We are in Denver.
This is a hard thing to believe.
It is difficult to believe because we have experienced so much, yet it has only been 12 days into our journey. In the same amount of time in our normal, we rarely see as many new landscapes, spend time with as many new people, taste so many unique tastes, and shower and dress in so many new bathrooms.
Though exciting, it has been equally disorienting.
New timezones. New sunrise times. Still tired at East coast 9 p.m. Still awake at East coast 6 a.m.
Making time to pray or exercise has been limited. (Although, we think we are finally finding a rhythm to our life on the road. Today will be another day in a row that we have made time for prayer and writing in the journal.)
To understand the blur that can be driving across the country, take Thursday as an example.
We wake under the frost that only the Great Plains on the edge of Colorado can bring. Our tent is is vinyl and chilly. We snuggle under our sleeping bags, not wanting to face the prickly, cold walk to the bathrooms of the KOA campground. It is a fight of the titans to drag us into the dry cold of the morning, but we do.
We rummage through our trunk to find the bathroom supplies and change of clothes we will need. Our toes adjust from sleeping-bag-warm to frozen chicken nuggets in moments. We are jittering by the time we are shuffling quietly toward the public bathrooms. Over granite gravel and under a clear sky that promises fair weather, we receive showers that warm us to the bone.
Changed. Warm from the heat of showers being captured in our clothes, we are now bold for our day. I finish first and make my way to break down the tent. This is a routine we are familiar with now.
I am almost done when Marissa arrives from her shower. I have stripped all layers but a t-shirt and a light sweater by this time. The sun is up and heats us instantly. I hear that Colorado is like that; skiing in a t-shirt. At this moment, I believe that it could be true.
Tent loaded in the truck. Dirty clothes stuffed in the laundry bag. We desperately need to do laundry. Back seat reorganized.
“How long is the drive today, love?” I ask Marissa. She has almost the entire trip loaded into her detail-capturing mind.
“About 3 hours to the Denver Airport, if we are picking up Daniel.” She is referring to the fact that Daniel was supposed to join us today on this portion of the trip. Life events have arisen that may prevent him from coming. We are still unsure. She continues, “about another hour to our hostel in Boulder from there.”
We decide that now would be a better time to do a devotional than whatever cafe we find to eat breakfast in so we sit. Marissa takes a table in the tent site next to ours. I sit at our site’s table with a Bible, the book ‘Greenhorns’ (about the New Farmers Movement), and my Flip video camera. I record a few seconds of film and then dive into my quiet time.
After about 20 - 30 minutes of silence (finally!) I look up to see that Marissa is not at her table. I look around and, not finding her, I get concerned. She emerges behind a tree about 50 yards away.
“I worshipped,” she says laughing. I decide to not share my momentary panic at losing sight of her. We kiss, hop in the car, and hit the highway.
At this point, once we hit the highway I am comforted. It feels like we are making progress. And, though I enjoy our stops, I know it isn’t home. So, I am more comfortable in transition to, well, the next temporary stop. And, though I enjoy our stops, I do delight the comfort of some sliver of routine by getting on the on-ramp of the highway.
We end up only finding a McDonald’s. This is disappointing because we have made a fun rule that we only eat at local stops. No national chains. (The exception being Starbucks. Of course.) We know we need to get gas, eat, and get on the road on the chance that Daniel will still meet us in the Denver airport.
So, we make do, charge our phones while eating to map our route and get on the road. It is only 8:30 a.m.
Plains. Rolling hills marked by small ridges of rock outcropping. At any moment, my child brain says, Indians should be chasing bison and shouting or watching us quietly sitting on the throne of their horses.
If you have never driven the plains, you need to. It is breathtaking. Twenty minutes into the drive we leave Kansas and enter Colorado.
“I always pictured it more mountainous. When will we see the mountains?” Marissa asks.
“Did you expect that at the stateline the Kansas side would be plains and the Colorado side would shoot into the sky?” I jibe. She chuckles.
“No, I just thought we might be able to see it.”
I spend the next hour or so trying to use the Pythagorean Theorem in my head to figure out how close we would have to be to the mountains to see them. I then explain to her what the Theorem is, and how the sides work, and exhaust everything I learned in high school in a few minutes.
She already has it figured out. “About 28 miles away.”
We then slip into our road routine. She sings now and again. I chat, or listen to her sing.
We then hear from Daniel. He cannot come on the trip. We are disappointed. He would have been blown away to see all of this. But the things that have interrupted his plans are serious and could not have been avoided.
Along the way I bring up one of several topics; something completely random and silly which causes us to laugh and chat, something about the coming destination pulled from Wikipedia, or something serious about planning or our future which causes us to haltingly discuss it because it is such a sensitive topic. We do all three throughout this drive.
“Mountains!” I pronounce. Startled, Marissa looks out toward the very edge of the horizon.
“Those could just be clouds, Grant.”
