May 2012


Not that I have anything against free beer tours with complimentary beverages along the way, but Golden has a lot more to offer than beer. Besides, I haven’t been on a Coors Tour, so I can’t write about it yet. Stay tuned.

Golden is one of those cute little small towns alongside a creek with a historic downtown and a backyard full of mountains. Plus, if you ever get bored, it’s only a 20 minute drive to downtown Denver. I’m thrilled to be moving to this spot of geographic perfection in August, so more Golden posts may be popping up here in the next few months.

But for now I’m still a Golden tourist, and any day in Golden has to either start or end with a hike. The most obvious choice is up North Table Mountain. This is an easy hike. (Easy means that I saw families with small children and grandmas on the trail. My five-months-pregnant self actually got a little bored and had to start running to work up a sweat.) It is just a few miles north of town on highway 93. You can’t miss the trailhead sign or parking lot on the left side of the road as you are heading north out of town. As the “Table” part of name suggests, this mountain is actually a large plateau. It’s a steep gravelly hike to the top, and then there are several flat loops to walk or bike through when you get to the top. This fact coupled with the lack of trees makes for not the most interesting hike in the world, but if you follow North Mesa trail there are great overlooks of the town of Golden. Plus, if the wind is blowing right, you can smell the beer from atop the mountain.

After your walk, hike, trailrun or bike ride, cooling off is a must. This can either be done with a refreshing dip in Clear Creek or by enjoying a cool beverage.

Clear Creek runs through downtown, with the most populated spots just north of downtown on Washington street.

A paved trail meanders along Clear Creek for miles in both directions. Walk along the south side to check out the historical stops near the trail. There are several spots alongside the trail in which you can easily step down to the creek to cool off and play in the water. If you are lucky you might even see a kayaker navigating the shallow waters (usually about a half mile or so up the trail, west of town).

If splashing in a creek isn’t your idea of “refreshing,” there are several places in town where you can grab a drink. Buffalo Rose has an outside patio bar if you’re a beer and bikers kinda person. Come back at night for live music and/or karaoke. On the other side of the drinking spectrum, there is patio seating at Grappa from which many enjoy glasses (or bottles) of wine.

Downtown Golden isn’t exactly Chicago’s Miracle Mile, but there are cute shops along Washington Ave and its side streets. My favorites is Silver Horse, where I drooled over $600 cowboy boots and long strands of turquoise jewelry. Rewind is another popular place, with antiques and secondhand clothes and furniture, organized thematically in different rooms.

There are a few places to stay in Golden. The Golden Hotel is the most centrally located, right on Washington Ave alongside Clear Creek. A few blocks north is Table Mountain Inn, with an abode façade that looks like it was airlifted from Santa Fe. Down alongside Clear Creek is a secluded RV park, shaded by trees – that’s where I would stay (they only have three tent sites though).

This post is somewhat of a teaser, Golden has tons more hikes, shops, restaurants, and museums for me to explore. Plus that Coors Factory. I can’t wait to get to know my soon-to-be-new home.

It was pretty crowded. Be prepared to be run over by multiple strollers and dancing hippies.

But fun! The Boulder Creek Festival has several performance tents, a farmers market, rides, a rock wall, craft and clothing booths, and at least three gyro stands. After buying your fill of jeweled earrings, tie-died onesies, and cloth purses, grab lunch and people watch down by the creek.

 

 

The best part was a guy in the creek making seemingly impossible rock formations.

The Boulder Creek Festival is held annually over Memorial Day weekend on Canyon between 15th and 9th. There is free (!) parking off Canyon Street, although you may have a bit of a trek from your car to the event. If you are reading this on the day I posted it and are going tomorrow, get there early to cheer on the Boulder Boulder 10 K runners, or at 4 to participate in the Rubber Ducky race down the creek.

As a middle and now high school geography teacher who loves reading to her kids, I’m always on the lookout for really, really good YA (Young Adult) books that are hilarious, moving, interesting to teenagers, and somehow linked to geography so I can read them aloud in my classroom.

It’s been a tough search. There are tons of picture books relevant to my subject and curriculum, but YA book are harder to track down. It’s pretty much hit or miss, because I haven’t found a really database of YA books on travel and/or geography. Luckily I love reading books meant for audiences ten (okay…fifteen) years younger than me and eventually I know I’ll run in to something perfect.

I’ve recently hit jackpot. Not one, but TWO novels about travel. One has a main character obsessed with maps, one has a map on the cover, and they both feature road trips. Perfect.

