The Dead Sea, Jordan – The Kempinski Hotel

Very rarely do I talk about the hotels that I stay in while traveling, but that is mainly because, I do not go traveling for the hotel. My main goal while out in the world is to see and experience many different places. I do not believe that this can happen at a hotel because the real adventure is beyond the borders of these places. Of course, this philosophy has been tested during the Covid years. Places that would be out of my price range lowered their prices by quite a bit, and I had a hard time ignoring their attempts for me to stay with them. This was something that happened all the time during my years in Thailand, and I thought I would have to break myself of this habit when I moved to Jordan. I had built up my resolve and was getting ready to face the return to more modest accommodations when the school I have started working for had a raffle and I was the lucky winner of a night’s stay at the Kampinski Hotel at the Dead Sea. I could have run down for a quick night’s stay, but I decided to wait until my first big break, and add a couple of nights to really enjoy the place and what it had to offer. I do have to say that it was worth the extension, and it was nice to get to stay one more night at a resort before I switched over.

The resort is a sprawling complex located on the edge of the Dead Sea with its own little beach at the edge of the water where you can go down to float. There are six different restaurants, five different pools, a gym, a kid’s center, and a spa. The place, like so many other resorts, is designed to cater to your ever need so you will not want to ever leave.

And I will admit that it was hard to defy them in this attempt. The pools are comfortable and there is enough variety among them that you can find the one that is perfect for you, whether you like to hang at the lazy river designed for family fun, a long lap style pool, an infinity pool supplied with its own DJ and party vibe, or one at the bottom of the resort that gives you the best view of the Dead Sea and the land that stretches out on the other side of it.

The food options are also outstanding, but I will admit that, like most resorts, they were a little overpriced. Still the best one was the Lebanese restaurant, Code, that offered authentic Lebanese food. If you do decide to eat here, I do recommend that you make a reservation because it is impossible to get seated otherwise. If you are looking for something a little more affordable, you can find it at the mall a ten minute drive away where they have an English style pub, and an American style sports bar where the drinks and food are not as expensive.

There are also some nice day trips close by as well. There is Wadi Mujib, a biosphere reserve that offers a nice hike, the salt flats with the intricate salt formations, the panorama that offers outstanding views of the whole area, and the baptism sight for Jesus that can add a historic perspective if that is something you might be interested in. If you do decide to leave the resort to go on one of the adventures, I have found the Kampinski Resort is the perfect place to come back to so you can unwind with friendly staff and comfortable accommodations.

The Dead Sea, Jordan – The Salt Flats

There is a certain kind of beauty in Jordan that I did not expect. Once I finally got out of the city and started to explore what the country had to offer, I was shocked to find this vast expanse of desolate isolation that many would consider stark, but it holds something to it that I don’t think you can find anywhere else on earth. I do believe that this is the reason why so many movies make this the location for their filming because it makes the setting a character all its own, and Jordan’s landscape is definitely a character.

The Dead Sea adds so much to this character, and the more I learn about it, the more interesting it becomes. It has been basically retreating over the last century, and it is not near the same levels that it once was at. Much of this is due to the fact that water is taken out of the Jordan River to cultivate agriculture in both Jordan and Israel, and because of this, there is not as much water left for this huge body of water situated so far below sea level. If you look closely, you can see the scars in the rocks that has been left behind because of this retreat which present a new sense of history that I have never considered before.

But on the shore of this location there is another sight that is even more impressive than the scars in the rocks, the collection of the salt on the shores of the sea. The simplest of spices clings to anything that it can find and creates a bizarre grouping of waves that never will move, even if the water laps up against it.

It will take the forgotten branches of trees and turn them into a piece of art that only nature could create. There is a beach on the Dead Sea that is covered with sights like this one, and it makes for one of the most interesting day trips I have ever taken. It was only a fifteen minute drive from the collection of resorts that most people stay at when they come down here, and just a little south past the entrance to Wadi Mujib.

We went down on a Sunday when everybody was back at work, and there were only a couple of other cars there, and only one other couple that we came across while we were exploring the flats. It is easy to miss too, but it was free to go explore, and I am so glad that we did.

Every turn we made gave s a new view of spectacular natural structures that made we want to spend the whole day exploring the beach. I would recommend going down early in the morning because it can get hot during the day, and it does bring out the flies, but it is still fun to explore in this kind of heat.

