I can be a fantastic chameleon when I want to. I think that I often get into relationships with guys who I "enchant", but who don't really know who I am under the illusion. I once read that as a Gemini-Cancer cusp, I need to find someone who can see through me but not past me; one of the most accurate astrological statements that I have ever read about myself.

Yesterday in Wyoming I fell in love with so much about the state, and turned it around to think of in terms of a person. I hope that he smells like Wyoming, and possesses a big, big warm heart like strong sunshine on an expansive field of waving grasses. I hope that he feels like pineapple juice on my tongue, like the sand between my toes, a cool breeze on wet skin, cuddling with pillows in the corner of the couch, a hat in the winter.

Ok that's a lot of talking. I guess now that work is starting for real and life is settling down the adventures for me have become the evolution of the thoughts in my head and heart. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to share something that's perhaps more appropriate for my personal journal; I think I have a strong desire to make who I am known so that though I was forgotten and tossed aside by one person, there are still people to know and care about who I am.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sun, Aug 12, 2007: Wyoming!

(As a side note, I went to Boulder last night with my friend, which is where the pic of me on the frog was taken. On the way home, I saw a fox running down the street just a couple of blocks from my house. Granted I don't live downtown, but where I live is still way too far away from anywhere a fox would want to live to merit one trotting down the street. I mean, the wild animal in me doesn't even like being nestled in so much civilization. I was happy to see it, since it's about the closest to my fox totem as I'm likely to encounter (my totem being the arctic fox).).


I don't know why, but I've always dreamed of visiting Wyoming. It probably has something to do with it being the least densely populated state... all that fresh air and open space really turns me on.

I love maps, so I think I'm going to start mapping out my route when I go on road trips! Here is my route from today, outlined in hot pink:

As I was driving north on 25, the dwindling mountains to my left caused me both sadness and anticipation. Where are the Rockies going? And when are they coming back? Once I passed about where Estes Park must have been, they stopped looking like magestic peaks and became overgrown foothills. I hoped they would return once I crossed into Wyoming.

On 287, the Rockies continued to shrink and took on a rich terra cotta hue. The hills became buttes, and apparently I had entered butte and canyon country......which was fine, except that there were still no mountains....

The rocky butte formations smoothed out into lighter colored rocky hills......and then gave up any effort of resembling the mountains I'd left behind and became this:The prairie?! The whole time I was in this area I couldn't stop saying to myself, "Wtf happened to the Rockies?!" If I'd wanted to drive throught the prairie, I would have headed east.

This prairie is different from the one in Eastern Colorado though, the primary reason being this:I think the mountains in the distance are in the Rocky Mountain National Forest, near Estes Park. This picture was taken looking south toward them. Mmmmm.... on my drive out here I wanted to see the prairie running right up to the toes of the mountains but wasn't able to because of the rain and fog. I suddenly realized that I wouldn't have been able to see it regardless since the entire Front Range mess of Monopoly houses and designer cars is in the way. What Colorado wasn't able to give me Wyoming was, and it was very wonderful.

This next picture was taken looking toward the mountains in Southern Medicine Bow National Forest.It was somewhere around this time, while stepping out of my car to take a picture, that I realized that I LOVE the way Wyoming smells! I found this observation to be interesting because of my encounter with the fox last night, since an important message of the fox is the sense of smell. (Incidentally, I never liked the way my ex smelled. Maybe I should have thought a little more about that...). All of a sudden it just hit me, the feeling of incredible happiness to be smelling this delicious place. It was sweet and fresh and deep, carrying grass and earth and wildflowers. The rocks strewn around were light in color and reminded me of the rocks in New England. Actually, a great deal of Wyoming reminded me of Vermont, just on a much larger scale. All I could think was "Oh my god, I am so in love with this place."

The neat thing about living and traveling somewhere that is flat is that you can see the weather happening all around you. An amazing rainstorm was drifting across the land to the south of me:I headed into Southern Medicine Bow National Forest, hoping to find the "lost" Rockies that I was convinced must be hiding around me somewhere. A national forest seemed like the most logical place to search for them.

The land around me as I drove into the forest was so beautiful and gave me a deep sense of peace. In Colorado, it seems no matter where I drive there is always some gigantic bare peak towering over the landscape, reminding me that the land here is sharp and hard. But in Wyoming, because of the lack of giant mountains where I was driving, the land was softer and more expansive.

