Denver: We're back and here to stay!

What a summer! A road-trip from the West Coast to the East. First time visits to Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Phoenix, Portland (ME), Atlantic City, Buffalo, and Burlington (VT). We tried to make the best of our three free months off, visiting family from Florida to Boston and doing quite a bit in between. We drove the harrowing route to the top of Mount Washington in NH, RV'd around the Salton Sea and into the squatter community of Slab City, island hopped around Maine's Casco Bay in a mail-boat, camped on a hang-glider landing zone in the heart of Pennsylvania, lived on a boat for the weekend in Hilton Head, ate burritos in El Paso, air-boated in the Florida Everglades, canoed down the Schuylkill River, and saw some of our favorite musicians in Philadelphia and Trenton.

Lastly, we sold or donated anything that wouldn't fit in our Subaru (Ebay, Craigslist, yard sales) and headed for Denver; our last and hopefully final city of what has been nearly four years of travel and getting to live in amazing cities.

During these four years we've lived in 9 cities and taken the time to visit dozens more. Of the top 40 cities in the country, we've now lived in or visited 38. At the end of the year we will have been to every state except Hawaii.
At the outset of our travel in 2012, I created lengthy lists of things to do or see; bucket lists of concerts, shows, cities, parks, and activities not available in Northeast TN where I had lived for so many years. Looking back on these lists, I've checked almost every box. It's been an exciting run!

Updated Travel Map
I've been asked a couple times how we're going to keep from being bored after so much travel and stimulation. We've done more already than a lot of people do in a lifetime. It's a question I can't really relate to, so it's hard to answer.

Travel is great for experience, education, and inspiration, but if you can't find happiness and contentment without it, something is imbalanced. We look forward to being in one place for longer than a few months.

That's why we're back in Denver. What a great place to do a variety of things. It's (somewhat) in the middle of the country with cheap airfare nearly everywhere. The music scene is still in development with room for newcomers like Lindsay. Despite how it feels to the natives, the Rockies still offer plenty of space to get away.

Besides a few upsetting closures (Native Foods, Bark Bar, Cheeky Monk), what we liked about Denver in 2014, remains. The mountains are a short drive away. There is a serious subculture of activism and care. The economy is exciting and diverse. No single job sector accounts for more than 11% of the overall economy: tech, space, mining, transportation, health-care, green energy, oil, marijuana, aviation, construction. There are so many events and activities, it's sometimes hard to choose which to do.

Second first-impressions on Denver:
  1. The growth is ridiculous. I was temporarily disoriented when we pulled into Lower Downtown.
  2. Transportation is better than in 2014. We've only driven a handful of times over the past three weeks. Instead, we use train, bike, bus, Car2go, the MetroRide, and the MallRide. There were two days this week when the light-rail system was completely free to celebrate new lines.
  3. Stores, restaurants, and bars are more crowded. With around 40,000 more people in the area since 2014, it's expected, but it takes getting used to.
  4. The weather is the best. We've been here over three weeks and haven't had a rainy day, yet. Sure, it rains for a few hours, but blue skies before and after.
  5. People are using their horns! It was rare to hear anyone honk when we lived here in 2014. Now there is a lot of it. I don't like it. Maybe all the transplants from IL and CA or perhaps the natives are cracking under the growth.
  6. Denver is building for the future. One thing that made an impression on me from the far northeast this summer was the number of cemeteries in every town we drove through. Why? Years ago Denver dug their main cemetery up and put a park. One of the city's trendiest restaurants is in an old morgue. Perhaps cemeteries are a poor example, but Denver is forward looking. The economy is so diverse because the business community and government got together in the 80's to diversify away from reliance on energy alone. Now oil and mining industries coexist with the new and eventually, necessary. If only places like TX and WV could think similarly.
  7. The 16th mall, the main tourist hub, is seedier. More crime. More people lying around. I haven't read enough about it to know why. I doubt it's entirely from marijuana, but it's related. Twenty-five states have already legalized in some form, four completely, so there are other places to go. It could be marijuana combined with decent social services and the backlash when Denver police clear out camping areas. Again, haven't been here long enough to know.
  8. Despite housing going up nearly 10% a year, everything else is still surprisingly affordable: groceries, food, beer. Than again, everywhere seems cheap after living in San Francisco earlier this year.
  9. Chipmunks are friendly in the Rockies! I thought it was just in Estes Park, where they are fed peanuts, but no. We encountered the little guy below on a recent hike on the Boulder Flatirons.

Denver Posts from 2014:

Denver: First impressions and why my mom might be right about The Mile High City
Denver: Home sweet home #5, bison on the loose, a redneck bus tour, and frisbee with the dead!
Denver: Four months in Colorado and going strong!