It just made me fall even more in love with Jordan, and made me realize that this might be one of those hidden gems that not many people know about. I am glad that I have gotten to explore it, and can’t wait to see what other amazing sights I will come across while I am living out here.

The Dead Sea, Jordan

For my first trip to explore my new home country, Jordan, I decided on a must do, the Dead Sea. It was not high on my list, and I will be honest with you, I was a little scared about getting in the water. There are numerous stories about people who have dunked their heads under the salty water, or have it squirm its way into somebody’s forgotten cut, and then having to deal with that discomfort for the rest of the day. I have had several mosquito bites that have been healing, and I didn’t not want to literally pour salt into that wound.

But the salty shores are one of those things you have to experience while you are out here, and considering I won a free night at one of the hotels by the Dead Sea through a raffle at my new school, I figured this would be the perfect time to go and check it out.

First, it is quite the descent from the high elevation of Amman. The whole trip down was literally down the mountain from 1000 meters all the way to 400 meters below sea level. My ancient Mitsubishi Lancer did a great job going down, but I am worried if the two cylinder car will be able to make it back up that hill when it is time to go back home. It is something that I can’t worry about right now. Instead, I had to make the most of my time at the lowest point of land on the Earth.

The water has a very high buoyancy level. I have heard about how it is impossible to sink in it because of the level of salt that is found in the water, and there is a lot of truth to that claim. All I had to do was raise my feet off of the floor, and they floated to the top of the water on their own, and I was able to relax as if I was on one of those six feet floaties that people put into pools so they can stay dry and still read their books.

The water wasn’t that bad either. It was really warm, and though my cuts did ache a little bit, it wasn’t the excruciating pain that I thought I would have experienced. There is a little bit of a routine that you are supposed to participate in to make the most out of the experience. First, I hopped into the water to become accustomed to it. When I got out, I quickly rinsed off, and then lathered up with mud that they kept in huge stone vessels on the beach. It is supposed to be good for your skin. Some people covered themselves from head to toe, but I went for a more sparse amount, only covering my limbs and my chest. I then sat down to let the mud dry before getting back in the water and feeling the exfoliating experience that comes with the combination. Though the mud was a little slimy to put on, it was worth the experience because it felt really good when I got back into the water.

It made for a fun day that I won’t soon forget. It is not everyday that you can get slathered up in mud and float in an ocean without any assistance, and feel great out afterwards. I can easily see why it is one of the places that people make sure they visit when they come out to Jordan, and it has gotten me more excited about what adventures I am going be able to encounter.

Saying Goodbye

It is hard to believe that a short two months ago, I sat at the Bangkok airport with all of my bags packed, getting ready to head back to the United States for the first time in two years. As for most people around the world, it had been an interesting two years, and I was excited to get back to see the people I loved. It was going to be a little different from other trips back home because the threat of the pandemic loomed large over everything everybody did, and I was also going to go through the process of moving to a new country at the same time.

Despite all of this fear that was plaguing the world, there was still hope. A vaccine had become available and people were starting to take off their masks to get life back to normal. We were a little worried when we first started looking at coming back that we would have a hard time finding a shot, but by the time we landed in Portland, Oregon, there was enough vaccine in the United States to where we could walk into a local Target and get a vaccine without an appointment. We also were able to leave Thailand just in time. The numbers have skyrocketed in that country for the first time ever with the latest numbers showing over 17,000 new cases just the other day, and it does not look like it is going to slow down anytime soon. I feel for all of the people I left behind in that country, and I worry about them as they struggle through another school year. I hope that they can get things under control soon, and find a place where they can start easing up the restrictions that I got to enjoy while I was living out there.

As I went through my stuff in storage, my sights switched over to Jordan to see how they were handling this crisis. The numbers there a lot lower, but there has been a new creep up that I will keep an eye on. I also look at those numbers for overall vaccination, and though Jordan is not in a place where America is at, they still steadily move in the right direction. It gives me hope for the next year that it will be closer to a normal school year as opposed to the last two, and I will also be going on a new adventure in a new country at the same time.

The summer was still a great time to catch up with friends and family, and meet new characters along the way. I always find myself falling into that comfortability that it means being an American in America. The old relationships feel like we pick them up right where we left them off, and the conveniences that we have come to crave while away are once again taken for granted.

