My bus is so late arriving that I seriously wonder if it’s meant to arrive at all. It finally pulls up half an hour late, and the same driver who got me to Cheyenne is taking me on to Denver. He asks if I want to get off downtown or at Union Station; my ticket says Downtown, but he leaves the choice to me. We get hung up in traffic and arrive at Union Station 45 minutes late. At this point, I want OFF the bus, so I grab Jenny and my backpack and head in to the station.
This building is HUGE, and Jenny flawlessly takes me to a flight of stairs, where I ask a security officer where to go to get to Gate B8. He sends me up the stairs, and I find myself on some kind of platform. Jenny guides me somewhere… and next thing I know my arm is being gripped by two closing doors! Thankfully, Jenny had made it all the way in to the train, and didn’t get caught herself. Other commuters help me and make sure I’m OK. Another security officer agrees to walk me downstairs, to Gate B8; I had previously been directed to TRACK B8. My #15 bus arrives, and I show my pass to the driver (I’d purchased it from my phone on the bus). My first impression of Denver: it’s loud, it’s big, and oh boy I know I’m not in Montana anymore!
My friend Aziza has invited me to stay with her and her boyfriend, Ellaun. Ellaun meets me at the bus stop – after a brief period where we had no idea the other was there – and we head over to their apartment. We all sit around and get acquainted, and Jenny makes fast friends with Marna, Aziza’s guide dog. During the course of the evening, we eat, laugh, watch Forrest Gump… I turn in early (11:30 PM) while the others continue to watch movies. I want to join them, but I am SOOOOOO tired…
Saturday morning, I’m awake early. Aziza is dog-sitting a gorgeous puppy named Bernie, and he arrived earlier. He’s hanging out in Marna’s crate and Jenny’s chilling in the guest room. Aziza and I try and get the Keurig machine working, but it refuses to brew coffee; this leaves more counter space for Aziza! Instead, I enjoy a hot cup of coconut coffee and a buttered bagel.
A couple months ago, Aziza met a personal stylist, and found the experience of learning new ways to match clothes, accessorize and dress in a way that flatters her to be incredibly helpful. It’s something I’ve considered in passing, but never knew where to start. When I heard about Aziza’s experience with Sandi, I just knew it was something I wanted to try while I was in town.
Aziza and I leave the house late, and the Uber has a hard time finding us. We finally make it to Cherry Creek Mall, and ask directions to The Loft, where Sandi is meeting us. No fewer than six people offer to help us, but have no idea where the store is. After a frustrating 20 minutes of getting conflicting directions, Sandi meets us out front of The Loft so we could better locate her. The next two hours are spent trying on clothes, different sizes, different cuts, and taking some new but not outrageous risks in clothing purchases. Aziza loves some of the clothes Sandi has picked for me – particularly a gorgeous silver-gray cardigan I fall in love with at first touch. Sandi is attentive and observant, and her philosophy “If it’s not a LOVE, it doesn’t go in your closet.” In the end, I walk away with two pairs of pants (one forest green, one navy), two shirts (one navy, one cream with some navy stripes and a slight sleeve ruffle) and that cardigan. The whole store is on sale, and Aziza has discount cards that will expire next week, so I save more than 50% on my purchases… AND I have learned a lot about coordination that I didn’t know before… And I never once felt judged for not knowing something, or not wanting to fiddle with anything remotely fussy. The time has flown by and I’ve walked away with more than just a bag of clothes – though the clothes are nice!
We grab a coffee and light lunch at Nordstrom, then browse for a while before heading to Lush. The scents at Lush are starting to overwhelm me, so I step outside before I get a headache. Jenny guides us to Urban outfitters, where the closest exit is, and I’m so impressed with how well she and Marna are working together; we even ask a Nordstrom employee to snap a picture of Jenny resting her head on Marna’s back! Once outside, Aziza says there’s some local shops she wants to take me to. We struggle to find the Artisan Centre, and once we locate it we can’t browse too long because they’re closing soon. I purchase something I just know one of my friends will love, and Aziza calls an Uber to get to downtown.
Our first stop is Dog Savvy, where we browse all kinds of dog supplies and dog-themed merchandise. Jenny is offered a treat, but she’s allergic to so many things that I have to decline, much to Jenny’s disappointment. From Dog Savvy, we head to Aillea, where I purchase a tiny container of shea butter for a spot on my arm that bothers me particularly in the fall. From Aillea, it’s just a quick jaunt to the 16th Street Mall, and that’s where we walk next.
The 16th Street Mall is a pedestrian mall in the middle of downtown Denver. Shuttles take shoppers up and down the mall, musicians play on most streets, and there’s lots of local businesses to explore and enjoy! There’s the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Where the Buffalo Roam, and more coffee shops than I can count. We even manage to find a bunny rabbit just hanging out on a patch of grass, not seeming bothered at all by all the people and dogs in its immediate vicinity. Jenny found the bunny when I told her to “find something fun”, and she finds her fourth coffee shop of the day (I think I drink too much coffee!)
Ellaun meets us at 5280, where we sit in a massive booth meant for eight people. I get a burger and salad, and enjoy the music from the ’90s and early ’00s being pumped through the speakers. We talk politics – which with Aziza and Ellaun is a lot more fun than it sounds – growing up, changing perceptions, tipping, supporting others’ decisions even if you wouldn’t make them yourself… it’s incredibly rare that such a deep conversation can be so humorous!