Jennifer E Smith’s “You Are Here” is the one with Peter Finnegan, the main character obsessed with maps and travel plans:

Instead Peter planned to go to Australia and Africa and Alaska and Antarctica, and that was just the A’s. The list grew from there, ballooning to include Bali and Bangladesh, China and California and Chicago. He had marked carefully on the map the place where you might catch a ferry from Ireland to Scotland, had research mountain climbing in Switzerland and cage diving with sharks off the coast of South Africa.

When Peter’s next door neighbor steals her brother’s car to drive from New York to North Carolina in order to find herself, Peter steals another car and takes the trip with her when the initial stolen car breaks down on the New Jersey Turnpike. When his road trip with the increasingly frustrating and loveable Emma get tough and confusing, Peter realizes this:

Maybe the answer to all of his problems was nothing more than a darkened sky and a glittering city, a lofty perch above the world below. It seemed entirely possible that it was all just a matter of setting and location, and Peter wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before. After all, he understood better than anyone the importance of geography.

What a great paragraph to read when my students start whining about the uselessness of geography.

The next geographically inclined novel is John Green’s “Paper Towns.” Green is one of my favorite authors, but I have to admit this isn’t my favorite of his books. The book is great, his other’s are just that much better. Like Green’s Printz Award winning “Looking for Alaska,” “Paper Towns” features a hilarious and exceedingly messed up female character that the male protagonists spends most of the book reacting to. Near the beginnig of the tale, Margo Roth Spiegelman crawls through Quentin’s bedroom window one night and ropes him into a night of law-breaking, stating: “I need a car. Also, I need you to drive it, because I have to do eleven things tonight, and at least five of them involve a getaway man.”

When Margo runs-away (and not for the first time), her fed up parents change the locks of their house and admit defeat. Quentin and his friends at school aren’t so willing to give up on Margo though. They follow her clues to discover that she is staying in a ‘paper town’ in New York. The author describes paper towns as “copyright traps [that] have featured in mapmaking for centuries. Cartographers create fictional landmarks, streets, and municipalities and place them obscurely into their maps. If the fictional entry is found on another cartographer’s map, it becomes clear a map has been plagiarized.”

Anyways, for various reasons that you will read about in “Paper Towns,” Quentin and his crew need to get to from their high school graduation in Florida to Margo’s paper town in New York in twenty one hours and forty five minutes. A frantic road trip ensues.

Now that I’ve found two YA books that have something to do with geography, I’m hopeful that there is a whole treasure trove of them out there, I just have to keep reading. “Paper Towns” may be a little too risqué to read to my 9th graders (lots of swearing and sex references. Not that high schoolers are fragile beings that have never heard a swear word, but I don’t want to be standing in front of them swearing and reading about sex. However, I can edit if I have to) and You Are Here may be a tad on the touchy-feely side.

So the quest for a perfect book continues. Let me know if you have any recs.

I can’t believe I’m just know getting a library card. I basically lived in the library in Las Vegas, but for some unknown reason I hadn’t even stepped foot into a branch of the Denver Public Library until last weekend. Shockingly, Denver’s seven-story downtown library is just a tad nicer than the one in Las Vegas. The castle-themed children’s library downstairs is adorable, with a story time area in a nearby “turret” with huge windows and pillows for all the kiddos to sit on. I must say the Young Adult “Our Space” section needs some work though – it’s pretty boring.

Looking up from the lobby, a huge painting covered wagons and trains runs around the 2nd story (which is mostly fiction). I love the painting, and it matches the wood panel (but not in a ’70’s type way) theme of the rest of the library.

My favorite floor is the 5h, where the homeless people smell (sorry, that’s not very PC of me. But this is a downtown public library after all) gives way to an old book smell. Plus the 6th floor is where all the maps and painting of western scenes and landscapes are.

The library is located in Denver’s “Golden Triangle” at 10 W. Fourteenth Ave 80204. Plenty of metered parking is available. Library hours are M-T: 10-8, W-F: 10-6, Sat – Sun: 1-5. I love that the library is open on Sundays 🙂 You can get a library card even if you don’t have a state ID yet, as long as you bring in a bill or other proof of address. If you don’t have that yet, the librarians will even give you a card with limited check out capabilities to tide you over until you can bring in a bill or state ID.

So now that I am the proud owner of a Denver Public Library card, I can start working on my must-read list. Any suggestions would be most appreciated!

Historical and Non-Fiction

  • Crazy Horse and Custer: The parallel lives of two American Warrios by Stephen Ambrose
  • 1776 by David McCullough
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (does that count as historical? Haha)
  • Sugar Changed the World: A story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson (A YA book)
  • Freeman: A Liberated Slave in Search of Family, by Leonard Pitts Jr

Fiction

  • Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, by ZZ Parker
  • The Same Earth, by Kei Miller
  • Human Croquet, by Kate Atkinson
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – how have I never read this?

