#20 – Drink and Paint

Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory!  Felicia has been bugging me for years to do this, and I always scoffed.  As I told her on many occasions, when it comes to artistic ability, I’m about as talented as a 3-fingered blind man.  But, out of the desire to ensure the ongoing happiness of my lovely wife, I decided to add this to the list.

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There is a local joint called Canvas & Cocktails that is within a few miles of our house, so I set a date and made the reservation.  I decided not to tell Felicia and just surprise her.  So, we made our way over on a beautiful Saturday evening and settled into our easels.  We were joined by several other people, and our instructor Mandy was pretty much everything you’d expect from an artist.  She was really cool and it was much easier than I first thought.  Although, truth be told, I muttered on several occasions on how stupid my painting was, and how it looked like a 6-year old painted it after coming off a sugar high.  What I did learn though, is that these paintings don’t really come together until the very end.

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I don’t think my painting will sky rocket in value after I die, but I must say that it was a lot more fun than I anticipated.  Felicia’s turned out much better than mine, but I can tell what the actually painting is, so I guess that counts for something!  My Grandmother, Mimi, was a very skilled artist, as is my Aunt Char, so I guess somewhere deep in the recesses of my DNA lies a tiny bit of artistic skill.  But it better come with some cold beer and very specific instructions.  God only knows what it might have looked like without that!

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#19 – Start Playing Piano Again

One of my biggest regrets was my choices with music.  When I was in elementary school, I played the violin.  I was no Itzhak Perlman, but I was part of the Littleton Honor Orchestra and I actually enjoyed playing.  It’s amazing what we do and think as children, and as I approached Middle School, it quickly became apparent that playing the violin wasn’t cool.  After all, I was a football player and my friends made it known that I couldn’t do that and be a music nerd at the same time.  So I quit.  Being 10 times the violinist that I ever was a football player, I obviously made a bad choice.

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(The only known picture of my playing violin.  Don’t ask me about the ridiculous getup because I don’t remember why we had to wear costumes.  But I think this was from our 6th Grade continuation ceremony.  The only thing I remember is that I played “The Impossible Dream” with another violinist in front of the entire school and it’s a great memory to me.)

Still, I always enjoyed music, and we had that old piano sitting in the corner.  I finally decided that I could do that and my friends would never have to know.  So, when I was about 13, I started taking piano lessons from Mr. Myers, the old guy who lived behind us, and who was previously my violin teacher.  I played for a few years, but once I reached High School, there were too many other distractions, so once again, I quit.  I really loved playing piano, but I can honestly say I never developed into the kind of pianist that I wanted to be, mostly because I was lazy and didn’t want to practice.  Fast forward 15 years, and in 2001, after I graduated from college, I decided to start playing again.  I bought myself a keyboard and found a new teacher.  I did that for several years and, as before, really enjoyed it.  But once again, life took over.  After we moved in 2009, I sold my keyboard and decided I was probably done playing.

I guess you get an itch for something that you can sometimes never scratch.  Once the girls all graduated High School, and I finished my Master’s degree, and life settled down just a little, I told Felicia I wanted to start playing again.  I talked to my folks about getting the old piano moved to my house and we got that done just yesterday.  It’s like having an old friend around and I can’t wait to start playing again.  With modern technology, there are apps and programs and YouTube videos galore, so I don’t know if I’ll be taking lessons again, but I do know that some of my free time will be dedicated to playing again.  I may never be Billy Joel, but it’s not going to stop me from trying!

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#18 – Family Picnic

When I was growing up, we used to do picnics in the park all of the time.  At least a couple of times every summer, we’d just get the whole family together, eat a bunch of food and play volleyball, softball or any number of other games.  At some point though, these just stopped happening.  I think we only ever did one when the girls were little and we hadn’t done one since Matt was born.  So, I decided it was time to try to throw one together.  I picked a park (sort of) and reserved a shelter on the Sunday before Labor Day and invited friends and family to come along.  Honestly, I had no idea how many people were going to show, but we did it anyway.

