Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Colorado love affair, or: Why I set the Pipe Woman Chronicles in Denver.

Greeting You From Denver, Colorado
It must have been the summer of 1973 when my love affair with Colorado began.

Every summer, my parents and I would take a driving vacation to a new part of the United States. Remember a while back when I said I'd visited all 50 states? I nailed the majority of them on these summer trips with Mom and Dad.

In the summer of '73, I had just finished my sophomore year of high school. Dad decided that would be the year that we would make it all the way to California. Now, what you have to understand is that we spent the vast majority of time on these trips driving from one place to another. We'd stop for a couple of hours of touring, and then get back in the car -- or truck. For many years we had a camper; then Dad traded up for a pop-up camper (hydraulic -- no cranking!). Anyway, the point is that we never stayed anywhere more than one night, unless we were visiting relatives.

So for this trip, we drove across the Great Plains to Colorado, and stopped at a KOA in Estes Park, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. We never made it to California that year -- instead, we stayed in Estes Park for four days. Four. Days. Never in the history of our family had anything like it happened before. Colorado was just so beautiful that we didn't want to leave.

The reason I say the trip must have been in the summer of '73 is that the Estes Park radio station was using John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" as its jingle, and the song was released in the fall of '72.

Anyway, that trip stuck with me through high school, college, and all of my radio jobs. But I never thought about relocating to Colorado until the summer of 1998. I was in Indiana, using the Family and Medical Leave Act to help my mother recover from her second cancer surgery of the year. I was supposed to go back to work at the end of the summer -- but then Westwood One shut down the Washington operation of Mutual/NBC Radio News, and I was out of a job. It was my fourth layoff from a radio job in nine years. I simply shrugged and fired up the job-hunting apparatus again. But my time off with Mom had given me enough distance from the business to realize how wrong that blase reaction was. It was time to get out of broadcasting, I decided -- but what else could I do? I thought about staying in Indiana and teaching college-level English as an adjunct, and so I went to the local library to make a list of schools to send my resume to. That's where I ran across a brochure for the Denver Paralegal Institute. They offered a five-month program leading to a paralegal certificate; I had a severance package and six months of unemployment insurance coming to me. So I put my house in Virginia on the market, put some stuff in storage, packed the car full of kids and cats, and moved to Denver. I swear to you that as we crossed the Colorado state line, the sun came out.

Financially, it was a miserable time, but I discovered that the years hadn't dampened my love for Colorado. And we all thrived there. I never would have left if circumstances hadn't forced us to move back to the DC area. I promised myself that it was only temporary, and as soon as I could, I'd move back to Denver.

I swear to you that on our way back, when we crossed the Virginia state line, it began to rain.

That was in March 1999. I've now been temporarily back in DC for 16 years. And when I heard that the law firm where I work was going to set up a new office in Denver, I knew I had to be part of it. So tomorrow, I start a two-week stint in our Denver office. I hope it will turn into a permanent gig. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, here's a "Rocky Mountain High" for you. See you next week.
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These moments of high country blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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