Denver Pioneers Explore New Frontier

Howdy from our New Frontier. Did you know that we are University of Denver Pioneers?! As a pioneer and thinking about frontier life, I couldn’t help but do a little pondering. I was thinking about the Western Frontier as pioneers, miners, missionaries, and railways pressed their way westward back in the mid to late 1800’s. Gold inspired many to rapidly leave their former places of employment and families as the promise for “get-rich” gold quickly lured them to points west. I also have images of women and children following behind carefully packed wagons as they headed west to stake their claim for a new homestead. As they walked behind, they were not only lessening the burden for the draft horses or cattle pulling the load, but they were also collecting cow or buffalo chips to fuel the evening fire. Men were likely busy steering the wagons, watching the horizon for the important landmarks along the trail, hunting for an occasional antelope, rabbit, or deer, and keeping a keen eye open for potential encounters with Native American Indian tribes or wily thieves out to ransack the belongings in the wagons. The elements were daunting as the 300 days of sunshine we claim to have in Denver may have only made for long and hot days. Wind storms brewed quickly over the Rocky Mountains and created dust and sand storms. Hailstorms can also wreck havoc. Even more, if a family misjudged their route, lack of water could be a real death sentence.

Our New Frontier is a much different place than 150 years ago. Although in May Steve and I felt a bit like the early pioneers, who left treasures behind and took only what was a necessity, yet our downsizing efforts (two trucks and a mini-van versus one small Conestoga wagon) paled in comparison. And, we certainly didn’t have to retrieve manure chips for fuel or hunt for dinner each night (nor did Jeremy or Stephanie who joined us for the first trip to Denver). In some ways though, we do feel a bit like pioneers by striking westward with high hopes of discovering something new!

Each week we seem to discover something new whether it is the gold aspens along an unfamiliar and winding road in the mountains, the variety of bike trail options, or the diverse menu of different eateries nearby. We also feel a bit like explorers as we try different routes for getting to places whether by foot, on our two-wheeled wonders, on mass-transit, or in our trusty mini-van. I have discovered the need for humor with Denver streets. Going north-south on the map grid, Denver has many streets named for U.S. states, but they are not in alphabetical or regional order. Then going west-east from University most streets are in alphabetical order. Add a section of downtown Denver with streets that come at a 45 degree angle to further confuse folks. Throw in an assortment of one-way streets and riverbeds. The most gifted orienteer would certainly scratch his or her head. Thank goodness for the mountains. If one can see the mountains, then that is west.

Yesterday I opted to walk around our immediate neighborhood to explore since we’ve worn a path between home and campus with very little variance. Of the 79 different neighborhoods in Denver, ours is called the University Neighborhood (go figure, right?). Across the street from us is the Rosedale neighborhood. We have the Washington Park Neighborhood to the north and the Wellshire Neighborhood to the East. As near as I can tell, Cherry Village Neighborhood is to the south. Our neighborhood has many homes similar to ours: small 1500-1700 square feet bungalow, built in the late 1920’s, detached garage accessed from alley, a shared alley with the people on the street behind, small yards, and irrigation systems. Probably a fourth of the original homes have been leveled and larger craftsman style two story homes have replaced them. Home prices for something like our home are roughly $350,000. The new homes are $600,000 and up. (Definitely not in our price range to purchase, so we’ll be reluctantly content paying high rent for now). We could guess-timate that nearly 25% of people own at least one dog. I saw a variety in the home landscapes: cacti, impatiens, geraniums, sunflowers, herbs, vegetables, river rocks, pea gravel, and very messy crab apple trees. We have street names such as: Marion, Lafayette, Humboldt, Franklin, Gilpin, Williams, High, Buchtel, Iowa, Mexico, Colorado, Jewell, Asbury, and Evans. Approaching Buchtel 1/2 mile to the north of us, the traffic noise from I-25 becomes quite evident within a block of it. Fortunately from that point south, the trees and houses seem to buffer the noise. Asbury Elementary School is 1/2 block away to the east of us. I’ve enjoyed walking past the school on my way to campus and from the open windows hearing teachers instructing the students and students’ voices asking questions. We are quite content with our New Frontier with only two exceptions. First, thousands of vehicles drive past our home each day so noise and fumes are issues. Secondly, the sidewalks are notoriously uneven and quite dangerous for walking after dark unless one carries a flashlight.

Fortunately we don’t have to send Steve out to hunt or me to gather berries and acorns. (Although Safeway and King Sooper’s Supermarkets are a close second). Eateries abound in our neighborhood as well as the Old Pearl Street and Gaylord Street neighborhoods. Jerusalem Restaurant has middle eastern food. Park Burgers has the thickest burgers. Pajama Baking Company has great baked goods and coffee. Crown Burgers Plus gets a high-five for their Greek combo platter (friends Mark and Carol would love it). Stella’s Coffeehaus has great java and a deck outdoors (Steph enjoyed this spot too). Mustard’s Last Stand is not Portillo’s back in Illinois, but their Chicago-style hot dogs weren’t too bad. Ben & Jerry’s is good, but “Moo-ve” over ’cause Bonnie Brae Ice Cream gives them a good run for their money. Max Gill & Grill has great Cajun flavors. Pete’s University Park and Jordan’s Pub are two good options right across from the University.

Okay Partners, I hear the crickets’ familiar nightly refrain (yes, we have loud crickets here) so guess that’s a hint for these Pioneers to turn in for the night.

Until next time from the New Frontier!

Diane (& Steve)

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