My first exposure to Colorado was back in 1967 when my wife’s parents moved from Sacramento to Aurora, Colorado. Her father had just retired from the Air Force and was starting a new job as a navigator with United Airlines. At that time, my wife and I and our two kids, my daughter, who was four, and my son, who was three were then living in San Jose, California, where I had just started working as an electrical engineer with IBM the previous year.
The following year in 1988, on my vacation, I took my family by plane to visit her parents in Aurora, and that was my first visit to Colorado. I don’t remember a lot about that trip or Colorado, but with kids that age, things seemed to be more about survival than sightseeing. I only mention that trip because that was the only time we came to visit Colorado by plane. After that, all our trips to Colorado were by car from wherever we were living at that time.
Our first car trip to Colorado was the following Christmas in 1969. We had just moved to Houston a few months before as a result of a significant career change for me as I was transitioning from engineering with IBM into marketing support. We decided to drive up to Colorado in the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle I had just bought for my daily commute rather than use my wife’s Oldsmobile 442 that sucked up gas like the Titanic. So off we went about 1100 miles with our two kids, dog, Christmas gifts, and all the luggage we needed for a week’s vacation. To say it was tight inside the car, was an understatement. Again, I don’t remember much about Colorado from that trip except how pretty the mountains looked covered in snow.
The following year 1970, I traded in the beetle and bought a new Volkswagon pop-top camper. From then on for the next ten summers, we would always take a two-week vacation in Colorado. On one of our early trips, I don’t remember which one, we had visited Rocky Mountain National Park, and after that, Longs Peak Campground, there became our go-to place each summer.
The standard routine was to pile the kids, dog, and parakeet into the camper and drive to Aurora to spend the next few days visiting my wife’s parents while acclimating to the altitude. Following that, we would head up to Long Peaks Campground for about a week’s stay. Amazingly back then, if you arrived during the week, you could always find a good campsite.
Once we found an open campsite, we would take the tent that came with our camper and erect it, so we had a permanent structure to hold the site while we were tooling around all over the park area in the camper. Into the tent, we would load all our camping gear, provisions clothing, etc. so the camper would be relatively empty for comfortable sleeping at night.
The dog’s designated job was to stay in the tent while we were away and guard everything. I don’t know if that helped, but nothing was ever stolen, and the dog got plenty of sleep in the process.
We always hiked each day, starting with something easy like Eugenie Mines and over the week progressing to either Twin Sisters or Chasm Lake. We only climbed Longs Peak one time, but that was enough. Over those years, I think we hiked almost every trail in the park and most several times.
The big event on each of the trips was driving into Estes Park so I could get my favorite trout almondine dinner, taking in a movie, and buying the patches for any new hikes.
If I ask my kids what they remember fondest while growing up, I am sure they would say it was the camping experiences together and especially at Rocky Mountain National Park. Toward the end of these trips, my career had advanced to the point that I was so busy I was away from home about 220 days each year. So, these vacations in Colorada became our big yearly family bonding time, where work was forgotten, and all that mattered was enjoying each other and our time together as a family.
And that is why my wife and I both developed a love for Colorado!
Fast forward to 1992. At that time, we were living in Lighthouse Point, Florida, which is on the eastern seaboard about 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. IBM was then going through a radical corporate change and had just hired the President of Nabisco to become the new IBM Chairman. He, in the parlance of the industry, was a hatchet-man and was determined to cut everything out of IBM that could not show a profit within one year.
One of the things he unwisely decided to cut was most of our philanthropy programs as they did not generate any income, so he thought, and unfortunately, at that time, I was running a higher education philanthropy program that ended up going on the blocks. I did not have to leave IBM at that time, but I was disgusted, said the hell with it and took a lucrative early retirement package that was offered to me.
For the next two years, we stayed put in Florida, where I commuted and did marketing consulting for IBM at my previous inflated salary, plus I was also getting full retirement or as they call it double-dipping.
During that period, I had more time on my hands, and I realized I was becoming disgusted with all the snowbirds coming to Florida, especially all those rude ones that came to our area from New York, New Jersey, and Quebec. Even worse, I also found I was becoming sympathetic to Fidel Castro as I was getting tired of the continual bullshit being promoted by the leaders of the Cuban exiles in the Miami area. Although they claimed their objective was to free the Cuban people, it was readily apparent their main goal was to oust Castro so they could regain the former wealth and power they had lost in the revolution. I told my wife it was time to move and asked her to choose either Hilton Head, Ashville, or Colorado.
Since her mother was still living in Colorado, her father had passed away several years back, and that we both were so fond of Colorado from all our camping experiences, she chose Colorado. So, in 1994, we moved to Genesee, which is a development in the Foothills above Golden, and we lived there for twenty years until we moved to Fort Collins in 2013 to scale back and simplify our lives.