But we were able to discover some new ways that America has evolved as well. I remember being excited about the movie, Chef, right before we started our overseas adventures, but thinking that the land of food trucks that it described was a little taken out of context. There might have been a couple of places where these existed, but there seemed to be more of them during our return visit. It almost seemed that this was the preferred way of dining out, but summertime and Covid might have had something to do with it as well.

That didn’t stop me from searching out the more traditional way of eating out. Of course, I hit my fair share of Mexican restaurants while in Colorado because I needed to get as much green chili as I could. This is my favorite of all food groups, and everybody I meet who has ever eaten green chili understands my love for it, yet I am still confused as to why it can still only be found in three of the four states connected with the four corners region. It makes coming home that much better because I get to have this food again. I still do not believe that I got enough on this trip out, but I still enjoyed what I had.

I also love being able to see the beauty of America every time I am home as well. I am really lucky to be associated with what I consider to be two of the more beautiful states, Oregon and Colorado. I love seeing the mountains and forests that both of these places have to offer. Though I have seen some beautiful and amazing sights all over the world, my heart always returns to the mountains and I don’t think of any place better than these two for me to connect back with them. I was able to spend a good amount of time in them in Oregon, and I wish I would have ventured beyond the foothills during my stay in Colorado.

I was still able to make it outside quite a bit and enjoy the majesty that is Colorado. Whether it was taking long walks in many of the green spaces that can be found in many of Colorado’s neighborhood, or going out to Chatfield Reservoir, I was able to spend a lot of time outside. This is not something that is as enjoyable in a more tropical climate, and there are times of the year where Colorado is better spent indoors, but I was out here during the summertime and this is the perfect time to be outside there.

I was even lucky enough to experience some of the wildlife during my trip. During the last couple of years, I had run into what many would consider exotic animals, with Thailand filled with many types of monkeys, tropical birds, and a variety of reptiles, and snakes. But this is only a matter of perspective. From the other side of the world, a herd of deer or elk is just as exotic as a monitor lizard is to the people of America. Being deprived of this view for so long has made it exciting once again, and I enjoyed it every time I came across the usual herds of animals that I grew up with.

Not everything ended up in taking me to the great outdoors. There were a couple of stops that showed me other great things that America had to offer, and they were not always Target stores. The greatest had to be the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs. It was nice to get out to museums once again, and though I had to spend my time in there wearing a mask, I have been doing it so much lately that it no longer bugs me. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon and a great way of celebrating the Olympics this year.

It has been great to get back to America, especially after two years away, but nobody can spend their whole life in rest and relaxation. Like an international school teacher under normal circumstances, I have to get back to the country where my work is, and I am complicating the process by changing schools and countries to Amman, Jordan. So I have packed up my bags, eaten those last meals, and given those last hugs to family and friends, and I have headed off the airport. I am confident that the world is moving in the right direction, and I will not be forced to stay away for as long this time around. So as I head off to a brand new adventure, I say goodbye to America, and guarantee I will be back soon.

The Eternal Guest

I slept in Sakari’s room.

Sakari is a big Alaskan malamute who owns my brother and sister-in-law. She is an easy going dog that likes nothing more than to be petted, long walks, and frozen green beans in her morning and nightly kibble. She usually sleeps in the room that my sister-in-law uses as an office because it is cool at night and nobody else is using it at the time. When guests are in town and are staying with them, they pull out the hideaway from the couch and it takes up the whole room. This means that Sakari needs to find a new place to sleep.

I was unaware of all of this as I got ready for bed. After reading a little bit to get myself sleepy, I decided to go to the bathroom one last time before I slept. This is when I found the place that Sakari had found to sleep for the night. If I was going to take over her room, she would take a different important place in the house, the spot right in front of the toilet, and she wasn’t going to move for any reason.

I get it. Try to explain houseguests to a dog, and they will look at you sideways and wonder who will be taking them on their next walk. They will not understand the delicate balance that takes place as soon as a stranger walks into the house and takes over a little corner of it. They don’t know how long they will be there for, or even why they are there in the first place.

As hard as it is for the dog, it is also difficult for me as the houseguest. I want to make myself at home, but as long as I am there, I know that it will never be my home. I am always stumbling on the routines, and trying to find my place in it, knowing that I will only be there for a short time and will never have a chance of figuring it out. I know that I will never be able to feel completely at home while I am a visitor. There is only one place where you feel completely at home, and that is at home.

