What I Will Miss from America, the Beer – The Move Day 26

The new Jackass Hill Brewery in downtown Littleton, Colorado

One of the things I love about coming back to the States is the fact that every where I look there is another microbrewery, or place that serves craft beer. The selection is so great especially in states such as Colorado and Oregon where the craft beer revolution started, that sometimes I have a hard time deciding on which one I will pick to enjoy. Most of the time I just pick the most bitter IPA because that is usually my favorite, but lately I have enjoyed a few porters because I have had a hard time finding them lately, and every once in a while when a brewery get ambitious and make a triple, I jump on that opportunity. The craft beer revolution has sunk its claws into the fabric of the American culture and it will not be going away any time soon. The bigger domestic breweries are even feeling the sting of this shift in American tastes that they are not making the profits that they once did, and I am under the mindset that I would rather spend five dollars a beer on a couple of these craft beauties than spend it on three of the flavorless mass-produced lagers that give money to a large corporation that does not care about its craft.

This flavor explosion can also be found in many cities in Europe, especially further north, but the rest of the world has not yet caught up yet. Korea was getting better every year that I was out there to the point where I was able to find good beer even in the neighborhood that I lived, and the convenience store across the street even started to stock IPAs on the week that I left. They still had a way to go to reach the same level of even the states in America just starting to understand this revolution, but I could see that it was on its way. Japan had also had a few places that was making its own beer, and I have really enjoyed those small little brew-pubs that I have found out there, but I do not know if it has gotten to the point of have beer festivals, and having certain beers on tap no matter where you go. But they also have a couple of other drinks out there that compete with the typical beer, and it might make it a little harder for the craft beer revolution to make stronger in-roads there.

I am a little worried about Thailand though. The domestic beers are huge out there, and they are so cheap that people just consume them at a regular pace without ever worrying about finding something that might have a little more taste. I have been told that there are a couple of places that produce their own beer, but they are further downtown, and will require a bigger effort to make it there if I want a good beer. I have seen them for sale at the grocery store, but the selection is still relatively small. The revolution is still trying to find a foothold in this part of the world, but it is at the same place that Korea was at four years ago. I will just have to be patient, and eventually I will see more and more options made available, but it won’t be at the same level that I see in my home state or in Oregon where breweries are basically across the street from each other and trying to compete for your business.

It is the small adjustments that I will have to make as I make the move, but it is only a small concession. The bonuses will far outweigh this small disadvantage, and I am sure that I will still love all of the other things that I find out in Thailand.

A Hidden Gem – The Move Day 18

One of the things I have been doing a lot of while staying out in Colorado is taking walks with my dad. He had a hip replaced last December, and he is already recovered enough to be able to go on two or three miles hikes everyday. Usually we stick with the same roads that he knows in case there is a problem we can call somebody to come pick us up. But considering that I was with him, we started to get a little more adventurous by going down streets that he had never explored before and find new places in his neighborhood. On my last day, this sense of adventure took us down a dirt path that looked as if nobody ever went to down, and it was one of the nicer spots in his neighborhood.

The path took us to a hidden green space that bordered a protected body of water. The reservoir was probably used by the city of Denver for their drinking water, but considering that there was this huge body of water in the middle of suburb that nobody seemed to know about, it made it look even more pristine. The only other animal in the area were a couple of birds that enjoyed the quiet solitude by bobbing up and down on the middle of this lake.

Towards the end of this walk was a gazebo with a couple of benches that allowed for an even better view of this lake. It seemed untouched by anybody except for one empty bottle of Corona. So the theory goes that some people know about this place and come out there to view the sunset even though it would not dip below the horizon of the lake because if faced to the east. It would still be a nice place to enjoy the cooling of the evening and have a couple of beers. It would also have been one of my favorite places as a teenager because it would be out of the prying eyes of the police, and I could be a little loud with my friends without disturbing any of the neighbors.  So this might have been where the stray beer bottle came from as well. Either way, it looked like some other people had the same idea that we did about this place that it was the perfect hidden gem in this neighborhood that allowed for a small retreat from the pressures of suburban living.

I was thinking that the path would wind its way all around the lake, but about 100 meters in, it stopped at a fence with a No Trespassing sign on it. I guess the city of Denver didn’t want anybody to disturb the water, but by looking over the fence I was able to see another pond that was used more often by the neighborhood. This was the one that was connected to the neighborhood’s club house, and it offered such water sports as kayaking and paddle boarding. It is still a fun place to hang out on a hot summer day, but it still did not compare with the other little place that we found. I know that others know about its presence, but for that day, I like to think that this little gazebo out in the green space of the neighborhood was only known by my dad and me. It made the place seem a little more special as if we had discovered something that nobody else knew about.

