Sunday, September 6, 2015

'Splorin'

That's what I called it as a little kid, newly from Kenmore, NY, when the family would take off on a Sunday in our Chevy Biscayne, to look around the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Prior to this move in late 1963, my parents and my paternal grandmother had never ventured more than 20 miles out from Kenmore, except for a very rare weekend trip to Binghamton for something related to Dad's work. Once in California, the "old folks" acted like, I'm sorry to say, a group of hick-tourists, pointing out the "crazy Californians." My "big brudda" Kevin was so lucky; he was 10 years older than me, and, with a part-time job, Glendale College attendance, and his own car, could separate himself from the herd. I spent my childhood and adolescence in a state of envy and awe of his boldness and independence.

As for me, I was stuck in the back of the Biscayne, along for the rides whether I wanted it or not, sulking, rolling my eyes, and wanting to be anywhere but with my folks. Still, the seeds of my wanderlust were being planted, although I didn't realize it at the time. Sometimes, hiding out in my room, I would imagine all kinds of journeys on my own terms. And I counted down the years until I could finally live out those adventurous dreams.

This move to Colorado has been absolutely rejuvenating. Once I put down roots in Littleton, I began all kinds of research. Life is, once again, a blank slate. When I'm not working, or chatting up new acquaintances in my apartment complex, I'm online, reading those free publications I can find around town, or watching Rocky Mountain PBS. KUVO--the jazz station I listen to in the car--advertises local fun events, as does Colorado Public Radio (CPR--I believe its classical music helps me breathe!).

Because of some "attitude" my right knee has begun giving me again, I've had to put the MeetUp "Rock and Roll Oldies" to one side, at least until my MD and I can figure out what we're going to do about it. So, giving my dancing shoes a rest, I've turned to a group called "Let's Explore Colorado." Tomorrow, Labor Day Monday, a group of us are meeting for a picnic hang-out in Wash Park in Denver. Can't wait! I really want to meet people who would be up for day trips to national parks, historic towns, and maybe even train rides. I've made a list of places I want to see in the near future, and have it posted on my fridge as an energizing reminder to "get out thHere." Here it is:

Estes Park, South Platte River, Roxborough State Park, Riverside Cemetery, Fairmount Cemetery, the towns of Longmont, Niwot, and Louisville, Rocky Mountain Arsensal National Wildlife Refuge, Golden Gate State Park, Wild Animal Sanctuary in Hudson, Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve, Historical Daniels & Fisher Tower Tours, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Mount Goliath, and the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.

And that's a start...

To feed my inner history geek, I went recently to the Columbine Public Library, which is open 7 days a week, looking for books on the history of Denver, Arvada, and surrounding areas. Also, as inspiration, I'm currently reading High Altitude Attitudes: Six Savvy Colorado Women, and a couple of others about some foremothers, including Mary Coyle Chase, the author of the delightful classic about Harvey the rabbit.

'Splorin' also has taken the form of looking for a volunteer gig I can easily fit into my schedule, and still be enriched by meeting new people. A couple of Sundays ago, some nuns from Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver came to my church, to reach out for community support. The Mullen House in Denver has an almost-resort type of atmosphere. Two days ago, I went and talked to the volunteer coordinator and met with a few of the nuns. After attending a Mass at 11 AM, I was graciously invited to join them--and the senior residents--for lunch in their spacious, well-lit and beautifully decorated dining room. Soon, I hope to be doing some individual work with various residents.

On my way home from such an uplifting and positive visit, I decided to skip the freeway, and took Federal Boulevard for a trip through a part of town I had yet to see, including Little Saigon.

And so, the journey goes on...

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tiggy's and Valarie's Most Excellent Journey

April 28, 2015--I had packed boxes for several weeks, making runs to the packing store, folding the flaps, fighting with that damned packing tape that was like fly paper, almost in a round-the-clock push. My stress, frustration, and anxiety was at an all-time high, especially when I knew I'd expected to be out and on the road the day before. And escrow was closing on April 30th...

Hal, my faithful friend and "outlaw," appeared suddenly, startling me, and saying, "Oh, I thought you'd be gone by now." Then and there, I went into a minor melt-down, wailing about how I had forgotten just what was involved in packing up four generations of family possessions from a garage and a 1,775 square-foot house. To quell the storm, Hal told me to let "them," meaning the local family, take care of the rest the next day. Why didn't I just pack the car, and leave--now? Just calm down!

