(Rocky Mountain National Park)
“Hey, look! It’s Delaware!” I shout to my family.
A man loading his dog into the back of an out-dated, green Toyota Four Runner shoots me a strange look. He warily opens his door and puts his car in gear. I didn’t have time to explain the situation, but we were playing the license plate game, and he was driving our white whale.
Games like this are necessary when you are driving across Kansas, a maelstrom of wind gusts, wheat fields, and boredom. We were on our way to Colorado for some much-needed relaxation. While the Kansas landscape produced drowsiness, Colorado’s snow-peaked mountains inspired awe and wonder.
The fresh air, mountain streams, and cooler temperatures provided a needed respite from my everyday routine of wearing dress slacks and working under fluorescent lights. We drank from a waterfall, had a snowball fight at 12,000 feet, and enjoyed indescribable peace. We turned off the radio and tuned into the sounds of the Rockies. We listened to rushing rivers and watched elk graze lazily as the wind blew steadily, persistently and peacefully. At one scenic overlook, we stared at the Continental Divide silently with dozens of onlookers, allowing nature to speak for itself.
While nature was the star attraction, we also enjoyed man-made comforts like heated pools, brisket grilled cheese, and a local Hefeweizen that made me appreciate all of that Kansas wheat.
We also made new acquaintances. Mike was a recovering financier who left a secure job to pursue his dream of coaching lacrosse, and Holly worked in school admissions and had a hobby farm. We befriended Raj and Deepa during a whitewater rafting excursion down the Poudre River. Raj and I shared several bonds, including raising two daughters and paddling down a raging river with a creaky middle-aged back. Most of us were on the same journey: working, raising families, pursuing dreams, and enjoying the picturesque landscape.
It took us nearly 16 hours to drive home. Along the way, the mountains faded in the rearview mirror; the prairie approached and occupied our windshield, and the elevation slowly and steadily diminished. One week ago, I sat at the top of a 14,000-foot summit. Today I find my self sitting in my living room at a modest 520 feet above sea level. The view is different, but my enthusiasm remains the same. I was fortunate to spend time with my family in such a beautiful place, and I find myself rejuvenated- my excitement inversely related to my altitude. The mountains have faded from the rearview, but the memories remain.