Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Month Without Sleep

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I guess it would be an exaggeration to say that I, or anyone else for that matter, went a whole month without sleep.  But, sometimes life, and the procession of events, activities, changes and emotions, refuses to come at you at a steady and workable pace.  One day we find ourselves stagnant and antsy, wondering what is next, and wishing for something significant to happen to us.  Then, out of nowhere, we suddenly can’t seem to keep up with all the planning, deadlines, issues, and events.  We literally find ourselves unable to spare a single hour out of a crammed week.  Sure, we always think to ourselves of ways to avoid both extremes.  We think of ways to shift some activities from busier periods to quieter periods.  But, it never seems to work out that way.  Something always comes up.  Some sort of factor we had not previously considered prevents us from utilizing those slow periods when we get antsy.  And, these periodic episodes that test our endurance are still going to come.

Both of these images were taken on restless nights during the month of June.  Both nights were restless for completely different reasons.  And, both photos are beautiful, in a very artistic sort of manner.  As I gaze at these pictures, I can’t help but imagine art enthusiasts looking at these images, discussing their settings, their emotions, their significance, all that deep stuff.  I wonder how many of these artists would come to conclusions similar to the actual stories behind these pictures.  The picture on the left is a sunset picture in the city, taken after a busy and emotional Monday at the office.  The photo on the right was taken after a particularly festive Saturday night in Vail that lasted well past sunrise Sunday morning.  Both nights I did not get any sleep, but for reasons that could not be any farther apart from one another.

June is a terrible time for any of the drama associated with “regular life”, whether it be moving, career issues, financial problems, or family and relationship issues to come up.  There is just way too much fun stuff to do- everywhere!  No matter what city you live in, there are festivals all over the place.

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It is the peak time of year for Whitewater Rafting in this part of the country.


There is the ongoing severe thunderstorm season.


And, there is also tons of daylight, and pleasant weather up in the mountains.


I have no time for anything else in June.  All those “regular life” things that demand my attention just need to wait.  There will be plenty of time when the snow reappears on the mountain tops, nights get longer, days get chillier, and opportunities inevitably shrink with the passing of the season, for me to turn my attention to all of that other stuff.

June, for me consisted of a plethora of experiences.  Some of them familiar.  As I did last year, I went to the GoPro games in Vail June’s first full weekend.  Just as I did last year, I went rafting the third weekend of the month.  And, as always, I spent some time out on the town, and did some goofy stuff.

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But, some things were unique to this particular June.  I was lucky to have been joined in Colorado by some of my friends from Chicago, who came for a week to see some sights around the State.


We also experienced copious amounts of rain.  Rivers and creeks expanded to cover areas that are typically dry- including bike trails.

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On top of all that, career related anxiety, which began months ago, but mercilessly intensified during the month of June, lead me to seek out some places where I typically go to clear my head.

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It was not until the final Sunday of June, the 28th, when I finally took a pause, and realized just how intense June had been.  It almost felt like my first real day of rest for the entire month.  You see, on top of all of the activities I have been involved in, seeking out answers related to my job, and trying to get more involved in some some social groups, I have also been training for, as well as planning out my next epic trip, which will begin in less than 48 hours.

I had always dreamed of traveling long distances by bicycle.  In fact, I am a member of the Adventure Cycling Association, and have been following their push to develop cross-country bicycle routes for years.  This fourth of July weekend, I will be embarking on the biggest journey by bicycle of my life, a ride from Bozeman, Montana to Jackson, Wyoming.


This three day, roughly 230 mile bike ride will take me through some of this country’s greatest treasures, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  On the way into Yellowstone, I will be riding through a region known as Paradise Valley, which includes Chico Hot Springs, and other unique features.

Planning, and training for, this ride definitely added to an already crammed month of June, but I sincerely believe it will be worth it.  Just as we have daytime and nighttime on a 24 hour cycle, we have both active and restful periods on a larger scale.  And, although July is not looking too much more restful than June for me, there will eventually will come another break in activity, another lull, another time to regroup, and “sleep”.  Maybe I’ll even figure out some of that pesky “regular life” stuff too.  But one thing is for sure, it will not be as epic as this.

The New Place in Town


When we think of “travel”, we usually think of the process of someone physically transporting themselves to another location, and, through that travel, experiencing something different from what they typically experience in their home towns.  And, it is that experience that I typically write about on this blog.  But, travel is actually a two way street.  Sometimes, the experiences of another place comes to us in our hometowns.  If it weren’t for this second form of travel, us Americans would not know about many cultural institutions near and dear to us, like burritos, yoga, sushi, or reggae music.

