I should start this post by making something quite clear. I loved my time in Denver. My friend John, basically the whole reason I went to Denver in the first place, was a first-class host and made my time there unforgettable. Instead of gushing about how great a time I had and the things I did, I will list out some of my favourite things to do and see in Denver. They are not in any order (because they’d all be number 1).
Red Rocks is a natural outdoor amphitheater unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Pictures don’t do it justice and I don’t have the ability to convey the sense of awe one gets standing between two massive rock formations, with thousands of other concert goers, watching the sun’s last rays set on Denver as a band plays in front of you. John got me a ticket to go see a show there with friends of his and told me it was one of the things I needed to do in Denver. He was right. I’ve seen a few concert venues in my day, but I’ve only seen one as majestic and beautiful as Red Rocks.
We didn’t do any hiking while I was in Colorado. While I love hiking mountains, it was probably for the best since I only brought my boat shoes with me. We did however “climb” one of Colorado’s 55 “14ers: mountains with peaks over 14 000 feet (4 267 meters). Our only “climb” was Mount Evans, also known as the highest paved road in North America. We climbed using John’s friend’s SUV. I’ll be the first to admit that the ride up was terrifying (so was the ride down), but it was worth it. The view from the top was sweeping and the feeling of having conquered a 14 000 foot mountain without actually having walked for more than 10 minutes is a great (and very American) feeling.
This is the most touristy thing I did during my whole time in Denver. I took a tour of the state capital building and got to learn about the state’s history as well as the building’s quirks. Denver isn’t as old a city as New York or Chicago, so there isn’t much in terms of architectural history, however, that’s not to say it has no past. Since it was settled during the gold rush, Denver (and surrounding areas) has a very rugged history. I think my favourite part of the tour was the marker indicating exactly where you are a mile above sea level (there are actually three markers, within a few feet of each other due to advances in altitude measurements). Pretty neat stuff. Plus there was a quilt fair going on a that time. Quilts are always nice.
Imagine this. Cyclists from all around town (and I assume near-by cities) meet at 3 pre-designated bars at around 7pm. At 8:30pm (I our case. I guess it must change from week to week), everyone gets on their bikes and follows a leader. The leader has a stereo system set up on a wagon behind his bike blasting fun music. The leader takes the group for a ride around town until he reaches a park near the capitol building. All three bar leaders converge on this one location and a great time ensues. The scope of this thing is unreal. There must have been over a thousand people on bikes, and not only normal bikes! Some had oldtimey bikes (the really tal ones with the big front where and the tiny rear wheel), others had unicycles, etc. As if it wasn’t insane enough, every week (this is a weekly event!) is a different theme! When I was there, the theme was Circus, so we found some clown noses and some rainbow wigs! How much fun is that? Once the groups reach the park, a circle of death forms (people ride in a circle while other are trapped in the middle). Some food trucks are there and people bring some beers. We ate food, drank and had a great time. The energy there was so great. It was also nice that the cyclists respect the rules of the road while riding in such a massive group (mostly, there are always jerks). It was a great experience that mixed friends, food, drinks and biking in a safe and fun way.
Since I was in Colorado (and I was falling in love with it at an astounding rate), I decided to visit the local university. My goal was to see the campus and meet some faculty, in order to see if it was a right fit for me. The main University of Colorado campus is in Boulder, a small college town 45 minutes north by bus of Denver. I didn’t get to look around Boulder much since it was raining, but I got the feeling that it is a nice liberal and active place with all the amenities. It’s also (I’m guessing) no more than 2 or 3 kilometers away from the Rocky mountains. Not only is it beautiful, but it has great access to world class outdoor activities. The campus is stunning too. All the buildings are built in the same “Tex-Mex” style (I’m not sure that’s an official architectural term). By that, I mean the walls are rugged rocks and the roofs are red tiles. A really beautiful place. The faculty I was lucky enough to meet was also great. I met someone who is an expert in my field and she was kind and welcoming. If I could get a scholarship to study there, I would be a happy camper.
Obviously there are other things I loved about the Colorado leg of my trip, but those are the main points. Hopefully I will get to return to Colorado soon for more great times with my friends (new and old) in a terrific city.