One of the best pieces of advice I received at the beginning of my job was to make the year what I wanted it to be. Yes, the NUTmobile IS a real job and we have real duties and rules to follow, but I know no future job will allow me as much freedom to do what I want with my time as being a Peanutter did. While some of my coworkers (who probably aren’t unemployed now) made the year more about using the NUTmobile to leverage future job opportunities, making the most of the freedom for me usually meant going the extra mile to see and do as much as I could around the country. One such example was during my week in Wichita when I found out that not one, but two other teams were in Denver – a casual 7 hour drive away – and I jumped at the chance to leave Kansas behind and spend a few days in the Mile High City.
In a choice between Denver and Wichita, the winner would probably be a no-brainer for most people like it was for me. That is, until I actually arrived in Wichita and saw our sweet digs for the first time. We were staying in a highly-recommended hotel/apartment building called Waterwalk that gave each of us our very own two-bedroom apartment complete with in-unit laundry, a full kitchen and a jacuzzi. On top of this, we were given free membership to the gym next door that also had a complimentary smoothie bar and steam room. Our typical extended stay suites are very comfortable, but they made the Waterwalk look like Heaven on Earth and I suddenly felt very conflicted about leaving for any amount of time, even if it was for Denver.
But I had one college friend, two Hotdoggers and three Peanutters waiting for me in Denver, and I tend to abide by a general rule of thumb that people > places, so the Denver trip went on as planned. The morning after my ungodly 1 a.m. arrival to CO, my pal Jena from the Cheese Block and I whipped up a breakfast feast and took off for the Red Rocks Theater, where we did a simple hike that was made extremely exhausting by the altitude. Afterward, we met the rest of our crew at 16th Street Mall for some flower shots and a night at their favorite Denver bars.
I spent the next day with my friend from college, Kate, who grew up in Denver and recently moved back after graduation. We met up for lunch followed by a walk in a park, drinks at a brewery, a little shopping and a lot of catching each other up with everything. Kate and I had a tight-knit group of friends in college who saw each other nearly every day, so going from that to seeing most of them once every few months has been a huge adjustment. It’s definitely made me more grateful for not only any time spent together – even if it is just an afternoon in Denver – but also for friendships that can survive a lot of distance and time apart.
Our last night in Denver our whole Peaner gang as well as two older Peanutters from classes II and IV had an extended family party at Lill’ Salty’s apartment building rooftop where we were once again given the much-needed reminder that life will in fact go on after driving a giant nut. Afterward, we headed across the street to Coors Field where we made the last few innings of the Rockies game before retiring to Ian’s pizza – an amazing pizza-by-the-slice shop that I didn’t know existed outside of Madison, WI.
Once back in Wichita, a lot of my time was spent in my sweet apartment or making use of the awesome gym, but I did have time to discover some of Wichita’s charms. For one, Wichita has a nice riverwalk through town, and I rented a bike one day and had a long, scenic ride along it. I also rode to the Nifty Nut House (a kindred spirit) which is a third generation family-owned store that is well known throughout Kansas for selling everything from candy to seeds to ice cream to nuts, of course. Conner and I also spent a night at another local favorite, Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar. Mort’s had a giant lit up outdoor patio, a jamming 80’s cover band, and a line out the door comprised of everyone from college students to elderly people, all there for a good time. It was one of the most unique and interesting bars I’ve seen on the road, and definitely wins for best martini.
Prior to this year, I wouldn’t consider myself a well-traveled individual, which is probably why “making the most of my year” set me on a frenzied mission to see and do as much as possible. I’ve thought a lot about things I’ve learned from this job (especially now that this blog is shamefully in extreme retrospect) and I think one of the most important things I took away was that I’d always like to prioritize traveling. A seven hour drive for a two day trip probably sounds preposterous, but after all my long travel days and out-of-the-way excursions over this year, I’ve never once regretted putting in the extra effort for a cool new experience. I think I can make my peace with having an actual address and a city to call home, but I don’t think I’ll be content if my life doesn’t continue to be nuttin’ but adventure.
Stay Wichitawesome folks!