Boulder, Colorado: Part One

I fly into the Denver airport over a pancake flat landscape and think: “Wait, did I accidentally get on a plane to Kansas?”

The mountains are hiding beyond the windows on the other side of the plane.  I am heading to a Writer’s Conference in Boulder after a last minute decision. I learned about the conference two weeks ago and booked my trip last Monday.  Editors and writers from Backpacker, Outside Magazine, VeloNews, and others will be there.  Who knows what will happen.

The sky’s the limit and I am in an airplane, surrounded by it.  I have the feeling that I am speeding into something big.

Road tolls.  Everywhere.

I hate to read about a place before I go, preferring instead to walk in blind and form my own opinions.  In some cases, this means that I have to roll through two toll bridges with absolutely zero cash.

Traveling without cash?  Rookie!

Of course, I’ve lost the paper they gave me that told me how to pay so that I don’t get a ticket. Boulder better be worth it, I’m thinking as I hit the second toll in disbelief. My first travel law is already broken (always have cash on hand!) and I’m paying the price.  Literally.

If I ever become ridiculously rich, I am going to buy Denver some roads so they can stop throwing $.75 into a basket every time they need to switch freeways.

Toll ranting aside, Boulder is worth it.

I cruise into town in my sweet Ford Focus with the sparkly paint job and there are cyclists everywhere.  And I mean everywhere. 

As in, Portland has nothing on this place. 

I’m impressed.

Warm mountain sun, college girls in strappy tank-tops, dogs on leashes. A blond in a sundress tosses her hair and smiles wide to reveal one-million-and-two teeth.

My heart sinks.  It’s like Pleasantville.  So picture-perfect it’s scary.  I want to drive around town until I find the guy who is dispensing all the valium.  These people need to grow some chips on their shoulders immediately.

I start looking for faults so that I can talk myself out of moving here.  At Pearl St. I sit on a bench to people watch.  Here is what I learn: Boulder is white as shit.

After a few minutes I start actively looking for people of color and count two out of the hundreds that walk by me.  They are easy to spot.  They stick out in a crowd.

I wrap up my little sociology experiment and head to my motel.

My motel: The Silver Saddle.

Recommended by a friend.  Booked despite horrific online reviews.  A leap of faith and an invitation to adventure.

The signpost is crooked and the office is closed.  I find another door to the left and knock.  A teenager answers and reveals a cluttered living room.

He unlocks the office and checks me in.  Sweet kid.

I take a breath and turn the key.  I’m ready for bedbugs and grime and possibly dead bodies.  Really – the reviews were horrific.

Instead, I open the door to a small, quaint room with a kitchen, a tiny bathroom, and lamps from the 1970s. It’s old.  There might be a funny smell but if there is, it’s not overwhelming.  Everything looks clean.  No dead bodies.


The cherry on top is the front stoop.  There are four cabins in a row, separated by carports, and each one has a front stoop – five concrete stairs leading up to the door. I have a few minutes so I pull out “The Rider”* and sit on the stoop with the Colorado sun on my shoulders.

I am reading Krabbe for the eighth time.  I can’t stop.  It’s getting out of control. 

There’s a bike path that runs next to Boulder Creek right in front of my cabin.  A girl appears in a bikini carrying an innertube.  A mountain-biker flies by.  Then a runner.  Everyone is glowing.  The Boulder Creek is white and rocky beyond the path.  I am surrounded by canyon.

Krabbe follows Lebusque and Kleber.  He’s been riding for two hours.  I close the book and head downtown. My future is waiting for me at the Boulder Marriott in a conference room filled with writers and editors.



*If you still have not yet read Tim Krabbe’s "The Rider" please leave this blog immediately, go and find a copy, and don’t stop reading until you are done.

My travel companion, Abima, says, "Chillin’ in Boulder with fresh coffee is where it’s at!"

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  1. Heidi:
    I loved Krabbe’s “The Rider” Loved it.
    If you haven’t read “Ten Points” by Bill Strickland you must read this book. It is not only a good bike book, but a great book, book! He writes for Bicycling and has an incredible blog :

  2. John,
    I will check out both recommendations – thank you! “The Rider” is definitely one of those books that gets inside you. I love his terse style and driving pace – Hemingway for bikes I think he has been called.

  3. Emily Moon

    OK so I had to laugh at the toll road stint because I have my very own CO toll road story. I fly into Denver for my interview in the Springs, Enterprise says the fastest route there is to take the toll road. Thanks for the tip. I jump in my car and navigate to the toll road and drive. I’m driving past all these toll booths where people are stopping to pay as they were “exiting” off the highway (or at least that is how a toll road worked in my mind – toll road virgin here). After a good 63 miles on the privileged highway, I get to my exit to find no toll booth, no attendant to take my money for the stretch of highway I just passed. HA. Shit…it then dawned on me that this is “pay as you go”. I had a good laugh and then tried to block it from my memory in hopes that I would not get the gigantic fine they speak off.
    Hope you had a great time in CO.
    Love Em

  4. heidi that is the only toll road in all of colorado.

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