Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It really was a foretaste of heaven; driving south on Highway 67 from Divide, Colo., toward the tiny town of Victor, the highway became like a golden tunnel, full of the famous "quaking aspens" that high-altitudes in this state are known for. I had to drive to 9,600 feet to see them and it was delightful jumping out of the car and clinging onto those birch-like trees whose leaves rustle in the mountain breeze like nothing else I've ever heard.
Seeing the aspens was one of my goals for the two full days we've spent in Colorado Springs. I first tried ascending to the heights via Gold Camp Road, a very old route through the mountains that takes you through canyons with dizzying drop-offs with no guard rails. I made it up the first few miles of this road - in sheer terror in my rental car - before finding out that the rest of the bottom half of this road had been closed for years due to a cave-in; somehow this vital point was not included in my tourist literature. So we returned to the Springs and drove up the much wider Highway 24 to Woodland Park, then headed over to Divide and then south.
Just north of Victor, I discovered the western half of Gold Camp Road and drove down it a half-mile and the beauty of that route through a high mountain valley cannot be described. Again - didn't want to get caught somewhere with a flat tire and no cell phone service so drove back toward civilization which - in the case of the nearby gold mining town of Cripple Creek - has meant being given over to casinos. Veeka napped part of this time as I hopped in and out of the car snapping photos of the aspens. The weather could not have been warmer and brighter which was a real gift considering how cold it can be at those altitudes.
On the way back, had a strange experience visiting the site of what was once the Colorado branch of the Community of Celebration which I wrote about in my "Fire and Glory" book. I was last there 30 years ago in 1980 - in late September in fact - attending a conference on Christian communities that was at an old Episcopal church camp that the Celebration folks fixed up. The site has since been sold to a company that rents out cabins there; the same cabins I'm guessing that were built or refurbished several decades ago. It was the oddest thing walking about on that property, feeling the ghosts there. The only thing left that hinted that a religious community had been there was St. Martin's Chapel, pictured here, a quaint wood structure way back then but now in much disrepair with junk piled high inside of it. Let's hope it's been deconsecrated. So many trees have grown on that acreage that it no longer has the fabulous views of Pike's Peak that I remembered from back then as a 24-year-old who drove 3 days from Oregon to get there.
Today, Veeka and I visited Garden of the Gods, a fabulous park of bizarre red rock formations with cool trails everywhere. Veeka saw one man rappelling down one of the sheer faces and she was fascinated as to why someone would do such a thing. Her little world has been much broadened in the past few days with all the things she's seen, such as the big-horned sheep that casually walk about where we're staying. That's at Glen Eyrie, a conference center and hotel owned by the Navigators that is in a canyon next door to Garden of the Gods. Veeka has been much taken by the lovely castle where we eat our daily breakfast. The grounds are fabulous and it's a site where Billy Graham almost relocated his ministry to before deciding to stay put in North Carolina. His loss, I think; what a place to base a ministry.
Veeka and I went on a hike this morning and in spite of all the wailing about being 'too tired' to make it to the top of a very short peak known as Dawson's Grave, she actually enjoyed it once she got on the trail. We also enjoy the magpies about the grounds and other cool wildlife not seen back east.
Off to Seattle on Wednesday for Carley's wedding. Also want to say the Economist ran my first blog post today here which was a triumph in that my first two attempts didn't fare as well. Small victories.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three days in Denver

So far, so good; gorgeous weather in the 80s and sunny. We spent 3 days at the Westin Tabor Center in Denver for the RNA conference where Miss Veeka got ahold of a notepad and practiced interviewing friendly people. She's been at 2 meetings of religion reporters - at least - and has become like a little mascot there. Everyone seems to love her - even people who I'm not sure like ME - and the Little One has a way of talking her way into peoples' hearts and onto their laps.
Today we headed south to Colorado Springs, stopping at a lovely home for lunch with friends near Monument, Colo., then continuing on to the Garden of the Gods area where we tried doing some late-afternoon hiking before heading north to Castle Rock for dinner with yet another friend. This state is so lovely; the highways so clean, the weather so perfect - I wonder if the locals know how good they have it. I understand they do have lots of snow but they also have skiing! Would move here in a minute if I could.
Today my father turned 86!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Off to Colorado