I know that as I write this, members of my family will read this, and they will think that I am saying that I am not comfortable in their presence. And this is not what I am saying. I love the summertime as an international teacher because it gives me the opportunity to go home and see my family and spend time with them. I would even say that I have gotten to know them better by moving half way around the world because when I do see them, I get to witness those intimate routines that they have in life, and I get to be a part of them. When I lived in Colorado and got to see them on a regular basis, it was only for celebrations and family gatherings, and there is a small facade that you have to work through because we are always trying to put on the best that are homes have to offer at that time. When you become a houseguest, that facade gets broken down quicker because we can’t and don’t always want to break from the routines that we have created to make us feel comfortable in our own homes.

This makes things a little difficult when you are a houseguest. I feel a little off when I am staying at other people’s places. I want to be polite and respect their routines, but I also can’t just give up mine. It is always a tightrope wire act trying to balance spending time with the people that you are there to see, but not get in their way when they need that downtime that everybody needs to recharge themselves. It feels like everybody is on all the time when there is a houseguest.

Being an international teacher builds on this feeling as well. One of the perks of taking one of these jobs is that the school will purchase a round trip airline ticket for you once a year, so you can go back and visit family. Most people take advantage of this during the summer because they will have lots of time to catch up with family and friends. This means that you will be a houseguest for a long time. This summer is a great example of this. I got two months off to go visit friends and family, and I love to have this opportunity. We get to spend a lot of quality time together and catch up with what has happened over the last year. This time was even more exciting because it had been two years since we had seen each other, and there was a lot of catching up to do. But staying at somebody’s place is a lot different than staying at a hotel room. Even though you are given space in both places, it is never completely your space when you are a houseguest.

This is okay when it only last for a couple of days to a week, but once it starts to extend into time beyond this then things start to become a little bit of an imposition for those whose house you are staying at, and it starts to become a chore living out of a suitcase for that long.

I have loved seeing my family again, and being able to spend time with them, and I know that as soon as I leave, it will only be a short time before I miss them again. But it has come to that time that I need to move on, and get back to my own life. I am pretty sure that the people whose houses I have stayed at are looking forward to getting their space back as well. I know that Sakari was happy to have her room back.

It will be a bittersweet moment when I have to leave in a couple of days, but at the same time it will make it that much better when I get to see everybody again. I will be that guest again, and I look forward to that time, but I also need my own space again as well.

Olympic City – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs is Colorado’s second biggest city, and I have come down here from time to time during all my years in Colorado, but most of the time it was for a quick visit, or to pass on through as I went to other locations in Colorado. Very rarely have I spent a whole day in this city even though I knew that there is a lot to do down here that should have attracted my attention. But what better place to go to on the start of the Olympics than the city that houses the United State’s Olympic organization than Colorado Springs.

I did go to a couple places down here, but the biggest was the new Olympic Museum that I was surprised was not busier when I went there. A lot of this might have been about the newness of the building, but also the fact that the Olympics were on TV at that same moment, so why would you want to go to a place that talked about them when you could sit down and watch them instead. It actually might have been a blessing in disguise because it made for a great day to walk through this museum without all of the crowds.

The museum was really interesting and it held a lot of rare items in its exhibits. There was a collection of Olympic torches from over the years, outfits and equipment that were used by some of the most famous of American Olympic athletes, a complete collection of all of the medals that have ever been given out, and even the medals that they one time stripped from Jim Thorpe. It is this kind of stuff that made the museum exciting for adults, but they had a lot of stuff there for younger people as well. There were many interactive places where you could see what it was like to race on skeleton, or be the coach of the Para-Olympic hockey team, or act as a goaltender in the Para-Olympic handball court, or see what it was like to shoot an arrow using an Olympic bow from regulated distance. All of the information from each spot you stopped at was collected on a card that you could access later to see what you learned and how well you did.

Going to the museum made me rethink what Colorado Springs had to offer. Driving around it made it clear that the place really played up the Olympic city image, but it has more depth to it than that. The downtown area has a lot of character not only with its architecture, but also the art painted on the sides of many of them. My favorite one was a painting from an indigenous painter from Colorado Springs that highlighted the red handprint that has come to represent violence that affects indigenous people from Canada, and the United States. I had never heard about this movement until I had come across this mural, and it made me feel inspired by a place that I used to think was so set in their ways would be so willing to display and highlight this important issue in such a prominent part of the city. It made me think that I had prejudged the people of Colorado Springs, and I needed to learn how to be more open-minded in the future so as not to misjudge them. Maybe if more people took the time to do that then we wouldn’t be living in the mess we are right now, and the only way that I can make that happen is if I start doing it myself instead of preaching to other people that they need to see things my way.

