Denver, Colorado, pre-Road Trip: August 7-11 (better late than never!)

I started writing this diary of my trip to Colorado, Utah and Arizona back on August 21st., but then a weird pre-travel writing coma possessed me and I left my unpolished notes languishing on my hard drive.

So, now that I am in London, painfully listening to some dreadful bastard murder “No Woman, No Cry” downstairs in the lounge on what would appear to be karaoke night, I will take this opportunity to calm myself through reworking my journal entries for your entertainment and delight. If you think I should be sleeping, think again – they just butchered “Margaritaville”, and I sense that “American Woman” will be next.

I will make extensive use of the “cut tag” feature so you can read only what interests you (if any) and skim the rest. I’ll also break it down into 3 entries: pre-road trip, road trip and post-road trip. If it all seems a bit like stale news, too bad. You’ll have to wait until I’m in Cardiff before you get anything new, sportsracers.

Tuesday, August 7th – Sputnik, Heather, Monique, Photo Booth, Patron

So let’s see, where did I leave off? Tuesday started with a long bike ride, a tourist walk and an art gallery crawl. Once the boys got home, we then headed over to Broadway and proceeded to get wicked drunk at Sputnik, which features a delicious ginger-headed bartendress in a sexy striped piratical sweater, wheels of steel that were being aptly spun by a local DJ, and most importantly of all – a photo booth. Yes, this is the bar of my dreams. I need never drink again. I will, of course, but I no longer NEED to do so.

Although the ranks of the party swelled enormously over the course of the evening to include more than a dozen friendly Denver locals, two of the more significant meetings were my introduction to the legendary Heather B, Lady Scientist (it was love at first sight) and also Monique B, Frenchie Extraordinaire.

Heather and I were the first two girls there, so we sidled up to the bar and got very girly martinis to start the evening off, while Frank and Aaron sipped moodily at their beers. There was much giggling and pulling of hair and whispering about boys.

The four of us decided to wait until we were all appropriately inebriated to squish together and get our photos taken. We may have waited a bit too long. The first set were ruined as Frank and Aaron failed to adjust the seat properly, causing every single picture to demonstrate how we would look if grotesquely decapitated, eyes and ears and scalps missing. We tried again, with more success, except that Ari Stiller-Shulman (first place prizewinner for most Jewish name of all time) stuck his massive head into the last frame.

The damage: Heather purchased me at least one, possibly two chocolate espresso martinis; some lovely drummer fellows with muy bueno facial hair bought me two pints of local brew and then that ginger fiend, Aaron “Handsome” Ransome, decided we all needed tequila shots. Ah, Patron. You blind me.

I only vaguely recall the staggering walk home in the pitch blackness. Due to my poor night vision and total inability to handle cactus-based boozeahol, I required Frank to be my Sherpa and maneuver me through the potholed sidewalks as I tottered about on my kitten heels in the dark. We took photos of beautiful sidewalk stencil graffiti on the way home, using my poor, scarred gams as a prop.

Wednesday, August 8th – Denver Zoo, Hi-Dive, Mr. Pac Man

Wednesday was extreeeeme! We all woke up with outrageous hangovers, naturally. Aaron went to work, as Frank and I ran a morning errand that restored some of my faith in American society. Then I got dropped off at home where I spent several hours curled up in the cozy oubliette of bed, moaning softly in pain, while Frank solved complex scientific problems at the lab with his large, damnably imperturbable tank of a brain.

By the time evening arrived, I was feeling energized enough to wash and dress myself and move around slowly, like a recently reanimated corpse. Despite my zombie-state, Frank and Aaron trundled me into the car and drove me to the Denver Zoo. Yes, after nearly 30 years of no zoos, I had my second zoo experience less than a month after my first. This time, there were penguins! And mountain goats, and porcupines, and giraffes and polar bears…

The Denver Zoo is a lot more compact and easily navigable than the Toronto Zoo, so we accomplished more animals in less time. As an added bonus, we didn’t have to pay for admission, there were free hot dogs and hamburgers and pop and brownies, and I got a fun foam hat in the shape of a zebra, since it was a corporate day for friends and family of the place where Frank works. Hangover be damned, awesome was the only word for it. I couldn’t even hold on to my mild disappointment at missing out on the carousel.

