|Moving to Boulder...|
Some Images of Boulder:
Initial Impressions of Boulder:
Boulder is a unique city. They say "Boulder is twenty-eight square miles surrounded by Reality". It is a small city, yet it has at least one of every store you have ever heard of. It is very compact and self-sufficient. It also has a very unique feel or style. It is at once, a college town, an upscale wealthy town, a hippie/granola town, an arts and culture town and a sports/fitness/mountain town.
The first thing you notice is that there are people running, cycling, hiking all the time every day of the week. Reportedly there are many world class cyclists and runners who train and live here. It is regularly voted as the number one sports/fitness town in the country ( as in where people actually get out and do things). In the spring, people kayak in streams alongside shopping centers.
Boulder is eclectic. The second thing you notice is the diversity (not ethnic) of the people. The college students, the professionals and the wealthy co-exist with the very present hippie/granola population. There are lots of strange people in Boulder. I guess it adds to its character. The people in Denver think all the people in Boulder are all weird and too liberal. People in Boulder don't think of Denver much at all -- "where?".
Boulder is a no growth city surrounded by protected "open space". This makes Boulder almost prohibitively expensive. Most people who work here and move to the area live in surrounding suburbs. The Boulder people like it that way. Its almost a birthright to get to live in Boulder. (Actually you had to get here before the early '80s).
Boulder has attitude. The Mall in Boulder died. People here are too active to go to conventional malls. The hardcore almost sneer at the new mega (and beautiful) FlatIrons mall a few minutes outside of Boulder. (Probably because they dared to use the name "FlatIrons", a Boulder icon). They do have a cool pedestrian outdoor "mall" which is really several blocks of Pearl Street that have been permanently closed off to traffic. It comes complete with San Francisco style street performers. Boulder also has, for its size, a large number of world class chefs, restaurants, theater and arts. Every restaurant (all price ranges) we have eaten at has been way above average and a few were outstanding.
Day 1 - Tuesday, November 4:
After a very long day of travel, we arrived in Boulder late Tuesday evening. We are staying in a rental house which is located at the base of the foothills in an area called Shanahan Ridge. On our first day here, we saw a couple of deer grazing about 50 yards from the backyard and Ethan got a kick out of that. Then, appropriately, it snowed the evening of our first day in Colorado. Ethan was very excited to see the snow. He had been asking about it all day. We had to explain that snow was like rain and that it only snowed sometimes -- he expected to see snow on the ground at all times. Brendan also enjoyed his first snow. He laughed and tried to catch snowflakes with his hands.
Here are some pictures of our temporary house and the surrounding foothills. The pictures don't really do the foothills justice. Thee pictures were taken with a low end digital camera with a fixed wide angle lens. In real life, the foothills feel like they are right on top of us.
Our Temporary House
View from Master Bedroom Balcony
View from Backyard Deck
View from Family Room
FlatIrons View from Our Street
Ethan and Brendan on Trail
Here is a panoramic I made from 3 digital images. The images were taken from the base of a trail just to the right of our rental house. Again same disclaimer -- they look much closer in person. For instance, in person you can clearly see intricate detail in devil's thumb, a distinctive rock formation. (If you click on it to enlarge it, use you scroll bars to see the whole image):
Panoramic View of our temporary "Backyard"
Also, don't be misled by the view of the foothills. They are not representative of the Rocky Mountain as seen from the front range. We are so close that the foothills block our view of the actual mountains. A few miles to the East and the whole front range can be seen including the white capped peaks. Its quite spectacular when viewed from the right neighborhood. (see photo below). Its a matter of opinion as to which is better, the close up view of the Flatirons or the futher back view of the whole front range.
But it isn't all good living so close to the foothills. We get these slow moving bark like beetles that come into the house - at least 3 or 4 each night. We have somee kind of animals, squirrels I think, living in the attic and over the laundry room ceiling. And on some nights the wind comes whipping off the mountains so hard it feels like you are in a typhoon.