No visit would be complete without a nice meal out as well. This came from the Crystal Park Cantina located just outside of town on the way up to the mountains. It was nice to find a place with southwestern version of Mexican food that I crave all of the time that I am away. The food was not the only thing that I enjoyed about the place. It was the perfect place that sat on the hills and made it feel like we were in a small little town instead of the second largest city in the state of Colorado. It was the perfect place to unwind after a long day and talk with my friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. It allowed me to see why Colorado Springs considers itself the Olympic city. It is not only about the big world wide sporting event that takes place every other year, but it is also about the Olympic feeling you get when you go down there. It is a place I have ignored for way too long, and one I will easily consider going back to soon.

A Small Business Story

Covid was hard for the little man. They did not have the resources or the established name to make it through this difficult time. It was even harder for those small restaurants and microbreweries that could not compete with the ones that have a corporate office and can continue to pump money into an establishment in order to keep it alive during this period when hanging out at a place like this is not safe and cannot happen. There are many empty buildings that highlight all of the businesses that did not make it through this period, but it is nice to see the smaller businesses that did make it through. These were the places that were meant to be because they had a product that could withstand the tribulations of this trial. One of these places hangs out on the corner of Prince and Littleton is downtown Littleton called Jackass Hill Brewery.

Now before I tell this story, I do think that it is important for me to explain that part of the reason I have come to this place is because my father’s cousin (which I think makes him my first cousin one time removed, but this is where things get confusing so do not hold me to that definition) is part owner of this establishment. I know that makes it sound like I have a say in trying to help him make it successful and I have written about this microbrewery before, but in full disclosure, I have not been able to come back for two years because I have been living abroad. I did not write about it during the time when it needed it most and it could have helped them make it through the pandemic. This is a story about how they survived the pandemic, and why they are still where they are today.

The last time I visited Jackass Hill Brewery was right before I left for Thailand, and they had been open for only a couple of weeks. They already had an established name from the brewer selling his beer out of his house on top of Jackass Hill, a famous stretch of road that connects Prince Street to Mineral Avenue in Littleton, but this was more of a public announcement of the great beer he was making. It isn’t that big of a place, as it has a bar inside with a couple of tables, and it spills out into the parking lot outside where they have a bunch of picnic tables. They don’t bottle their beer, but you can come out and get a growler filled. They also don’t have a real kitchen. When I went there first, they rented out another part of the parking lot to food trucks, but have since bought their own food truck where you can buy ten different items on a very select menu. The focus of the place is and always will be the beer, which, by the way, from the perspective of a long time beer snob is very good. They have a great Last Man Standing IPA, and fulfilling espresso porter.

It was a great model for a business as long as people kept walking through the door. It took a little bit of time for them to create a name for themselves, but they were able to do it in the first six months and were getting ready to become a steady presence in downtown Littleton.

And then Covid hit.

Businesses had to close down to keep people safe. Restaurants were allowed to sell food to go, and for a brief hour early into the pandemic, people made a mad rush to their liquor stores to buy a supply of drinks when the governor declared that liquor was not an essential services. Luckily that did not last long. It might have had something to do with the panic the announcement caused.

This allowed Jackass Hill Brewery to survive. People could run in and get a growler or two of beer. I don’t think they were able to sell the food, and to get by on only beer made things difficult, but they were able to sell enough of it to say that they had survived the pandemic and they are still around today. But it really came down to the customers that kept them around. They made the effort to make sure that the company survived. They could have gone to their local liquor store to buy their beer. There is not shortage of craft beer at the liquor and grocery stores in Colorado, so it meant something more that these people would continue to come to Jackass Hill Brewery to keep that around. It wasn’t just the beer that they loved. It was the atmosphere of the establishment that they wanted to see at the other side of this dark tunnel we have all traveled through. They wanted this small business to survive, and they are the ones that kept it open.

These are the kinds of stories I have been enjoying during my stay in the United States. It is nice to know that the quality small companies out there had a strong enough product that they were able to have those loyal customers come back to keep them around. I am glad that Americans decided to spend their money here instead of the big corporations that would survive no matter what happened. There is a passion in those small business’s product that you will not find in those bigger organizations, and this is what America needs right now, that passion.

