Where's My Canned Oxygen?

I’ve been really off my game lately. Even before my dad came to visit me, I was feeling sort of out of it. I think some of it is exhaustion. It’s weird a little tiring to sleep in a different bed all the time. Also, I never light anywhere longer than about three or maybe four days at a time. That starts to wear on you. I’m not complaining. This trip has gone so well and I have seen so many amazing things. I could not have asked for more (well, maybe a little better handle on my anxiety, but that’s just part of the deal). I only think that all this movement is starting to get to me.

When Dad left me in Sioux Falls, I took the weekend to recover and enjoy some hotel sleeps. Every once in a while, I’ll spend an entire day in bed. It’s a ridiculous luxury that I couldn’t have if I weren’t effectively unemployed and driving aimlessly across the country.

From Sioux Falls, I made my way through both Iowa and Nebraska trying to get back to Colorado. My dearest friend, K, flew in to meet me in Denver. We spent our first day together in Denver visiting the city’s oldest restaurant, The Buckhorn Exchange, where we ate barbecue and game (elk and

bison, it said, but we weren’t really sure). The entire place was decorated floor to ceiling with taxidermy. Giant Elk and Bison and a full-sized Kodiak Bear were among the highlights (oh! and a small canoe paddled by two raccoons with a badger for a passenger...that was amazing). K had read about and booked a reservation there ahead of time and I was so glad she did!

Leaving The Buckhorn Exchange, we made our way to Confluence Park which was a perfect place to dog watch and enjoy some sunshine. From there, K found some motorized scooters for us to ride. She loves to ride them and although I’d never tried it, I was willing. My body/brain, however, had other ideas. Each time I got the scooter going, I would panic and stop it. I had a full-on panic attack trying to ride one. Poor K was very patient with me when I finally declared myself done and we were forced to abandon them. I haven’t had an attack like that for a long, long time. Way more than a year, I think, and it took me by surprise. I think it must have been the fear of falling that scared me so badly. I was embarrassed and a little sad that I couldn’t try this new thing without losing it. Thank God K loves me anyway.

In the late afternoon, we met up with an old friend of K’s. She and her husband met while she was also on a cross-country road trip and she decided to settle in Denver to be nearer him (obvs, it worked out very well). They were so nice to chat with and we moved from the cocktail place to a rooftop bar to have dinner and watch the sunset over the Rockies. It was such a lovely evening and K and I both declared it a success.

Our second day started at Red Rocks. The parking gods were smiling on us and we got a perfect spot right near the entrance on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. What?!?! The place was swarmed with people but looking down into the famous amphitheatre, I remembered a photo of me as a baby, in my father’s arms, in that exact same spot.

From Red Rocks, we drove into Boulder. When I was born, my parents were living in Boulder when my father followed his boss out there to manage a new dealership. I’ve been back since then (I have no memories of that time since we moved back to WV when I was less than two), but only briefly. We took ourselves downtown to Pearl Street and ate a lovely, hippie-inspired lunch before making our way out into the street. K was in search of invitations for a friend’s baby shower. We dipped into stores, ate some gelato, and shopped up a few small items before I realized that I was moving at a snail’s pace. Very, very slowly. When we finally got a Lyft back to our hotel room, I realized that I must be dehydrated and probably a bit knocked out by the altitude. I drank some fancy juice from a lovely press and that revived me enough to go to Whole Foods to buy everything they had available to drink. And a pizza we took back to the room to bake. I never have an oven and I was super pumped about eating a take home pizza.

On our third day, we drove from Boulder to Estes Park (after fancy brunch, of course). I first visited Estes Park with my family in probably 1997 or 1998. I have been a Stephen King fan for a long time (and a special fan of Kubrick’s The Shining) so I was excited to see The Stanley Hotel (the original inspiration for King’s novel...Kubrick used a hotel on Mt Hood in Oregon for his film). We had cocktails in the lounge, checked into our spectacular room (perfect view of the mountains and Estes Park, center of the hotel, absolutely incredible), and then had dinner downstairs because once we’d checked in there, we did not want to leave. It really did have that kind of magnetism. We also got a quick peek at Room 217 (King’s original room and the room number he uses in the novel to scare the crap out of poor Danny). We also bumped into a few other King fans along the way. After dinner, we very wisely watched Kubrick’s film in our beautiful but certainly now a bit creepy room. It was a very good idea to do that. We did it.

The next day, we had breakfast and checked out to drive back to Denver. I dropped K at the airport and drove myself down to Colorado Springs. When I arrived at my campground, I was absolutely exhausted. I think K was, too, when I left her. It wasn’t that we’d done anything especially strenuous or over the top. We simply existed in some altitude and it really messed us up (it definitely messed me up). I spent my first day in Colorado Springs lying around and recovering. My second day, I did a pretty stupid thing and took a bus to the summit of Pikes Peak. It’s definitely not a great idea to go from feeling weird and altitude sick up to about 14,000 feet. As it happened, the summit was completely clouded in, it was snowing when we arrived, and I spent the entire time feeling completely awful. When we began to descend about 30 minutes later, I realized that I will probably never be able to go to Machu Picchu. I’ve always wanted to go there. I don’t think I can. I can, however, say I’ve been to the top of Pikes Peak. I did it.

I left Colorado Springs and began my journey across the plains. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much flat expanse as I saw in Kansas. I stopped the first night in WaKeeney Kansas and felt like I’d been in a trance for several hours. When the road stretches in front of you without ever seeming to stop, it can start to lull you into a zombie state. It did me, at least. I tried listening to an interesting book, different podcasts, and even my “Power Up” playlist. I still occasionally found myself jerking back into focus not realizing how much time had passed. I also crossed back into Central Time. So, I legitimately lost an hour in there, too.

From WaKeeney, I made for Kansas City and some more bustle. So far, I’ve enjoyed some excellent Kansas City barbecue and found myself really admiring the city. It’s kind of lovely and one of those places that seems to have preserved the old while embracing the new. It’s also very humid here. I already miss the desert.

I’m hoping that having moved out of high altitudes will help my focus and get me back in the saddle. It feels like I’m officially in the home stretch. The school where I was working this time last year celebrated graduation last weekend. My van has belonged to me for almost one whole year. Time is slipping away pretty quickly. I changed the page on my calendar this morning and felt a moment of panic. It’s already June and there’s still so much to see!

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