YA Lit

  • Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. I read the first two Hunger Games tales a few years ago when they came out, but haven’t gotten around to the final installment yet
  • Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley: The 2012 Printz Award winner
  • Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta: A past Printz Award winner that I keep meaning to read
  • What Happened to Goodbye, Sarah Dessen’s latest. She is a YA genius and I love everything she writes.
  • Why we Broke Up, by David Handler.
  • The Fault in our Stars, John Green’s new one. Another YA genius.
  • Breaking Beautiful, by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
  • Sean Griswold’s Head, by Lindsey Leavitt

When I lived in Seattle’s University District I used to go to the Farmer’s Market on 50th and Brooklyn every weekend. I didn’t buy any food because my monthly food-and-drink budget was dedicated solely to liquor. My roommates and I used to throw huge parties every month. We were the only college students who supplied several hundred of dollars of booze at our parties. We obviously rocked the party scene.

Anyways, getting back to the subject on hand, I used to go to the Farmer’s Market just as it was closing and buy a single Gerber Daisy from the vendors. They’d usually just give it to me for free. This provided a nice decoration amid the vodka bottles at the aforementioned parties.

While traveling I like to hit up Farmer’s Markets for meals. Sometimes you can even get a meal’s worth of samples if you wander around long enough. A couple of my favorites have been the Farmer’s Markets in Boise and Kansas City.

Kansas City’s go-to place is the Historic City Market. City Market has tons of events going on through the year (and week), the Farmer’s Market being the Saturday event. There is also a garage sale/swap meet type row of stalls nearby is you are in the need of some cheap knickknacks.  Produce and food prices were actually pretty good (Farmer’s Markets are usually not bargains, but KC was!) and the market is in a great location, surrounded by local shops and restaurants. Though don’t fill up at the market though – save your stomach for massive amounts of Kansas City BBQ instead. City Market is at 20 E. 5th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106. Surrounding parking is pretty easy to find. The Farmer’s Market is open March through October Saturday from 6 – 3 and Sunday from 8-3. November through February hours are 8-3. Check out their website for more information (including a guide regarding what is in season) and other events.

The Capital City Public Market in Boise, Idaho is HUGE and crowded – at least it was on the summer day I was there. I especially liked the hang-out place surrounding fountains that kids (and even some of their parents) were running through. Make sure you stop by the Ballad Cheese booth for cheese curds. They aren’t as good as Wisconsin cheese curds, but the further west you are, the harder cheese curds are to find. The Boise Farmer’s Market is at W Idaho Street and N 8th Street. Street and lot parking where pretty easy to find once you get a few blocks away from where all the action is. The Market is open Saturday’s from 9:30am – 1:30. The 2012 season started on April 21st and is expected to run through December 22nd. I don’t expect running through the fountains would be too much fun in December though. Check out their website for more information.

What is toted as Denver’s “best” Farmer’s Market opened up in the beginning of May, so I headed out to Cherry Creek to check it out. I was not expecting greatness because it was May in Colorado and my roommate’s “garden” still looks like this:

My low expectations were right on target. The entire market consisted of one produce booth. Well, two if you count this one:

The rest of the booths were things that do not depend on good weather: Cheese, bread, specialty pickles, pies, tamales, cake pops and coffee. I joined the Greek Gyro’s line (the longest line at the market) and enjoyed a decent Aegean burrito. Things are due to pick up at  Cherry Creek in the summertime. The Cheery Creek Farmer’s Market is open Saturdays from 8am until 1pm. Things got started on May 5th and will run until October. The Cherry Creek Market is located across from Whole Foods at East 1st Avenue and University Blvd. Parking is available either behind the Bed, Bath, and Beyond or (as a last resort) in the mall parking garage behind Nordstrom’s. For information on this and other Denver Farmer’s Markets, check out http://www.coloradofreshmarkets.com.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I’d thought I’d give a shout out to my mom and her blog. Because my mom is also a teacher with the summertime off, she’s spent quite a few hours traveling with me over the past year. Because of this Mom has been subject to many blog-related travel delights and woes. I’ve subjected her to delayed hotel check out’s because my pictures were loading to slowly, travel to strange places because no one else has written about them (hello, North Dakota), sudden swings off the road to take pictures, and strange travel desires (“I hope we get towed here! How cool would Modes-tow be for a blog title!?!” I’d exclaimed in the crappy central California town. Luckily for Mom we did not get towed there). She’s happily endured camping in a mosquito-infested sinkhole by the train tracks in Montana, hiking through the Rocky Mountains in the pouring down rain, and eating every fried-on-a-stick-food in Minnesota. Best of all, she usually pays for more than her fair share of the trip! What a deal J

Instead of resenting blogging, Mom has embraced it. A few months ago she started her own. Plate and Planet is her sustainable nutrition/healthy eating blog. She did NOT do a post on Minnesota State Fair food. Check out her blog for gardening tales, advice on how to trick your family into eating healthy, commentary on the sustainability of soy burgers, tips how to cook without a kitchen, and recipe for her rhubarb bars that actually are pretty good.

