Posted: August 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

Something about the US makes it easy for me to explore. Maybe it’s that I’m more familiar with the regions, the climates, even what potential dangers may be lurking in my sleeping bag. Or maybe there’s just such staggering diversity from one place to another, and equally staggering geology and botany which you can tour on winding highways and hiking paths. Whatever it is, it’s therefore hardly surprising that I was all for the road trip my dad proposed from Colorado to Oregon, with a stopover at Hell’s Canyon, for the start of my three weeks back in the US to decompress from months of wanting to burn down my office. Give me time to spend as I please and the means to go where I want, and I will cover some serious ground.

One of the new downsides of taking trips away from home that involve air travel is I now have to devote a significant amount of time to just getting to my starting point. The shortest flight I can really hope for anywhere other than Melbourne is three hours, and the time commitment grows exponentially from there; Thailand is seven hours away; ten to Tokyo. San Francisco is at minimum a mind-numbing fourteen hours in the air, a recollection which my mind always seems to conveniently sidestep whenever I plan a trip. So I stock up on at least two books and whatever portable entertainment I can to while away the hours, and power-sit my way across the Pacific, focused on all of the time I’ll be spending at the end with my legs fully extended and not starting at a tray table. After so many stationary hours, the you begin pondering the lever on the emergency exit not so much as a safety feature as an option. Airport layovers, once considered an ugly chore, become the equivalent of a tiger in the zoo not only finding the door to his cage open, but during a visit by the camp for slow-moving overweight children.

Since I’m completely unable to sleep sitting upright for more than fifteen minutes at a time, I worked my way through my books, watched whatever movies were playing that didn’t horrify my sense of taste, and of course ate anything that was put in front of me. Typically I make only very sparse conversation with the person sitting next to me, however this time I found myself next to a girl with the kind of life most people ponder after a very bad day at the office when they happen to turn on the travel channel. A travel journalist living in Tasmania, Gabi has been to places such as Nepal and Peru writing for magazines and travel guides often enough that she has struck business deals with some of the high-mountain villagers, and now runs a non-profit organization leading treks into the mountains for several weeks at a time (www.movingmountainsproject.com). As it happened, I’ve been considering this sort of thing more and more in the last year, and this was exactly what I was after. So over the course of the flight and our layover in SFO, we struck up a plan for me to join the next group in Peru in June. I hadn’t even gotten where I was going, and my trip was already off to an excellent start.

After meeting up with my dad in SFO, our first order of business on arriving in Denver was attending the latest wedding among my cousins, this time my cousin Julia to Morty, a Dane she had met in Australia some years ago. We arrived the night before, but everyone, including the groom’s 50+ friends and relatives from Denmark, had been there for at least a week, and most people by this point were exhausted, since there had been BBQs, showers, parties, and road trips nearly every day. Since the reception was originally planned to be outdoors, the weather was naturally unusually cold and rainy for August. The groom, abducted by his friends to Vegas for a two day bachelor party, came back with an unexplained foot injury, and was hobbling around in a brace. The bride was the only one on her side who knew any Danish. But true to form for both my family and, apparently, Danes in general, these things just made the whole event that much more entertaining. Morty’s friends, who it would seem don’t require sleep, outlasted everyone, to the point that they took up a collection during the reception to keep the DJ on until 4AM. And with what is rapidly becoming a tradition at my cousin’s weddings, a run was made during the reception to buy a bottle of Jaeger the size of my thigh, with which my soon-to-be civilian cousin Kaleb took it upon himself to serve everyone and anyone Jaeger bombs, including the bar staff. Because of this, somewhere around 1 AM I found myself in the back kitchen with various relatives and caterers collectively staring at a table of empty but recently used cups, rallying ourselves before returning to the steady thump of a dance floor full of tireless Danes in full swing.

The following day was naturally a very light one, with a breakoff group of family pacing ourselves through breakfast and dozing at my grandparents’ place before everyone reconverged for a BBQ at my aunt Janet’s to celebrate my grandparents’ sixtieth anniversary. We devoured some excellent food, caught up some more as a family, including new and soon-to-be-new members, and generally wound down. It’s a bit strange now that the family is starting to really expand its ranks, but so far they at least seem to be holding their own, which is no small task. I’m actually looking forward to them having kids though, because between uncles and cousins, those kids are going to be taught all kinds of hilariously awful things.

That was about the extent of our visit to Colorado. The next morning my dad and I made tracks over the Rockies towards Utah, headed for a four-day trip off the grid in Hell’s Canyon.

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