THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Yes, my husband was awake!

Our recent trip to Colorado was highlighted by a high school football game, which, I have to say, is miles apart from a pro game.  Better miles.  And, no, the Sparrow Brothers Fine School of Football Forecasting did not bet on this game.  So, yeah, we won.  But more on that later.  We love to visit our family in the Denver suburbs and especially loved seeing the trees begin to turn and just a hint of fall in the air.  A small hint, since most days were in the mid-80’s but it still beat the muggy warmth of Scottsdale.  Denver, as you may have read, is a booming city.  So much so that they have now adopted an anti-California attitude that stems from all the Golden State refugees that have flooded the housing and job markets.  Like in all other instances, the Californicators have driven up both wages and housing prices which has resulted in a bit of resentment from the native Coloradans.  But the growth has also spurred the resurgence of downtown Denver into a bustling place filled with great restaurants, new office and condo buildings and entertainment centers.  No place better exemplifies that than Union Station.  Once forgotten in the age of suburbs and cars, Union Station’s 100 year-old building was remodeled and extended in 2014.  It is now the hub for Denver’s light rail, Amtrak, the city bus service and even Uber.  Its magnificent interior gives one the feeling of being in a mid-twentieth century train station, complete with dark wooden benches, elegant chandeliers and soaring marble columns.  Yet from this nostalgic setting one can easily walk to Coors Field to catch at Rockies game or to Pepsi Center to watch a concert, the Nuggets or the Avalanche.  Even Mile High Stadium is only a 15 minute drive away.  The restaurants in the area are plentiful and good.  Union Station is also home to one of the last remnants of civilization – the Tattered Cover Book Store.

Thursday Night Lights

But our real reason for coming to Colorado in September was to watch our grandson in a high school football game.  He is a senior this year so this was our last chance to see him in uniform.  His team, Cherry Creek, is ranked #102 in the nation and thus far are undefeated on the season.  Their quarterback, Alex Padilla, has already signed at University of Iowa and is someone to watch.  I haven’t attended a high school football game since the 1980’s and I had forgotten what a magical experience it is.  Wooden benches, parents volunteering to staff the concession stand, cheerleaders, the marching band, and my favorite, the baton twirler.  Right off I was struck by the differences between high school football and college/pro games.  First, no one kneeled during the national anthem.  Second, the fans sit on different sides of the field.  This is huge.  It means that you don’t have some yahoo from the opposing team yelling in your ear or taunting your team’s every dropped pass or missed field goal.  Third, there is no alcohol on the premises (except that smuggled in by weary parents or clever students).  So in addition to not having the opponent’s greatest fan next to you, he is also not burping or throwing up all over you.  The bright lights, the youthful enthusiasm and a big win (49-7 and it wasn’t that close) made for a evening we’ll never forget.

Grandpa with Matthew after the game

But mostly, we’ll never forget how excited our grandson was to make a few plays and relish a big win.  We know that it was important to him to play because we were visiting.  Frankly, we didn’t care.  We just wanted to see him on the team, enjoying the camaraderie of his fellow athletes and reveling, as only high school students can, in a huge victory.  We walked away with a great feeling about the school, not only the football team, but the diversity of the cheerleaders, band members and pom girls.  Everyone was encouraged to participate.  It was a long way from the old days when only the most popular kids got to partake in that fun.  To add an even more poignant meaning to the night, all of the kids were wearing orange shirts or ribbons in tribute to one of the pom girls who is fighting leukemia.  It was heart warming to see all the support she received from her peers.  I read a lot of criticism about the “kids of today” but anyone who believes that will get an argument from me.  What I experienced was a great group of kids – caring, fun and determined.  I think we’re in good hands.

 

 

COOLIN’ IT IN COLORADO

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

      Dash and Dad in the happy place

Each summer we take a week to visit the kids up in Colorado – it is always so good to see them and it gives us some respite from the heat.  This year we were especially grateful for the timing of the trip when we saw that the temps in Scottsdale were going to hit 113.  How smart are we?  Turns out, not very.  The heat wave that Arizona experienced was evident throughout the west.  The temperature in Cherry Hills Village was 93 on two days of our visit and when you add in the affect of the altitude, we felt like we were back home.  Except that the company was better.  Also, the mornings are really beautiful there  – cool and crisp.  Our favorite spot is our daughter’s backyard where, accompanied by Dash the Wonder Dog, we sat each morning with a cup of coffee to experience our happy place.  We mentioned something about moving in for the summer.  I’m not sure they heard us.