Finally a long-awaited vacation in the Rockies followed by a trip to Seattle for Carley's wedding. We are stoked. I've been slaving away all summer sending out resumes and freelancing my heart out to try to make ends meet. In case anyone wonders whether freelancing pays the bills - it doesn't.
A few bright spots: last Saturday, I got invited to a media preview of a new movie, "Secretariat" about the Triple Crown winner, naturally. SUCH a good movie. I took a 13-year-old with me and there was nothing objectionable and lots in there about perseverance and hanging on during tough times and believing the best about the future. A really timely movie for these days when every other person I encounter is depressed about something. It opens Oct. 8 and go see it.
Anyway, will be in Denver for the Religion Newswriters convention, and am taking along the suit for a little jobhunting here and there. I then plan to do some R&R near some mountainous spot for a few days. Miss Veeka will be along so it'll be scenic but not restful. She doesn't do naps these days so I'm on duty all the time although when we get to Oma and Opa's place near Seattle, I hope to hand her over for some free babysitting!
The photo is of the little one outside the botanical gardens in downtown Washington. A friend was meeting with us and Veeka nabbed the scarf so she could practice looking soulful and wistful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the campaign trail

When you work for newspapers, you're never allowed to engage in politicking, so it was with some trepidation I agreed to be a poll worker earlier this week. By that, I mean standing in front of one of the local polling places handing out literature in favor of a candidate.
That candidate was Tom Dernoga, described here, who was running for state's attorney. He was a conservative Democrat and I'm a Republican; nevertheless, a friend of mine who was doing local organizing for the campaign was desperate to get someone to do the 7-9 a.m. shift at the local middle school. I'd heard Mr. Dernoga speak and felt I could back him. Prince George's County is overwhelmingly Democrat and few Republicans even bother running for office there.
So I showed up, clad in a Dernoga T-shirt and looking like I'd just crawled out of bed. Which I had. A sympathetic neighbor took Veeka to school while I pounced on voters walking through the parking lot, asking them to consider my candidate. Many of them simply wanted to avoid me and the other folks who were passing out literature and so parked within the 100-foot perimeter where one is not allowed to approach people.
You could tell who the pros were at this business. I arrived right at 7 a.m., planted three yard signs by the entrance to the parking lot, then stood awkwardly while others lounged in camping chairs, leaping up only to accost the voters. One helpful woman, who was campaigning almost hopelessly on behalf of someone who was running for the local Democratic central committee, loaned me her chair. We talked about her trip to Israel.
Then someone who was working for immigrant rights showed up with a sample ballot with "my" candidate listed as one they endorsed. That was a relief as two other groups were passing out sample ballots listing other candidates. People would grab those, walk into the voting booth, then just vote the whole slate. Unfortunately Mr. Dernoga came in second to the winner, who, I was told, was backed by the local party machine that runs the county.
Other interesting news. My freelancing for the Economist (they've bought 2 articles) finally bore fruit today. I'd gotten an email last Friday asking if I could dash over to the debut convention of Ralph Reed's newest non-profit: The Faith and Freedom Coalition, and do 400 words on what transpired there. So I dashed downtown Saturday morning to the Mayflower Hotel after foisting Veeka off on Rob who fortunately was hanging out at the house that morning. Met Mr. Reed himself as soon as I walked into the ballroom. It wasn't hard to pick up quotes that morning and I was home by early afternoon. The article is here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Scottish September

Our summer would not have been complete without a visit to the Scottish Highland Games over Labor Day weekend. It was a visit to those games 14 years ago that resulted in me winning the I-wish-I-could-play-the-harp contest whereby I beat a dozen or so other contestants with my rave rendition of "Morning is Broken" (it was for people who'd never played the harp before) and with my victory got a free loaner harp for a year which started me to learning how to play this fascinating instrument. Sadly, I hardly play at all these days; a situation that must be rectified somehow. Veeka does not have the concentration to learn and I no longer have the reasons to play that I used to. Weekly lessons, concerts with other harpists and competitions kept me practicing like crazy each week for many years. The height of it all was attending an international harp convention in Edinburgh, Scotland in the spring of 2001.
Anyway, Veeka, her uncle Rob and her mommy went to this year's festival where the sunny, breezy weather was so beautiful, it hurt. The festivities were marred a bit by Veeka's habit of wandering off whereby I and Rob spent an anxious half hour searching for her. She had wandered into some kind of tower, the little minx. And then, after a friend gave her a Scottish frisbee, she promptly lost it.
The photo shows Veeka and her uncle sunning themselves in the back yard as temps are still in the 90s during the day. But the nights have cooled down quite a bit now and little pumpkins are starting to pop out in my garden.