I’ve been lucky enough the last couple of months to have the company of a few loved ones. And even better, I’ll get to see them again soon. Soon after my family was here, my good friend, India, visited from Boston and a couple of weeks ago, I returned to Durango from spending about nine days in Cincinnati with my girlfriend and her family. Phew! Its been an exciting time for Mark Hayden. No complaints here.
Oh, Nebraska. It’s where I’m from, it’s where I grew up, it’s what I know and what I know best, and Nebraska came to me in October in the form of two sisters, a brother-in-law and a niece. How lovely.
I was kind of surprised, but Angie told me this summer that she might be possibly driving to Durango in the fall with Kevin and Katie. They figured out a date and it worked out pretty well. Ali ended up coming, too, during her fall break from school.
I was able to get a day off the week they were here in mid-October, so we had three full days to hang out and see the Four Corners. Between traveling around the San Juan Mountains, riding a gondola and seeing Mesa Verde the day the government reopened, I would say we achieved quite a bit.
Our first day, we rode the Million Dollar Highway, which is one of the most dangerous highways in the country, and one of the most beautiful, I’m sure. It’s between Silverton and Ouray, and it’s also used as a scenic route to Telluride.
While traversing the exciting stretch of road, we stopped here and there to take in the beauty. I’m glad they came because I knew they would like it, and I’m happy to share it with them, and I was right. They enjoyed themselves.
One of the highlights of their trip, for me at least, was when we went to Vallecito Reservoir on their last day. Vallecito is a really small community, maybe 200 people or so, and it’s about 30 minutes north of Durango. I’ve actually rode my bicycle up there a few times, and it’s pretty awesome. The town lies on a man-made lake. It’s a very relaxing place, and we had a couple drinks there and chatted.
I also enjoyed hanging out in Telluride with them. It’s a really pretty town, and I’m glad they got to see it. I would love to go skiing up there sometime, actually. It’s supposed to be one of the best places for that in the country.
So, check out my photo gallery of their trip.
See them down there to the left?
Unfortunately, I didn’t take very many photos of my family while they were here, but l just noticed that Angie slipped into this photo somehow. This was taken between Durango and Silverton. For mid-October, it seemed like there was a lot of snow up there.
The source …
We rode the free gondola to mountain village in Telluride. It’s really pretty up there.
From the gondola …
This was taken near Mancos.
Check it out. This is Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park. We took a tour of these ruins that date back to 1200 A.D. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to think that people lived there. I think humans used to be pretty interesting. What happened to us?
Ali participated to show how the Ancestral Pueboans ended up eating sand with their corn, which probably contributed to their short life spans.
What’s Kevin looking at?
Our tour guide was pretty enthusiastic about this job, which is nice to see these days. We toured Mesa Verde the day the government reopened, so I felt pretty lucky because I really wanted to show them this amazing place while they were here. This guide gave a speech at the end of the tour and he got a little misty-eyed. He started the speech with saying that we were the first all-American tour group he had all summer. Very touching
An old friend visits Durango
I really do enjoy seeing my friends and family. That’s all I really care about, honestly. As if having my family here wasn’t nice enough, I got another visitor. India is a good friend whom I met on Molokai. I met her through my friend, Rodney, and they were both teachers at Molokai High School. They are some the nicest, most genuine people I’ve met. India left the island shortly after I did and traveled Europe for about eight months. After that, she moved to Natick, Mass., s we had a lot to catch up on.
When I was on Molokai, India, Rodney and I would go to the beach, go to the bar and play pool together and, sometimes, we’d go camping at the beach. We lived like kings and queens, and it’s really nice to see someone with whom I experienced that life.
I remember one time when we were camping. There was Rodney, India, Clayton, myself and a Canadian woman who was on the island for a week. We met her at Paddlers, the local bar on Molokai. We were walking on the beach, and it was kind of a misty night, and I looked up at the sky and saw the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I didn’t get a photo of it because it was too dark.