It is these little things that are out there that make it worth the trip to veer off the normal path and explore what other little areas your neighborhood has to offer. I am glad that I got to go on this exploration with my dad on the last day that I was out in Colorado. It made the experience even more memorable.

Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Well, it has come and gone, the day where Americans get together to blow things up.

Happy Independence Day, the 4th of July.

Many countries celebrate their own Independence Days, but only in America is there the noise and light show that comes along with it. And being a world traveler, being outside the United States on this date does not mean as much as it does to be here. It is that fireworks display that makes this holiday so much fun.

Growing up in Colorado, the fireworks display was never guaranteed. There were many years where it was just too dry and any fire might cause a disaster that would burn whole neighborhoods to the ground. So when the year was wet enough to allow for a fireworks, we had a tendency to go a little overboard with it, and this year was no exception. Colorado has experienced an exceptional amount of snow this winter which had rolled right into the summer as the rains continue to pound the Front Range. In fact, yesterday, there were many times that we had to run inside to avoid getting wet because there was a series of storms that continued to roll through. It made for some spectacular light displays from nature, but extended the time we were shooting off fireworks.

Fireworks have also gotten a little ruder. Before they had names like Lotus Flower, or Emerald Dragon, but this year we were able to experience the Big Balls, and the Pooping Puppy. The ones that we got to watch during the day were pretty explicit with the Pooping Puppy being my favorite. It basically combined the snake fireworks that quickly bored us as children with a quick spurt of flame that gave the explosive effects of dog wolfing down a spicy burrito the day before.

The Big Balls were also a big favorite, but were seriously dangerous. Basically after a short fuse, they would explode in a huge display of bright sparkles that covered the whole road. Anybody that found themselves in the explosion would have sustained some type of injury that would have required a quick emergency room visit. I tried to take a picture of the explosion, but it happened too quickly and looked nothing more than a bright sun when the exposure finally happened, so it was one of those fireworks that had to be written down in memory, and you would just have to wait until next year if you wanted to see the explosion again.

That is if they are legal next year. I could see a bunch of people coming into hospitals this year with lost hands and feet that may make lawmakers reconsider whether this is the type of firework that they want to keep around.

But that is part of the fun of fireworks. There is a little bit of risks that make them more exciting than just the explosion that comes at the end of the fuse. It creates excitement every year for when that sun goes down that everybody can go out a celebrate the day that we as American declared out independence. It is those explosions that make the holiday and memorable moment every year, and I am glad that the rain held off long enough this year so I could enjoy it in this own special way.

Camping – The Move Day 10 – 12

There are many pass-times that the state of Colorado has to offer from seeing concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater, to catching a game at one of the many sporting events, from skiing at one of the world renowned resorts, to hiking up one of the over fifty 14ers, but the one that I think symbolizes the fun that can be had in the state the most is camping. It is when I hang out in the mountains with my favorite friends and family that supplies me with the greatest memories of this part of the United States. There are so many great locations that it is hard to just pick one that embodies what it means to go camping. You can go to some of the national parks, such as Rocky Mountain or the Great Sand Dunes; you can find spots within the miles of national forrest, such as the Poudre River or Eleven Mile Canyon; or you can head to one of the many state parks, such as Golden Gate Park, or Mueller State Park.

I have camped in many different locations during my years living in Colorado, and each one of them has their own special charm, but one of the places I enjoy camping at is Mueller State Park outside of Divide, Colorado. It is easy to find. You just take Highway 24 out of Colorado Springs until you reach Divide and then you take a left on Highway 67 for six miles and it will be on your right hand side. I do recommend looking ahead and reserving a campsite before you go especially during the summer. I would recommend doing this with any place you camp at during the summer. We had made reservations way back in February, and they were already filling up at that time.

The campsites are very comfortable there and far enough away from other campsite so it does not feel like you are camping on to of another person. There are plenty of site that accommodate campers, but most of the people that we saw there were just tenting it. The weather was perfect for this as well. Mueller State Park sits over 9,000 feet above sea level so it will always be a little cooler there than Colorado Springs or Denver. It is the perfect way to escape the heat of the summer. Each site comes with a table, and a grill over a fire pit, and there is a bathroom facility that is central to the campgrounds that offers laundry options, and showers. Even though you find yourself camping, the comforts of home are within walking distance, and you will never feel like you are really roughing it.

The nicest thing about camping here is that you are close to many fun things to do. There is a wolf sanctuary close by, as well as a mine that you can explore. There are many places where you can go fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding and of course, hiking.

There are many trails around the park that offer spectacular views, but you do not even need to leave the park to find a place where you can enjoy a nice hike. As soon as you enter the park, the ranger will give you a map to all of the trails that the park has to offer. Some are easier than others, but all of them will take you to an exciting place in the park.