You might not live close to Jackass Hill Brewery, but you know organizations like it. So go out and find your Jackass Hill Brewery and give them the business that they need so we can continue to let the heart and soul of America surivive.

Breckenridge Brewery – Littleton, CO

Colorado is the land of breweries. It competes with other states, most notably Oregon. Luckily for my tastebuds, I have spent a lot of time in both of these states as I get to sample a variety of great beers. Unfortunately for my waist line, if I spend too much time in these states, I will continue to sample these beers and will have to work off all of the calories I gathered during my time sipping. It is still one of the bigger attractions of both states, and it is part of the draw of the tourists who visit. Some of the breweries do better than others. They have made a name for themselves beyond the borders of the state, and some of them are even starting to make an impact on the international scene. One of the bigger ones to emerge from Colorado is the Breckenridge Brewery.

This iconic brewery started off as a tiny brewpub in the ski town of Breckenridge. You can still go visit the town and find the brewpub on the main street close to where the slopes end and the evening entertainment begins. But this small brewpub exploded on the scene in Colorado when the state of Colorado decided to bring in a professional hockey team and name it the Avalanche. Breckenridge has a beer with the same name, and it became the beer of choice as we watched the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup during their first year in the state. It helped Breckenridge expand from a small local brewpub into something bigger. They needed to lease a bigger building in lower downtown Denver so they could keep up with the demand for their beer. This led to them eventually selling out to Anheuser-Busch and them taking advantage of a big plot of land on the southern edge of the Platte River for them to build a new home for their brewery called the Farmhouse. It is located on the southern end of Santa Fe Avenue, and ever since it has been built, it has attracted many people from all around to enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and most importantly, the beer.

I have been a few times to this place and most of the time I get a place inside of the restaurant area. They have a beautiful building with a central bar being the main feature of the room. It has a huge vaulted ceiling and many places to sit in a room that feels more like Herot Hall from Beowulf rather than the name farmhouse implies. It is very comfortable in their but the acoustics can sometimes make it rather noisy. Despite this, the staff is always friendly and they have a wonderful selection of beers that you can choose from.

But because of Covid, and the fact I need to have negative test to make the move to Jordan in a couple of weeks, I have been looking for places with an outdoor atmosphere more than an indoor restaurant, and this is where the Breckenridge Farmhouse really shines. The yard extends beyond the parking lot to include a beer garden surrounded by small stalls where local people can come to sell their wares. All the food comes prepared from a food truck, and though they hold back on the spiciness to appeal to a larger crowd, the food is still pretty good. There is a stage where bands filter in and out on the weekends and will play a variety of music with occasionally a bigger Colorado name popping up. I have heard that Big Head Todd and the Monsters has graced the stage. They also have a variety of outdoor games that you can play with cornhole being the most popular.

But let’s not forget about why we come here in the first place, the beer. Breckenridge is one of those breweries that has outlived the years not because it was one of the first to be in Colorado, but because it has always been one of the best. They have a variety of beers from fruity wheats, IPAs and pale ales, lagers, and let’s not forget the one that started it all off, Avalanche amber ale. Combine some of your best friends with an American style of beer garden, you have the recipe for a great afternoon, hanging out, laughing, listening to music, and enjoying the perfect Colorado weather. It is a must tourist attraction for those who make their way down to the Littleton area of Denver, and is worth the trip every time I have been there.

Grant’s Ranch – A Walker’s Paradise

I have been spending a lot of time over at my parents, and one of the things I have been enjoying every morning before the Colorado sun gets too hot and makes the outside unbearable is a walk around the neighborhood with my dad. They moved a while back, so it is not the same neighborhood that I grew up in, and it was when I was old enough to have moved out of the house, so I did not really have much of an opportunity to explore the neighborhood that they moved into. I thought of it as just a place with a bunch of big house with small yards to keep maintenance to a minimum, and a couple of parks for people to walk through or play at if they wanted to wear out the kids. I was unaware of all of the space that was designated to keep the area beautiful while highlighting the beauty of Colorado at the same time.

