The Necessity for Ruins
Subtitled: 1-70 West
There is something substantial about roaring into the state of Kansas in a rear drive V-8 propelled American car. Watching the landscape change from the vast mountain scape, into the plains, into the rolling Flint hills and finally into the lush forests of eastern Kansas is one of my favorite parts about returning to the place I grew up in.
There’s a special place in my heart that I hold for the thick, heavy Kansas air. The smell of dogwoods and whatever they clean the floor of Free State Brewing Company with. There’s a special place in my heart for the same roads and shortcuts I drove on and rode through growing up. And there’s a special place in my heart for conversations of past that echo through the walls of my favorite restaurants and taprooms, conversations that happened years ago but, with the right people, could spark again in seconds.
Here’s the thing though. I hold it closer to my heart when I point whatever it is that I happen to be driving to the west on I-70 and here’s the secret as to why: the cardinal direction of west represents freedom for me. And everyone that I count myself lucky enough to share the fond memories and bar stools with on the eastern plains has, indeed, driven west on I-70 with me towards some great adventure.
I started rocketing down that road before I even had a driver’s license. When I was 11 I spent a wonderful spring break with some phenomenal friends learning how to ski at Sol Vista. I had a wonderful ski instructor who had me believing that I could ski Mary Jane by the end of the week (and that we did… and it was comical). That was my first real taste of the mountains and I was hooked.
I was lucky enough that I continued my yearly pilgrimage for years to come. The following year I was packed up with friends heading to Boy Scout summer camp. The year after I spent two weeks backpacking with the same young men through some pristine Colorado high country. The summer after we indeed plowed through Kansas again, this time on a train. We headed into New Mexico (by way of Colorado) for a 3 week backpacking trip in New Mexico. Those were highlights of my life, the train that left from Lawrence to New Mexico was almost 14 hours late. I made more memories staying up all night in Lawrence, KS during that 14 hour Amtrak delay than most 15 year old kids make in a year.
I literally have no idea what happened to any of those young men that I spent so many nights under the stars with. I hope they are well and look back at our journeys with the same reverence that I gleaned from the mountains and their friendship.
I returned to the mountains regularly for the next few years, mainly to ski Winter Park and Mary Jane. I took more than a few flames across the state only to watch them suffer wobbly kneed down bunny slopes while the back bowls called my name. I ended relationships because of those back bowls, and in the end their calling still has a firmer grasp on me than they ever did.
I had a close family friend buy a hotel in Grand County and I went to work for them for a brief stint. The pickup truck I owned was so unreliable that if I turned it off at a gas station I worried that it wouldn’t start, so I rarely turned her off. That was a short lived and tumultuous month. I’m happy it didn’t turn out, Grand County turned out to be the girl I fell in love with in Junior High School that I knew it would never truly work out with but I couldn’t get over for some inexplicable reason. Yes Sol Vista taught me how to carve moguls and Winter Park taught me about long runs, and Mary Jane taught me that she could buck me off at a minutes notice and if I weren’t ready than another man would be. But the last summer I spent in Grand County was indeed a lesson to be learned in life, love and ability.
I swore off Colorado for a brief stint. Cursing its very existence and heartbreak. And then it happened my first senior year of college. Once again I rocketed across Kansas. This time with my absolute friends, the people that today I call my friends and count on and rely on and hopefully them me. In some ridiculously large SUV packed to the gills with friends and dogs and skis we pointed west towards Frisco and I discovered Breckenridge in all its beauty. And it skied better than anything else in the world, and its peaks were more majestic than the Indian Peaks surrounding the Grand County wilderness, and my friends were happier. And we drank more wine and we cooked better food and we danced more merrily and we expressed ourselves freely in a state and on a vacation with no limitations. And in that instant I fell back in love with a place that I had just cursed so wholeheartedly months ago.
And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Those who know me know that I spent some time in the desert. I spent that time with a close friend who had made the I-70 journey with me before a time or two. Our resounding opinion was that everyone we wholeheartedly cared about would end up on the front range by the time we were 30, young enough to raise our families together in the correct setting. I’m only 27 now and I’ve already seen the migration begin. But to those individuals who have chosen to share their life with me and myself with them, we’re here and it’s good.
Oh yeah, I wanted to share real art too… it's at the top. I saw this piece in January of 2011 at the Denver Art Museum. It is literally the only art piece ever that has stuck out in my head that I would buy if I had all of the money in the world. And that is because it reminds me of I-70 west.