Before I left Connecticut, I remember mourning the loss of the velvety hills of my home state. I found them in Wyoming, and even more velvety than those in Connecticut because they were covered by soft looking tufts of grass instead of leafy trees. I have never before wished I could be a cowboy (cowgirl I guess) but I did today while driving through the prairie. At one point I pulled over and ran for a while on the side of the road, just because the desire to stretch my legs across the hills was so strong (after first making sure that there was nobody around to see me, of course... which wasn't a problem since I saw all of like 20 cars today while not on a major highway).

The road through the forest brought me up into the mountains and past some beautiful lakes. What people around here are willing to call a "lake" is funny to me... this one seems more like a pond.
There was a terrible thunderstorm raging on the other side of the mountains, and the thunder crashed off of the trees and the rocks with all its muscle. It was beautiful to see the light colored rock of the mountains standing in such contrast with the dark thunderclouds behind them, with the sun streaming down on the whole scene as if it hadn't noticed it wasn't wanted by the storm.

Mirror Lake was much more deserving of the name "lake".
I met a woman as I was heading back south to Colorado who was looking for a ride to Walden or Steamboat Springs. Apparently she'd taken a wrong turn with her bike and was far out of her way. My first instinct was to say no, after all who picks up hitchhikers? Then I realized that she wasn't a hitchhiker, and was also not scary at all. My car, unfortunately, is currently full of my clothes (long story...) so there was barely room for her and definately no room for her bike. It only occurred to me about an hour later that we could have tied her bike to the roof of my car. I hope that she arrived home safely, or at least has somewhere on the way to spend the night.

I continued south, a distant view of the sharp rocky peaks encouraging me forward... yay the Rockies again!! This picture was taken looking toward the east, and I think these mountains are in the Rocky Mountain National Forest / Estes Park area.
I enjoyed the sight of the mountains returning to my view and wandered on my random way home. I realized about this time that I hadn't turned the radio on all day: no cds, no books on cd, nothing. It was just me and the thoughts in my head and heart, and for the first time in a long time they were nothing I needed to escape from, nothing I needed to drown out. I had successfully entertained myself all day.

The road ahead of me seemed to form a tunnel as trees closed in around it. I was really excited - I hadn't driven down a tree-lined, shady road for a long time! It felt so good to be bathed in shadows instead of the constant warmth of the sun. This was Arapaho National Forest - many trees in which were ravaged by this pine beetle that is apparently devouring the entire state of Colorado. I saw entire mountains littered with rusted trees (though I have to admit that I find the contrast of their deep orange needles beautiful, even if it is morbid and terrible... I'll probably get kicked out of the state for saying that. Forgive me, I'm used to New England foliage!).

I wonder what will happen to the wildlife out here with all of those trees dead. Have they already moved on? Will it open the forests to the growth of different trees?

I hoped to make it to Mt. Evans in time to see the sun set, but when I arrived at the road leading to the peak the bottoms of the clouds were shedding their pink glow and taking on a steely grey hue. So that will have to wait for another day!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mon, Aug 6, 2007: Thoughts on Self-Talk

I have no crazy cool adventures to share, unless the inside of my head is an adventure in which case it's obviously both crazy and cool.

I'll keep this short and sweet, just wanted to share these thoughts on self-talk.

Ever since moving out here, the biggest thing that's been keeping me going is this insanely optimistic voice in my head (no I don't have voices in my head, just me talking to myself. Does that make it sound less crazy, or more...?). This voice in my head is always saying things like "You can do it!" and "You're doing a really good job!". It's like some sort of motivational coach. It tells me that it's proud of me, that I am strong, that it loves me... which means I think all these things of myself, a thought that fills me with happiness.

I sincerely wish that everyone in the world could experience this wonderfully supportive voice in their heads. I wonder what people would achieve if they believed in themselves, I wonder how much abuse would stop and how empowered people would feel.

Ok soooo that's it. I just wanted to give props to the voice. Word.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sat, Aug 4, 2007: Crazy Adventure Day! (Royal Gorge and Glenwood Springs)

Today was Crazy Adventure Day! Or more like, Kristine Doing Everything That Scares Her Day. Let me preface this entry by stating that I am both afraid of heights and claustrophobic... and that today we hung out over gorges and the edges of mountains and the insides of the earth. One of my house mates is leaving in a couple of days so he invited all of us to join him in doing some last things he wanted to do before heading out of the state. Another house mate and I were free, so the 3 of us headed out bright and early down Route 25 to Royal Gorge.

