Winter Exile

Skyline

It’s been 8 months at my new job, and I’ve been feeling the need to have an adventure.  I was planning a 3 week snowboarding extravaganza through Colorado, Utah, and up to Canada, until the death of my sewage ejection pump in my rental property suddenly nixed that glorious idea.  After its demise, I didn’t really want to spend money on an adventure, but the Minneapolis winter and burn-out from work prompted me to impose a winter exile on myself.  So, I settled on 6 days in Colorado, attempting to hit as many slopes as my body and time would allow.

I was excited because this trip would allow me to try out airbnb for the first time in my life.  Being an avid couchsurfer in the past, I felt it would be a similar experience.  Also, a week before leaving, a friend of mine informed me that he and another person I knew from Minneapolis would be up before the weekend to hopefully do some snowboarding and skiing with me.

IMG_7842After renting a car and having lunch with my friend in Denver, I drove up to Silver Plume, where I met my hosts for the week.  Geoff and Lauren are two extremely laid back and friendly people that have a lifestyle which allows them to work from home.  A modest and beautiful home at the base of the mountains.  Ten minutes from Loveland Ski resort, the location was perfect.  They greeted me at the door along with their two hyperactive but loveable dogs, Jake and Dexter.  After dropping my gear and settling in, I headed out to Lucha Cantina in Georgetown where I ate nachos with their “Ghost Salsa”, the hottest salsa I’d ever had in my life.

IMG_7852The next morning, I awoke early and headed up to Arapahoe Basin ski area.  It was lightly snowing, but not cold.  It has been two years since my last snowboarding adventure in Whistler, BC, so I spent the morning getting my snowboard legs back.  At lunch, I stopped by the pub for a quick bite when I suddenly lost my favorite beanie from Patagonia, which I had bought it in the fall at Midwest Mountaineering and had worn all winter.  I was surprised how quickly my mood had changed.  As I’ve traveled, I’ve gotten used to losing things or having them stolen.  I usually don’t worry about it too much.  But the beanie…. well, it made me start to question the attachments that I have in life.  “It’s just a hat.  You’ll find another”.  Or maybe not – I’m pretty particular about the things I own now.

Welcome flames after a busy day of snowboarding.

Welcome flames after a busy day of snowboarding.

I did a couple more runs for the day, and after being satisfied that I was now carving up the blue diamond runs well, decided to head back.  I was exhausted and ready to bed down for the night.  It’s funny to think about, but after waking from my slumber in the middle of the night, I headed to bathroom, groggily to take care of some business.  While all seem quiet for about 5 seconds, I could suddenly hear a flurry of activity outside the bathroom door.  Both dogs locked in a hurricane of play-fighting which dissipated after 2 or 3 seconds.  As if the dogs awake from their sleep ready to battle at a moments notice.  There can be only one!  Luckily, I could make it back to my bed at this point without getting attacked.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

Tuesday, I woke up tired and sore and realized that any attempt at snowboarding would be a waste of my energies that day.  I spent my time getting up and then headed to Denver for the day.  After checking out the botanical gardens and the 16th ave mall, I located a Patagonia store hoping to replace my lost beanie.  By this time of year, they’re rolling out their spring clothing line, which means no beanies were in sight.  I headed back a little dejected to Silver Plume.  My neck was feeling better and I was ready for another day of snowboarding.

Wednesday, I decided to head to Keystone.  I had heard that it was a fun place to go and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  The weather was beautiful, if a bit cold in the morning.  I put on my gear, inhaled an egg sandwich and then wiped away the orange juice dripping from my chin, ready to attack the mountain for what would be my most glorious day of riding snow.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

Snowboarding requires all your concentration.  Like other sports, surfing, rock-climbing, etc, you quickly concentrate on your movements.  For me, it’s much like meditation.  Rocking back and forth, applying force to your back foot to steer, it’s like concentrating on your breathing during meditation.  It is meditation, and helps me to clear my mind.  Many times throughout the day, I’d stop on some slope and peer out at the vastness of some of earths glorious mountains and remind myself how fortunate I am to be in this place and have these experiences.  A sunbeam would dance across my face illuminating a smile that didn’t leave until long after I had left for the day.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