With the level of mobility in and out of, as well as within the United States of America, our culture ends up being in a constant state of flux.  Case in point, I remember when I was 12 years old going out for Thai food for this first time in my life, and thinking it was strange and exotic.  Nowadays, one can find Thai restaurants everywhere.  It’s become just as standard as pizza, another result of experiences of other lands coming to us, in our diet.

I must admit that last year, I had no idea what Detroit Style Pizza was.  In fact, I had no idea that Detroit even had a style of pizza.  To be fair though, having grown up partially in New York and partially in Chicago, two large cities known for their pizza, it had never really occurred to me that any place other than those two had a style of pizza.  By the time I had reached college, I had pretty much, in my head, categorized all pizza into three different categories; New York style thin crust pizza, Chicago’s deep dish pizza, and everything else, with Papa Johns typically taking the title for the least offensive member of this category (in my head).

But, since then, I had learned that Saint Louis, Colorado, and New Haven, Connecticut, all also have their own style of pizza.  So, when my friend told me about his upcoming business venture, opening up a restaurant serving Detroit style pizza, the concept did not sound completely foreign to me.  And, it helped that he did a really good job of describing it to me.  Through some research on my own, I later learned that Detroit style pizza has been around since the 1940s.  Yet, Denver, like everywhere else, appears to have suddenly become aware of this pizza style within the last couple of years.

Blue Pan Pizza opened 10 days ago in the West Highland neighborhood of Denver, one of Denver’s trendier neighborhoods.  It is a growing neighborhood in a growing city, with a lot going on.  It also appears to be a popular place for young families.  Both at Blue Pan, and at other nearby bars, I noticed a lot of babies and small children in the area.  So, I guess it is a good thing that the pizza turned out to be good, thus giving me no reason to swear in front of the children in the restaurant.

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As a general rule, I try the best I can to go “all in” when trying something new, and get the authentic experience.  So, while Blue Pan also offers standard Italian, and thin crust pizzas, I ordered the authentic Detroit style, as recommended by my friend, and restaurant co-owner Giles Flanagin.  One of the pizza styles is actually called “the 313” which appeals to my love of area codes (I celebrate “Area Code Day” every year).  The other pizza I ordered was called the “Brooklyn Bridge”.

I ended up really enjoying the pizza, as did the rest of my party.  Two other places in Denver offer Detroit style pizza.  I have yet to try the other two, so I have no means of direct comparison.  However, Giles had mentioned to me the importance they place on the quality of their ingredients, which I believe is why I ended up enjoying the pizza.

More than having a good meal, and being exposed to a completely new kind of food, I found myself just genuinely feeling happy that evening.  I was happy for my friend.  I was happy for my city.  I was happy for the neighborhood.  Ultimately, I was happy to have seen someone take an idea, something that starts out as just a bunch of words and images inside their head, and turn it into a reality.  It was right there in front of me, and completely real and completely successful.  Wow!

And, amazingly, although I desire more than anything in the world to be able to create an enterprise of my own, I did not even feel any envy.  Everyone is better off, and one person successfully executing an idea does not preclude another from doing so with a different idea.  In fact, seeing that it can be done should provide hope to all Americans who one day hope to have an impact on the world beyond just doing work and keeping a job.

Who knows what the future holds for Blue Pan, and the entire Detroit Style pizza industry.  American culture is in constant flux.  Some new entries to our mainstream culture stick permanently, while others die off.  In the 1990s, the cultural experience of Seattle’s coffee drinking scene traveled to the rest of the country.  It stayed.  A few years later, the southern cultural experience of Krisy Kreme donuts also came to us.  It left.  Will Detroit style pizza stay with us?  Only time will tell.  But, it appears to be off to a good start.

Full Service Camping


Camping is not just camping.  In fact, there is an entire spectrum of different types of camping one can take part in.  On one end of the spectrum is the type of bare bones camping that can be found in National Forests and other wilderness areas.  I took part in this type of camping for the first time last year at Gunnella Pass.  These are places where you just put down your tent, and pretty much are on your own.  Maybe there’s a fire pit leftover from the last set of people who plopped their tents there.

On the other end of the spectrum are places like Starlite Classic Campground.  These campgrounds have their own office, where one can usually buy the ice, firewood, and other standard camping supplies, specific camping sites reserved in advance for various group sizes, and often have plenty of other amenities.

On this campground, we had a pool, which we ended up spending a significant amount of time in, as temperatures soared well in to the 90s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.


Next to the pool is a children’s play area, which I probably spent way more time than any adult should at, but, hey, I am also a grown-up throwing myself a half birthday party, so, it kinda fits.

