Life really is grand, but you’ve gotta look for it.

We have lived in Colorado for over a year now. Holy cow I like this place.

Tonight Sheri and I went for a walk and saw a couple of cute bunnies. About six doors down a neighbor was out enjoying the evening as well. We stopped to say hello and ended up chatting for over an hour. Nothing important. Just people chatting and getting to know each other. And we walked back home. It was the longest short walk I’ve ever been on.

It was (and is) absolutely gorgeous out. The sun set about 20 minutes ago and as it set it put on a great show of colors. The temperature is in the upper 70s and it’s breezy but not too much. The air is fresh and comforting.

After we got home from our walk, I poured myself a couple of fingers of Breckenridge Bourbon. It’s smoother than Stranahans (which tends toward being a little “hot”) and is great to sip neat with a splash. I decided that as it would be a sin to waste such a beautiful evening and that I am going to sit on my patio, do some reading on the iPad, and sip some amazing Colorado Bourbon.

So I did.

For about 45 minutes, I was in my own perfect world. Ladies and gentlemen, this is simple, elegant bliss. No worries. Nothing complicated. You may disagree and that’s fine. Find your own. But if you’re looking, this is a good place to start.

I had good a good drink, a wonderful place to drink it, and something good to read. When I die, I hope this is what the afterlife is all about. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. I’m sure this experience can be had in places other than Colorado, but I’m glad I was here tonight and was able to have it. My wish for you is that you can achieve the same happiness so simply in your life and that it’s easy for you to find.

 

Beers to ya!

I like beer. In fact, it’s my preferred adult beverage of choice these days. Sure, I enjoy all sorts of hard liquor and the occasional glass of wine, but beer is my go-to beverage.

I’m also picky about my beer. Life is far too short to drink the crappy beer. Sure, I’ll have a Corona now and then, but if it’s got “lite” in the name, I don’t want it. I’d rather have water than Bud Light; at least water doesn’t pretend to be beer.

Fortunately, Colorado offers a lot of excellent beer choices. In fact, in the past three months, I have only purchased Colorado-made beers to store in my fridge. It’s not that other beers are bad, or unworthy. I just prefer to drink local. You know, when in Rome and all that.

Some of the local beers are just plain old beer. I’ve tried Coor’s. It’s OK, but lacks the personality I prefer in beer. I like ’em on the darker side and strongly flavored. Quirky, even. So here are a few of the local breweries and their offerings:

Upslope Brewing Company

Upslope has some great beers, but can be hit and miss.

  • Foreign Style Stout – really good. A poor man’s Guinness, but fresher. I don’t blame Guinness. It takes a while to ship beer across the pond. Foreign Style Stout is rich, creamy, and slightly nutty. If you like stouts, you’ll like this one.
  • Brown Ale – not a big fan. Upslope kind of misses on this one. It’s very bitter, but without enough personality to back it up. I got one six-pack and it will be my last. It’s not bad as a base for chili, though.
  • Craft Lager – great “every day” beer. This is a great lager with far more personality than the mass-produced stuff. (I’m looking at you, Budweiser.)

Wynkoop Brewing Company

I met a friend at their Brew Pub last year and sampled a few.

  • Cowtown Milk Stout – Oh my $diety I am in love. Smooth. Creamy. Slightly sweet. Rich and delicious with chocolate overtones. Nicely balanced. I wish I could find it outside of restaurants.
  • B3K Black Lager – Nicely balanced and very drinkable. Black lagers are hard to pull off well, but Wynkoop does a great job. If you can’t get your hands on Cowtown Milk Stout, this will help fill the void a little bit.

Oskar Blues Brewery

Oskar Blues is not a shy place. I’ve never been there, but the names of the beers alone are enough to let you know that this place is special. In the same way an insane asylum full of geniuses is special.

  • Old Chub – My first taste of this was at a BBQ joint near-by. It’s bold and strong, very hoppy, and very brown. About as subtle as a kick to the nuts. Unlike a kick to the nuts, you’ll want another one when you’re done with the first. Bonus points for “So I Married an Axe Murderer” quotes on the can.
  • Gubnah – Makes Old Chub seem subtle. This is one strong Imperial IPA. It’s strong in flavor but also kicks a helluva 10% ABV punch. It’s similar to Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, but better balanced. If you’re a beer beginner, stay away from this one. It’s PhD dissertation beer, not Beer 101.

The weird thing about every beer I’ve mentioned here (except Cowtown Milk Stout) is that they all come in cans. Cowtown Milk Stout is my favorite, but it’s only available on tap. As much as I like it, I’m not about to invest in the equipment necessary to get it at home. At least not yet.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the 12-ounce aluminum-wrapped flavor bombs mentioned above. I’m thrilled to live in a place where people are brewing beers with personality. I may not like them all, but I do respect them. Especially with good food.

Tube Stakes

Sheri and I moved to Colorado eight months ago and have done a handful of fun “Colorado” things, but we had not participated in any winter activities until today. We went to the Keystone Ski Resort to do some tubing. I haven’t been tubing on snow in, well, forever.