It had only been 3 days, but I was starting to feel the need for some companionship.  I consider myself a pretty solitary figure and enjoy traveling alone, yet, there are times…. when being alone is not exactly welcome and the alone-ness turns to loneliness.  I read so many travel articles on how great it is to travel alone and for the most part I agree.  You can make friends everywhere, but it’s just not possible to create the type of connection that you may really want at any given opportunity.  At least not for me…..

So, I reached out and tracked down my friends who informed me they had made it to Colorado and were in the process of heading up to the mountain.  We agreed to meet in Frisco for some dinner and laughs.  It would be a nice change from the solo trip I had taken thus far.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

I burned up the afternoon, grabbing some Starbucks in Dumont and then napping the remainder of the afternoon away.  I arrived in Frisco ahead of my friends by an hour, so I located the bar we had agreed to meet at, ordered up a drink, and sat back while I enjoyed reading Drive by Daniel Pink.  After 45 minutes, my friends showed up and we headed to the sushi place next door where we caught up over jokes and stories about the dumb things we’ve done in the past.  Later, I opted to leave early so that I could ensure to get some time snowboarding the next day.  They informed me that there was a storm forecast-ed for the next afternoon, so I wasn’t sure I’d even get a full day of snowboarding in.  We still agreed to meet up at Copper Mountain the next day for my last day of snowboarding before heading home.

Memories and Laughs

Memories and Laughs

I woke up the next day fairly early to cloudy skies and slight flurries.  I headed out to the mountain, strapped on my gear and sent messages to my friends.  No response.  Being a solitary traveler, It didn’t really bug me.  I’m not much for waiting on friends, which is one of the reasons I choose to travel alone.  It wasn’t going to change the fact that I was going to hit a couple runs.  By 11am, I finally received a text that my friends were hung over and not going to do the mountain that day.  I felt a bit disappointed, until I received a message from one of my other friends unexpectedly.  I hadn’t seen Andrew in a couple years, but he saw my pictures on facebook and wondered where I was at.  Interestingly enough, he had just moved to Silverthorne, just 10 miles east of Copper, 3 weeks prior.  We agreed to meet up later in the afternoon at Dillon Dam Brewery to catch up.  It was as if the universe was letting me know that only by asking, it would provide me with some company for the day.

Old and new Friends

Old and new Friends

Andrew, his girlfriend, Hannah, and I met up at Dillon Dam Brewery in Silverthorne for lunch and caught up.  After getting sick of the Minneapolis winters, Andrew decided to make a change for better weather and country.  He seemed happy and I was happy to catch up with them.  As for Hannah, I knew I liked her after she made a reference to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  The snow was blanketing the town of Silverthorne, and I was already informed that I70 westbound had been closed.  If I had any chance of getting back, I had to leave sooner than later.  We exchanged hugs and I was off.

A bit of advice to all you travelers out there: Before heading into a snow storm where you might potentially be in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it is ill-advised to have a caffeinated drink before leaving.  After an hour in my vehicle, natures forces were telling me that the possibility of returning to Silver Plume to relieve myself was likely impossible.  After a failed attempt using the Starbucks cup left in my car from the day before, I finally came upon an exit where two old men had also stopped to take care of the same mistake I had made.  We gave each other the universal sign of “gentlemen in the same predicament” of solidarity and then went upon our business.

Hell of a storm

Hell of a storm

The trip was over and I was happy to know that I had successfully left everything I needed to let go of on my mountain exile.  My stresses and insecurities white-washed from the edge of my snowboard carving back-and-forth along a powder of opportunity and adventure.  I had played in the snow for 3 full days (some men never grow up) and I felt much better for it.  After returning to Minneapolis, I quietly acknowledged to myself that I was so done with winter.  Spring was on the horizon and I was ready for whatever challenges and adventures lied ahead for the year.