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And, not to mention, a whole bunch of other games, including horseshoes, volleyball, and even a mini-golf course.

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All this made for a completely different kind of experience than your standard camping trip.  When most people think of camping, they ponder up images of a campfire, roasting marshmallows, and a fairly quiet experience, which can often involve some reflection, star gazing, and deep conversations in the wilderness.  With the hot temperatures, mid-June daylight lasting until nearly 9 P.M., all the amenities at Starlite, and a total of 17 people participating in the weekend (including both camping and rafting), very little of your standard camping experience happened.  In fact, the weekend kind of felt like some kind of hybrid experience between being at a campsite and a party!

Starlite Classic Campground is located just across the street from Performance Tours, the outfitter we used for our rafting trip.  We had a mere two minute walk to get where we needed to go in the morning.  In fact, the evening before the trip, we could see the very bus we would be getting on the following morning to start our raft trip.


With the purchase of the group site at Starlite, we received a significant discount on the rafting trip, as they have some sort of deal.

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In addition to all of the fun, the scenery was amazing.  Just four miles south of the campground is the Royal Gorge Bridge, which can be seen by gazing across the open plane of the Arkansas River Valley.  A quick turn to the right, and one can see the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, which contains numerous peaks over 14,000 feet, and extends all the way into Northern New Mexico.

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As I walked across the open field that evening, staring across a the Sangres, and the bridge, and some of the other terrain features that look so breathtaking when the setting sun hits them at just the right angle, I came to the realization that I had entered the sweet spot that I am always looking for in life.  By this I mean being the best version of me, the version of me I wish I could be all the time, but somehow can’t.

Without the help of any substance, drugs, alcohol, or even caffeine for that matter, all the anxiety had just vanished.  I was just content.  It’s hard to explain.  But, it was like I had just simply left the competitive world that we live in behind for a few days.  I did not feel I was competing with people, needing to prove anything, or potentially being judged for anything.  Maybe what I felt was acceptance, something we all long for in life, and something I sincerely appreciate those who joined me on this trip for.


Out here, organizational structures, hierarchies, deadlines, and all of the things that make life stressful simply don’t exist.  It is just you, whoever you chose to make the trip with, and the scenery.  And, once you get to that place where you can let go of everything in your head, you find that best version of you, the one you know you are capable of.  It is the you that is confident, eager to take on a new activity, and in no way hiding any aspect of who you are out of fear of judgement.  It is the you that the people who you value are drawn to, and it is the you that should be celebrated, even if that means throwing yourself parties like this one.

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For me, when I am being true to myself, it means being goofy, and, well this area offers plenty of opportunities for that.  This section of U.S. highway 50, near Royal Gorge, has more than just one campsite and one whitewater outfitter.  There are more campsites, more whitewater outfitters, other activities (such as helicopter rides), and shops and restaurants that serve the needs of the tourists in the area.  Not to say that this area is a full-fledged tourist trap similar to Estes Park.  But, there are some places to wander around to at night if one is so inclined.


The return trip home involved one mildly disappointing stop; the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.  The chair was large, but we could not get in, as the shop that houses it has been closed for a year.

As I faced the return trip to the city, the return to work, and normal life, I could not help but think about the feeling I had this weekend, and how to be the best version of myself, the me that I was all weekend, every day.  What I struggle with is that “normal life” offers pretty much two typical paths.  First, one could work hard and “move up” in their organization, get promoted, become the boss, and maybe even reach leadership positions.  However, I have frequently observed that in many organizations, reaching higher levels requires some level of conformity, and one often must make some compromises on who they are and what they value to get in the good graces of those higher up- particularly in larger organizations.

Then, of course, there is always the option to be content to simply stay at the bottom of the totem pole.  This is a better path for those that prefer to keep their work load at reasonable levels, and seriously value work-life balance.  But, unfortunately, those that chose this route will always be answering to somebody, a boss, and sometimes for somewhat arbitrary reasons.  Being at the mercy of one person (and that person can suddenly change), who may be having a bad day, a bad month, or just simply be a bad person, has lead to countless terrible outcomes, all of which result in people not being the best version of themselves.

This is not to say that all is lost.  There are plenty of people that find a path outside the typical two options laid out above.  Many even write about their experiences here on WordPress.  There are also plenty of people that find a good environment using one of the two standard paths outlined above.  But, we all have a struggle.  And, this weekend, I realized that in order to make this struggle easier for both myself and the people around me, I need to celebrate the attributes in others that draw me to them, and also celebrate my own attributes that draw others to me.  Regardless of our paths, this authenticity needs to be encouraged.