Royal Gorge is spanned by the highest suspension bridge in the world, and through it runs the Arkansas River. The bridge is 1053 feet high and is constructed of wooden planks with big cracks between them so if I accidentally looked down at any time I was privy to a stomach-lurching view of the railroad tracks and river below. Here are two pictures of the bridge, which give no perspective whatsoever as to exactly how high up you feel when you are on it.
My house mates were good-heartedly teasing me about the way I was tentatively creeping across the bridge, especially when I neared the edge to take pictures or knelt down to peer through the terrifying spaces between the planks as my friend pointed out rafters bouncing on the river below. I'd warned them that I'm afraid of heights when we first started discussing the trip, but also told them that I try not to let my fear stop me from doing things that I want to do - and it didn't.

When we crossed the bridge, we walked up to an area where people were swinging out over the gorge. We considered doing this, but my house mate said there was a similar thing to do in Glenwood Springs that was far less expensive. On the way to the swing, this little lizard posed for me:
We took some sort of a giant gondola back across the canyon, which for some reason I found far less terrifying than walking on the bridge. Probably because the gondola had a solid floor which didn't offer any unbidden views of 1,000 feet below me. Once we returned to the other side, we headed down into the canyon on a little train. Here is a picture of the bridge from below:

and the train that took us down and back up (it looked waaaaay cooler in real life, this picture doesn't do it justice):
One of the scariest things about the Royal Gorge Bridge is that cars are allowed to drive on it. The bridge is barely wide enough to accomidate one car plus the tourists that were packed on the side of the bridge to let it pass. I can assure you that being squished between the side of a bridge and a passing car was terrifying, even though the car was going all of 5 mph.

We left Royal Gorge and headed up Route 9 toward Glenwood Springs, stopping on the way in the little town of Hartsel for lunch. Unbeknownst to us it was "Hartsel Day" and we landed ourselves in the middle of a carnival (meaning they had 4 tables set up and one blow-up castle that kids could bounce around in). The restaurant where we stopped for lunch was absolutely packed and we had little faith that we'd ever be served (luckily we were wrong, though lunch did take well over an hour). There were two men playing country music on a mandolin and a guitar; they sounded so good that I had to keep reminding myself that the music was live and not piped in through a sound system. This was the funniest thing in town:
We hit 70 West and headed past Vail, which until yesterday was the farthest west I'd been in Colorado - hooray for having a new farthest point traveled in the state! It was sad driving past Vail as it reminded me of my trip out here this past spring and how happy I'd been. I'm still a total disaster from the breakup and know this is just something I have to deal with and it will fade with time. In the mean time, I keep asking two things: one, that I not come out on the other side hating men, and two, that it's over soon. All of my happiness here has an undercurrent of sorrow and heartbreak. I just wish it would go away.

Once we passed Vail, the mountains started taking on this strange sandy texture. There were grooves carved into the slopes as if water had fallen and trickled down, eroding the mountains. I imagined walking up to one of them and poking my finger into its side, then pulling it out and triggering an avalanche of sand which miraculously avoided engulfing me by stopping short at my toes.

Farther down the road, we unexpectedly entered Glenwood Canyon (pleasant unexpected surprises on road trips being one of my favorite things in life). I think the river running through it is the Colorado and it was very strange to see it flowing in the same direction as us, to the west, since we'd crossed the continental divide somewhere before Vail.

We passed through the canyon and entered the town of Glenwood Springs, named for its large hot springs (which we didn't visit... seeing a hot spring is still on my list of things to do!). Here is a view of the town I *think* looking toward the west....
and I *think* this is looking toward the east...
We parked and walked over to the park entrance, and took a good look around... where was the park? All we could see was a string of gondolas running up the side of a mountain across the street. As it turns out, that's how we got up to the park, which was perched on top of the mountain. We walked around the tiny park a bit to kill time before our cave tour. It was the most peaceful amusement park I have ever visited, mostly because it was so small and probably because we were there in late afternoon (though it was a Saturday).

The original plan had been to do one of the more adventurous cave tours, which involved wedging ourselves into tiny, wet spaces for hours and hours. I can't say I was very disappointed when we learned that we would be unable to do an intense tour because we didn't call to schedule an appointment. We ended up going on the regular people walking tour, and a little knot created by the thought "Oh my god I'm so scared but I'm going to make myself do this because there's no way I'm missing out on this experience because of fear" loosened and disappeared. I did feel sad for my house mates though, since they'd been so excited about having crazy cave adventures.