 

One of the many peaks in the park

Colorado is truly a beautiful state.  Just ask all of the Californians that are moving there.  Still, by LA standards the traffic is still bearable and with the Rocky Mountains always in view somehow being stuck in traffic isn’t quite as annoying.  This year our daughter thought it would be fun to explore Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods.  Garden of the Gods Park is a National Natural Landmark, with dramatic views and 300′ towering sandstone rock formations set against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak.  The name of the park came about in 1859 from a collaboration between two surveyors, M.S. Beach and Rufus Cable, who started out from Denver to establish a new town. While exploring nearby locations, they came across the beautiful sandstone formations. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden” when the country grew more populated. Cable, however, was a bit more poetic (and dare I say perhaps less of an alcoholic).  His response was, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” The park is truly spectacular, with terracotta peaks and jagged mountains throughout.  There are numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy to “you’ve got to be out of your mind”.  We chose to drive around the park because it was too hot for Dash to walk.  That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.  There is a wonderful visitors center that provides guided tours, interactive displays and, thankfully, restrooms.  The Garden of the Gods was truly one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen – only a few minutes off of a major interstate and yet we felt that we were a million miles away.  It is definitely worth the trip if you are ever in the area.

      The lake at The Broadmoor

Our final destination in Colorado Springs was the famous Broadmoor Hotel.  The hotel is one of the grand classics of the country.  We looked up room rates a few weeks ago on the chance that we might want to stay there on our way up to Denver.  At a cool $470 per night for the least expensive room we decided we’d just drive right on through.  The grounds, as you might expect, are beautifully landscaped and meticulously maintained.  There is a massive lake in the back, nestled between the two major buildings of the resort. We ate outdoors at their Natural Epicurean restaurant where we enjoyed fabulous food in a tree-lined patio.  Of course we had to check out their three golf courses as long as we were in the neighborhood.  As you might imagine, they are groomed to perfection.  The Broadmoor will be host to the 2018 Senior U. S. Open.  I told my husband he needs to work on his game so he can qualify.  Best of all, The Broadmoor is dog friendly.  Dash the Wonder Dog made himself right at home, greeting guests as they entered the lobby, checking for any errant food droppings at the restaurant, and making a friend at the Broadmoor’s pet shop (right).  He found his new acquaintance to be a bit cold, but the owner of the shop gave him treats so all was not lost.

A chilly reception

After an hour of so of walking around the hotel grounds we finally concluded that we would have to leave The Broadmoor for another time.  But we will definitely be back.  As soon as we rob a bank.

 

BUSTED IN BOULDER

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

CU Campus

     CU Campus

We’ve just returned from a wonderful trip to Denver to see family.  We enjoyed fabulous times in their spa-like back yard, a great meal at Shanahan’s, and a lung-collapsing walk at the 5200 foot elevation.  It all seems like a dream now that we are experiencing record heat in the desert.  Were we really feeling chilly just a week ago?  To compensate for today’s triple-digit temps, I’m going to harken back to that time long ago – last week – to describe our day trip up to Boulder.  Maybe just thinking about it will make me feel cooler.  Or more confused – read on.

First, it must be said that Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in the country.  It’s little wonder that Denver is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation – good jobs, good housing and spectacular surroundings.  We have been to Denver a few times so this trip our daughter thought it would be fun to venture up to Boulder.  We were excited to see a city that we’ve read so much about – a burgeoning tech community, fun college town, and haven to hippies and retirees alike.

The beautiful Flatirons

The beautiful Flatirons

So off we headed for the 45 minute drive and decided to take Dash the Wonder Dog along for the ride.  After all, Colorado is one of the more “outdoorsy” states; you can hardly walk a block without seeing someone with a dog.  Or two.  In Boulder more than a third of the population owns a dog so we expected Dash would be in his element.  As we approached the city the first site that came into view was the Flatiron Mountains, a range of five peaks that have a sheer upright face.  Images of the Flatirons are ubiquitous symbols of the city of Boulder.  The city government, the University of Colorado, and many businesses make use of this symbol in their logos, advertisements, and marketing materials.  The mountains form a perfect background for the CU campus.  Combined with the hundreds of trees and the park-like setting, it has to be the most idyllic school in the country at which to goof off rather than go to class.  The center of downtown Boulder is home to the Pearl Street Mall, a four-block pedestrian mall that has cute shops, numerous restaurants and more than it’s fair share of street “performers”.  We found a parking spot close by and embarked on a tour.  We drifted in and out of many of the stores and in each one, Dash the Wonder Dog received oodles of attention.  In one store the clerk asked to have her picture taken with him.  In the kitchen and home store the clerk engaged me in a long discussion about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  So far, we were loving Boulder.  For a fleeting moment, recalling the forecast for Scottsdale this week, I thought perhaps we should go home, pack up and move to Boulder.

Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall

About half-way through our tour of the mall we came to the restaurant that our daughter suggested for lunch.  My husband ran in to take a look at the menu (to say he’s not an adventurous eater would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions) and to see if we could sit at one of the tables on their patio that abutted the mall.  He came out of the restaurant with a rather stunned look on his face.  I assumed that the “special of the day” was elk ear or moose gizzards.  But instead he told us that not only was Dash not welcome on their patio, but that dogs were not allowed AT ALL on Pearl Street Mall.  Whaaaaat?  Just five minutes before Dash was sashaying around the place like he was the mayor.  And now he’s not allowed?  Sure enough, we looked at the signs on a pole at the entrance to the mall and in addition to No Spitting, No Loitering, and No Bikes was the sign I hate most of all – No Dogs.  You’d have thought one of the people who worked in the stores might have said something.  I’m guessing that they are secretly dog owners who think the rule is stupid.  We finally found a restaurant perpendicular to the mall where Dash could join us as long as he was tied up on the street side of the patio.  He was not amused.  After we got back in the car, I did a quick Google search and sure enough, Boulder, contrary to what one might expect, is not a dog-friendly town.  Turns out that “man’s best friend” is not allowed in any restaurant patio or to be off-leash at any time.  Uniformed Animal Control agents patrol the city and are quick to give out citations for any violations.  Geez, I guess we were lucky that Dash didn’t end up behind bars.

So, what was my impression of Boulder?  It’s truly a spectacular city with beautiful views, a vibrant college campus, great shopping…and stupid dog laws.

 

ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE – Part I

by Bob Sparrow

     When my daughter, Dana moved to Chicago she needed someone to drive her Toyota Corolla there from southern California.  That road trip had my name all over it, so I happily volunteered.  I kept a journal of my thoughts and observations along the way – here it is.

     It’s early, it’s dark, I’m invigorated by my planned road trip across two-thirds of America as I shower and get dressed.  Did I leave the shower on?  No, I look outside, it’s raining.  It will not dampen my enthusiasm.  I set out.  Where’s the windshield wiper lever?  More importantly where’s some coffee?  Gosh, these Corollas are small.  I fumble to find the cruise control in the dark, unsuccessfully.  OK, I’m serious now, what happened to the Starbucks on every corner?  Discover that Corollas don’t have cruise control!  Limited music on the radio at this time of the morning.  Didn’t realize we had so many Spanish-speaking stations – Mariachis at 5:00 a.m.?  My gosh what are they so happy about at this time of day?  Got coffee and finally out on the open road, sun starting to peek over the mountains.  I’m hungry.  Find an ‘Open 24 Hours’ truck stop.

     Wishing I still had that ‘TruckMasters Graduate’ ball cap as I feel like I’m not really fitting in here with my Bermuda shorts and Tommy Bahama shirt.  I sit at the counter and order my coffee black, like the rest of the truckers – I’ll put some cream and sugar in it when I’m back in the car.  I listen to the truckers’ stories and am reminded that I’m happy I have all my teeth.  Back on the road.  Soon the smell of rural American comes wafting through the car.  I see horses and cows and acres of farmland.  I see a little town ahead and slow down to read the sign . . . ‘Norco’.  I’ve traveled nine miles.  I’m thinking this could be a very long trip.

It requires significant will power to drive past Vegas; I didn’t even know there was a ‘past Vegas’ until now.  But on through to St. George, and after 700 miles, pull into Grand Junction, CO, for the night.  While it is a junction of sorts, I didn’t really find it all that grand.

The next morning’s drive was a ‘religious experience’ for me.  There are few, if any, more scenic stretches of road in America than the one from Grand Junction, through the Rockies to Denver.  The Colorado River has carved the most beautiful path through the mountains, and man has tunneled, cantilevered and laid his road next to the river.  It makes one of the most beautiful blends of nature and man’s work that I’ve seen.  I drove this road in the early morning hours, just as the sun reached the rim of the Rockies, providing a soft light to the freshly fallen snow.  It was a quiet, cold (7 degrees at its coldest), breath-taking experience.  I put in a John Denver CD, but decided that no sound was the best sound.  The winter panoramas were purely magnificent.  I pass the town of Rifle, the turn off for Aspen, Vail.    I stopped to take ‘communion’ (a cup of coffee and a doughnut) in the village of Eagle.  I parked the car, got out and just looked at the beautiful winter scape around me and listened to the quiet.  The cold air fills my lungs and while it was unbelievably invigorating it was also damn cold.  Back in the car and back on the road.  I remind myself to tell anyone that has the opportunity to make this drive, particularly on a clear winter’s day, to do it.

As I emerge from the Rockies the city of Denver unfolds below me.

(Next post: Part II – Denver to Chicago)