Epilogue

It was two days after arriving home from my trip.  I had returned to work, the stresses of my job already returning.  It was evening, and I decided to take in my favorite deli for dinner, the Afro Deli.  Their Afro Asian Chicken Suqaar, Gyro’s, and Sambusa’s are my personal recommendations.  This night, however, I would get some of their Somalian Tea and Chicken Fantastic.  But before getting dinner, I decided to hit my favorite outdoor sports gear store, Midwest Mountaineering.

Upon entering the store, I quickly moved to the clearance section, and sitting right in front of me was the exact same Patagonia beanie that I had lost in A-Basin.  Things had come full circle and the twin of my stolen beanie had presented itself to me as if to say “From this day forward, I will protect your head and ears from the winter elements, my master”.  I was overjoyed at stumbling upon this beanie for the second time.  Maybe I have an unhealthy relationship with certain items I possess, but I wouldn’t criticize until you’ve experienced the wonder of Merino Wool over your ears during the cold winter months.

And all is right in my universe once again…..

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Acceptance, Nebraska

“It’s better to have an amazing relationship with your house plant than a horrible relationship with another human being” — My sister

The weekend after Memorial Day, I decided to go on a little trip and visit my sister and nieces in Gering, Nebraska.  Wanting to make time for myself and have a little adventure along the way, I opted for renting a car and driving to Gering, Nebraska, rather than take one of the puddle-jumpers from Denver.  Also, I wasn’t keen on the possibility of getting sick flying in a small, unstable plane like I had the year before.

IMG_7657Upon arriving in Denver, I picked up my car and headed out on Interstate 76 and up County Rd 71 to Nebraska.  I happened upon a farm of windmills unlike any I had seen before. It was amazing considering I’ve always been fascinated by renewable energy, and had never seen more than one or two windmills in a particular area.  I took a quick break, stretched my legs a bit, and finally took some pictures.  I continued onward towards Nebraska.

I arrived at my sister’s house in Gering around 1pm and after dropping off my luggage, gave my sister and nieces a hug.  Next, I gave my nieces some handmade necklaces my friend from Minneapolis had made for them at my request.  With family reunited, I settled in for a long weekend of accomplishing absolutely nothing while enjoying the company of my family.  The afternoon was spent catching up. My sister quickly gave me the ground rules of conversation topics.  No politics or religion – this was obviously due to my left-ish leanings.  But I respect my sister for working to maintain the peace.  Early in the evening, my brother in law arrived back at the house and we all congregated for a pizza dinner and watching Napoleon Dynamite.  My nieces and I couldn’t even get through the opening credits before starting to quote the movie.  Channeling my best Napoleon, I offered “IDIOT!”.  My nieces responded in their best Kip voice “Napoleon, you know I’m training to be a cage fighter.”  Giggling, my sister shouted “No quoting the movie while it’s playing!”

IMG_7677I should mention that my sister does not have WiFi in her house.  Actually, this isn’t that weird, but for someone that spends a lot of time on their laptop, it would be a challenge for me to get through the weekend without checking my email.  So, I headed out to the nearby coffee shop, The Daily Grind for some work.  I was surprised to see they offered Chai tea latte’s on the menu.  I set down my laptop and began to do some work.  I like staying in places where the pace of life is slower, however, because the pace is slower, you can expect the businesses to close early, even on a Saturday.  So, I wasn’t surprised to find out the coffee shop closed at noon, which was fine considering my sister was planning on taking my nieces and I for a walk along the river in the afternoon after I returned.  So I returned to the house and we all piled in the car for an afternoon of skipping rocks in the river and catching glimpses of Nebraska wildlife, namely some frogs and even a small turtle.  Once we finished, we headed back for afternoon naps.  Later that evening, we had barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches and some potato salad.  While looking through my bag, I discovered that I had forgotten my mouse at the coffee shop.  I could only hope to retrieve it on Monday as I was heading out of town.