The park we were at had a great shelter, but fortunately, it wasn’t much of a park.  Besides the shelter, there was a bathroom, and that’s about it.  It’s more of a pit stop along the Platte River bike path, so there wasn’t a play structure for the younger kids, or even any grass to setup a volleyball net.  Still, we had corn hole, a BBQ, and shade from the 93 degree heat.  We ended up with about 30 people, and thankfully my sister-in-law Bernice brought water balloons for the kids.  They actually went down and played in the river after lunch and overall, I’d say it was a success.  Besides the heat, we had plenty of food and a lot of fun just hanging out.  I plan on doing this again next year, but definitely at a better venue.

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#17 – Try Paddle Boarding and/or Kayaking

Both of these activities looked like a lot of fun.  Obviously paddle boarding has gained a lot of popularity the past few years.  You can’t go to a lake without seeing them everywhere, and we even saw them on the river a few years ago when we went rafting down the Colorado.  My friend Jeff picked up a couple earlier this summer and while I was in California for training, I had a couple of opportunities to try it out!

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Under his expert tutelage, I was able to stand up almost immediately.  Now, if you’ve never tried this, you probably assume that it looks pretty easy.  I know I did.  I thought, “how hard can it be to just stand on a board?”  Well let me tell you, it’s harder than it looks!  You really have to use your entire core to stay balanced, and then you have to paddle without disrupting the flow of everything.  I did pretty good my first time and didn’t go into the drink until we were almost done.  Oddly enough, my feet hurt the most out of everything, and I think I just lost my balance.  Before I knew it, I was wet.  But, as it was in the 90s, that wasn’t all bad.

We went one more time to the same lake before I returned home, and again, it went well until the end.  I had back-to-back dunkings before calling it quits.  It is quite the workout, more so than you would first imagine, but it is a tremendous amount of fun.  I’m pretty confident that we’ll invest in a couple of these by next summer.  I still want to try kayaking at some point, but I’m going to check this one off the list!

#16 – A Movie at Red Rocks

Red Rocks is one of the best venues for a concert that I’ve ever been to.  You certainly can’t beat the view and the acoustics are amazing.  However, every summer, they pick a select number of movies to show and I thought it’d be fun to take Matt to one.  I was really hoping to make the Top Gun showing, but unfortunately, that didn’t work with our schedule.  But, while Felicia was in California, they were having a showing of The Mighty Ducks, so Matt and I took advantage of it.  He’d never seen the movie, so that made it even better.  I think he was a little unsure of it, being a hockey movie and all, but I reassured him that it was a genuinely funny and enjoyable movie.

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We packed some snacks and got to the venue pretty early, so we were able to get some really good seats.  They started the evening off with a bunch of performances from the School of Rock, which for the most part was entertaining, and when it finally got dark, they started the movie.  The place was pretty much full, and the whole experience was a lot of fun, especially when you had people shouting out famous quotes and pretty much everyone in the place launching into a “DUCKS! DUCKS! DUCKS!” chant.  Matt had a lot of fun and really liked the movie, so much so that he came home and immediately watched again the next day to fill in some of the gaps he missed.  If you ever have the chance to a catch a movie at Red Rocks, I highly recommend it.  It was a great time!

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#14/15 – Climb a 13er; Climb a 14er

Wait a minute.  That’s two off the list in one event?  That’s cheating right?  Well, not really.  Anyway, it’s my list and I can do what I want.  So let me explain….

I’ve lived in Colorado for most of my life and I’ve done tons of hiking and climbing, but I’ve never “officially” logged a 13er or 14er.  I know I’ve climbed 13,000 foot mountains before, but I couldn’t tell you which ones.  And I can say with all honesty that I have never conquered a 14,000 foot mountain.  My highest official climb was Mt. Fuji in Japan, and that comes in at 12,388 feet and I did that twice while stationed over there.

A few weeks ago, I put a date on my calendar to climb James Peak, which is a 13er just outside of Denver.  I started prepping for that and a day or two before the hike, I decided that I was feeling pretty good and should just go straight for the 14er, so I planned out my hike for Mt. Bierstadt.  That is listed as one of the easiest 14ers (as if there is such a thing), and decided that I would make a game-time decision on the morning of the hike as I had to drive the same route to get to either peak.

