Astra and the Mountain Goats

September 18th, 2010 No Comments »

As we left Cripple Creek… I found out the universe has a sense of humor

We left Colorado rather exhausted and in my return to Austin I finished editing all the video and wrapping up the blog; however I forgot to include a small remarkable event.

Astra and I packed up the last morning and I was grateful for some cool weather before dawn since mid-July around the Colorado Springs area brought some high temperatures. We drove down the track towards the main road out of the Cripple Creek KOA and I told Astra that we were lucky to have been able to take the trip. She was less than enthusiastic. My daughter is not known for her pleasant morning temperament. I reminded her that she had seen an amazing assortment of wildlife on our travels and that alone was an incredible experience.

She agreed for a moment but then piped up about never seeing any mountain goats. I told Astra that she was lucky to have seen all the animals that we were fortunate to encounter and that the universe does not grant your every wish, nor should you expect it to.

We started our descent into the next town, Divide and about four minutes after we pulled out I hit the brakes because there was a small group of cattle on the road in the shadow of the mountain. As we inched closer, I realized these shaggy cattle were mountain goats shedding winter coats. Astra was elated. I rolled down the windows and the goats were around the car for a moment and the bounded up the side of the mountain in great vertical leaps. I was breathless, feeling like a perfect ass. Astra was in the back seat yelling, “See mommy!”

And I could see, too. I had just not four minutes before uttered a statement to assure my daughter that she was lucky and not all things come to you because, well as adults we have moments of disappointment. I laughed, shrugged and drove on towards Divide. I guess I was wrong and you can get everything you wish for; perhaps not exactly when you want, but no reason not to keep wishing.

Colorado~ The last stop

July 22nd, 2010 No Comments »

Colorado was shorter than I would have liked. I didn’t spend as much time in the smaller, mountain towns west of the Rockies because we ran out of money and summer hit Colorado with temperatures in the high 90’s, prohibiting tent camping.

Our first stop was Ft Collins. I spent two days there and the day I arrived, Ft Collins was featured on CNN & Money Magazine as one the best places to live in the United States.
Best Places to Live

I wandered about downtown and shot video. I even stopped by Colorado State and spent significant time videoing there with my mother, mesmerized by the floral gardens. I noticed above average number of restaurants, plus lots of friendly folks going about their day. It reminded me a little of Boise. When a city chooses to invest and maintain the downtown, then the life quality of life is increased and small business owners have a chance to make a living and not be squeezed out by larger corporations. My first impression of Fort Collins was reminiscent of Medford, Oregon. I can’t say that I would never live there, but it felt a little big for me, though it’s significantly smaller than where I live.

Later I learned from a former resident that the area had been plagued by a meth problem. I wasn’t sure about this so I did a little research and the county where Fort Collins is located has struggled with meth labs. I thought that it was odd that the city was so high on the best places to live list, given this issue, but perhaps other factors prevailed in the sequencing of the cities.

The video I shot and put together if it were a salsa would fall in the mild category. I did meet a cool guy named Cody at Nature’s Own and he was interested in moving to Austin and talked with me about it off camera. While I could have gotten some good information from him he was too shy so I interviewed a nice young woman named Ashton whose immediate goal was to leave Fort Collins to sow some oats and who can
blame her? Sowing oats is like the customary smack on the bottom after you are born. Kick starts you, doesn’t it?

Here is what I shot in Fort Collins, a nice mild video that would befit it’s status as number 6 on the Best Places to Live list.

Downtown Fort Collins & Nature’s Own

We left Fort Collins and headed south to Denver. When we were in Crescent City, CA we met a family a few sites down from us staying in a KOA cabin. Astra and I had a lovely tent site right next to some massive old redwood stumps nestled in smaller (relative to the stumps) trees and ferns. It was a Jurassic landscape and we stayed four days. During those four days Astra and Maddie became friends and decided they wanted to meet up later when our journey took us through Colorado.