This thing was so incredibly amazing that it can’t even have its photo taken. Well. It probably can if you have the right camera. It was a night rainbow. The conditions have to be just right, usually a slight mist and a full moon, but if they are, it’ll happen. Night rainbows are pretty rare, some people told me on Molokai. So I consider myself to be pretty lucky to see one. It’s basically just a completely white arc, but it was pretty spectacular, and India and I saw it. I actually had to remind her of that when she was here.
I got a text message from India about two weeks exactly after the Paasches and the Hayden left. She said, “Hey, do you still live in Durango?” And, of course, I said “yes.” Apparently, she had taken two weeks off from work and came to the Southwest to see her friend in Taos, N.M., which isn’t far from Durango, about four hours.
So, a few days later, on Saturday night after I got off work, India came to Durango and we met up at an Irish bar. (Starting next week, I’ll have Fridays and Saturdays off at work, which I’m pretty excited about, for reasons such as this. It’ll be nice to hang out with my friends on the weekend a bit). Anyways, had a few beers and caught up, and some of my Durango friends met up with us. It was a fun time.
India was really interested in going to Mesa Verde, so we did that the next day. About 7 a.m. on Sunday, I’m not sure how we did it, we woke up from our booze-filled night and headed toward Cortez, Colo., for Mesa Verde. Two trips there in two weeks. That’s a record for me, but it really it is pleasure to see it, so I don’t mind.
She had me drive her rental car, which was a Volkswagen Passat. I don’t get to drive too often, so it’s always fun when I do. At Mesa Verde, they weren’t giving tours of Cliff Palace, the main dwelling, but they were giving free tours of the Spruce Tree House, which was pretty sweet.
I hadn’t seen it yet, so it was a good opportunity. Later that day, I had to work at 3 p.m., so India and I made it back in time for that.
The next day, I also had to work at 3 p.m., so we decided that we were going to go to Trimble Hot Springs. I get free tickets from work, so we thought we could grab those at my office and head up there, but it didn’t quite work out. We ended up going thrift-storing instead and got some green tea at an interesting cafe downtown that I’ve never been.
The next day, India left Durango for Utah, and I thought, well, we thought, that was going to be our last goodbye. But she only left for a day and spent some more time in Colorado and Utah before coming back to Durango. So we hung out again. It was funny. She noticed that Durango is a vortex. It just sucks you in.
We hung out again that night and checked out some live music at a local downtown bar and went to pub trivia. I forget how we fared, but we may have won. Not sure.
Anyways, lots of laughs during India’s visit. It was just like old times, and it was really great to see her.
Seeing the “Queen City”
And after all that fun, I still had some energy leftover for my trip to Cincinnati to see Megan and her family in mid-November. I spent about nine days in the “Queen City.”
Megan was a good host and showed me around the city. It was pretty weird to be in a big place with lots of people. Durango has about 15,000 people or so. There’s about 2 million in the metro area of Cincinnati, so that’s a few more.
I liked it. It’s a neat city. Lots of history there. Lots of cool old buildings and stuff. It kind of reminds me of Omaha, actually, but maybe a bit more hip (no offense to the Omahans). It also has more hills and is more diverse, which I liked. It also has two professional sports teams, which is pretty cool. We walked around the Great American Ballpark a bit. It was really nice there. Megan said they revamped that area recently.
That night, we went out with her sisters and their husbands, and her parents, Cheryl and Gerry, watched the kids, so that was nice of them. We went to a couple of breweries, one of which is in a former ghetto, so there were a lot of jokes about that floating around that evening. The brewery is called Rhinegeist Brewing Co., and it’s inside an old factory, so that gave it an interesting atmosphere. It had a good vibe, and the beer was awesome. Nice to finally meet Megan’s people and see where she came from.
The day before that, we saw a concert in Covington, Ky., which is across the Ohio River from the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge:
If you look closely, you’ll see that the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge forms an optical illusion with the blue skyscraper called The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge. The architect, Daniel Libeskind, designed it to look as if the bridge and the building are “one.” It’s a neat way to connect Cincinnati and Covington.
The concert in Covington was at a small place called the Madison Theater. We saw a couple bands called “Capital Cities” and “Fitz & The Tantrums.” Both of them are on fire right now and have had a lot of success with their latest albums.