When we entered the cave, I felt two drips of water in quick succession on the top of my head. Since I am me I couldn't resist commenting on them, and the tour guide said that if you are dripped on it is called a "cave kiss" and it means you are very lucky. As we walked through the maze of subterranean pockets I received one more giant drop of water, this time on my shoulder. Our tour guide told me I should go out and buy lottery tickets - to which the three of us said hell yeah! and attempted to purchase them on the way home, only to find that the lottery closes at 7pm and apparently you can't buy tickets past then. But it was nice of the cave to kiss me all the same.

We headed deeper and deeper into the mountain as the tour went on, and I did a pretty good job of controlling my clausterphobia for most of the time. Toward the end of the tour all I could think of was running out of the cave and breathing fresh air, but I still contained it... after all, what could I do about it? Actually run out into the air? Never!

There was a very neat room at the end of the tour, I think our guide said it's called the Royal Chamber. She said it's the most highly decorated cave room in Colorado (that's almost a direct quote). Here is a picture of it:
After the cave tour, we went on a giant swing that suspends you out over the edge of the mountain (which was terrifying! and very fun) and an alpine coaster that involved riding down a set of tracks at top speed and trying to resist using the breaks on my small one person cart. It was really crazy flying down the side of a mountain in this tiny cart, hoping that the woman running the ride was correct in saying that even if you don't use the breaks the entire way down you still won't run off the tracks.

So all in one day, I'd faced my fear of heights and clausterphobia more than once, and was in a very good mood. I'd expected the day to be more powerful feeling for me, as these are old and deep-rooted fears that I've always had to deal with. After thinking about it I came up with the idea that perhaps because all I've been doing for the past month of my life has been facing my fears every day, the experience of dealing with even more fears wasn't really all that significant. When I originally wanted to move out here, I made that decision knowing that I would have the support of a relationship to help me out. Since that was kicked right the hell out of the picture I've been left with the task of facing life alone, which is very scary to me! Much more scary than a bridge or a cave. It takes me so much mental focus to do anything around here, I'm not surprised the other things came easily. My fears were still there, but they just didn't seem as big somehow.

I think that everything caught up with me on the drive home, when I suddenly came down with a splitting headache. Once I was in a heavenly Advil-induced pain-free state, I slept most of the way home. But before I did, I was able to take a picture of the coolest town name ever:No, that's not a sign for a Rest Area without a name... that's a sign for No Name, Colorado, a town whose exit is also shared by a rest area.

Here is a question for anybody else who has moved. How long does it take for things to become automatic again? I never realized how completely automatic my life in Connecticut was. I rarely had to think for very long about which road to take, or which exit on the highway would get me to the store, or frantically try to remember where the grocery store was so I could get in the correct lane. And I would have serious problems if things were any other way for me, since I grew up there.

Out here, my brain can't relax for a minute... because when it does, I end up 2 miles from where I was supposed to be, trying to turn around on one way streets or across 6 lanes of traffic. Granted I'm not a city girl, but it seems to me that being in a city should make driving even more automatic. I mean, how hard can it be to navigate when streets are named after numbers, and then have names that fall in alphabetical order? (Whoever planned Denver was very kind...).

Anyways, if anyone has some input it would be appreciated. : )

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Weds, Aug 1, 2007: Modest Mouse and Life

I'll tackle the life part first. My internship started this past Monday so I've had much less free time (less traveling!), but so far it's going well! As the only School Psychologist-type person in my school it's pretty strange trying to figure out my role. All of the new teachers get a veteran teacher as their mentor to help them out... my supervisor doesn't fill that role for me. The returning faculty will begin attending training with us next Monday and I'm hoping to rely heavily on the SpEd team to help me learn the ropes!

On Monday we had a strange and sudden lightning and thunder storm (no rain really). One clap of thunder was so loud and so close that it caused the neighbor's car alarm to go off. I seriously considered hiding under my bed, and I love storms so that says a lot about how scary it was.

Last night I went to see Modest Mouse at Red Rocks with 3 of my house mates. This was my first "real" concert there, since when we went to Film on the Rocks the opening guy was just one guy playing. The show was fantastic and every member of the band was dynamic to watch. It rained so we got soaking wet and it was reeeeeally cold. We got ponchos but it was too late, we were already drenched; however, I discovered that a poncho makes a great scarf and helps to keep the wet hood of your sopping sweatshirt from making your neck cold. And this time I didn't wear heels!

So that's pretty much life lately, not much going on until Saturday... Crazy Adventure Day!!!