Friday, June 25, 2010

On the Road: Denver, CO!

Last week, things were kinda quiet at Wonder Turtle Soaps because I was away in Denver, Colorado. What a beautiful part of the country! And the trip was a very welcome respite from the harsh Florida summer, which actually had not even officially begun yet, according to the calendar. In a lot of ways, June is the worst month in Florida because it comes in strong, and I'm not used to the heat yet. Well, I'm never used to it, but by July and August, I'm slightly (slightly) more acclimated to the heat and humidity, although they're both still bad. June so far has brought high temperatures and high humidity with heat indexes in the triple-digits. Everyday, it's hot and muggy with a 50% chance of an afternoon cussing storm. Lots of folks here just loooooooooove the summer and wish it could be like this year-round. Uh-uh, not me. I'm a winter-lover. Winter in northwest Florida is awesome; summer is just something to get through. But I digress.

What was I talking about? Oh, right ... Denver!

My husband, Ken, was on a business TDY in Denver and when he was done working, he took a few days off and I flew out to join him. A few days before I arrived, it was actually sorta cold and rainy with temps in the 50s. Jacket weather, if you can believe it. By the time I landed, the skies were clear and the temperature was a dry 75 degrees.

Ahhhhhhhhh ...

The first order of business was to scope out the downtown area. We stuck close to 16th Street, also known as "The Mall" because it is a large, 16-block shopping district. Our hotel was downtown, and we were able to walk just about everywhere we wanted to go. Or we took the free shuttle that runs the length of the Mall.

The 16th Street Mall in Denver. A free shuttle runs through the Mall - you can see it approaching back there on the left. 

We walked a bit the first afternoon, finding our way around. One of the first things of interest I saw was this giant 40-foot tall blue bear peeking into the Colorado Convention Center. This is actually a piece of public artwork called "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent. Cool, huh?
I landed late in the afternoon, and it was getting close to beer o'clock. I don't know if you guys know this, but I am a beer snob, and I love to sample regional brews. We didn't have to walk too long before we found an Old Chicago. Now, I know Old Chicago isn't very exotic, but they have a bunch of good beers on tap - and most of them are regional microbrews. We thought we'd find a pub with microbrews on every corner downtown, but that wasn't the case. The Falling Rock Taphouse has tons of great microbrews on tap, and we paid them a visit, too. I fell in love with a couple of new brews in Denver. One was Left Hand Brewing Co.'s "400 Pound Monkey" IPA (tastes great and it's fun to say, "Gimme one of them monkey beers!"). My favorite this trip, though, was probably the Green Flash Brewing Co.'s "West Coast IPA". Very hoppy, very grassy, and very yummy.

We didn't spend the whole trip drinking beer, though - that would make us alcoholics. No, our sessions of moderate, responsible drinking were spaced out by acceptable daytime activites, like hiking, going to the zoo, and looking at plastinated bodies.

Our first full day in Denver, we drove to nearby Idaho Springs for a 2-hour hike at Echo Lake, which is near Mt. Evans, which has North America's highest auto road with an elevation of more than 14,000 feet (and I have a blurry picture to prove it!).                                                                    

Echo Lake's elevation is about 10,600 feet. The mountains in the background were snow-capped, and this did not surprise me.

What did surprise me was that while we were hiking, we saw several patches of snow on the ground where we were. Can you believe it? Snow on the ground! In June! It was like being in Bizarro World.

The next day, we intended to go to the zoo, but we picked the one day of the year that they close early to prepare for their annual fundraiser. So, we headed to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science instead. We were planning to go there anyway because I really wanted to see the Body Worlds exhibition. I don't know if you've heard about Body Worlds, but real human bodies (provided by generous donors) are "plastinated," preserved, and displayed. It is really fascinating - how often do you get to see the inner workings of an actual body like that? The anchor of the exhibition was "The Story of the Heart" told through various displays that, again, were provided by donors. What most struck me was how complicated the human body is. It seems that there are millions of opportunities for something to go horribly wrong, yet most of us are born normal (well, normal enough) and have amazingly functional bodies for a good long while, if we're lucky.

Photos were frowned upon inside the museum, so we took some outside. Here I am with a grizzly bear statue. I'm not saluting - I'm shielding my eyes from the sun.

On our last full day in Denver, we finally made it to the Denver Zoo. Sadly, about half of my zoo pictures came out blurry. I was changing the settings on my camera from auto to flash-off and back again as we went inside and outside. I must have forgotten to change the setting back to auto at some point and didn't notice on my tiny camera screen that the photos were all blurred. Oh, well, there are some good ones in there, so I think we'll make do just fine.

This spider monkey was hilarious. He and one of his monkey buddies would periodically harass the anteater in the background. They'd grab the anteater's tail and run away over and over again until the anteater made a move toward them. It seemed like good fun and it certainly was amusing, but I felt bad for the anteater. At one point, I saw him standing on his hind legs at the back gate like he wanted someone, anyone, to let him out.

Okay, I have a thing for monkeys. Monkey beer, monkey monkeys ... what can I say, primates are fascinating. They are incredibly smart, strong, and perceptive. Here is a big beautiful gorilla, which is, of course, a great ape and not a monkey. This shot is through a thick pane of glass, so it's not super-awesome. This is probably the closest I'll ever get to a gorilla, though - just a few inches of plexiglass separated us, and he could not have been less interested in me ...

It's called "peacocking."
Look, Wonder Turtles! Not sure what kinds of turtles these are exactly. The one that's pushing the turtle climbing out of the pond back into the water looks like a slider turtle, though. Come on, man, help a turtle out!

We flew home the next morning. I wish we had had a couple more days there, but I guess we'll just have to go back! Thanks for a great week, Denver!