“No. They are mountains.” I assert. I am confident of this.
“Yeah. Their just clouds.” We check the maps. They are definitely not mountains. We know this because they wisp away.
"But," I throw in. "If they are wispy clouds, they can only be coming FROM the mountains!"
Marissa rolls her eyes somewhere deep down and shakes her head as if to say 'You are ridiculous' to my unstoppable optimism.
We then see the real mountains. How I could have confused them I will never know. They are glorious. Coming from the land of the flats, Florida, I am amazed.
All I can say until we pull into Boulder is “Wow” in varying ways.
“Wow, I can’t believe that.”
“Wow, what in the world!”
“Wow, I would love to go climb that.”
“Wow, babe, look.”
The weather changes from the crystal clear skies of the Great Plains to the cloudy, almost-fog of the mountain mist. A local tells us it’s never this cloudy. I don’t care. I just love watching the weather roll off of those monoliths.
We pull into the bustling, crowded streets of Boulder. Find a restaurant by the name of Zolo’s. We (finally) park, dodging the bike multitudes ever so carefully (the speed limit in Boulder is 35 mph...everywhere!) We sit outside to be able to see the mountains while eating our green chile salsa.
What a transition.
The flat, endless grassess, waving into eternity.
The now jutting rocks, shearing into the sky with miniature pine trees spotting its craggy surface.
The heat and glare of the open sky.
The now misty clouds fighting the sun rays to cover the land with rain or mist.
We are growing tired from driving. Wrestling with traffic is fatiguing us. We want to sit, or rest, or relax, but when you live in your car there are not many places to go.
So, we make decide to make our way to our destination in Boulder, the Boulder International Hostel. We hop in the car. We open our Google Maps and get on the road. In a few minutes we find ourselves winding through a very cute section of residential roads. There are cottage homes, cut out of stone nestle among beautiful trees, scrub flowers, and succulents.
More and more young people are walking the streets or cycling. Asian students bearing parcels from the grocery store. Hippies with dreads and suits and ties cycling to work. Teachers with helmets and their pants tucked into their socks to prevent from getting caught in their bicycle gears.
We then turn and find ourselves suddenly stuck in a cattle drive that is students dressed for graduation. No wonder there were no rooms available in Boulder. Today is graduation. And our car is inching through crowded college streets filled with students and parents filing toward some unseen destination to receive their degrees.
In the mix is party revelers hanging outside of their fraternity and sorority windows. This is much different than Goodland, Kansas. We locate the beautiful hostel but cannot stop to see it. There is no where to park.
We drive around and around for parking. There is none. Finally, a student and her friend drinking smoothies pulls out of a spot where we pull in immediately. We pay the parking meter some ridiculous amount and walk to the nearest coffee shop.
Since we cannot check into our hostel for another few hours, we decide to rest our feet in a nearby coffee shop. We find Buchanans, plug in all of our equipment, a barrage of chords and devices, order and sit down. Once we are settled, we realize our mistake.
It is hot. It is steamy. The coffee is horrible and served by college kids acting the high-schooler in a tank top and shirt turned sideways. When I order my cappuccino, the girl behind the machine whines, lets out an exhausted 'I was going to go home', and begins my drink. It turns out to be a latte. College students are walking in and out of the store swearing, partying, and acting foolish.
The air conditioner doesn't work, but we are committed to both the location and our paid parking. We stay.
For the next few hours, we try to write. We try to study. We try to catch up on all of the Facebook status updates, news, and happenings. But it is a struggle to stay awake. Exhausted. Dirty. Tired. Marissa is able to work through her many photos. I barely get through my work.
You know its getting tough when Marissa asks for her prescription that helps with headaches. We attempt another hour or so of working through the discomfort. Then, we walk over to the hostel.
We are greeted by an Irishman, Liam, who is pleasant and checks us in swiftly. We walk to the car, grab our stuff, drop it into the room we rented and sat. PHEW!
Exhausted, but not wanting to miss what Boulder has to offer, we freshen up and head out for an evening dinner. We decide to walk to an Asian cafe where we sit, eat fantastic Thai food, and watch families and students carry on the typical graduation talk. It is a pleasant dinner, but we are sleep walking at this point.
We pay the bill, and drag ourselves uphill to our hostel; home for the next few hours. We wave to Liam, head upstairs, pretend to get on the internet to watch the news or shows and are asleep before the opening credits.
Each day that we drive is like this. It is a transition from one beautiful extreme to another. We struggle to find some sort of routine or balance. But in the end we teeter between grasping the unique and impressive details of one place to the next.
This is life on the road for us now.
I must go. It is Mother’s Day. Marissa and I are going to reach out to our mothers. We must then pack up this wrecked hotel room strewn with our few things. We will exercise in the gym, eat a hotel continental breakfast, gas up, and head into the heart of the Rockies.
Thank you for following our adventure, and we will give another update soon!
Grant and Marissa Nieddu