Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our cross-country trip in search of a new home: Chicago-> Denver-> Utah

Denver to Utah

In what seemed like a sequence from some old zombie movie or a "Tales From The Cript" short, Christina and I rolled into the eerily small and isolated border town of Wendover, as the sunset against surrounding sandstone cliffs and bounced off the Utah salt flats. I walked in to one of the towns only two hotels half expecting the receptionist to turn around with blood shot eyes wanting to suck my blood or eat my brains. Much to my delight, it was a cheery Indian fella curious as to how and why I found myself in the isolated desert town Wendover which borders the Nevada state line. "Going to California?" he asked. He knew too well that the only reason people find themselves in such a place is after having succumbed to fatigue after countless hours on the road. And, after having driven completely across both Colorado and Utah in a single day, he was dead on. Christina and I were both tired and heading to California.

20 Miles outside of Wendover, Utah.
The drive from Denver clear across Colorado and Utah was without question the most spectacular and beautiful drive I have ever made. I quickly found myself questioning why I had not seen these sights before, why I had not made this drive before and why I was so oblivious as to their existence. I knew the answer to all of these things, but I wanted to take notes so I could return and explore each nook and cranny of every mountain, canyon, mesa, plateau and valley we passed in my Toyota 4 Runner over the course of the day. I was completely overcome with both the beauty of the terrain and the idea that all of this existed in our own country. Jesus, I was so enthralled I lost track of the number of times I veered off the shoulder and onto rigid lines cut into the pavement warning drivers of their impending death and dismemberment. Having just traveled almost the entire continent of S. America by bus, impressing me with landscape was no easy feat .

Somewhere between Colorado and Nevada.
 As we winded our way through the Colorado Rockies, through the Vail Pass at over 10,000 feet and the blinding snow-covered mountains, the terrain began to transform by the mile marker. Wide valleys gave way to narrow canyons as the Colorado river snaked it's way underneath us and in between the vertical rock walls around us. Before long, the snow had dissipated with red sandstone and green Aspen taking its place, permeating nearly every inch of available earth around us. And, as if there were some imaginary line drawn across the earth, mountain tops appeared sheared off and in it's place were countless mesas as far as the eye could see.
Highway 6, Utah.
 Somewhere before turning onto U.S. Highway 6, we passed through Green River, Utah in search of fuel for both my car and Christina and I.
Green River, Utah (middle of nowhere)
 Green River, Utah is a town that exists in some sort of forgotten Western Norman Rockwell-esque time capsule. You can call it a town or a strip pavement in the middle of nowhere, but it was the only thing between us and 139 miles of nothing before the next gas station. And when we arrived, my car slowed to nearly a snails pace as Christina and I gaped at the town that time forgot. I stopped my car at a local gas station in an atempt to capture the gargantuan mesa's that peppered the background (I failed). Over the course of the next six hours, we cut right across the entire state of Utah. As we winded our way through endless canyonlands, past Salt Lake City and onto the perspective bending Salt Flats.
Salt Lake City, Utah The resemblance to Bolivia was uncanny. Christina and I stopped at a rest station outside of Wendover just in time to watch the sun drop behind the sandstone outcroppings and dissipate into a single ray of light along the salt flat. Am I really in the U.S?

Denver and our trip out there
On January 20th, Christina and I left Chicago at 4:00 a.m. bound for Denver, Colorado. Our goal was to make the 1005 mile drive in a single day and we were hell bent on doing so. We had visited both Denver and Boulder, CO nine months prior in search of a new place to call home, but we were far from sold on either city. At the time, Denver seemed like Indianapolis in the mountains and I could not get past the hoards of twenty-something college students in Boulder sporting dreadlocks and driving Mercedes' with "Free Tibet" stickers on the back. The irony and hypocrisy was a bit too thick to swallow. But, in spite of its short comings, Denver impressed us enough to warrant a return and possibly a second chance on our trip out West in search of a new home (once again). This time around, we stayed with one of my best friends who showed us around the city. On our previous trip to Denver, Christina and I had rented a car and driven around the city, trying our best to tour the most popular neighborhoods. It was overwhelming and anticlimactic. But, having a host and a friend who knows the city you're visiting really helps to show you what a city is all about. We walked countless miles both downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods. We ventured out to bars and met countless locals who were both intrigued by our story and eager sell us on Denver, a city they all clearly loved. During our six days in Denver, we did not cross paths with one person who was not overwhelmingly passionate about their city, which made an impression on us. We took one day and ventured our to Rocky Mountain National Park to spend the day snowshoeing.

On our way into Rocky Mountain National Park.
 Above all else, Christina and I wanted to move out West to be closer to the outdoors and the mountains, something we were both passionate about. On January 24th, we packed our backpacks, rented snowshoes and woke up early to head for Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a beautiful day, but we both bit off a bit more than we should have. We headed five miles into the wilderness and 1,500 vertical feet up into a small valley between two mountains at 11,000 feet. But, the bitter cold and altitude had wore us both down a bit more than we had anticipated along the way and the five miles back seemed painfu,l and it was. All of our water and our food and water were frozen rock solid and our camera would not work because of the cold. But, with the sun quickly fading, we managed to make it back to my car just before the worry set in. In spite of it all, it was a great day.

January 25, 2011.
The following day (yesterday) was my birthday. I am now 28 years old. When I was younger and had little concept of age. I always thought that at 28 I would be living in some non-descript culdesac, married to a beautiful woman with whom I would be on my way to raising a pack of young children who would run wildly around the neighborhood causing all sorts of trouble as I did when I was a child. Instead, in some bizarre twist of fate and irony; I am the child and not the adult raising children. Although I'm older than I've ever been, I feel like I'm viewing the world through the eyes of a child; it's a beautiful and refreshing thing. Instead of diggin though the dirt in search of treasure, I am blazing a trail across the country with my best friend (and girlfriend) in search of a different kind of treasure; a place to call home.
I spent my birthday in a cabin in Breckenridge amongst the company of two great friends from Chicago and Christina; all of us the nearly the same age and all of us reflecting on what it meant to grow older. But, to me, what it means at this very moment can be summed up in Birthday card I received from a friend:

"Here's to new beginnings and happy endings. Here's to dreams coming true and wishes being granted. Here's to trying new things and growing wiser and better with each passing year... Here's to days in the sun and nights out under the stars. Here's to moments of quiet reflection and laughing as loud as you can,. Here's to another year of celebrating life every chance you get..."
Thanks for following along on this crazy journey that has become my life. We will arrive in San Francisco tomorrow.

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