On that morning, I was feeling really good and blew right past the exit for James peak and headed up Guanella pass to Bierstadt.  I arrived at the parking lot at 7:15 and it was already full.  My plan was to summit in 3 hours and get back down by noon or so in time for lunch.  When I stepped out of the car and saw the actual summit, I had my first bout of second-guessing myself.  Those mountains always appear much larger in life than they do on a YouTube video or an Instagram picture.  Determined to not waste the beautiful day, I set out and decided to eat that elephant one bite at a time.  The first mile was pretty easy and then I quickly started gaining altitude.  I created a series of little goals, like picking out a cairn of rocks or a small patch of grass, hiking to that, and then taking a brief rest, 10 or 15 seconds, and then moving to the next goal.  I interspersed the mini breaks with a few longer breaks where I would drop my back and sit for a few minutes.  At 13,000 feet, I was feeling really good.  I checked that box on my list and kept pushing on.

The last quarter mile to the summit is a bit of a bear.  There is no defined trail and it requires scrambling over large boulders to get to the top.  They aren’t called the Rocky Mountains for nothing!  At this point, I was really starting to feel the thin air.  Breathing was hard and I could feel my heart pounding in my head.  I slowed way down, to the point where I would take 5-10 steps and then rest for a 10 seconds.  I finally reached the summit at exactly 4 hours after taking off.  Not impressive in the least, but I felt a brief swell of pride that I conquered that peak and didn’t die doing it!  I soaked up the incredible views and then quickly remembered that I’m not a fan of heights and decided that it was time to turn around and head back down.

Going down is always much faster, but not necessarily easier.  My knees don’t work like they once did, so I had to really focus on my steps so as not to injure myself.  Thank God for hiking poles!  There were a couple of close calls, and I did roll my ankle once, but thankfully not too severely.  About halfway down the mountain, I ran into a herd of mountain goats.  Almost unbelievably, I’ve lived here all my life and have never seen one.  Until the last month, in which I’ve now had three separate interactions with them!

I made it down in just over 2 and 1/2 hours.  I certainly didn’t set any records, but I felt really good, albeit extremely exhausted.  Going up, I played leap frog with a group of people from Kansas City.  A few of them made it to the top before me and they actually looked a little bit surprised that I made it.  Coming down, I ran into a few people still making the ascent and if they had thought bubbles over their heads, it would have said something like “Damn, if Lumpy can make it up this mountain, I damn sure know I can!”  It’s nice to know that I can still surprise a few people, and maybe in my own unique way, motivate them a little.  Either way, I’m happy I did it, but this might be the only 14er I ever climb.  God has taught me well that I should never say never, so I dare not say I’ll never climb another, however, all things being equal, I’d much rather hike in a forest next to a river, or climb to see a waterfall, than tackle another mountain.  I still would like to climb James peak, and there are a few others, but none are high on my list, at least not for the foreseeable  future.

I jumped into my truck and headed back home just before the afternoon storms started.  I decided to reward myself with a Colorado classic…Beau Jo’s Pizza!  Don’t judge, I earned it.  Here is a slideshow with some pictures:

Mt Bierstadt Hike – YouTube Video

 

#13 – Drive-in Movie Night

A few years back, I read an article about the rapid decline of drive-in movie theaters across the country.  At some point, I guess there were over 4,000 and now it’s down to around 300.  I grew up with both the South Drive-in and the Cinderella Twin Drive-in within a few miles of our house and I have great memories of both from my childhood and teen years.  After reading that article, I decided that I needed to make sure my kids had a chance to experience a drive-in before they went completely extinct.  Sadly, the Cinderella was torn down in 2007 in favor of some new condominiums.

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Doing a little research, I found two theaters left in the Denver metro area.  One is the 88 Drive-in located in Commerce City.  The other is the drive-in at the Denver Mart which runs all summer.  That one was a lot closer, so we settled on that.  They were showing a double feature of the new Lion King and Aladdin.  We had to take two cars, but were able to park next to each other.  We setup my truck bed and Savannah’s hatchback to accommodate everyone.  The weather was a bit uncooperative.  There was lightning and thunder that surrounded us, but fortunately never got really close.  And we battled light rain all night.  But all-in-all, it was a lot of fun and I think the kids enjoyed it.  Although, at one point, Sydney said “Well, I see why they decided to build theaters indoors” with just a little bit of attitude.  🙂 

We only lasted through the first movie.  Because it didn’t start until after 9:00, the kids were wiped out and we all had work the following day, so we packed it in before watching Aladdin.  We really did have a great time and I’m sure we’ll be doing it again next summer!

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