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My Bucket List Trip is here!

Denver, Colorado.

The chances are likely, that as you’re reading this, I’m on my way to, or have already arrived at my Bucket List Trip destination: Denver, Colorado.

But why Denver for a Bucket List Trip? I’ll explain.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take a trip to a city I’ve never been to and see a concert. So, when a band or a musician I like goes on tour, I always look at the entire list of the cities they’re visiting to see what might work for a possible Bucket List Trip.

Several years ago, I booked a Bucket List Trip with my best friend to Las Vegas to see John Mayer. I bought our concert tickets and was ready for the trip of a lifetime.

And then John Mayer had to have surgery on his vocal chords, and he cancelled his tour. I refused to believe it until I checked my email and saw the refund from the ticket company. My friend and I still went to Vegas, and we had a blast, but it didn’t end up being one off my Bucket List.

As many of you know, I’ve been going through it (what I would consider Hell) since September, when my dad had brain surgery to remove a mass. He passed away in February, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

I am still very much in pain, and sometimes it feels worse than it did the day he died.

In November, after my dad’s surgery and diagnosis, I saw on Twitter that R&B artist Khalid was going on a new leg of his tour. I’d wanted to see him so badly, but the tickets were always so expensive.

I looked at the stops on his tour, and yes, he was coming to Austin, but he was also performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to see a concert. If you’re not familiar with Red Rocks, it’s the only natural acoustically perfect concert venue in the world. Basically, it’s at the bottom of a canyon, and the pictures look insane.

The tickets for the show went on sale just a few weeks after I saw the tour list, and I vowed to get myself a ticket. So, on a Saturday morning between dance classes, I locked myself in a dressing room at the studio and purchased a ticket for the show at Red Rocks.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre; photo from Denver.org.

At the time, I had no idea I’d be grieving, no idea that I would so desperately need a vacation, but alas, here we are, and I’m so thankful I’ve planned this trip for myself!

But I’ve been waitin’ all year to get the hell up outta here
and throw away my fears.
– Khalid

I started listening to Khalid about a year ago. I heard his single, “Location” on the radio during my commute to work and I liked it so much, I wrote it down in my phone.

Months later, I took a trip to Indianapolis to see friends, family, and a guy I liked. Well, one of my friends refused to see me, my family lied to me, and the guy turned out to be an asshole with a house straight out of an episode of “Hoarders” (and recently confessed to my best friend that he actually liked her all along). 

I couldn’t get out of Indiana fast enough. When I got to the airport, I decided to download “Location” and I had it on repeat for a few days. Slowly, I started buying other songs off his album, “American Teen”, and before I knew it, I was listening to the entire album on a loop.

In September, when I flew to Chattanooga to see my dad before his surgery, I was listening to his album to comfort me while I was hysterically crying in the airport:

I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.

The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.

I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.

Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.

It’s cheesy, but music has always comforted me, and it’s something my dad and I had in common. He loved all sorts of music, and my very first concert was with my parents, seeing one of my dad’s favorite bands, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.

So yes, I’m AMPED to see Khalid, and I’m as equally excited to see Red Rocks… I will probably cry over stimulation overload and I’m okay with that.

The thing about Red Rocks is that there’s always a 99% chance of rain given its location and natural setup. Part of planning for this trip meant reading lots of guides and other blogs from people who’ve been to Red Rocks before. From that, I learned what kind of shoes to wear, and what to pack: an empty water bottle, warm clothes, and a rain poncho.

The concert is rain or shine, and many times it does rain, and the concert keeps going. But sometimes, they cancel it. And I will be damned if this turns into another John Mayer/Vegas/Non-Bucket List trip!

I’ve kept this trip very close to my heart – I’ve only told a few people – because, well, this trip is for me. I’m traveling alone, as I often do, and I’m experiencing this on my own. So many people I know have been to Denver already and I wanted to keep things new to me – sometimes it puts a damper on things when people share their experience with a place before you even get there.