Sunday was spent chauffeuring my sister around to do some errands.  After returning, I took a long nap and then continued reading my book A Guide to the Good Life {the ancient art of stoic joy}.  Later, my youngest niece and I finally went head-to-head playing some Mario Kart.  It wasn’t much of a competition as she beat me what seemed like 95 percent of the time.  I wish I could say that I let her win, but alas, I am no match against my niece on a turbo-powered scooter that shoots turtle shells.

IMG_7681My sister and I closed out the night catching up and talking over a glass of wine.  We talked about our family, the state of our lives, etc.  Among all the topics we discussed, I found my sister discussing the topic of Acceptance to be one of the most interesting.  We talked about some of the frustrations in our lives and the need to be accepting of the things that we cannot change.  I’ll be honest and say I’ve always had a difficult time accepting things.  Being someone that is passionate about many things, I’ve often picked battles that were completely unnecessary.  I found the conversation interesting considering the book I was reading had a chapter on not expending energy on the things that you’re powerless to affect.  We wrapped-up the conversation around 11 and bid each other a good night.  I pulled a blanket over myself on their incredibly comfortable couch and after feeling a cold breeze reach through the window to kiss me goodnight, I fell fast asleep.

IMG_7682The next morning, I awoke, showered, and hung out with my nieces one last time before shoving off.  I wasn’t sure which way I was going to take to go back to Denver.  I hugged my nieces goodbye.  I left my brother-in-law with a firm handshake and my sister with a kiss on the cheek before driving off.  I stopped at the coffee shop before leaving town and happily discovered that they remembered me and had held onto my mouse. After ordering a celebratory Chai, I left the coffee shop and Headed south on Highway 71.  After seeing the sign for the turn onto Highway 88, I thought “what the hell”, and decided to turn west to head towards Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I had 8 hours before my flight took off and I felt like squeezing in some sight-seeing before jetting off.

It’s interesting – I don’t really care for driving anymore, especially in the cities.  But, driving long distances through beautiful country is still very enjoyable and meditative for me (as long as the traffic is light).  I arrived in Cheyenne, poked around for some lunch, and after deciding I wasn’t that hungry, decided on Starbucks instead.  I ate a fruit bowl while I quickly checked my email.  I wasn’t feeling Cheyenne too much.  Thinking that maybe I could find something that would strike my fancy for a late lunch in Fort Collins, I decided to continue my adventure elsewhere.

IMG_7685I stopped at the Colorado Visitors Center outside Fort Collins and received some restaurant recommendations.  I finally decided upon the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant for lunch.  Driving through Fort Collins, I made a note to myself to return someday as it seems like a fun town to experience.  I was running out of time, so, I quickly inhaled my crab and shrimp enchiladas and left the restaurant to make my way to Denver.  I returned my car and headed to my terminal.  With my adventure over, it was time to return home.

This, I believe is why I love travel.  No matter now long your trip or how exotic the location, it gives you time to reflect and meditate.  Travel opens up your senses and helps you welcome the world with open arms.  That’s a difficult thing to do when you’re inundated with work and daily chores or distracted by people and things.  It reminds you of your role in this world and prompts you to perform to the best of your strengths and abilities while reminding you to accept the things that you cannot change.  I need to accept that everyone has a different perspective than I do and that perspective is borne from that person’s personal history.  I am starting to accept that despite my many offerings, there will always be people that don’t want anything from me.  Yet, it reminds me to focus and run towards those people that do want my talents.  I accept that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be happy and content all the time, so maybe it’s better if I don’t try so hard or at least try with less intensity.  And lastly, I accept that given this life, I am obligated to try and make this life the best and most interesting life that I possibly can.  Next stop: Home, where I’ll need to accept that to my next big adventure will not be attainable without at least another year or more of work and strict savings.  I’m looking forward to whatever life has in store for me.