Day 4 - Friday, November 7:
Today was the first sunny day here. Ironically, the last few days here we couldn't even see the foothills because of the foggy and cloudy weather (November is the cloudiest month here they say). Recall it snowed our first day here. It was cold, but that didn't seem to stop all the people from hiking and walking their dogs on the trails behind us. In fact the cold didn't seem to stop anyone as there were plenty people running and cycling through town. The cold wasn't really that bad as long as long as you had a medium jacket and a sweater on. The cold here doesn't hit you right away. You can step out at 30 degrees with only a shirt on and you won't feel cold until a few minutes or unless the wind is blowing. In Florida, when it is chilly, you feel it immediately because of the humidity in the air. Also, because of the dry air, the temperature can be misleading. For instance, today the high here was just over 40 degrees, but it was sunny enough to take the kids to the playground. It felt fine as long as you had a light jacket on. Someone said that during winter in Colorado its always too hot to wear a jacket and too cold not to.
Day 6 - Sunday November 9:
The last two days have been beautiful. The highs were in the 50's and out in the sun it feels great. In fact, yesterday the high hit mid to upper 50's and people were in shorts and t-shirts. I wore jeans with a short sleeve shirt and felt great. We visited several playgrounds during our house hunting. I can't remember the last time I was at a playground where I didn't want to leave due to the humitdy and heat.
Here is a shot of Ethan on a rock wall at one of the neighborhood playgrounds. It was pretty cool, it was shaped like an "S" with varying heights and you could climb both sides. I even enjoyed climbing on it although it was only 10-12 feet tall max. After some pointers, Ethan really could do this on his own.
Earlier I mentioned that the front range Rocky Mountain views are better further East. Here is photo of the mountains looking from Legacy Ridge, one of the communites we are looking at in Westminster, a Denver suberb, about 25 minutes East of Boulder. One house we looked at had views like this from almost every room and from the backyard. Unfortunately, the neighborhood we are leaning towards, The Broadlands, is low lying and the views are not spectacular. It kills us, because these are some of the best panoramic vistas. But we don't think that Legacy Ridge from a quantity of children perspective is as good as The Broadlands. The photo was taken from the Master Bedroom window of the Legacy Ridge House. On a clear day, you can see excellent detail on the mountain peaks. (Update from the future: This is actually the house we bought and is our actual backyard view - click to enlarge and use scroll bars to view -- actually this is only half of the panoramic I made)
Day 7 - Monday, November 10:
Today Ethan started his first day at his new school. He is going to Boulder Country Day School. The school is very nice and goes from Pre-School through Middle School. All the kids learn French and Latin starting in Elementary school. Of course, he did great. The teachers were amazed at how he just enaged the other children and played as if he had been there all along. They were also impressed that he could write his name. The following pictures show the Pre-School building and the approximate view (actually the parking lot) from the Pre-School playground:
Monday evening we went to the FlatIrons Crossing Mall for the second time. It is a spectacular mall with both an outdoor promenade style section and a very large and beautiful indoor section. It has lots of great restaurants including a PF Changs. It also has your standard fare of upscale shopping such as Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, etc. The kids enjoy playing in the indoor playground which is themed on Colorado's dinosaur era.
Monday night football starts here at 7:00pm. After running a few errands, feeding the kids and putting them to bed, I sat down on the couch at about 9:30pm ready to enjoy some football when to my astonishment there were only 2 minutes left to go in the game. Not sure I like that, but on the flip side, I don't have to stay up until 1:00am when a game runs long.
Day 8 - Tuesday, November 11:
Today we experienced a high winds day on the front range. It started last night. The wind was ripping off the mountains all night long., it felt as though we were trapped in a typhoon. The gusts were (and still are) shaking the windows and sometimes even the walls. It sounds pretty scary. In fact, the house we are staying in has metal hurricane type shutters, so I lowered them just in case. The wind continued all day long, pretty much making today an indoor day. They were issuing high winds advisories for taller vehicles in certain parts of the region. After 24 hours of being under siege by these winds, I feel like I'm trapped on some outpost in an alien world, or at least the Antarctic.