The one that I took while I was out there led me to Cheesman Ranch, an old settlement on the valley floor of this part of Colorado. There were a series of ranch style homes that were left behind when the first people from the east came out to this part of Colorado and decided that they would try their hand at ranching, and the state has done a great job of maintaining the outside of these buildings. The preservation of history makes it feel as if you were a part of this household when you make it to this part of the trail. It is the small things that you notice such as the metal siding used as the roof and the new paint job that makes you know that somebody cares about making sure that this is here for anybody that decides to take this hike.

The insides of the building were a little different, but it is one small step at a time, and it is the small ranch house on the plain surrounded by mountains that make this hike worth it, but that can be said for any hike that is taken in Colorado. There is always some reward at the end of the hike such as a water fall or the beautiful view of the mountains. There are also little treasures along the way as well, whether that is people you meet along the way or being able to see the wildlife, a hike in the mountains is always an adventure.

I have camped all of the world, but there is something about being able to do it in Colorado, and I am glad that I got to experience it while I was out here this summer.

It’s a Colorado Thing – The Move Day 9

Some people will see this picture and instantly know what I am going to talk about; whereas, others will look at it as some kind of Mexican food that they are not yet familiar with. Of those people who recognize this dish, not all are from Colorado, and it is true that this type of burrito is not only in Colorado and can be found everywhere in the Southwest. It is also a very popular dish in New Mexico, and Arizona, and has even found its way into some of the western parts of Texas. But this particular burrito comes from a great Colorado chain, Santiagos. So for today, I am going to claim that it is a Colorado thing.

What makes this burrito different from other burritos that you can find is that it is smothered in green chili. Now many people will automatically think of the can of Hatch green chilis that you can find in your local supermarket, and yes this is used to make green chili, it is not the same thing. It is really hard to describe what green chili is to somebody who has never has it. The best way I have found to do it is to describe it like a red chili you would normally associate with a chili cook off, except it is made with pork, spicy peppers including green chilis, and does not have any beans in it. Some call it a stew; others call it a soup; and still others call it a condiment. None are exactly right, and yet in some way, they all are correct. Either way, when ever you get an opportunity to put it in a bowl, on a burrito, on a plate of french fries, or a piece of fry bread, you do it because what you will get is one of the best meals you have ever had in your life.

Now many places in the Southwest make their own version of this delicacy, but I find the one at Santiagos to be the best. I am sure I am going to have a list of other places that make a better green chili in the comment section below, but I still find this one hard to beat. It goes great with the breakfast burrito that they serve there, but if you put it on any of their items, you won’t be disappointed. You can even get big bowls of it to take home which is just as good as eating it at any of its many establishments throughout Denver.

Green chili is one of the things that I look forward to every time I am back at home, and I am confused a little bit by the way it has never moved beyond the borders of this part of the world. I don’t understand why something so delicious can only be found in this part of the world. I plan to bring it to Thailand when I go out there. I am even plan on growing green chilis so I can have this dish any time I want and share it with my new friends out there. But the next time you find yourself in the Southwest, seek out this dish. You will understand what I mean after you have tried it once. It will become one of your favorite dishes too.

 

Red Rocks – The Move Days 7 – 8

In between sets at Red Rocks

I know I am going to cause a little bit of controversy, and it might be because of the fact that I grew up in Colorado and I am a little biased, but I do not care. I will say it, and you might disagree and want to try to convince me otherwise, but it will take a lot of convincing to get me to change my mind.

Red Rocks is the best amphitheater in the world!

You cannot find a better place to go see a concert with you and 9,000 of your closest friends. It is always an amazing experience from the views to the perfect sound. It is a place of my youth, as I eagerly waited for the March newspaper insert that told me which bands would be coming here over the summer. My friends and I would try to plan out which ones we would see and how we would get tickets for each of the shows before they sold out. I remember sitting in lines early in the morning to beat out the scalpers as I vied for those seats that everyone coveted. I even went up during the middle of winter to take pictures of the huge rocks blanketed in snow that I could do a report on this iconic structure for a social studies project. I have seen some amazing acts at this location including: the Black Keys, Radiohead, Live, P.J. Harvey, Rage against the Machine, Beck, the Grateful Dead, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Indigo Girls, Steve Miller Band, Tom Petty, the Black Crowes, Ben Harper, and Jack Johnson. Summer wasn’t complete until I made it to a concert at Red Rocks.