I wasn’t familiar with the opening band, Capital Cities. I really enjoyed them. They are dance, rock, alternative bands. Pretty hard to describe, but they put on really good shows. There were a lot of people there. It may have been sold out.
Another one of the days I was there, I shot guns with her brother-in-laws, Kevin, Ben, and his friend, Mark, at an indoor shooting range. It was pretty fun. We shot AR-14s and a couple Glocks. I hadn’t had experience with either, so I had to be taught a little bit, but it was pretty easy. I think I still need some practice! I only hit the bulls-eye once. Nonetheless, I had a good time.
That night, Megan and I went downtown with her good friends from high school. It was really cool to meet them because I had heard so much about them. We went to her friends’ apartment and hung out a bit before going to a couple of bars downtown, which was fun. It was actually pretty warm that night, which made it even better. I got a chance to talk to her friends and get to know them a bit, and vice versa.
The next day was her niece’s birthday party, so we went to Ben and Melissa’s, and I met a lot of people, even Megan’s grandmother, Peggy, who was really cool. It was a fun family gathering and even included taking shelter from a possible tornado in their basement. Luckily, a tornado never hit. We ended the night with a fun card game. I’m actually not one for that kind of stuff, but we played Apples to Apples, which I actually like.
So yeah, great to meet Megans family. Great people. I enjoy their company.
The next day, we went to Lexington, Ky., about an hour and a half south of Cincinnati, to hang out with her good friends from college. Megan attended the University of Kentucky, where she got her bachelor’s in architecture. Megan, her friend, came from Louisville, and Caitlin came from Knoxville, Tenn., which is kind of a far drive, so that was nice of her. We met them at a cool pizza place and had dinner. They were pretty much what I expected. I’ve heard a lot about them, so again, it was finally great to meet them in person.
Lexington is a neat town. Megan showed me all the places she lived. We didn’t walk on the campus, but it looked pretty nice from the car. She also took me through an old neighborhood with a bunch of old southern houses, which was cool. I guess there’s a lot of old money in Lexington from horse racing. There’s a lot of that going on there.
We looked at a horse track called Keeneland: www.keeneland.com.
I really want to see a race sometime after hearing Megan’s stories. They seems like a blast. It sounds like races there get treated like Nebraska football games.
So yeah, that’s what we did. Kentucky is a pretty state. I’d like to see more of it sometime. Louisville sounds like a cool place, too. So many things to do, so little time.
The rest of the trip consisted of a bike ride with her friend on a cool bike trail that runs from Cincinnati to Dayton, Ohio. I also tried White Castle, which wasn’t too bad, but good thing we rode bikes afterward.
That night, we ate a cool Korean restaurant with her friends Bill and Allison. They are really into trying new food, and they had actually been to the restaurant before. I was really glad for that because I would not have known to go there otherwise. It was called “Riverside Korean Restaurant,” and it was in Covington. Probably the best Korean restaurant I’ve been to in the States.
Of course, I loved it because it reminded me of the old days. It was very authentic. We even sat on the floor and drank OB. It’s a good beer, and I drank my fair share when I lived over there. We all ordered bibimbap and sure enough, it was the real deal. Great stuff. I want to go there again.
And, I’m glad I saw the IRS building on our ride home that night. Wouldn’t have been a trip to Cincinnati if I didn’t.
It was a great time. I hope to do it again soon.
Fitz & The Tantrums
That’s where the Bengals play.
That’s where the Reds play.
These are cool swings next to the Ohio River and the ballpark.
The captain of the boat waved at us.
Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati staple.
Megan, Allison and BIll.
This is where they show off the horses at Keeneland before taking them to the track.
The path to victory starts here.
It was really cold, and Megan was ready to leave.
This is a big place where horses live.
This is a bike bath in Cincinnati. It will eventually connect to Columbus, Ohio, which is about two hours away by car.
We made it to our destination, Loveland, a suburb of Cincinnati. We rode about 24 miles that day.
This is Ault Park.