Also today was a good example of how the snow stays in the mountains. It was snowing just west of here and you could see the cloud line just magically being held over the mountains, meanwhile it was sunny on the front range.
So one week down. Here are my impressions:
- The people seem very friendly. Everyone seems to like it here.
- People here are incredibly active as I already pointed out.
- The mountains are very cool and will provide a lot of recreational activities.
- I think as a whole the weather will be quite good here. They get over 300 sunny days a year and most people I have been talking too regard the winters as very mild. With the exception of the coldest days, it always feels very comfortable, if not great, to be outside.
- Excellent radio stations. In particular there is a station called "The Mountain" which plays great music of varying genres from the 60's to today. They play lots of non-mainstream artists as well as lesser played cuts from well known artists. They give you tons of information about the history of the music and the artists. Probably the best music radio station I have ever listened too.
- The high tech job market is much larger. In general there are lots of professionals and a lot less (hardly any) Jerry Springer types. Unfortunately, this is not true of South Florida.
- There are fewer retired persons here and the ones that are here bear no resemblance to a typical Florida retiree. The older people here are just as likely to be cycling and hiking. They seem very hearty and one can imagine they are mentally more interesting as well.
- Lots of great restaurants in Boulder.
- Lots of strange people in Boulder. It adds character, I guess.
- I feel like the area (despite knowing otherwise) lacks the sophistication, the culture and the recognition of a larger metropolitan area, particularly east coast or west coast locales. To be fair, we haven't ventured into Denver yet. But I see people and wonder why they are here (again, despite knowing otherwise). It feels mid-western small town-ish, not like a worldly destination. I never thought that about South Florida or Dallas-Ft. Worth. They just seemed like a place that upwardly mobile people would want to be. This feeling is probably just me getting old and resisting change and will probably fade over time.
- Its very expensive here, especially the housing. Not too mention the state income tax and higher taxes in general.
- There is a lot of maintenance overhead. For instance, clothing the children takes longer. You have to put jackets on and off before getting in and out of the car. At some point we will have to put gloves and hats on them. Because it is dry, we are moisturizing the kids every night. Also, in the summer we will have to put sun screen on them every day because of the higher UV concentration here. This is not to mention things like shoveling your driveway, blowing out sprinkler lines, etc.
- Despite the beauty of the mountains, there is some ugliness here. Most of the front range is just prairie grass or worse a tangle of scrubby trees. The Denver/Boulder area is largely flat and almost completely devoid of trees unless planted by a human within the past 150 years. Even the foothills (Flatirons aside) are not as pretty as any decent hill you might find along the East coast. You have to look for areas that have natural appeal, the default is quite unattractive. Anyone coming from Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky or anywhere in New England would probably think the area was unattractive. Perhaps this in an aesthetic which can be acquired over time. This does not bother Sheila, so much as me. Of course, once you go into the mountains, Colorado is stunningly beautiful. (Update from the Future: It looks 100% better in the Spring/Summer)
- There is not much emphasis on style here, except a sort of counter-culture style embodied by the granola types. So greasy stringy hair, unkept facial hair and ugly clothing is quite common. Actually, this look is in the minority, but it is noticeable, and it is seen more so in Boulder than in Denver or the suburbs. The majority of the people are fairly neutral style wise, with sort of a mid-western plainness that prevails. It's not altogether a bad thing as sometimes in Florida there is too much emphasis on style which leads to superficiality (not too mention all the "Jerry Springer" Floridians). To be fair there is also a very nice active outdoor style that is also common, especially by the professional crowd, consisting of fleece apparel and the like.
