Day 30 – Our American Heritage

Sean’s Journal: I love John Denver’s music, especially his famous Rocky Mountain High. I’ve been taught to be naturally high on life. Nothing helps me get there more quickly than the gorgeous scenery of Utah and Colorado that puts me so close to heaven. God would have to convince me that the actual heaven is any better than this. I think we might be surprised to discover that heaven is about natural beauty—pine trees, snow-covered mountain peaks, with rivers and lakes below. 

Rockies, Colorado River, Elk, Grand Lake. I know that Vince and Marie and their children have traveled extensively throughout Colorado. I’ll let Vince mention some of their favorite destinations and experiences. Today, I traveled up the steep, switchback highway from historic Estes Park to the top of the Rockies. At the Alpine Visitor’s Center, you can see 360 degrees of forever as the wind blows about 80 mph. As you travel through the Rocky Mountain National Park, you will probably set a record for the number of Elk you’ll ever see in one place during your lifetime. At another scenic viewpoint, you can look down on the source of the Colorado River. Eventually, you come down off your Rocky Mountain High to reach Grand Lake. I know the V&M family have stayed here. I stopped for lunch at Grand Lake and ate outside on the expansive board walk and deck that overlook the picturesque lake. I am now traveling through the country I love most. The image below captures the grandeur of both Colorado and Utah.

Are Americans Contrary? During my lunch, I talked with some tourists from back east and others from Europe. Of course, most Europeans know mountain beauty. The east coast folks were awestruck by the wild high country of the Rockies. I asked them what it is about America that makes them happy or not. They told me they are proud to be Americans and love the opportunities available to them, but they feel like our country is somewhat unglued at this moment in time. They asked me this question: “Sean, do you think you could ask twenty Americans what the top priorities for our country are and get agreement?” My response was that I believe we could name the top 5 major issues, but not get ready agreement on the solutions. This is my take after a month of hanging out with Americans across the country. My tourist friends went on to say that Americans seem to enjoy being contrary and argumentative. I was sad to hear this, especially as I was looking down on beautiful Grand Lake. I think America is in transition toward rediscovering our core values as a nation. I certainly hope and pray this is so.   

Down the Mountain. My continuing trek downward and westward eventually took me through Granby and Kremmling. It is probably obvious that I have left Interstate 70 behind. I am taking a favorite State Highway 40 that will return me to the western Colorado border and take me into Utah and through the places I know so well and love to be. My next stop in Colorado was the bustling, charming Alpine ski village of Steamboat Springs. The better-known route across Colorado is I-70 that goes through or near the famous towns of Breckinridge, Leadville, Vail, Aspen, and others. It’s a beautiful, super-busy route, but to visit most of these famous villages does require some short side trips. 

As the afternoon progressed, I knew I had two options to: (a) forge ahead and get home to Juniper by late evening or (b) stop somewhere to get cleaned-up and rested-up, before I showed-up at home. I preferred to arrive by midday–refreshed rather than road weary. So, I decided to stay my last night at the KOA in the small rural town of Craig, Colorado. I checked in advance… The KOA has some nice, recently refurbished bathrooms with the shower facilities I need before I head home. It’s what I call a family campground. It will be a quiet place to put the finishing touches on a special summary of “what I have learned” to share with all of you tomorrow. 

Vince’s Response: Alright, Sean, where do I start? My second eldest son and I stayed in Steamboat Springs one evening early in our author’s research odyssey. Once upon a time, Marie and I took three of our sons to Grand Lake. We all went horseback riding. The boys and I took a raft down the Colorado River while Marie watched us from the shore. We have traversed the state on I-70 multiple times to visit both our youngest daughter and our youngest son when they each lived with their families in the Denver area. I have had client engagements in Alamosa, Colorado Springs, Denver, Littleton, Golden, Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins, and the western Colorado town of Rifle. 

Some of our fondest mountain travel and camping experiences occurred in the spectacular San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado with visits to Cortez, Durango, Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, and Montrose. Marie and I have been to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Marie loves the classic musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which is a true story that takes place in the mountain town of Leadville and in Denver. When it comes to Colorado, “I’ve been everywhere, man.” It’s a grand state. If not in Utah, I would live in Colorado or move back to New England.      

Our American Heritage. Sean, your odyssey has been upbeat and positive all the way. As we have both gone in search of what happiness means in America, we have mostly avoided the discussion of politics. Our great nation has issues that must be faced and problems to solve, but it is a great nation. Deep down, I believe most Americans consider themselves to be blessed to live here. It does seem that our society has become busier and very much about “doing your own thing.” Technology has empowered us and yet it has made actual (vs. virtual) person-to-person connections less frequent. Instead of, “Hey, let’s pay the kids a visit,” it is sometimes, “Let’s send them a text or check Facebook.” 

As Americans, we need to elevate the word “heritage” to realize that each of us has a family, community, and national heritage worthy of honor and careful cultivation. What kind of nation do we want America to be? How kind do we want America to be? First, we must be a nation united and not a nation splintered by our special interests and personal agendas. We can be a nation of WE-GO, which transcends EGO.

Bookends: (1) John Denver, we wish you were here to sing to us again. (2) Coloradans, thanks for the mountain peaks that lift us up. (3) Americans, let’s connect, find common ground, forgive each other, and hold a neighborhood block party to proclaim, “America, the Beautiful.” (4) Sean, I can hardly wait to read your latest summary.