A good friend had suggested doing something wintery, so that was the seed of this adventure. We all met for a hearty breakfast before hitting the mountains. Keystone is a little over an hour drive from our apartment, and not a bad one at that. It’s always fun to drive the winding roads near the Loveland Pass (11,990 feet) as long as it’s not too icy, and it wasn’t. In fact, it was perfect driving weather: clear and cold. Having a car with two turbos and all wheel drive makes it all quite effortless and a little fun in the bendy sections.

When we got to Keystone it was semi-organized chaos. Skiers, snowboarders, gawkers, and everyone else was milling about the lodge and restaurant areas by the parking lots. After changing into snow pants, etc. and a brief search, we found the ticket pickup office and got what we needed. After a pleasant gondola ride where  I was pretending I was in a James Bond movie with skiing and intrigue as major plot lines, we checked in at the tubing area.

Once checked in and waivers signed, we waited in a yurt, which made me feel wonderfully Mongolian. Seriously, a yurt! How awesome. I want one, because they’re cool and it’s fun to say “yurt”.

After a wait in the yurt and a few unfortunate Swedish jokes (yeah, I know it’s an Asian word, but it sounds Swedish – yurt-dee-yurt yurt yurt yumpin yimminee!), we were shown a quick video explaining the snow tubing process, a few rules, how to pick a tube, how to hold onto other tubers if you wanted to go down in teams and so on. It also explained the “Magic Carpet Ride” that brings you back to the top of the tubing hill.

Good information. After extensive tubing training, I was ready to tube.

I have to say, every single employee was very cheerful and fun to be around. A few of the customers outside the tubing area seemed to have used too much jackass soap when they took their showers today and were acting like they were the only ones there, but the folks inside the tubing area were all polite. Even better, the employees at Adventure Point were fantastic and fun, asking everyone how they’re doing, making sure the customers were all having a good time. It’s nice to see people enjoying their work and having fun spreading that joy.

My first run was great. Being a gentleman of stature has a few advantages. Gravity is among those, and it gave me a good run down the hill. Quite fast, really. OK, very fast, and more than a little bumpy. But it was fun:

Chris tubing at Adventure Point, Keystone, CO
Chris tubing at Adventure Point, Keystone, CO

 

Sheri enjoyed hers:

Sheri tubing at Adventure Point
Sheri tubing at Adventure Point

 

After you make the run down one of these:

The tubing runs and magic carpet ride at Adventure Point, Keystone, CO.
The tubing runs and magic carpet ride at Adventure Point, Keystone, CO.

You walk to the left and enter the magic carpet ride, which is the tube-looking shaft to the left. It’s a covered conveyor belt that slowly moves you and your tube to the top of the runs so you can go again. One of the employees waits at the top of the magic carpet ride to help people get off of it without doing face-plants.

After my second of five runs down the hill, the 20-something man at the top saw me and proclaimed: “Dude, awesome Mountain Man beard!”

Me: “Thank you.”

“No, I’m jealous. I’ve got this Ambercrombie thing and need to shave it or grow it. You’re doing it right.”

“I’ve been growing it out for about three months now, and won’t be shaving for at least another six months.

“No way! You’re going full-on ZZ Top. Awesome!”

The fist bump was offered. The fist bump was returned.

Mountain Man beards are appreciated here. Awesome!

Some of the runs (on the left) were faster and scarier than others, but they were all great and I tried all but two. There’s a bit of walking, and at 11,640 feet one sometimes gets winded, especially when one lives at the lower elevation of 5,280 feet. I confirmed the elevation of the hill we were on with one of the employees who had a rainbow-colored Afro hair thing going on. I asked if that was natural, and not getting the joke, he started to say “it’s a wig” when he got it and corrected himself: “of course it’s natural!”

Double awesome!

The drive home was not bad. We stopped at Smokin’ Yards BBQ in Idaho Springs, CO. The altitude had gotten to me a little bit and I wasn’t particularly hungry, but knew that having had nothing but a granola bar since breakfast, I needed some food. And Smokin’ Yards was great. It was well cooked and real smoked barbeque, with sauces that were distinct without being overbearing. If you’re traveling through Idaho Springs, I recommend it.

Being a Sunday, traffic on I-70 was building a bit as people who were playing in the mountains but don’t have a holiday tomorrow were heading back to Denver. Just like us. It wasn’t terrible, but it was slow for an interstate. We were fortunate that our friend suggested taking US Highway 6 back through Golden instead, which was perfect. It might be a little bit longer drive in miles, but it’s more scenic and winding than the Interstate. It also had less traffic with no backups, so it most likely took less time. Win-win!

We made it home safely but exhausted. It’s amazing how one hour of tubing turned into leaving at 9:00am and getting home at 6:00pm. Sure, we had two meals on the road and took our time, but it took a while and was totally worth it. Being exhausted from this kind of fun is the best kind of exhaustion.

I love living in Colorado.