- Boulder is a very attractive city. Almost all of the shopping centers and office buildings are very nice. But a lot of the residential areas are unkept by relative standards. (This is probably true anywhere) This is partly due to age of the houses, but also there seems to be a fair amount of disrepair. I guess people are too busy skiing and hiking to take care of their houses. Out in the suburbs, however, are equivalent neighborhoods and master planned communities like you might find in Florida.
- Lastly, there are not near as many new and stylish cars here. I suppose this is a bit of an unfair comparison -- coming from South Florida. But it does seem like people here hold on to their 1976 Ford Broncos and other 70's vintage pickups and cars with faded paint, dents, etc. (Update from the future -- I don't see this or think this as much anymore)
Here are some photos of what I call "scorched earth". This is typical of the land outside the city limits and stretches like this are unavoidable on most commutes. Actually, these photos, due to their composition, don't really convey the barrenness, but then again many people like the "open space" look. Sometimes the areas with sparse and scraggly trees are uglier, especially if next to some dilapidated ranch house. I took these photos to show my friend, Gene Slape, that Colorado can look much like Montana, a state where he wants to move. (Update from the future -- When its green during the Spring, it looks a lot nicer... the whole area is very pretty)
Day 9 - Wednesday, November 12:
The winds finally died down, but last night was ridiculous. According to the news this morning, some gusts in the area hit up to 90 mph. I'm telling you, no joke, the house was swaying and moving. You could feel the oscillations on the bed quite clearly when the floor and walls were being moved by the force of the wind. Remember, due to our location we get the full force of the wind completely unobstructed. It was pretty tough to sleep from just the noise alone. Not very welcoming either.
Got my first speeding ticket in Colorado. Bummer. Good thing the points go on my FL licence. Its impossible to maintain the 25 mph speed limit down this particular hill. Even engine braking does not slow you down enough, you have to ride the brake. I caught myself and slowed down before I even knew there was a cop, but he didn't cut me any slack. Found out later that the road is a well known speed trap area.
Day 10 - Thursday, November 13:
It was supposed to be cold, but actually wasn't bad at all. I just wore a fleece sweater over a t-shirt. The mountains are still getting a lot of snow (which people are excited about for ski season), but the skies were sunny and clear in Denver/Boulder.
Bad news on the house hunting front. Negotiations stalled on the custom house we were looking at and we lost our other desired property (the one with the awesome deck) due to a miscommunication between real estate agents. We sent in an offer, which we thought they were expecting, but the owners had already accepted someone else's potentially lower offer. Oh well, back to the drawing board. We will probably end up spending Christmas in an apartment somewhere.
Saw a coyote in our cul-de-sac today just after dark. At first I thought it was a dog, but then I clearly saw that it was a coyote - a good sized one. It took off up the traail shown in the panoramic picture above. It was kind of cool, but its another reason why some people might not like to be right up against the foothills.
Day 13 - Sunday, November 16:
It was cooler this weekend. Actually Sunday was pretty nice in Boulder, mid 50's, but we naively decided to go to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National park which at 9,000+ ft in elevation was not so warm (we did have a nice morning hike in the foothills behind our house though). We bought an annual pass that will get us into any National Park in the country. Besides Rocky Mountain national park, there are several within a day trip of here, e.g. Yellowstone, Colorado National Monmument, Mesa Verde and several parks in Utah. We were only in the park briefly, but saw elk and deer. Here are a few pictures of the kids:
Ethan at Rocky Mountain National Park
Ethan and Brendan in the snow
Residual snow at 9,500 feet.
Tuesday, November 18:
It was cooler and windy again. I now officially hate the wind. Recall, I made the analogy to being trapped in a small outpost in Antarctica or some alien world. That's exactly how it feels when the winds gust all day and all night long. To make matters worse, we are all getting sick. I was feeling pretty homesick today.
Thursday, November 20:
Weather wise, yesterday and today were very nice. It even hit 70 here today. Too bad we couldn't enjoy it because we are all sick. It is miserable. Too make matters worse, we have decided not to buy a house for a while. That means we will have to find a place to rent and we probably won't be able to that before we have to leave our current temporary place. So we will probably have to move to another temporary place before we get into a longer term rental. The real pain is that now we will have to move our household goods twice. That thought is almost to painful to bear.
