Littleton, Boulder, Denver, and Golden, COLORADO
The drive to Colorado was the first time I was awed by our surrounding scenery. Up until then, Ian and I would scoff at the horizon and say, “Pshh! We have that in California!” But we do not have southern Utah. We do not have orange rock formations, red canyon walls, or rolling hills spotted with green brush. At least, not where I’ve driven before. So there I sat, behind the wheel, oooing at the landscape whizzing by at 90+ miles per hour.
Unfortunately, the sun had set before we could truly appreciate Colorado’s mountainous horizon.
We actually made it to Denver sooner than we thought we would, despite our late start and long drive. Still, we pulled up to my cousin Jen’s place in Littleton just before midnight. I don’t know if Jen had stayed up or was still up, but either way, we were grateful.
After a fantastic homemade breakfast of garlic fried rice, over-easy eggs, and bacon as prepared by my lovely cousin, Ian and I set out for nearby Boulder. We HAD to stop by the Unverisity of Colorado because, 1) we have an affinity for campuses and college towns (or, maybe subconsciously, a longing to be students again), and 2) I needed another keychain for my collection. Somehow that second part turned into a difficult mission.
The CU campus was the first (and only) one so far to let me down. Every building looked the same, sporting orange rock walls and red tile roofs. I felt as though I’d stumbled upon a hidden Mexican resort town in the foothills of the Rockies. The difficulty of navigating around similar-looking buildings was increased by the fact that Ian and I could not find campus maps. Aren’t those staples of all college campuses?! Suffice it to say, it took us a long time to find the student store for my keychain. Our dismay of the campus was somewhat alleviated when we stumbled upon CU’s equivalent of Telegraph Avenue named 13th Street. With used record stores, local eateries, and yoga studios, 13th Street made me feel at home.
Though tempted to dine at a 13th street restaurant, Ian and I elected to save money and snack on muffins from Jen’s house before taking off to Denver.
As soon as we exited the highway onto Arapahoe Street we found a public parking lot charging only $2 for all day. We had no idea where we were in relation to anything else downtown, but we decided right away to take up that offer. If you had spent half an hour driving around Seattle only to settle upon a lot charging $15 for all day, you’d take up this Denver offer, too.
Like CU’s campus in Boulder, we weren’t initally impressed with Downtown Denver: empty streets among industrial buildings. Where’s the draw? We had already fallen into mocking the city when we turned the corner. Literally. Onto the 16th Street Mall. This was what we were looking for! 16th Street Mall has a wide pedestrian walkway down the middle of the street, lined on each side by roads where FREE shuttle buses take the late or lazy up and down the Mall, those roads in turn lined by sidewalks featuring ubiquitous patio seating for the many restaurants and ale houses Denver has to offer. Interspersed along the sidewalk were painted public pianos available for anyone to play. Ian and I walked around 16th Street Mall for hours with music in our ears and smiles on our faces.
Despite the draw of Downtown Denver, we didn’t leave cousin Jen’s place until about 2 pm the next day. Ian cooked breakfast while I exercised a bit (an activity becomingly increasingly difficult when you have long drives, limited time to explore cities, and no idea when or where you’ll get your next shower). We had planned to visit the town on which South Park was based, but it was too far out of the way, so we took our time getting ready. Our first stop was a must-see when you’re staying in Littleton, Colorado.
I remember I was in 6th grade the day the Columbine High School shooting took place. I remmeber performing lockdown drills in the weeks that followed. I remember watching news clips of kids running across the fields away from the building and of mourners holding a vigil outside the high school. It was crazy to see those fields and to see the high school. I felt a bit ashamed taking pictures of the school, like I was a disconnected tourist feeding off the tragedy of a community. I mean, I took the pictures anyway, but I felt bad. Fortunately, there was a nice memorial in the park behind the high school where I could soak in the event without feeling like paparazzi.
The only way to follow up that somber visit? Beer.
The Coors Brewery was only fifteen minutes away in Golden, Colorado. Since the New Belgium Brewery tour was all booked up—and because Coors’ was free—Golden was our next stop. It’s a great little mining town with 19th Century buildings and blue-collar men walking around in hard hats and carrying lunch pails. The presence of the Coors Brewery could be felt throughout the town, with giant Coors banners and umbrellas lining every bar and restaurant.
The tour was self-guided. We each had audio devices that told us what we were looking. The pre-recorded informational sound bites were a little long, but were kept interesting with groan-worthy jokes and puns. We were offered a 5 oz. cup sample of either Coors or Coors Light, which was all I was really expecting before we got there. It was only a warm-up, however, for the THREE FREE 10 oz. beers you get to drink at the end of the tour! Keep in mind, Coors own Blue Moon as well as some tasty local brews, so it is a great time had by beer drinkers of all snobbish levels. And if 30 oz. of beer isn’t enough to get your buzz on, the altitude will get you there. Did I mention it was free? It was no surprise to find out they had regulars who go on the short tour daily.
We took our time in the parking lot, finishing of the Voodoo Doughnuts we got in Portland and downing a lot of water.
Our next stop was Downtown Denver for a quick drink with my sister’s boyfriend, Amit. We parked in the same lot, but this time the charge was $15 because the Rockies were playing a few blocks down.
It was nice to talk story a bit with Amit, but he had to leave pretty quickly. Ian and I nursed our beers for a bit (we did not want anymore), walked around 16th Street Mall some, then packed it in relatively early. It was a long drive to South Dakota and we wanted to stop in Fort Collins, Colorado, along the way.
On a final note, Colorado State University has a beautiful campus with sleek, modern architecture and CAMPUS MAPS! I found a CSU keychain right away.