When I first found out the Westies were going to Denver, CO, I was elated because I had always heard such great things about the Mile High City. Denver met all of my expectations: it was absolutely beautiful — our hotel was smack dab in the middle of downtown yet we had an amazing mountain view from our window — there seemed to be an endless amount of trails to choose from and a brewery or two on every corner…what more could you want?
But despite being immersed in such a beautiful city with a unique culture, Denver was the first place I found myself feeling really homesick. It might be because I got to see, Kate, one of my close friends from home, and spend time in an actual house (more about this later), or just because life on the road was finally catching up to me, but my homesickness hit me like a bird hitting the windshield of the NUTmobile: hard and unexpectedly. (side note: we have now caused four bird fatalities in the NUT)
On our first day in town, my friend Kate, a Denver native, picked us up in an actual car (bless her) and drove us to Boulder, CO where we hiked at Lake Isabelle. The beautiful trees and creeks surrounding the trail and the breathtaking mountain view were enough to distract me from the pain of hiking 6 miles uphill (I was definitely aware of it the next day however). Afterward, we checked out some of the small shops in downtown Boulder and ate at an Italian place with some of the best pasta I’ve ever had with Kate and her friend Sylvie.
It should be noted that, due to our desire to stay downtown combined with our modest hotel budget, the Westies all had to share one hotel room in Denver…yes, that means one bathroom too. Needless to say, Elise and I jumped at the chance to stay with Kate and her family for a night. Being in a real house again reminded me of so many things I had taken for granted before hotel life (little things like bottled hand soap, ceiling fans and the always-welcome presence of dogs), and it was also just nice to be around a family again. I loved seeing Kate, and while seeing her made it impossible not to think about all of my other friends and family that I was missing back in Wisco, it also felt like I had a piece of home with me.
One awesome thing about being a Peanutter (there are many awesome things) is that it means being part of an exclusive network of Peanutter and Hotdogger alumni that live all over the country and are always willing to show us around. Denver was our first chance to meet up with some of these alumnuts, and we got to meet Adam (class 1 nut), Lillian (class 2 nut) and Christine (class 3 nut) for dinner and drinks. Although we had never met any of them before, we were able to instantly form a connection through our common stories, struggles and experiences on the job. It was refreshing to be around people who knew exactly what we were going through (and had survived) and it definitely helped me feel more at home.
We did so much in Denver that it’s hard to write about all of it: we had the best ramen of my life, checked out the bars in downtown, met Elise’s awesome cousin Hannah and more! But one of my favorite nights of Denver was when the three of us spent hours simply walking around the city and seeing as much as we could. Admittedly, it started out as a quest for ice cream (as most of our best adventures do), but ended with us seeing tons of cool things such as an old church converted into a bar, the Colorado State Capitol Building and grounds, bungee string chairs on 16th Street Mall and the Denver Art Museum. The streets were alive on our Sunday night walk, which I think says a lot about the good vibes in Denver.
Despite our shared room (it ended up being fine except for the huge fight Conner and I had after I made fun of his sneeze), Denver was one of my favorite cities we’ve been to, and I can definitely see myself living there someday! You truly get the best of both worlds in the Mile High City: gorgeous natural scenery and the excitement of a big city. As for my homesickness, I learned that I’ll always have my support system back home to lean on, but that I also have a new family on the road — not only with Elise and Conner, but also with our huge network of past Peanutters and Hotdoggers and the friends old and new that we meet up with on the road.
Never forget: there’s no such thing as strangers, only nutty buddies you haven’t met yet.