Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Denver

And now, some thoughts on the city of Denver and the surrounding area. One thing that's kind of fun about these vacations is that we get to "fake live" in a different city for a few days - go to the local grocery stores, talk with locals, see the local attractions, watch television in a different time zone, deal with the local traffic, and so forth. Going to the Children's Museum and hanging out with other parents and kids, it were almost like we were pretending to be another couple of people raising a family in Denver. It was fun!

So after four nights in Denver, does it seem like the kind of place I'd like to live? Let's cover several topics, sorted from "the thing I like the most about Denver" to "the thing I like the least about Denver":

The recreation and scenery. Can't beat it. The "bicycling culture" is also great - bike lanes and bike paths everywhere, especially in Boulder, which as often rated as one of the top bicycling cities in the entire country. This place is hikers' and bicyclers' paradise. Durham isn't bad, and I love that our house is only a mile or two from what could be considered "rural", but Colorado is hard to beat. We would also have a good reason to take up skiing if we lived out there.

The Mountain Time Zone. Man, the Mountain Time Zone is great for watching sports. I've gotten used to missing virtually every major sporting event, because they all end after my bedtime (between 9 and 10 PM Eastern). With that sleeping schedule, the Mountain Time Zone would be perfect. On the other hand, it's not so great for watching primetime network television. Shows that are on at 9 ET/8 CT are on at 8 MT, which means that for noteworthy shows like the finale of The Office, all your Twitter friends from the Eastern and Central time zones spoil everything an hour ahead of time. But vacations are pretty much the only time we ever watch network television live, so I would gladly take a 6 PM World Series start instead, even if it meant that NFL games started before we got out of church.

The weather. I think the weather in Denver would drive some people nuts. Bitter cold and snow one week, extreme warmth the next. But I think I would actually like it. My favorite seasons are Spring and Fall, and I get quite bored with unchanging weather. That wouldn't be a problem in Denver! I think I'd embrace the variety, and I can definitely appreciate extremes, as long as the extremes go away after a few days. And while they get more snow than I would like in Denver, it usually melts/sublimates pretty quickly. However, I think I would miss the occasional "fair weather overcast" day. I don't know how often they get that in Denver. It's awfully sunny here, which sounds nice, but I think it's a little too sunny out here.

The people. Let's get this out of the way. Yes, Denver and its suburbs seem more prone to mass shootings than other major cities. But Columbine and the Aurora movie theater were isolated incidents that are very unlikely to happen to you or me, wherever in this country you live. So, it's not that I would fear for my safety living in the Denver area. Overall, Denver is safer than most of the cities I've lived in before.

So, crime isn't a huge issue, and the people that we met in various places seemed more than friendly enough. But, still, it's just that, well...let me put it this way. Denver looks pretty, but I get this uneasy feeling that there's this dark underbelly lurking underneath the surface, that doesn't get to you until you spend a few months here. Like, there's something in the air that drives everybody crazy. Is it the lack of air? Is it the area's more tolerant attitude towards recreational marijuana use? Maybe I am the crazy one here.

The grocery stores. Obviously, Safeway was one of the options, because they're everywhere out west, which I find extremely annoying. The other primary grocery store option was "King Soopers", which is a pretty awesome name, except that it's really just a Kroger in disguise. But you could do worse than that. Oh, right, and there are also a lot of Whole Foods stores around Denver, but that's not our scene.

The vegetation. One of my favorite things about driving out west is when the trees disappear, and you can suddenly see for miles and miles. I love it. It's great for cloud viewing, too. (Speaking of which, you can look forward to lots of pictures of clouds when I get to the post about my drive home.) However...shade is nice, too. The sun is relentless out here. Wear sunscreen, I guess. Also, as much as I love the views, I would miss any semblance of traditional fall foliage.

The lack of proximity to any other cities. Here in Durham, we live 2½ hours from Charlotte, 4½ hours from Washington, 6 hours from Atlanta, 9 hours from Orlando, and not too many hours from any city in the Northeast. Now...there is plenty to see in Colorado itself, and there are cities like Colorado Springs within a short drive. But if you want to get outside the state (and we certainly would, because that's what we do), get ready for a long drive through a lot of absolutely nothing. (Unless you're going west, in which case, enjoy the mountains!) It was kind of surreal approaching Denver from the east: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, hey look a major city! I guess this is why Denver's airport is so big: that is your ticket out of the city.

The traffic. So, you think Colorado is a great place to live? So do a lot of other people! And as a result, traffic is awful. I thought it was just as bad as Washington DC traffic, although the jams may not cover as large an area here as they do in Washington.

Pretty much every major expressway we took had construction somewhere, which is bad for now, but maybe in five years, the traffic situation will be a little better once more lanes open up. ... Ah, who am I kidding? It won't be. That's not how it works. When new lanes open, that doesn't eliminate traffic jams; it just relocates them.

(By the way, I found that the worst traffic in Denver was on I-25 south of downtown. Or, pretty much between our hotel and downtown. Maybe that's why the hotels were cheaper there than they were anywhere else in the city.)

Proximity to our families and friends. Really, THIS is the reason we're not quitting our jobs right now and moving to Denver this very minute. Or maybe Fort Collins - a.k.a. Denver without all the traffic problems.

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