The fact that I not only read but sometimes even follow the advice of Mom’s blog is actually kind of a miracle. My eating habits have been a constant source of pain and frustration for my poor Mom. Until I reached the embarrassing age of twenty-two I was the pickiest eater in the world, refusing anything except spaghetti, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese and Doritos. Travel solved this problem, as none of this food was available in China. After starving for a couple weeks I finally broke down and expanded my food repertoire. Mom wishes she would have sent me to China at age five.

But my anti-nutritious streak wasn’t over yet. Just as I was getting over my healthy food aversions, I moved to Las Vegas where I started eating several pounds of bacon at buffets each Sunday. Then I married a fast-food aficionado and discovered Taco Bell. Travel again saved the day, as a trip to Colorado a few years ago caused me to fall in love with the healthiest state in the USA. Mom is delighted that I now live surrounded by composting/gardening/Food-Inc loving vegans who gasp in horror when I mention that I kinda like McDonalds. So now I HAVE to read her blog so I have something to talk about with my fellow Denver-ites.

So Mom: Thanks for all the travel memories. I can’t wait to go to Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee this summer. You’re paying for gas right…? J And even though I’ve been a tough convert, thanks for the healthy eating knowledge. I’m going to go make a kidney bean salad RIGHT NOW I swear. Just as soon as I finish this Drive-Thru hamburger (just kidding!) And don’t worry, this post wasn’t your present – the real one is in the mail.

I moved to Denver during the height of the Tim Tebow craze. And although I wasn’t a particular fan of Tebow or the Broncos or even football, I appreciated the blue and orange filled city. I loved the bars packed with enthusiastic fans and I hid smiles when my high school students would strike dramatic Tim-Tebow-on-one-knee poses when asked to do arduous tasks like write complete sentences.

I’ve missed sports. I’ve missed the way a city comes together during a playoff series. I took the Seahawks, Mariners, and SuperSonics for granted when I lived in Seattle. I didn’t even know that I’d found comfort in being part of a sea of blue and green clad people until I moved away.

Gambling being what it is in Vegas, no professional sports teams call the city home. Nevada residents have to cheer on L.A. teams if they have no other allegiances. Now that I’m in a decidedly un-sinful city (as long as you ignore the rampant marijuana use), I can be part of a fan base again. I can smile proudly when my students ask “miss, did you see the game last night?”

Although not a huge basketball fan, I found myself quite enjoying the Denver Nuggets a few months ago at the Pepsi Center. My basketball night involved parking by the capitol to avoid paying, taking the free 16th street mall ride up to the bars at LoDo, doing some drinking, and the finally picking up cheap scalper tickets sometime after the game started. Fun stuff. If you want to see the 2011-2012 Nuggets, you’d better hurry. They are working game-by-game to avoid elimination.

But all winter long, baseball was what I’d been waiting for. I’d been wanting to move to Denver even since watching Carlos Gonzalez hit for the cycle with a walk off home run a couple years ago. That 2010 game I’d seen was dubbed one of the most exiting major league game of the year, so I was afraid that my return to Coors Field would be anti-climatic.

Not so.

I’ve been to two game so far this year, both were great wins for the Colorado Rockies. The April 27th game I witnessed with my mom included an 11 run inning (for the Rockies), a grand slam (for the Rockies), six errors (for the Mets), AND a cycle (for the Mets). Most baseball fans are lucky to see one cycle in their lifetime. I’ve seen TWO in Denver. I think it’s a sign that this city is exactly where I need to be.

Next week my Seattle Mariners will be playing the Rockies in the Mile High City, and although I’ve decided to raise my daughter as a Rockies fan (she doesn’t have a name or a home yet, but I’ve got the important things figured out!), there is no way I can root against my Mariners. I’m excited to wear my blue and teal for the series, but I’ll be glad to bust out my newly acquired purple Dexter Fowler shirt for the rest of the season.

Parking around Coors Field is between $5 and $20. For a great slice of pizza before the game, bead to  the Wazee Supper Club on 15th and Wazee. Cheap seats start at $4, but for a view of the Rockies (the mountains, not the players), sit up high on the 1st base side.

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