We call an Uber back to the apartment, and the driver is terrified that Marna will do something to him and his car. He seems unsure of the directions Aziza and Ellaun are giving him, and then Jenny tries to rush out of the car, trapping Aziza in the back seat. The driver then offers to hold my dog for me. NOOOOOO! Aziza holds her leash while I come around and get her out, and we’re both really really glad to b out of that Uber!
Bernie, the dog Aziza and Ellaun are dog-sitting, needs a run! Aziza and I are both exhausted, but we know our girls need a free run, too. Elon is heading up the stairs while I’m giving Jenny a chance to relieve… and my Loft bag rips, spilling smaller items onto the grass. I’m gathering things up, and Ellaun asks if I’m OK, then hauls the ripped bag upstairs while I finish with Jenny.
We make our way to the dog park, each holding the leash of a dog. Aziza stteps in a puddle and asks why I didn’t warn her. I laugh, though I probably shouldn’t; its a little puddle! What is NOT little is the amount of mud in the dog park. The dogs are running and chasing each other, and the humans are trying – mostly in vain – to keep out of it ourselves. we’re being sprayed with various levels of mud, and we all know we’re gonna have to clean off three sets of doggie paws, if nothing else.
I have more mud on me than Jenny does. My sandals are caked with it, and I’m speckled with it from toes to knees. Jenny’s got it on her paws, but just needs a brief wipe-down of her back leg and belly. Finally, as clean as we can be, three humans and three dogs head inside and call it a night.
Sunday morning, I get up early and start to pack. Now that I’ve decided to retire my sandals, I’ve got more room in my backpack. I thought I’d rolled my running clothes… until I make a concerted effort to roll them this morning. WOW! How many things can fit in one tiny packing cube! There’s hope for me to fit everything in and be able to fly home tomorrow.
Aziza has to work this morning, and so does Elaun. I’ve decided to hang outu at a coffee shop while Aziza is at work for the morning. I order a coffee and a burrito, and sit down to enjoy the ambiance of a LOCAL coffee shop. When I’ve had my fill, Jenny and I walk around the neighborhood to see what we can see. I turn down residential streets, and discover a quiet pocket of space right inside this bustling city. I’m reminded of my own neighborhood, and I miss it immensely. In just over 24 hours, I’ll be home!!! A resident is mowing his lawn and stops to chat, and points me to the park up the street. I don’t have time to visit, since Aziza is on her way back to the coffee shop, but it sounds like some kind of event is taking place near the park. Back at the coffee shop, Aziza and I sit in large comfortable chairs that we don’t want to leave… ever! But leave we must. We’ve got a craft show to attend!
Handmade in Colorado is just like it sounds. We stumbled across a vendor yesterday tearing her table down, and she told us about the event at the 16th Street Mall. We browse through pens, dog collars and leashes, a lot of jewelry, and some beautifully carved jewelry boxes. There’s a lot of people, and it is HOT. Jenny flops down on the ground at every table we visit. At one of our last stops of the small show, we find some cool massage pillows, and humans and dogs alike are glad to get out of the heat. Then we relax in hanging chairs, like hammocks, and the craftsman/salesman calls me “touchy” when I firmly tell him to please not touch my legs to put them up on the footrests. The chairs are super cool, though!
Our budgets are stretched, but we hop the Mall Ride trolley and hop off two stops later, where we stop for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. I have a deluxe burrito with carnitas (seasoned pork). Our water glasses are constantly being refilled, and we talk about language, family, and music, and then head out to I Heart Denver, a fun artsy shop that consigns work from local artists. I buy a few things, then try and find a gelato spot Jenny showed us yesterday. We find it easily, and eat our gellato from paper cups with little spoons that look like spatulas. Then it’s time to battle the heat and make our way home.
We both doze off on the bus ride home, but we make our stop and get back to the boiling apartment just after 6:00. We feed the dogs, then watch them play, show each other souvenirs and important pieces of jewelry. Aziza shows me the wonder of vacuum-sealed bags; everything gets squished into a tiny package! I manage, with some mad Tetrus skills I didn’t expect to need again, to get everything squashed into my poor, long-suffering backpack. When Ellaun gets home, we take “twin pictures” of Aziza an me in our matching outfits, eat pizza and chat for a while before I sadly have to call it a night.
I wake up early, make sure I have everything I need, and play another game of “Backpack Tetrus.” Aziza asked me to wake her to say goodbye, so I do. We chat drowsily, pet each other’s dogs farewell, and hug goodbye before I head down the stairs. We had hoped to go to the state capitol together, but life had other plans. Instead, I’m doing my last part of my trip alone.
I get lost coming out of the apartment complex, but I make it to the bus on time. The bus, however, is late. When I arrive at the state capitol, Jenny takes me to a door that happens to be closed. It’s not her fault! When I get into the part of the building that is open, I am asked in a sickly sweet voice to please go through security. So I do. I make it up the stairs and start exploring the building. Unfortunately, the internet is spotty and I am not able to get too much visual information. Also, I find it a little bit creepy to be going into a building that, while public, is still somebody’s workplace. It’s kind of an interesting feeling that I didn’t expect to feel. The capital of Colorado has a lot of marble. It’s a very nice building, and I wish I could stay longer. But I have one more stop. The airport.
My bus arrives on time, and I relax for the few minutes until I head back to Union Station. After my experience when arriving there, I am a little bit concerned about making it to my train on time. However, the bus driver gives good directions for the train, and I manage to hop on in plenty of time to be able to make my flight. I have a lot of thoughts going through my head as the train makes its way along the tracks. Who was I when I left? Who am I now? What will I carry with me when routine sets in? Home will have those answers. And as amazing as this trip has been, my next adventure starts at home.
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