The continued uncertainty ( we don't even know where we will
be 2 weeks from now) is getting to me. We are all sick and I miss
my old life (house, stuff, hobbies, sports, neighbors, friends,
etc.) I'm sure when we all get healthy I will feel better about
Sunday, November 23:
Snow!!! We had our first real snow of the winter here. It snowed all morning and all day on Saturday, accumulating nearly a foot in total of light and airy powder. We braved the snow and did our normal errands and took the kids to the library. It was pretty cold and taking the kids in and out of the car while snow blew in was a little challenging and the whole operation required a lot more bits of clothing, i.e. hats, gloves, jackets, etc. Good thing we have the 4 wheel drive 4-Runner and even still we experienced a few sliding stops and skids as the roads got packed down and turned icy. It was kind of exciting. Everyone was out by midday shoveling snow of off their driveways, so I decided to give it a try with Ethan's help. And as usual people were still out jogging and running their dogs.
By Sunday, the snow was already melting and the major roads were pretty much clear. We took the kids out and did a little sledding as you can see from the photos and video below. It was cold, around 15 degrees, but with the sun out and bundled up it was tolerable. Actually, as I said before, the cold doesn't hit you right away. I stepped out with just jeans and a sweat shirt to take a few pictures when it was 9 degrees in the morning and didn't feel too cold until about 10 minutes had gone by.
Snow falling on our house - Saturday
Snow falling on our street - Saturday
Snow falling on us
Panoramic of "backyard" Sunday morning (click to enlarge and use scroll bars to view)
View from Master Bedroom
Sheila and kids in the Snow
On the Toboggan
Ethan Shoveling Snow
Thursday, November 27:
Happy Thanksgiving from Colorado. It was a strange Thanksgiving with just the four of us and little fanfare.
Sunday, November 30:
It was a nice weekend, weather was fairly mild, but I'm discovering that the window for enjoying a nice day is smaller. Its pretty brisk in the morning and gets pretty cold by nightfall -- unlike Florida when morning and evenings are the best time to be out. There were some cold days this week, especially late at night when its breezy, but I have not worn a jacket all week. I'm usually only outside for short periods of time and its easy to get lazy about having to put the jacket on.
Tuesday, December 2:
We said goodbye to our temporary rental house and moved to a 2 bedroom apartment in Superior (about 5 minutes outside of Boulder). Its pretty cramped with the two kids, not to mention that it is on the second floor. We did get a 1 car garage, but it is a short walk from the apartment. So, we park the truck close to the building which means it is pretty cold in the morning. You can't be a softie here -- of course the people from really cold places like Minnesota and Chicago think the opposite.
Wednesday, December 3:
We may have finally agreed to buy a house, pending inspections and other typical home buying procedural issues. The house is in Westminster, just about half way between Denver and Boulder, though considered a Denver suburb. The neighborhood, Legacy Ridge, is in a very nice area with lots of infrastructure close by. Legacy Ridge is up higher and you get great views of the mountains by day and the city lights by night. The neighborhood is better located and has more foliage and prettier terrain the the flat Broadlands neighborhood in Broomfield that we were looking at. But the Broadlands neighborhood we fear has more children and the neighbors all seem to know each other and interact socially.
Sunday, December 21:
Well we closed and moved into our new house. In terms of floorplan and colors it is the best house that we looked at and in terms of being on a golf course with spectacular mountain views it is definitely the best lot. But, the doubt about it being the right neighborhood lingers. Its been a very busy couple of days. We closed on Wednesday, the moving truck arrived on Thursday and by Saturday evening we had guests for Christmas in the form of Sheila's parents. Believe it or not we filled the entire truck from front to back. In Florida, it took 12 hours to load.
