One of the very best things about owning an Airstream is that we can “live” in all of our favorite places without having to buy second homes, timeshares, or hotel rooms. As we’ve traveled the country we have found a number of places that we seem to be drawn to again and again. Without the Airstream, we just couldn’t afford to make the long visits to those places that we’ve become accustomed to.
Denver, our current stop, is one of those places. We have a remarkable number of friends in the area, including several regular contributors to Airstream Life. There’s a very active vintage Airstream community here. Recreational opportunities are excellent, the climate is mostly dry, and Colorado in general is a great state. Every year we spend a week or two here, and it costs us about $250 a week to live in the Airstream, conveniently located in Cherry Creek State Park, with all the comforts of home.
Another spot is in Vermont, where we have family. With courtesy parking, two months in our rolling condo costs us exactly $0. Florida is another. We spend a month in Florida every year or two, which costs us perhaps $800-1,000 for camping. (Compare that to a vacation rental.) And for that we get to camp on the beach in places like Fort Myers, Destin, and the Keys, plus Disney World’s Fort Wilderness campground and next to beautiful Florida freshwater springs in various state parks. You can’t beat it.
Over the years we’ve collected a lot of favorite places. I think discovering those places has been a big part of the joy of travel. The first visit to every special place has always been the most memorable. We go back mostly in hopes of feeling that joy again.
I have talked about all of our favorite spots in previous blog entries (mostly the Tour of America blog) but I haven’t compiled a formal list because everyone needs to find their own. Sometimes the aspect of a place that strikes us is something subtle that we can’t quite describe or quantify: a smell in the air, a small-town atmosphere, or a formative experience in an otherwise ordinary place. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we made a wonderful memory and if we go back we can add to the original moment. You’ll find yours, too.
This week we have been making the rounds of friends and places in Denver. Our major tourist moment was going to the Denver Mint on Tuesday. If you are hoping for free samples you will be disappointed, but you can buy a shiny gold-colored presidential dollar coin in the gift shop for the bargain price of … $1. Considering that we are talking about the Federal government here, that’s really not bad. No tax.
The tour is about 30 minutes and includes a peek at some of the heavy-duty industrial gear that is used to make coins. You don’t get to see too much, and photos are strictly prohibited, which is why you will see no photos here. Security is tight. An armed officer is positioned both behind and ahead of the tour group at all times, so there’s no possibility of wandering off on your own tour. You can’t bring in anything larger than a wallet. We went through a metal detector and they required me to remove the battery from my cell phone.
There are good exhibits, but the machinery is mostly hidden in the form of a series of large metal boxes that do mysterious things. Unless the conveyor belt is running, you can’t really tell what anything does from the mezzanine viewing area. You could just as easily be touring a cheese factory. Go for the exhibits and the tour guide’s interpretation, not to see big machines stamping out coins. By the way, the Denver Mint doesn’t make paper money. The word “Mint” in its name might have tipped you off, but a lot of people are surprised by this, so I thought I’d mention it.
After the Mint we checked out the state capitol building, just a short walk away. That meant another metal detector, but after that we were free to explore the architecture. Colorado’s capitol follows the usual rotunda-and-marble theme of most others. It’s fine, but Wisconsin’s capitol building in Madison is considerably more interesting for tourists. Not far away, across the park is a bizarre mishmash of architecture surrounding and including the Denver Art Museum. You have to see it to believe it. Downtown Denver is spectacular for architecture, and I could definitely take a few days to walk around and see it all.
Visiting local friends and being tourists on Tuesday has meant several meals out, so Eleanor has not had need or opportunity to make dinner for us since her video debut on Monday. Tonight she’s going out to see a friend without me, which is great for me since I’ll get to eat leftovers of Monday’s fantastic little stew. I think we’ll try to do another food video blog in a few days. This weekend we’ll be boondocking across Nebraska, which might result in some brutally honest “we just towed 400 miles and I don’t feel like cooking” moments. Will we just roll over and eat at Cracker Barrel, or will Eleanor get creative? Tune in to find out.