17 November 2010

Time for a Vacation

Last week I spent four days in Boulder, Colorado, where I lived from when I was ten until I went to college in Virginia. Boulder is a magical place. When I'm away, my soul aches to be there, and on the rare occasion when I am in town, I dream of moving back.

It was in the upper 70s a few days before I arrived...but I landed to this:


When I got into Boulder (at 9 a.m., thanks to the miracle of the direct flight and an insanely early departure time), one of my first stops was...well, I don't know what the neighborhood is called -- the area across Baseline Road from Chautauqua park. It's a great old neighborhood to walk around in -- despite the temperatures in the 40s -- and I had some time to kill, so I took a walk toward Chautauqua.

Since I was last in Boulder five years ago, a lot of the houses in that area have been torn down and replaced with new homes, like this one:


I loved the red bushes out front, and the cool gate with the cross pattern that plays off of the cross pattern on the highest gable. And how the gate is freestanding, with the red bushes forming the rest of the fence.

Since it had been so warm, some of the trees still had green leaves. The overnight snow must have weighed them down, making a neat effect where some of the leaves on the ground were green, some were yellow, and some were brown:




And some of the leaves couldn't decide what color they should be:


When I got to Chautauqua, at the base of Boulder's iconic Flatirons, well, they weren't looking so iconic:


See the fog? That's where the Flatirons should be.

But the Chautauqua Dining Hall was looking lovely as ever:


As I made my way along the winding road through the park, I came across this lovely cottage:


If it were mine (which I understand would set me back quite a pretty penny), I'd paint it lighter, brighter colors, but there's something irresistible about the contrast of the yellow leaves against the brown steps:


Moving along...after my walk and a stop on Pearl Street for lunch, it was time to check out the redeveloped 29th Street shopping area. It was a little disappointing to see so many chain stores in the heart of Boulder (there's even a Home Depot there now), but it was cool to see this inside a women's athletic apparel shop:


That's right -- a clothing store with recycling and composting bins! So, if I happened to be eating an apple as I shopped, the core would be composted without needing to take it home (like I frequently do...I take recyclables and compostables home from work, from races, from restaurants, etc.). It's that kind of thing that makes me say Austin is about as progressive (or, rather, has progressed about as much) as Boulder 20 years ago.

But what Austin lacks in progressiveness, it makes up for in oxygen content in the air. I was supposed to do about a 6-mile run that first day, including intervals at marathon and half-marathon pace (8 and 9 minutes/mile), but after about four miles above 9-minute pace, I called it a day.

And now for the real reason for my trip -- this lady:


The one on the left, I mean. (I see the one on the right all the time.) That's Jessica, my best friend from high school. She moved to Bangkok a couple of years ago, and now she's a fancy professor at a university whose name I can't remember (it's something like "Chalupa Corn"). She was back in the States on official business and asked if I wanted to meet her in Boulder. Anyone who's ever been there knows there's only one answer to that question. I didn't even have to think about it. And I was shocked to find that my round-trip ticket cost only $130 with taxes and everything! For direct flights! The cost of my rental car made up for it, though. But the best part of the whole arrangement was that Jessica and I were able to stay together with my aunt and uncle, Patti and Robin. Jessica was busy all day with appointments on campus, so it was great to be able to stay in the same place as her (instead of her being at her brother's place in a stinky suburb) and have leisurely dinners and sleepy breakfasts together. The picture above was taken after the first fantastic meal they served us. My only complaint about their accommodations is that I was promised a cake, but no cake was forthcoming. (Fortunately, there's a race in Boulder next May that I'd like to compete in, so maybe I'll get my cake when I'm back then.)

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