We left the zoo at around 9pm and drove home to change into reflective goggles, feather masks and leather or rubber headgear for the second outing of the evening, to revere the performance phenomenon known as Mr. Pac Man in concert at the Hi-Dive, conveniently located right next to Sputnik (where we got trashed the night before). Indeed, the two bars are connected at the hip like Siamese twins.

Mr. Pac Man is a local Denver bitpop/gamewave (or as the band calls themselves, “8-bit hero gangsta rock”) band/performance art project. Mr. Pac Man’s live shows include martial arts fighting with monsters, outrageous 1980s-style retro-futuristic outfits, and their signature Commodore 64-inspired electronic music with a rock attitude. Mr. Pac Man uses a SidStation, controlled by his “keytar”, live on stage, and the Silver Ghost uses a Commodore SX-64 as a bass synthesizer; many of their songs are based on melodies from classic video games, such as the Mega Man series.

I did not get drunk or play pool or eat a corn dog, but despite these minor complaints, it was a bloody great night out on the town. Five stars.

Thursday, August 9th – Swedish Massage, Riesling and Simon Pegg

Thursday was all about chillaxing. I didn’t venture far – Frank and I went for coffee at Café Europa and drank in its wonderful, exposed brick and local art-adorned walls. Later in the day I had a massage booked at the local Back Solutions clinic with a therapist called Juliette who did a fantastic job working on my ilio-tibial bands. So relaxing, mmm.

I had a sore throat and aching uterus so I skipped Monique’s Frenchie partie in the evening to stay home drinking medicinal beverages containing vitamin C and peach vodka, and watched ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘SuperTroopers’ with the lads.

Frank cooked an unbelievably delicious dinner involving stuffed mushroom caps, summer squash and grilled chicken to go with one of the bottles of Ontario Cave Springs Riesling I’d brought as one of my many alcohol-based house gifts. It was a pleasantly lazy evening in preparation for the week of roughing it and hiking that lay ahead.

Friday, August 10th – Running, Raining, Fancy Tiger, ForestRoom5, Bike Crash Boom Ouch

Friday I decided to see how fast I could locomote after a week of getting used to altitude. I ran the 3 miles to REI at Confluence Park along Cherry Creek. I won’t say I ran the whole way – there were several walking breaks in there – but I did it the distance in about 42 minutes, which was slow but a damn sight better than my first attempts. Looked for a sleeping bag and air mattress at REI but was overwhelmed by selection and everything cost millions of dollars, so I bought a chalk bag and a Starbucks coffee and skedaddled.

On the walk back, I took some photos, ducked into the library to avoid the torrential downpour and hail(!) that came out of nowhere, popped by the museum and generally took the long way home. When I got home the air smelled freshly washed by the rain, so I grabbed a bike and headed to Broadway again to see what it looked like in the daylight. I paused at the really cool store on the OTHER side of Sputnik, called Fancy Tiger, which met every single retail need I have that wasn’t already met by magical Sputnik with its food and booze and photo booths and the Hi-Dive with its musical entertainment and pool table. Three stores in a row = everything I desire.

So, Fancy Tiger. Let’s see. Silkscreened clothing and saddle bags, felt and homespun wool and knitting goods, 1930s quilt fabric squares, old buttons, craft nights, sewing paraphernalia, handmade jewelry, iron-on decals, embossed hand-pressed notepaper, dee-jay classes… everything is unique and groovy and dripping with hipness, but not the nasty “too cool for school” exclusionary kind of hipster crap you see in Toronto. This is open, friendly, try-it-you-might-like-it kind of hipster stuff.

As soon as I walked in the door, Matthew engaged me in conversation, giving me space to browse and poke about but also making me feel welcome and at home. Jaime was a bit more shy, but once I started talking to her about the Toronto knitting scene she opened up and was really inviting. They almost had me talked into attending their spin night at the Walnut Room, but alas, we already had plans for the evening.

After blowing $40 at Fancy Tiger, I biked on to the local K-Mart where I purchased 2 sleeping bags and a pillow and some nail polish (what?! I like having my toes painted, WHY MUST YOU JUDGE ME?) Then home through a very nice little neighborhood where I resisted the siren call of many, many adorable brick homes for sale.