Ever since my dad’s passing, I’ve been very aware of my own mortality. I’ve always felt some sense of pressure to live life, and do things, and don’t regret a moment… but that feeling is very amplified as of late.

I’m also very aware of people around me and what they’re doing with their life: whether it’s planning and taking trips, or building a business, or having a family… I’m just here, and I feel like I’m being left behind. So, this trip is coming at a perfect time – a time when I feel like I need to just get out there and live, and do something I have only dreamt of doing.

I wanted to plan my own activities and make this trip a complete getaway. So, aside from the concert, I do have a list of restaurants and breweries that I want to indulge in, and I’ve got a few sightseeing things on my list. I also treated myself to a fabulous hotel right in Downtown Denver. I’m looking forward to a true adventure.

For the sake of being present, I’m keeping the social media documentation to a minimum. I plan on posting a few Instagram pictures (@OrangeJulius7), but will be staying off other channels.

I’ll tell you all about it when I get the chance.

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BBC: ‘The Secret Life of Cowboys’.

Happy Humpday! Blanche’s Book Club chose the latest read at random, among the shelves in the library. I really did sort of stumble up on it, thought the title was cool, and then saw a quote of praise on the back from Michael Perry, author of “Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time“, which is a book I absolutely LOVED. Just in case the title sounds interesting to you, here is the description from Amazon:

Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer’s wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, Population: 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking true tale leavened with quieter meditations on an overlooked America.

So, anyway, the book I picked up and read was “The Secret Life of Cowboys” by Tom Groneburg. Here is the description from Amazon:

In this classic memoir, a young man facing a future he doesn’t want to claim has an inspiration—Go West. Tom Groneberg leaves behind friends and family, follows his heart, and heads to a resort town in the Colorado Rockies, where he earns his spurs as a wrangler leading tourists on horseback. Later, Groneberg moves to Montana, where he works for wages at a number of ranches before buying his own ranch. Demystifying the image of cowboys as celluloid heroes,The Secret Life of Cowboys is a coming-of-age story as stunning as the land itself and a revealing look at America’s last frontier. 

Okay, yes, Tom Groneburg leaves behind his family and his friends – he leaves traditional college life as we know it and learns to be a proper ranch hand, by being thrown into the work and simply doing it every single day. But, Groneburg did have the love of his life by his side, so he wasn’t alone in that sense.

A few scenes in this book really got me – like when Groneburg learned to build a fence for cattle, and it took him hours to simply dig a hole, get the post in, and then start threading wires. He learned to lead horse trail rides for tourists, and dig a well to get water to his freezing cabin. The guy lived off barely any money, worked at all hours, and even learned how to ride a rodeo horse in an arena, decades after most people should.

I loved the courage in this book, despite the fact that I could relate to barely anything in it. A review from David Abrams in January Magazine sums it up nicely:

The Secret Life of Cowboys is a first-rate account of men and women whose lives revolve around hard land and stubborn animals. Through his portraits of ranchers, wranglers and rodeo champs, Groneberg goes beneath the stereotype of saddles, saloons and sagebrush.

Good-bye, John Wayne. So long, Gary Cooper. It’s time for you to ride into the sunset of mythology. This a book that tells it like it is, showing both the joys and the dark agonies of life in the modern American West. What Frank McCourt did for Irish poverty, Groneberg does for Montana ranching.

Truth be told, this book is not so much about the hidden secrets of cowboys as it is about Tom Groneberg, disillusioned kid from Chicago who goes west in search of purpose. “I chased a dream and it kicked me in the teeth,” he writes. “Yet I find myself falling for it again and again.” It’s a cliché from the Me Generation, but Groneberg does”find himself” in the hard work, the unforgiving land, and the company of horses.

If you’ve ever ridden a horse, fantasized about the west, or hell, been fascinated by a sunset – this book is for you.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Who Do You Love?” by Jennifer Weiner. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.