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« Field of Dreams | Main | The People's Republic of Boulder »

We Have a Winner

It was so nice to be back in a proper city again. There has been a lot of road between Denver and the last big city I visited, Vancouver. Normally my arrival into a city is a little chaotic as I have to navigate an unfamiliar metro-area to arrive downtown. Cities are generally frenetic places so this adds to the stress. However, Denver had an air of calm to it as I cycled the final twenty miles along a river-side bike-path, which dropped me right downtown. It is highly unusual to be shielded so well from traffic in a city of this size. With the Colorado sun setting behind the close-by mountains and reflecting into the glass towers of the downtown skyscrapers it was all quite picturesque. I was immediately taken by the place and I had only just arrived.

If Denver proved to be a disappointment I would be out of ideas. I was suffering from a certain degree of travel fatigue having been on the road for over a year. The shorter days were zapping the enthusiasm for heading any further south, I needed somewhere to stop. I had been warned off Colorado Springs by numerous people who told me it wouldn't suit me. This city has strong religious zeal and is the anti-thesis of the liberal vibe promoted by the other Coloradon towns I have visited. The only other places further south that held appeal were Durango and Silver City. Durango lies in the south west of the state and would mean crossing back to the western side of the Continental Divide. Silver City in New Mexico lies close to the Mexican border. I didn't have the legs for either and as nowhere else truly inspired me on my round-the-world trip it was coming down to a choice of either Denver or Boulder as my bolt-hole for the winter.

The homogeneity of Boulder was a put-off for me. The great thing about larger cities is that they harbour diverse outlooks and some sub-cultures too. It's nice to know that there is another point of view out there to keep things on an even keel. Without this balance the risk is that everybody lives inside a bubble and we all know by now that bubbles have a tendency to delude. While Denver has a lot of tall office buildings it also has hipsters on bikes cruising between them. Naturally, it has some posh restaurants but it has what must be one of the biggest dive-bar scenes there is. Even though it is a metropolis it has an incredible amount of public parks and open spaces. While Denver is very much a city it is hard to ignore what is probably the world's greatest mountain playground on its door-step. It is obvious to me at this stage that the personality of every community of people in the world is determined by the geography of their location. Coastal cities tend to be populated by people who feel a need to be close to water. Cities that exist in the middle of vast plains of nothingness tend to be populated by those who look inwards to other people and the city for inspiration (since there is none in nature). Denver, being a city, is not populated by mountain-folk but by city-folk who love playing in the mountains. Real mountain-men live a rugged life in the woods and are overwhelmed by the degree of stimulation that cities thrust upon them. By looking at the underlying geography of a place it becomes easier to understand the kind of people who live there. Of course, this understanding can only be realised if you have a good knowledge of the different natural energies that pulse and repeat themselves around the planet.

Part of the motivation for my trip is to discover a place where I feel I belong. The journey is as much a tour of myself as it is of the nature and places I have passed through. While I love the power of the ocean beaches don't really do much for me. I adore trees but I hate being in rainforest, only the alpine stuff appeals. I have a deep affection for the peaks and troughs of mountains but I'm not a token woods-man. While I enjoy physical labour, I ultimately toil with my mind as opposed to my hands. This means that I find the ruggedness of mountains and forests infinitely peaceful but I also crave the stimulation of cities and people too. When I add all this up it is clear that I would feel more at ease in Denver as opposed to a Miami or a New York. For people who live in Denver it is hard to ignore the calming influence of the huge mountains that loom over it. While Manhattan sits on water, it is influenced more by towering structures as this is what dominates the view. New Yorkers who seek a calming natural influence must head to the beaches of the Hamptons or the foliage and rolling hills of New England.

To add substance to theory it turns out that the vast majority of people who live in Denver moved here as opposed to grew up here. This reinforces the idea that the geography that is embedded in a physical location is also ingrained in the personality of those that live there. The 300 days of Colorado sunshine a year, more than either California or Florida, means that the climate is superb for people who love to be active outdoors. The mountains offer an unbelievable escape for people who want to readily hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish or snowboard. But Denver is a true city too. For sports fans it has some pretty big franchises; the Denver Broncos (football), The Colorado Rockies (baseball), the Denver Nuggets (Basketball) and the Colorado Avalanche (ice-hockey) not to mention roller-derby! In terms of arts and culture Denver is right up there. It may not be as strong as New York or San Francisco in this department but it does a great job. On the first Friday of every month there are art-walks where all the galleries open in the evening time and exhibit their collections for free. Certain districts have large concentrations of galleries so it makes for quite a fun Friday night out. There is a strong literary community judging by the amount of non-students whiling away the daylight hours on laptops in coffee shops. There are also five independent movie theatres, which is quite a lot considering there are multiplexes here too. On top of all this, Denver has an amazing pub scene and plenty of music venues. It attracts a lot of big acts because they pass through Denver on their tours of both coasts. All of the above is important to me.

After 13,905k of bike-touring and much else besides, it looks like we have a winner. At last!

More soon


ps – Denver is quite photogenic, which added to the appeal but I have not finished shooting it yet. I will post a gallery soon.

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