No further persuasion was needed. Within the hour, I had stuffed my little Ford Fiesta hatchback with numerous totebags and plastic bags--all quishy to maximize how much I could cram in--with a week or two of wash-and-wear clothes, toiletries, my church materials, and Tiggy's food, bowls, and comforts like a travel-sized litter box. Gently, I placed the tote with Mom's cremation urn on the floor in front of the passenger's seat.

Following one last visit from my neighbors, during which time Sandy hugged me hard and gifted me with some devotional books to help me on my way, I was ready to grab Tiggy. She hissed and protested, but I had tried to soften the trauma with some calming spray to the carrier's interior, and having her favorite toy nestled in with her. I'd prepared a spot in the back of the car that would be secure, and as free as possible from bumps in the road.

Despite the later-than-expected departure, we still made pretty good time. Sensing that this was not going to be a trip to the v-e-t, Tiggy stopped meowing after about 20 minutes, and curled up. East on the 210, to the 15 to Needles. We stopped in a Best Western when the adrenaline of the past few days finally caught up with me. It was wonderful to exit my car and know that I would be sleeping in a space free of packing boxes. When Tiggy's carrier door was opened, she remained in it for a full minute or two, creeping out, going back in, and then choosing to spend the night hiding under the bed's dust ruffle...

April 29, 2015--I was determined to get an early start, with a projected evening stop in Gallup, NM. By now, I was in the world of lots of long-haul truckers and 75 mph speed limits. I soon adjusted to the etiquette of the road--no tailgating the rigs, keeping to the left, keeping up with the pace. The scenery almost made me forget how far I was traveling from California--almost other-worldly rock formations, red soil, sights of trains with their tracks running parallel to the highway.

I also learned about the wisdom of keeping one's gas tank at least half-full, because the distance between stations can get awfully long and scary. When my gas gauge, at one point, got tauntingly close to the "red," I saw this "GAS" sign with almost obscenely large letters from the highway. Swallowing hard, I pulled into this place landscaped with plastic palm trees and the name "Gas Oasis." And, of course, the cheapest price for 87 octane was $4.99 a gallon.

Yes, we got to Gallup, and this time Tiggy was happy to be set free, and take a tour around this new room. Getting her back in the carrier the next morning was another matter. Thank goodness I had some fishy-aromatic treats to catch her.

April 30, 2015--This was going to be the day we got to Colorado, and after a stop in an out-of-the-way roadside store called Pecos River Station (I've posted about it on Yelp) for the port-a-potty, a Coke, and what proved to be a less-than-fresh sandwich, I took in the scenery that changed dramatically from rolling hills, forests, and pastures. The miles to Littleton, posted on the roadside, beckoned as they decreased.

It was getting dusk as I stopped in a mall parking lot in Castle Rock, concerned that it would be dark before we got a room for the night. I had somehow been under the delusion that Littleton had an Extended Stay America, but soon found that I had to go further into downtown Denver, near the airport. It was my intention to hole up there until I could connect with the realtor I had reached out to in California about some living arrangements. Extended Stay America will allow pets, and will not intrude with housekeeping, so I didn't have to worry about someone opening a door, revving up a vacuum, and having Tiggy run out in a panic.

Fast-forward to May 2, 2015--I had already settled in, and stocked the fridge with a couple days' provisions from the Super Target next door. I'd even treated myself to a so-so bottle of red vino, for which I had actually gotten carded by a checker who seemed to be barely 20 herself. She said I looked "too young to buy wine," and I replied I'd live on that compliment for quite a while!

By now, Tiggy had taken to sleeping on the bed, close to me. For the whole Saturday, I stayed in my nightgown, and binge-watched episodes of "Prospectors Unearthed" on the History Channel, about professional Colorado rock-hounds. I was wiped out--tomorrow I would get back to business.

May 3, 2015--I finally met the realtor to whom I'd reached out several months before in California, and she treated me to a lovely breakfast at Le Peep, a family-diner place. We discussed my short- and long-term goals, and the overall regional real estate market. I'd told her that I had been advised to rent for at least a year while I get settled, and she agreed that was wise. I gave her some parameters--close to my job, that was starting the next day, ground-level, one-floor, and, of course, pet-friendly. Since I was spending a significant amount per night at the hotel, it would behoove me to find something ASAP.

"ASAP" became "right away," and a such a place is where Tiggy and I are now calling home. I have since acquired a full-sized bed, and Tiggy enjoys looking out the window and watching her new neighbors. It's also a handy place for her to hide under during the thunder storms.

Now, next Saturday, I will have my furniture and other stuff from California brought in, and then I can take some pictures to post. Life is good.