You call someplace home, and if you think about it, there are probably one or two big reasons for that. Maybe you grew up there, you got a great job there, met an amazing girl or guy there. I wasn’t born in Colorado, but when I think about why I moved there, I know it’s because one of my best friends was blown away when he drove through on the interstate ten years ago.
Every time I drive through Glenwood Canyon, I say to myself or whoever is in the car, “My friend Nick started crying the first time he drove through this canyon.” Which is true and probably not something Nick tells a lot of people, but it’s the start of my story about Colorado.
One day, after about a year at his first post-college job at an advertising agency in Iowa, Nick looked out the window and realized he was jealous of the guy mowing the lawn in the office park. He quit his job and took off on a four-month road trip by himself in his red Pontiac Sunfire, couch-surfing and driving through Montana, Washington, British Columbia, Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah, and was on his way east through Colorado when he drove into Glenwood Canyon and was so struck by the vertical sandstone walls shooting up from the Colorado River that his eyes welled up with tears. He said that’s when he knew he wanted to move to Colorado.
That summer, he interviewed for a job as a lifty at Breckenridge Ski Resort, and when October came, he moved to 9,600-foot high Breckenridge, in the typical squalor of a ski town employee. He spent his next two winters there, and during the second one, when he shared a one-bedroom apartment with his sister and her boyfriend, he and I had a few phone conversations about what was next for both of us.
At the time, I was living in Phoenix, and told Nick I was thinking of moving to Portland, Seattle or Denver. I don’t remember what he said over the phone, but it was something about rain in the Pacific Northwest and 300 days of sunshine in Denver. My then-girlfriend and I talked about it, and decided in May that we would head to Denver. That was that, and I lived there for six years, most of the time about 10 blocks away from Nick. Now, I spend most of my year on the road and have no permanent residence, but I still consider Colorado home.
My friend Mick used to say that when you’re young, everything is new, and when you’re old, everything reminds you of something else. When I’m away now and I think about Colorado, my mind cycles through the images from my first few years there, when I was still really discovering the mountains — blood-orange alpenglow on the massive rocky peaks, fat afternoon clouds gathering and rolling over us as we booked it down trails to get to treeline, the first views I had from belay ledges a couple hundred feet up on Lumpy Ridge, Eldo and other places. I see the Colorado I saw when I didn’t know anything about the mountains and was curious about everything in them, and I feel kind of old, but mostly grateful.
When you think about why you are where you are, it might be a simple thing like the weather or family or a workplace that keeps you smiling and motivated. Sometimes it’s a story. I like my story about my friend, a few years ago, when he was young, a little lost, and maybe a little weary of being on the road, peering out his windshield and being moved to tears.
When I think of Colorado, I hardly ever think of Glenwood Canyon. But when I drive through Glenwood Canyon, I always think of Nick, and then I remember why I love Colorado.