Denver is not on my radar for a place to live. I’d been to Denver and Boulder back in the 1990’s when my campus environmental organization was affiliated with a larger parent group called SEAC— Student Environmental Action Coalition. As I write this, I wondered if SEAC was still functioning and sure enough it is! One of the first SEAC conferences ever held was in Boulder, CO and I went there with my group called SCAPE (Students Concerned About Protecting the Environment) from Mississippi State University back in the early 90’s.

SEAC

I’ve always liked Boulder, but it’s too pricey for me, so our trip to Denver was to see the friends we’d met. Astra found a kindred spirit and I met some lovely people with whom I enjoyed spending time. Vicky is a chemical engineer and Awon teaches creative writing and their daughter Emma is about the age of my students & I found much to talk about with everyone. Maddie and Astra who are about to enter the fourth grade were inseparable and talk about how they met and why they are going to be life long friends in the video below. It’s very sweet and I hope it will serve as a memento for them in the future.

Astra & Maddie: Kindred Spirits

We tootled around Cripple Creek, a town that has capitalized on converting older structures into casinos and of course there are wild donkeys that run free about the place and have the right of way. I did video Cripple Creek, but I could not find anyone to really talk with me except I did get the scoop from our waitress about the schools. She had an unfortunate experience with the local elementary school with regard to her daughter’s progress. I made some suggestions, though she did not want to be interviewed. It’s a small town so I can’t blame her. I may include a few clips. It’s not anything I find particularly illuminating except for my quest to find the grocery store after circling the town two times and finding nothing. Astra and I decided that Cripple Creek was a place to visit, but not a place to live. However, we did find a town we really liked and there is video of it.

The next video is from Divide, Colorado, a town west of Colorado Springs in the mountains. We popped into Venture Foods and a lady asked not to be interviewed but directed us next door to Darryl AKA Darren Thornberry and his interview is below. Astra was present for nearly all of the interviews & this one is her favorite. After we left she remarked, “That was the best interview ever, mom!” Darren’s flair makes him a great front man for his band and I was lucky to meet him. You see I woke this last morning of our adventure weary from road travel and dreading finding no one and nothing of interest. I should not have despaired, because the universe smiled on me and I had a great day.

Darren Thornberry

Thorn’s Musical Journey

I continued to drive east towards Colorado Springs and entered the town of Woodland Park where Darren actually resides and I can understand why he would choose to live there. The size, layout, scenery, businesses and activities all screamed ‘live here Sher.’ As were driving through town I saw a sign for the farmer’s market that day and pulled over and headed over to it. If there is one good place to meet people and find out about an area it’s a local market. I was fortunate to meet some like-minded folks from the Harvest Center. I was impressed by the work they have accomplished in Woodland Park to help bring about a sustainable living area. The video below contains scenes from the farmer’s market and an interview with Lee Willoughby from the Harvest Center.

Woodland Park Farmer’s Market & The Harvest Center

The Harvest Center

The next stop was Manitou Springs and if it had not been 100 degrees outside I might have spent more time exploring the area. It reminded me of Eureka Springs, Arkansas and I suspect it’s a popular day spot for Colorado Springs residents. I took some video here and spoke with a young lady who divulged to me off camera that she had a poor experience living in Fort Collins owing to the meth problem in the city. This would not prevent me from moving there since it appears from all the billboards of meth stained teeth throughout Colorado that communities are working hard to remove this drug problem. Here is the clip. I also had the good fortune to eat some of the best falafel ever in a restaurant called the Heart of Jerusalem Cafe. It’s on the video. Take a look:

Manitou Springs

The last video I filmed in Cripple Creek outside our cabin and it’s my goodbye and thank you to all the amazing people I encountered in my travels. Seeing the people, walking the streets, driving around aimlessly exploring potential cities and towns has given me a foothold and confidence to relocate to these areas that I would not have had if I’d stayed in Texas all summer. I was especially attracted to the Flathead Valley in Montana, but then I liked nearly all the valleys I visited ~ the Skagit and the Rogue~ and would feel fortunate to live in an area where sustainability is at the forefront of community development. If we met, please watch the video to allow my sincerest of thanks in person.

Sher says goodbye from Cripple Creek, CO