A lot of this open space is maintained by the good people at the Colorado lottery and I am happy that there are places like this out and it is a benefit of having an organization dedicated to collecting money and reserving places in Colorado to keep natural so the whole Front Range will not be overcome by human sprawl. But I do have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the organization. Though I love the fact that they are dedicated to keeping Colorado beautiful, they do collect a lot of money that could also be used for other purposes that need attention in the state of Colorado. In the year of 2020, the Colorado Lottery collected $658.8 million dollars, making it the second biggest year for this organization that has been around since 1983. I love the way that they make sure that a little part of Colorado stays Colorado, and when I find these hidden little corners that they protect, I am happy that they are there.

But I am also an educator, and spent a lot of my first few years working in one of the smaller districts in the state. The building I used to work in housed a small alternative high school that kept students in school who wanted to drop out for various reasons. It was not a priority of the district, but I like to think that we did a lot of good there with very little money. Parts of the building were falling apart and we did not always have the equipment we needed in order to give the students the education that they needed. I was not paid well, nor were any of the other teachers that worked in this district. A little bit from the state could have helped out a lot to make this struggling district a great place, but one of the biggest contributors to the coffers of the state went to protecting the landscape of Colorado. If they could have allocated some of that money to education, it could have transformed this field into something really great.

And that is where the love/hate relationship with this law comes into effect. I love Colorado for its beauty and I know that with the amount of people moving here, the need to protect this land becomes greater with each passing year, but I also believe in education and the system has been broken in Colorado for a long time without any sign of anybody willing to come along to fix it. There are ways to do allow both things to exist, but it would take some strong leadership to bring it about. The priorities of the state do not seem to align with my thinking either, so I will just have to keep on letting my voice get heard with my votes, and maybe some day the change will happen.

Until then, I will continue to enjoy what Colorado has to offer by enjoying my walks, and finding those little treasures that can only be found in this state. I hope it continues to be that way and the new influx of people into the state will not change the beauty of the Front Range and that my parents will always have the wonderful neighborhood that they can always enjoy due in large part from the funds generated by the Colorado State Lottery.

A Change for Downtown Littleton

The sunset from the View House in downtown Littleton.

Last night, I got to travel to my old stomping grounds of Downtown Littleton. It is the place I used to work as a bartender, and the building which housed the brewery still stands though the brewpub is no longer in operation. It is not the only changes that have come from this quaint section of metropolitan Denver. A street that was filled with barber shops and dive bars has turned into a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings and high-end restaurants. The only thing that is holding this place back is the main streets that have cars traveling through to get to busier parts of the city. I was told that during the pandemic that they closed off the streets and allowed these restaurants to spill their tables out into the roads so they could stay in operation. It created something that could be found in Europe with the walking streets, giving it a feel of something more out of the 18th century rather than modern times. If they would just add cobblestones over the pavement, they would have something spectacular. People would take the light rail from Denver to this exciting location, and certain buildings that have remained empty might actually get filled up again, adding more to the atmosphere.

There are other places that I know of that would benefit from this kind of arrangement, downtown Castle Rock in Colorado, and downtown West Linn in Oregon, but I also know the biggest argument against them as well. The roads that would be closed happen to be main thoroughfares that would have many motorists mad if they were changed into a place where only walking people could go. These places already have sidewalks, and people can wait for the lights to change before they walk across the street.

I do understand their points, but at the same time, the pedestrian outdoor areas are the busiest places in Europe. They are always filled with tourists looking for ways to spend their money. They also add a certain amount of charm to the cities they reside in, making people want to visit more. There are a couple of these locations in Colorado that I know of: Pearl Street in Boulder, Old Town in Fort Collins, and 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, and they are always busy. As some of the older parts of smaller towns are looking to revive their older parts of town, I can see them eventually make this slight change to bring back the business they lost, and this is the best time to do it. Many of these proposed locations did the same thing that downtown Littleton did during Covid, and they can see how the conversion can transform their part of town.

Bend is proposing to do this right now with Minnesota Avenue. Some of the trendier restaurants in Bend are on this street, and they want it to stay the pedestrian mall that they had during the Covid crisis. The town is currently considering this, but it is meeting with the same resistance that other places will meet, traffic, and why should people put up with this for something that will only be in use for at most six months out of the year.

It is just a trend that I noticed last night as I visited the place where I used to work, and I wonder if it will take hold or not. I am pretty sure that if it does, it will take a couple more decades before it is considered because the American society is not ready to go there yet, but I am sure there will be a couple more of them popping up from time to time as towns start to see the benefit to them.