Colorado Notes

January 17, 2024

copyright 2013

by Daniel J. McKeown

central Colorado scenery

Aspen and the Pelican

My last day through the mountains. The previous night I stayed in Aspen, at a little hotel bolted on to the same building as some high-fashion shops in the center of the small town. From my window I could see people walking through the square, rich old tourists, young adventurers, youngish workers from around America (and if the Norwegian-seeming woman working at the Starbucks I stopped at is any indication, from Europe too.) Not far from the hotel's entrance [hard to find because it is a downward staircase with shop fronts to the left and tight outside] is the town's main information booth with tables placed around and a curve of the road leading away from the pedestrian shopping streets in an L shape.

I had driven a few hours on the relatively rugged roads coming out of Aspen when heading east (the main Interstate through the Colorado mountains runs north through Vail rather than along the southern Aspen-Snowmass route). I had taken stops to photograph mountain views and enjoy a pull of delicious (legal) Colorado cannabis.

On the very last stop I saw a white point out on the water, and I tried with the camera I had with me to zoom in but the images I got were not especially distinct. So I just observed it with my eyes and when it came a little closer I felt assured that I had seen one of my absolute favorite animals in the world--the esteemed American White Pelican, patrolling that lake at the foot of rugged mountains. This trip was a time to relax find inspiration--and here it was dabbling around this alpine lake!

The Windmills of Iowa

On the way to Colorado I saw the windmills because daylight broke as I wandered around an Iowa rest area and right after that I saw the white massive metal mills in their hundreds all along farm country. I drove along on the way, determined to make it to Denver.

Driving back I was in the time not long after daybreak but sort of falling asleep as the minutes and miles ticked by slowly. I had gotten through Nebraska just on my brownie edibles and a smoke at the Colorado border (at the rest area with the metal tepee shelter) and after shooting through Nebraska my alertness was compromised and my stamina limped along. I got off I-80 with the idea of finding a place to pull over and sleep but suddenly I was looking at more and more windmills and eerily uniform rows of corn on the beautiful green rolling hills of a land that was certainly low and flat but not quite like Illinois, where I got my last major elevation-change-related nosebleed, or maybe just slightly bloody snot discharge. But out in Illinois on the last bits of the highway as I drove into DuPage County before I exited the tollway and went through the west side towns of Wheaton and Wood Dale (on my way to meet Jim in Des Plaines) I saw some clouds in the distance (darker and heavier than the unusually "big sky" clouds nearby) that did look like distant mountains, but as I had become so used to the site this was now an illusion.

The Civic Center

This is a few months early to be able to walk in to shops from out of town and buy weed in Colorado. I walked in to the ^Urban Dispensary^ but the little pixie at the front door assured me that my California medical card would not suffice at that place. Only a Colorado 'red card.' In January the system will change over to also allowing recreational pot smokers into stores; however the unknown that this represents jumping into may keep many of the medical dispensaries inside the 'red card' system, at least initially.

So I drove down to the Civic Center and parked and pretty soon I was buying a bag of cotton candy kush from a rather sullen dude with a white hat and eyes sitting between a thousand yard stare and a somnambulant roll.

This was the way I knew I could get some weed. I drive around for a while, relaxing a little and enjoying that I had finally gotten to Denver and found some weed.

After I cruised around for a while I checked in at a Hampton Inn for the night and then went on Craigslist. Quickly I was on my way to meet a guy in a Walgreens in Littleton. After a few wrong turns (the parking lot was dug down and inaccessible from the way I approached) I met up with the guy who had some AK-47 which was okay stuff, then before I went back I met up with a guy who had eighths of train wreck and master kush near a Starbucks in Aurora.

I entered Hampton Inn into Google Maps and drove back in the rented VW, only to realize when I pulled in that this was not the hotel I had already checked into, but one some 20 minutes away with a lively Mexican restaurant across the parking lot. After watching the drunk people streaming out of that place on Friday night for a little while and packing my green bowl, I took the drive back to the Hampton where I was actually staying, past the weird federal facility and near the Del Taco.

Night through Nebraska

I woke up in Aspen and didn't hurry out of town--I had to do some tourist stuff. I found a pink water/drink hot/cold thermos for Jessica at an outfitter shop. I went in to the head shop. They had enormous high-end glass bongs, carvings behind glass, and even some tourist bowls with the town's name on them. I got some stuff to smoke the weed I had bought--that bit of kush from the Civic Center, the AK-47 I bought from the guy at Walgreens and the Train Wreck and Master Kush that I met up with some hip dude who uses crowns in his Craiglist listings at a Starbucks, then I also picked up lemon skunk from a guy just south of downtown and I got some Jack Herer (a well regarded sativa strain I hadn't tried yet) from a dude that I met at a gas station on the south side even though he was from Center City. I met that same guy way up north a few days later actually, after my trip through the mountains, and got some Purple Kush (reputed to be an Oakland variety) from him at an Applebee's parking lot not long after I had met the guy on the near south side again, this time near his art studio, where I bought some "headband" which is an amazing mix of kush and diesel which I'm looking at a nug of as in write this.