Flooding on the Arkansas River

RoyalGorgeRaftingRowdyCelebrating my half birthday with Whitewater Rafting has become somewhat of a tradition for me, even though this is only the second year that I have organized such a trip.  And, this year’s trip was a doozy!

Mid June is typically prime-time for rafting in Colorado, as a combination of snowmelt from the mountains and periodic spring thunderstorms create the faster moving waters that adventurers seek.  This year, however, an unusually rainy May across Central Colorado created rapids on the Arkansas not seen in a generation.  According to our raft guide, this is the highest the water had ever been on June 20th, and the highest the water had been since 1995!  And, of course, the river reached what is referred to as “flood stage” the day before the trip.


Even the calmer parts of the trip were quite rapid.  The trip we signed up for was Performance Tours’ Royal Gorge half day trip.  With the speed that we were moving downstream, we covered the 10 mile distance in a little over an hour.  As is the case with nearly every commercial rafting outfitter, we began our trip on somewhat calmer waters so we could figure out our paddling rhythm and review some commands prior to tackling the bigger rapids.  Last weekend on the Arkansas, this was about as calm as it got.

It was not long before we were fully in rapids, ones that would be considered class 3 and 4.  The raft frequently bounced up and down during this entire middle section of the journey.  The roughest stretch came about 2/3 of the way into the trip.  It was a section of rapids that the instructor said some consider class 5, which is the highest rating navigable.  Unfortunately, we were not quite so lucky here.  In this section of rapids, our raft was quickly flung to the right bank of the river by a powerful burst of water.  The raft tipped sideways, dumping all six occupants (including the raft guide) into the rapidly moving river.


I did not even believe it was happening at the time.  On these rafting trips, many people look out the bus window, at the rapids they are about to take on, with a feeling of terror.  I had always believed I could conquer anything, as, well, for some reason rafting just never really scared me.  I just handle the bumps, lean in when necessary, and enjoy the ride!  But this time, we were all really going down.  Before I knew it, I was directly underneath the raft for what felt like an extended period of time (but in reality was only about 3 seconds).  Getting out from under the raft, and being able to pick my head up out of the water and breath was quite the relief.  It was an even bigger relief when I was able reach out and grab the paddle that our rafting guide extended towards us to pull us to shore.  And, although only three of us were able to grab onto that paddle, all five of us got out of the river with little to no injury.  After recovering my breath after all the water I swallowed while taking the unplanned dip into the river, all five of us got back on the raft and finished the trip.  It was quite the experience, one that the rafting guides told me, makes you “a pro”.


Perhaps the craziest aspect of the rafting experience was having the trip all to ourselves.  Almost every whitewater rafting trip one will take on, particularly on a popular river during a popular time of the year, is shared with strangers, basically, whoever also booked this particular trip at this particular time.  However, on this particular tour, perhaps due to sheer luck, or perhaps due to people canceling their trips due to the enhanced danger, my group of 16 ended up having the trip all to ourselves, which made the back and forth banter between the three boats on the trip interesting.

The one real drawback to having the water levels as high as they were was that it prevented us from physically rafting through Royal Gorge, which could not be entered (by raft) safely under these conditions.


It would have been amazing to actually traverse right through this gorge on a raft.  And, on a calmer year, or in a calmer part of this year (say, August), it will be possible.  But, since I really wanted to see Royal Gorge, after the rafting trip, we picked up and drove the four miles to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.

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This park offers a variety of crazy ways to get across this gorge, from the red gondola, to zip lining across, to simply walking across the bridge.  Unfortunately, walking across the bridge costs $23.  Any of the other activities would surely add to that price.  None of us really thought it was worth it to pay $23 just to walk across the bridge, but looking around, we saw plenty of people on that bridge.  I would probably rather experience this gorge by paying only slightly more money for the scenic railway, or by rafting through it on a calmer weekend.

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For free, we were still able to get on a short trail in the parking lot, to a nice over look.  It is really quite an amazing place, almost reminiscent of the large canyons one will find farther west, at places like Glenwood, Moab, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

The craziest thing about the remainder of my Saturday was how little I had been “shaken up” by the entire experience.  Rather than being scared, and not wanting to continue (or ever go rafting again), my first instinct was to want to re-do the trip, and get it right this time (i.e. handle the rapids correctly).  If there is one thing I can take from this entire experience, it is the importance of being resilient, and taking experiences like this in stride.  If anything, I was far more upset about how much it costs to walk over the bridge ($23) than about falling out of the raft.  Hopefully this means I am still young and resilient, and not that I am actually crazy.