The evening’s entertainment was at a bar in the north end of the city, near the Platte River, called Forest Room 5. The décor was excellent – they had a projector showing “La Dolce Vita” on the wall of an apartment complex opposite the patio, which also had a little stream running through it. Inside the bar there were booths and private rooms, all snug and intimate with retro 1960s bucket seats, dark wood wainscoting and log-shaped stools.

The stools caused an amusing misunderstanding at one point in the evening when Frank asked why I was suddenly shorter, and I told him I was sitting on Aubrey’s log. Raised eyebrows all around. Ahem. Not like that. Heather was there with many others, including a very vivacious woman named after an Indian goddess who tried to get both Frank and Aaron to touch her boobies. We had a few drinks and then heartlessly tore Aaron away from some hot young blonde thing who was trying to get his phone number and was very confused about my position in the boys’ household, and rode our bikes drunkenly home.

I say drunkenly, not because I was cycling pissed (stone cold sober, me). Frank, on the other hand… Aaron and I were pedaling/motoring sedately along, being cautious in the dark of the bike trail, while Frank careened wildly toward the creek, yodeling at the moon and at one point trying to look backwards at Aaron and I, which only succeeded in causing him to tip over sideways and make acquaintance with the pavement. It brought back sweet memories of his face-first encounter with the sliding glass door in Chrissy’s apartment on NYE. We laughed and laughed, checked for blood, then biked homeward.

Saturday, August 11th – Moira Makes Breakfast, Flying Dog Brewery Tour, Rental Car Fuck up and Fix

Saturday: the last day before leaving on our road trip. After a whole week of being waited on hand and foot in the kitchen, I was feeling guilty about being fed and not cooking myself. Sure, I cleaned the stove and washed down some kitchen cabinets and came bearing single malt scotch, but really, what else had I done to contribute?

In penance, I rose at the crack of dawn on Saturday and biked to the grocery store to get rations for the camping trip and staples for breakfast, including bacon, eggs, OJ, the makings for pastry, potatoes, sausages, fruits, and cheese in a can. The morning meal was a mad overindulgence of my sick breakfasting desires. Coffee, tea, juice, greasy meat in abundance, hot buttery baked croissants pulled fresh from the oven, sliced melon, berries, eggs done to everyone’s personal specifications, and Frank’s crispy Cajun hash browns. Heaven.

While digesting this heinously supersized repast like a cobra who has just gulped down one too many bunny rabbits, I fell into a deep slumber. I awoke hours later to Frank standing over me, holding a pillow inches from my nose and mouth, his face contorted with rage, whispering “Riiiiise and shiiiiine, princess”.

Not really. That was just a nightmare I had before waking up to Frank steamrolling me and yelling “Hurry! The beeeeeer tooooour!” My nap had almost made us late for the all-you-can-drink tour of Hunter S. Thompson’s favourite brewery, the Flying Dog.

Frank, Aaron and I hurtled across the city in strict compliance with all speed limits and signage (Frank was driving) and got there just in time to suck back three pints before walking through the granary and tank rooms, guided by an angelic looking blonde waif whose passion for malted hops was palpable. After the beer tour, came the tour of the Colorado Whisky distillery next door. The barrel room smelled incredible: woodsy and musky and rich. We each had a shot of the good stuff, then returned to the bar where Aaron and I got shitfaced while sober Frank, as our designated driver, looked on with mingled yearning and disgust.

On the way home, Frank asked the magic question: “Hey, when are we supposed to pick up the rental car?” Eek. The correct answer “at noon” was now a moot point, as by now the rental centre had been closed for hours. Also, it was closed Sunday. Not good. I began frantically calling other car rental centres and a few hours and a few hundred dollars over budget later (Note: when traveling ALWAYS call your credit card company first to tell them exactly where you’re going), we had wheels.

In fact, we had Malibu Barbie.

Here endeth the tale of the pre-road trip time in Denver.

4 thoughts on “Denver, Colorado, pre-Road Trip: August 7-11 (better late than never!)

  1. heartlessly tore Aaron away from some hot young blonde thing who was trying to get his phone numbe
    HAD. TO!!!!!! Our bikes were all chained together and he had the key. Besides, it was the only way to save him.

    only succeeded in causing him to tip over sideways and make acquaintance with the pavement.
    I should have spilled some of my blood or something. Just ended up lying turtle on the sidewalk, legs and arms akimbo.

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