(Note: House pictures removed for space reasons)
Monday, December 29:
We enjoyed Christmas with Sheila's parents. The weather has been pretty mild, there were some bueatiful days just before Christmas. Also, with our friends Harry and Jan visiting we were able to get out to downtown Denver for the first time. It was nice, quite a different feel than Boulder.
Friday, Janurary 2:
Happy New Year! We just got back from Grand Lake in the mountains near Winter Park where we spent New Years Eve and New Years Day. We were there with our friends Harry and Jan and her parents. The kids had a great time. Ethan enjoyed sledding and snowmobiling. Snowmobiling was pretty fun and we enjoyed great scenery as the trails took us into a portion of Rocky Mountain National Park. Here are some pictures from the trip:
Ethan and Alan on Sled
Brendan Walking in Snow
Harry and Ethan on Sled
Grand Lake Cabin
(video frame grab, low light at dusk)
Ethan and Alan on Snowmobile
Ethan on Snowmobile
Monday, Janurary 6:
We had our 3rd snow of the winter this weekend. I shoveled our new driveway for the first time. Here is a tip: Always shovel before driving on the snow. The side that was driven on already began to freeze from the compression and was much harder to shovel. Ethan had fun playing in the backyard in the "deep snow" and we even built a small snowman. However, it has been cold since then, so unlike the last two times when the snow began melting the next day, this snow is here to stay for a while. Today the high never got much past 0 and was a few degrees below 0 most of the day. At least it was semi-sunny, so it wasn't too depressing, but that kind of cold can make one question ever leaving Florida. Now that the holidays are over and our friends and family have left, reality will set back in as it does for everyone.
Early Spring Update:
The weather started getting warmer in March, actually it has been quite unseasonably warm with the temperatures in the high 60's and 70's. It has been beautiful of late and the green is starting to return. I thought people were active before, but now they are coming out of the woodwork. Exercise and sports abound. I can tell that our neighborhood is going to be absolutely spectacular in the summer once the trees come back. In retrospect, the winter wasn't that bad and had we been settled we would have enjoyed it more, i.e. skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc. We did do some skiing up in Breckenridge on two different weekends -- once with our Florida friends, the Riverons. The first time we went the weather was nice, the second time it was a bit colder and windy, but skiing is so much fun you don't care how cold it is. I stopped looking at the temperature here anyway, the only thing that matters is if it is sunny or not. It can be 30 degrees, but if it is sunny then it feels OK and sometimes actually feels good -- nice sunny crisp weather. On the other hand, if it cloudy and gray then it is cold -- even if it is 50 degrees. Fortunately, there are over 300 days of sunshine here. We also did some more snowmobiling and generally had a good time. We drove up to the top of Flagstaff mountain which is the foothill/mountain which Boulder rests up against (see the pictures at the top). Wow -- I wasn't expecting much out of the foothills, but it was beautiful up there as were the views overlooking Boulder and the views to the West where you could see the rest of the Front Range in all its glory. Of course, people were bouldering, hiking and rock climbing everywhere. Once it all greens up (and it will be beautiful), I plan to summit all of the Boulder mountain peaks (each can be done during a day hike). Before we leave here, I also want to summit a fourteener or two.
Late Spring Update:
Its been gorgeous. Perfect weather (mostly - a few spring rain/wet snow showers) and its is beautiful with all the trees and green and wildflowers. We've been hiking a few times. One day we ate at Pearl Street mall outside at Cheesecake Factory for lunch (following Ethan's soccer game) and literally 5 minutes later driving up Mt. Flagstaff in the foothills we saw a mother Fox and 3 pups. You can stay outside all day, its so comfortable. People are incredibly active and we have met a few nice neighbors (with young kids) and are getting to know them better as well as a few of the parents from Ethan's school.
This is the last entry, as I will officially end this quasi-journal. Future pictures will be posted in the usual Photo Albums section.
We miss everyone back in Florida and we can't wait for more people to start visiting us.