So after those last two purchases I headed out on the road. It was a long run through the night but I had stayed at hotels for three days in a row (a Hampton Inn in Lakewood, a something-or-other suites east of town the next day, then the place in Aspen) after the arriving overnight drive.

Mountain Sickness

I've had issues adjusting to high altitudes before. This time I made sure to drink tons of fluids and medicate with cannabis and I did pretty well in Denver. But up on the way up to Aspen at 8,000 feet I started feeling some strange tingles in my legs and I was blowing out bloody snots. A headache was mostly kept at bay, it had actually flared up just a bit that morning but was disguised well enough by the lemon skunk I was hitting, which provided a mildy euphoric head buzz which slowly settled into the gray areas near my headache like smoke lingering in a hotel room. Now this suites place ( I had a 'studio' room though) actually had a proper air- sucking grate in the bathroom, but it wasn't that greedy and the smoke would sit around a bit, with nowhere to go but into the phalanx of air freshener sprays I kept using ("This one works great," more than one person had assured me at the area Container Store).

The adjustment to the thin air was the reason I stayed in Aspen, which ended up being a great idea. I was able to relax and smoke in the odd bed-and-breakfast-style room with the bed built slightly into the wall like a Murphy bed that had half- emerged into being a full bed, with the sink in the main room and only the shower and toilet in the bathroom. Tight quarters for me and my bowl and my laptop but I logged some time in there unwinding and standing occasionally on the tub side so I could see out onto the sidewalk/courtyard through the higher part of the window (which wasn't frosted). The room had a couch and some basic decorations and the TV (which I never turned on) nestled into a tall wicket structure near the door.

The altitude sickness subsided as the night gave way to day, I rolled over after looking at the clock, oh it's 9:30. Before I knew what happened (other than closing my eyes for an assuredly brief respite) I saw that it was 10:50 and I rushed into the shower and downstairs and the overwhelmed-looking pregnant woman working the desk took my keys and soon I was rolling along the town's streets, and Aspen is the kind of town where if you start driving haphazardly around, hitting a bowl, you'll quickly find yourself on a road out of town. This easterly road cut along the incredible mountains between Aspen and Denver, and I stopped frequently to photograph the stupefying scenery--including once where I stepped out of the VW on the edge of a pulloff and realized that a thousand-foot cliff dropped off just feet ahead of me. I slowly squeezed the still photo button on my video camera a few times before breathing slowly, deeply before getting back in the car. The massive mountain landscapes in the distance were captured by the camera as my mind stayed on the edge of the cliff.

Tired in Indiana

As I drove through the outer west side of Chicago, coming in from the vast flat prairie, I arranged for a motel room at the Clarion in Michigan City. So I met up with Jim and we ate at a noodle joint and then went to Rob's where this week's crisis involved what kind of Windows desktop computer he should purchase for his work machine (a month ago it was choosing an instant coffee brand for the office) and so Jim is talking to him about whether he should get an i5 or an i7 and Windows 7 or Windows 8 (a horrific choice indeed) in Borat accents. Is it that Jim picked up on vague Polish accents in Rob's speech and started mocking that, I don't know, but even through playing Madden (with all the breaking of the sound system Rob has done and the sorting of wires that Jim always seems to attempt when he comes in) the accent endured and the night was mild and clear and we were very high what with all the good weed I had and Jim had a little bit of stuff that his dealer had called "best of 2013" and Rob has pretty good stuff usually these days and as we left he seemed quite loopy, in that classic "dude I am so baked" kind of way that he had become known for.

We didn't even smoke too much as I drove Jim back to Des Plaines, and from there it was a slow, hazy journey through the city at 1 in the morning and up to the Indiana shorline, where I grabbed a few key bags after checking in, put them on the chair in the room, and passed out.

The next day I cruised around Michigan City and soaked in its micro-hood vibe and went further into Michigan proper, and bought blueberries which are now almost gone.

Sloan Lake (black and white

Sloan Lake

Waking up at the Hampton Inn, I've got to eat something, I find sufficient parts for a breakfast sandwich, some sort of English muffin, egg patty sort of like it's poached or something, some bacon, today I got up at a reasonable time, I find it so awkward to look at other hotel guests, the old people and teenage girls always stare at everyone else, everyone else tries to act more tired than they are, how many morning people are there, really?

So the mountains and freedom are so excited, and I keep moving, never spend the night in the same place twice in the row, always rolling, always smoking primo Mountain Country Grass, walking through the trails on the edge of mountains, walking up to Sloan Lake and taking pictures of the Denver skyline and watching all the people jogging by, or pushing strollers, or walking and talking, about to drive down to Santa Fe Boulevard and then through downtown, so many more places to visit next time as I drive into tomorrow's sunrise.

Profile picture

Written by Daniel J. McKeown who lives and works in Seattle watching birds. You could follow them on Substack

site built in 2024 with Gatsby