 

Death Cab for Cutie

Some people might argue that other locations are better to see a band at, and I would disagree with them. Red Rocks is the mecca for every musician. They know they have made it when they get to perform on this stage, and they will make the most of the opportunity. If you are having a hard time believing this, all you have to do is look at the bands who have either recorder a live CD at this location, or have filmed a music video here and you will know that it holds a special place in all of their hearts. The list is extensive with names like: Moody Blues, O.A.R., Dave Matthews Band, Mumford and Sons, John Denver, and of course U2 with their concert album that turned them into a top tiered band, Under a Blood Red Sky. I do not think that there is any other place on the planet that can boast that kind of pedigree, and artists will continue to record here.

The view of the seats from down below

The place has to be just as great for them as it is for the people that come and see them. The stage sits at the bottom of the seats which are hugged by two huge stones protruding from the earth. I went to go see Death Cab for Cutie and Benjamin Gibbard, the lead singer, put it best when he said, “It looks like an invading horde, except a lot nicer.” Even though this is not one of the biggest venues in the world, it still has to be powerful to see that many people staring down at you, shouting and dancing to the music that you are playing.

The seats available on the side of the amphitheater

The best part is that the bottom rows are general admissions, and as long as you are one of the first people into the amphitheater then you will get an amazing seat for the show. Even if you are not there early and have to sit in the back, you still will have a great seat. You might not be able to see as well, but the two rocks create the perfect acoustics for any band playing, so the music sounds amazing no matter where you sit. But it you don’t mind a side view, each side has these little ledges that you can sit on underneath the pine trees that they planted to give the place more of a feeling like you are in the mountains to see a concert.

Mitski’s performance

Also, if you get there early enough, you get to catch the opening act. Sometimes it is somebody that you know and you are excited about them getting their big break, but also it sometimes it is somebody that you only have a passing knowledge of. These bands sometimes are the biggest surprise. I got to see Rolling Stone‘s latest up and coming darling, Mitski. I did a little research about her before I saw her on YouTube, and I wasn’t quite sure if it was something that I was going to enjoy. But watching her live, the understanding of what she was about came to life. It was a little bizarre as she did a ballet dance with a kitchen table and chair, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the performance, and I could see how she will one day become a name that more people talk about.

The lights on Red Rocks at night

It was a great experience to finally make it out for a show this summer. I always try to catch one every summer, but the bands that are playing while I am out in Colorado are rarely something I want to see. This is why I was glad that this lineup was there this year. As the night progressed and the lights highlighted the rocks I have grown to love, I was happy to once again be back at the greatest concert venue of all time.

A Puzzling Problem – The Move Day 5

Even though one of the main reasons that we came back to the United States this time around is because we are homeless, and this is a great place to be while we wait to move into our new place. Though that may be one of the reasons that we are back, the real reason is to visit family and friends, and the summertime is the best time to do that. We had just landed in Denver, and were ready to spend time with my side of the family for a couple of weeks. The first stop here was at my sister’s place and she had invited my parents over for a bar-b-q and we sat in the back yard on a cold Colorado summer night to catch up. It was fun, but the night that really brought everybody together was when we walked by a recent puzzle that was laid out to be put together.

It started off simple with none of the pieces put together yet, but the edges had already been separated from the rest of the puzzle. I made a little joke that it wasn’t too difficult and I would be the first one to put two of the pieces together. I quickly found two of the obvious ones and connected them. Christine dismissed that as being too easy and that the real challenge was getting the pieces that looked similar together. Of course, I couldn’t let that challenge be dismissed without finding another piece to put in the puzzle, and quickly found another one. This is when my sister showed up to see what we were doing. It was only a matter of a short time before other members of the family came over. Like some modern version of a Norman Rockwell painting, we had all gathered around the table, and the puzzle started to pull itself together into the image that we saw on the box.

This simple pass time had this incredible power of bringing everybody together. Before I started to put together two pieces, family members were all over the place, inside and outside of the house. Some were watching videos on their tablets; others were looking at problems that were happening with this outdoor fire pit; while others were cleaning up the meal that we had just enjoyed. There was unity among the various pieces of the family, but the bigger picture wasn’t together yet. It wasn’t until two of the family members started to gather around the borders of the puzzle that others started to gather there as well. It was a slow process. Some connected with the building of the puzzle quickly while some of the others stood on the periphery, not willing to make the commitment yet. But as the puzzle drew one or more into putting it together, the final holdouts finally gave up denying the temptation and came into play with the rest of the family. Before I knew it, the picture was complete. Everybody had gathered around as one family unit.

As families grow older, the tendency to spread apart becomes more pronounced. Members find their own passions, and move to other corners of the globe. Even though they may not be present, they are a part of the bigger picture. It takes some kind of event to bring them back together in-between the borders of the family. Sometimes, it is something simple like a jigsaw puzzle on a cool summer evening. Other times, it is bigger events like holidays or celebrations. But when all of the pieces finally come together and the picture becomes some that everybody can recognize, family.