My boss stopped by my desk and said, “You want to go to a conference in Denver?”


She additionally suggested that, because Denver is a cool city and the conference would take place all day Thursday and Friday morning, that I should consider taking a day or two to myself to enjoy the west.  I did.


I arrived on Wednesday night at the Denver Airport, a strikingly beautiful if not otherworldly structure in the desert, about a 45-minute drive from both Denver and Boulder.  When I was younger, my dad generously used his frequent flier miles to bring me to Boulder for National Wildlife Federation summer camp and to do some Colorado skiing at Keystone, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek.  I was an incredibly lucky young lady, and I still thank him to this day.  In Boulder, we always made three stops: the Art Mart for clay hand-painted mountain animals, the Walnut Brewery for salmon fish and chips, and the University of Colorado… for there was a time when he had his speculations about whether or not I would become a “tree-hugging granola-eating hippie,” God forbid that list include “pot-smoking,” and they peaked when I was asking to attend a summer camp with no candy or soda where our counselors gave us a tarp and a rope for a tent and a bag and a rope for the food and told us to figure it out.  Bears did happen!

It was not snowing when I arrived, but it was well below freezing and storms were predicted.  I had reserved an economy car (per company policy), and I managed to get about ten minutes of the way to Boulder (three tolls) when the weather began to look threatening.  I was continuing steadily and cautiously when a semi drove by and splashed dirty slush on my windshield.  I turned on the wipers and GASP, they didn’t clear my windshield, and the antifreeze did not help!  I had a couple of slits the size of a butcher knife to look through.  I opened my windows, stuck my head out the driver’s side, and started cussing.  A LOT.  My variations on the “f” and “s” words were… creative.  And emphatic!

When I got back to the rental car company (which I’m keeping anonymous but have had so many problems with I should just tell everyone not to use them, ever), they were unsympathetic to my situation but did give me an upgrade to a mid-size SUV.  Per company policy, I declined the insurance, but when I returned the car, the price seemed high and I saw that they had re-added the charge for it.  Luckily, the attendant was quick to remove the fees.  Okay, fine.  It was the one that starts with an “E” and almost rhymes with “excercise.”

My first stop in the SUV was the Redstone Meadery.  Mead is not good!  It’s actually quite bad!  It’s often referred to as “honey wine,” which is why I wanted to go to the meadery.  But I encourage you to read about its history and production on Wikipedia because it is shocking to learn how long people have voluntarily subjected themselves to it at great cost, when Franzia, “the world’s most popular wine,” came into existence centuries later and costs so little.  “Honey wine” is not a misleading pseudonym at all– but it’s neither wholly honey-tasting nor wine.  It’s as though honey and wine were glued together with rubber cement and made mead.

I met a high school friend for dinner at the Walnut Brewery and am pleased to report that ten years later (at least), the salmon fish and sticks are still on the menu and as delicious as ever.  As ten years have passed, I finally had the opportunity to enjoy a Walnut brew, and I decided to enjoy all of them by ordering a flight of beers.  Though I’ve known that altitude affects the speed with which alcohol enters the bloodstream, I have not experienced it to the extent that I did that evening. (!)  Needless to say, I waited a while before driving to Denver.

It worked out extremely well for me.  Because all of the other conference attendees had checked in by the time I arrived (11pm), the Hyatt Regency Denver had no choice but to put me in a corner suite.  I hate it when that happens…

Before leaving the city after the conference, I drove to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre and on to Golden to tour the Coors Brewery.  The amphitheatre was spectacular.  If I had had more time, I would have visited Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave, between the two sites.  Golden is a cute city, and one that I doubt wants to be known as “cute.”  I waited for the tram to tour Coors, but I just didn’t have enough time.  I left and caught my flight to Bend instead.  It was probably a good choice.


I had wanted to visit my older sister in Oregon, but the cost of travel from Virginia was too high.  The cost of travel from Colorado, however, was the same as a round-trip ticket.  I could expense the flight to Oregon, enjoy a weekend with my sister and her boyfriend, and pay for my flight from Oregon back to Virginia myself.  My arrival in Bend was really confusing.  The airport I was to arrive in was located in Redmond– I knew that there’s a Redmond, Washington, and I know that my sister lives in central Oregon.  When I called her, she gave me instructions to go to a certain gate and wait at a certain baggage claim with international arrivals, and let me know I still might need to call her upon arrival.  A Marine in the airport asked me where I was going and he said, “Redmond Washington, you mean?” to which I had no better response than, “Oh my God.  I actually don’t know!”

The Redmond Airport has one, maybe two gates.

Bend is a beautiful city.  My sister and her boyfriend brought me to the Astro Lounge for a cocktail, if for no other purpose than to prove to me that Bend is full of ridiculously attractive young men. I had to agree, but I also had a burning desire to scrub them with a Brillo pad. On my second day, we went to dinner at the Blacksmith. That the restaurant website notes that Conde Nast Traveler featured it as “one of the best new restaurant in the world” in 2004 is all they have to hold on to. That was in 2004. Everything about our waiter’s behavior suggested that he was either very high or very dim. My sister’s mixed drink was embarrassing, and so was the replacement. In the time that we sat with our menus and bad drinks, clearly ready to order, he visited with the table across from us twice. We shared a couple of underwhelming appetizers, and I ordered the Caesar and a lamb entree. I was the only one who liked my meal. I still can’t get over how awkward the server was, or how bad our mixed drinks were. I am quite certain I enjoyed my red zinfandel, however. It must have been a Ridge. Later that night, we were joined by a friend, who flew up at the last minute from Los Angeles to finish the weekend with us. We danced at the Grove and talked until morning. Awake and either hungover or still drunk, we ate brunch at the Victorian Cafe. My sister and I both had bloody marys and sausage gravy, and wow, they know what they’re doing.  Before I left, we all went to Smith Rock National Park.


Pearl Street walking mall– about 6pm.

A moose!  It’s installation art; don’t worry.  Real meese are much bigger.

Inside the Walnut Brewery.  Notice the vats of beer brewing.

Downtown Denver!

A sliver of a mountain view between high-rises.

I thought this was quite beautiful– the church between high-rises.

A photographer was taking snapshots when I happened to pull up.  He gave me a personal photo shoot!

A warm holiday welcome from Golden, Colorado.

Tap the Rockies!  Coors Brewery, Golden, Colorado.

Redmond’s airport.

My sister and co. at Smith Rock.

And me.