Tracy and I had the opportunity to travel the US in July, the excuse being my Mother’s 93rd birthday up in Nebraska. We did manage to surprise her and spend some wonderful time with three of five siblings.
Initially, we didn’t have any real agenda other than her birthday, so we were able to pretty much wander as we wanted after that.
Tracy had never been in the Rockies in the summer, so July seemed an excellent time to drive Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.
We took I-80 west into Wyoming, headed south at Laramie to Steamboat Springs, CO, so I could share with her some of my old stomping grounds, and maybe catch up with a buddy of mine there. He happened to be camping that weekend, so we drove on into Rocky Mountain National Park and met up with my long-suffering best friend Terry and camped at Timber Creek campground. He brought most of the gear and a piece of equipment I had stored for years in his shed near DeWitt, which we shoe-horned in to my old Explorer.
We had a herd of elk visiting for dinner and for breakfast, many of the moms with calves in tow. When we broke camp, we intended to head for the Long’s Peak area, but a forest fire around Nederland caused us to shift to a camp near Allen’s Park.
At lunch at the Meadow Mountain Café, Terry struck up a conversation with a lady who owns a cabin near there, and she offered for us to camp on her property.
So we did. A beautiful site, but the wind gusts that night nearly blew our tents to the next county, with us inside.
Terry stayed another night there, while Tracy & I headed on down to Leadville, a favorite of ours for staging to Ski Cooper in the winter, and then on down for a relaxing soak in the Cottonwood Hot Springs outside of Buena Vista.
The final leg of the trip included a stopover in Denver to visit sister Patricia and her family, then on to Winston-Salem to make an appearance at a surprise 65th birthday party for a good friend, Bobby Imperial, hosted by his wife Nancy.
This is an intentionally abbreviated account of a very enjoyable trip, as two observations impressed themselves on me as we traveled, and they both involve the media.
One is how really important regional stories are buried.
The other is how really important national stories are buried.
The first is the pine beetle infestation in the Rockies and beyond. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but it almost broke my heart to drive into the mountains and see thousands of acres of standing dead trees. A Forest Service reference in Wikipedia states that, “as of May 2013, the Pine Beetle is aggressively devastating forests in all 19 Western States and Canada, effectively decimating approximately 88 million acres of timber at a 70-90% kill rate.”
Eighty-eight million acres of timber. How did I not know this? Winters have been warmer, milder, and hence not cold enough to keep the beetle under control. And with 88 million acres of trees not re-cycling carbon dioxide, instead of helping control the warming of the atmosphere, the forests may be adding carbon dioxide to it. Leading to increased warming. For those wanting to deny a warming climate, 88 million acres of forest is hard to ignore, unless you want to ignore it.
The second observation is a random, non-scientific State of the Union address.
This country is great, and no amount of negativity from Donald Trump can convince me otherwise.
Everywhere we traveled, people were friendly, courteous and helpful. If you’ve traveled anywhere else in the world, you know the roads here are amazing, with services at almost every stop and many places in-between. Everywhere we went, buildings were going up, homes, apartments, commercial buildings; bridges and roads were being constructed and repaired; on holiday dates or vacation destinations, motels and hotels were operating at capacity.
At Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa we met and enjoyed the company of a retired nuclear plant start-up engineer and his wife; he’s now working for the Attorney General in Pennsylvania and doing some traveling. We met charming waiters and waitresses who were making ends meet in the service industry while focusing their creative attention on the arts or jump-starting their own businesses.
We met people making a difference in the world right where they lived, despite the constant pounding of negative news spewing from the ubiquitous one-eyed monsters.
Despite the constant fear mongering, we Americans are not afraid.
Despite the constant negativity, we Americans are optimistic.
Despite the constant vicious attacks that seek to divide us, we are NOT divided.
We are one country, and we will not allow shallow, pompous, politically correct hacks to change what it is that makes us great.
That is from the voice I heard, humming along with the sound of the tires on the road.