Holiday 2014 – Kansas, Denver, and Las Vegas, the Trifecta – Part Two

December 12-19, 2014

Life is funny sometimes. You can go a year or more without seeing someone and then in the space of a month see them twice. Such was the visit to see Doug. Separated from the excitement and distraction of his birthday weekend five weeks earlier, it was a pleasure to be able to spend quality time with he and Sharon, much of it talking and getting caught up on the small details of our lives, the topics you aren’t able to cover in a ten minute phone call once or twice a month.

Our first full day of two in Parker, Wednesday the 17th, was spent taking care of some bike maintenance (at Treads, a nice local shop) for Joanna’s Tri-Cross (those BB-5 disc brakes are difficult to keep adjusted) and some trips to various and sundry retail outlets (Maker’s 46 for $29.99 at Parker Payless) we gathered late afternoon for our journey out for an evenings entertainment.

First up was a stop at Elk Mountain Brewing, Parker’s newest microbrewery, opened in 2010. Very reminiscent of the micro’s we frequent in Charlotte, it was a simple set up in a strip mall storefront, nicely stained concrete floors and an open airy feel about the place. We enjoyed a pint of something I can’t recall, probably their IPA, and after finishing up made our way to the highlight of the evening, the holiday light show at the Denver Zoo.

Elk Mountain Brewing

Elk Mountain Brewing

Holiday light displays are a mixed bag I’m sure we will agree. Some of my earliest memories are of bundling up in Dad’s 1954 or 1959 Chevrolet sedan or station wagon, respectively, and setting out the week before Christmas to cruise through various well known Los Angeles neighborhoods to view houses lit up in the style of that era.

For us kids the highpoint would be a stop at Airport Village at the corner of Centinela and Sepulveda for burgers and fries at the Hamburger Handout located there. We called it the nineteen-cent hamburger place because that is what they cost (not to mention the neon sigh on to of the roof). This was pre-McDonalds, that familiar chain that would come to dominate the market and drive places like this old icon out of business, even though the burgers and fries were nearly identical.

Hamburger Handout

Hamburger Handout

Since then, we’ve walked neighborhoods in north Torrance with Steve Kramer, took in the well-known displays at McAdenville near Charlotte, even squeezed six of us into Luther Williams new Ford F-150 pickup to cruise through the less than inspiring light display at Charlotte Motor Speedway. So I was prepared to be disappointed with the Zoo show. And yet, it was an entirely pleasant way to spend a couple of hours at eleven bucks apiece.

It was nice evening weather wise, cold but not unpleasant. The Denver Zoo is well laid out, not so large that it is overwhelming and we walked almost all of it, viewing the displays and occasionally ducking into one of the indoor displays that were still open at that time of night. Full of holiday cheer, we departed the zoo and made our way to a local Cheddars restaurant for dinner.

Denver Zoo LIght Display

Denver Zoo LIght Display

I’d not been to one since the Sunday I flew into Charlotte to interview for the Director job there. Two folks who would become good friends later on, Donna Merck and Mark Shropshire, took me to dinner at the location near campus, as they wouldn’t be around to participate in the interviews that would take place over the course of the next couple days.

Given that one experience I’d thought of the chain as just being another type of Applebee’s or Chili’s; Joanna and I were pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of the offerings we encountered at the Parker location. Doug had a Monte Cristo, Joanna a very good Chicken Pot Pie. Sharon and I each chose Salmon dishes, I a simple grilled version nicely cooked with steamed vegetables (I do have to eat something healthy once and awhile) and Sharon, an imaginative and delicious Kale Salmon Salad, comprised of Grilled Salmon, shredded carrots, golden raisins, broccoli florets, parmesan cheese, Campari tomatoes, chopped peanuts, and a tangy vinaigrette.

Add in a raspberry tea, hot chocolate, Menage a Trois red, Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc, and Kendall Jackson Chardonnay (yes, I had two glasses of wine to offset the harmful effects of the healthy food) and the total tab came to $71, about $20 per person when you add in the tip. Not a bad for a bit of tasty and imaginatively prepared food and drink.

The next day guys and girls would go their separate ways. Doug had a project in mind that Joanna and Sharon wanted nothing to do with, that is, to head out to Littleton U-Pull to pick up a rear windshield wiper assembly for his aging Ford Explorer. Sharon had proposed that she do a healing arts session (she operates Earthly Angels Healing Arts and Designs) with Joanna and then the two of them could head to a nearby mall.

And thus we went enjoying two different afternoons. Our sojourn to Littleton was a visit to the past as this is an area that Doug has lived in off and on over the course of the last thirty years. Tucked up against the base of the Front Range, whose tall peaks form a visual border against a landscape of high plains. We spent our time productively at the U-Pull, walking the rows of battered and partially disassembled cars of call makes and models.

Littleton U-Pull

Littleton U-Pull

Across the street from the junkyard is a new upscale housing development, built on the site of a former farm where Doug rented a house in 1983. Joanna and I visited him there in November of that year, driving in from the Carlisle’s house near Selma, Oregon. We’d just purchased a 1973 VW Van from someone I knew at UCLA, customized it so it could be slept in and took off trusting that it would perform without any issues. It was a gamble to take it on a long trip like that, particularly during what was a cold early winter. But we survived the long drives and snowy weather, despite or due to our innocence

Doug in Action

Doug in Action

After successfully removing a working wiper assembly and paying for it, Doug and I made our way to Sedalia for lunch at Bud’s, a local bar known far and wide for their burgers. There we met Doug’s good friend Pete, who he has known since first moving to Denver when they both lived in Madge Gulch, a remote canyon up highway 67 from Sedalia.

A Coors at Buds

A Coors at Bud’s

I’d been to Bud’s before; it’s a warm and friendly place staffed by waitresses that have probably worked there since the place opened. A cold Coors signaled the start of a fine afternoon and we chatted with Pete as we waited for our burgers to arrive. When they did, they were as remembered. Hand made patties with little adornment beyond its melted cheese, with pickles, ketchup, and mustard on the side to use if you so choose, the best way to emphasize the quality of the meat.



We finished up our food and beers, bade farewell to Pete and drove back to the house, much of it on roads that brought back memories from thirty years of visits, the people and places tumbling in my thoughts randomly. There were faces not seen in many years, some never to be seen again; multiple vacations that bookended a stay here; parties and gatherings providing a framework to hang a recollection upon. Sometimes the best trip you can take is to the past, triggered by the present. It had been a good day.

The Gulch, where it all started for Doug

The Gulch, where it all started for Doug



Parker Payless:

Elk Mountain Brewing:

Denver Zoo:

Hamburger Handout:



Littleton U-Pull:

Earthly Angels:


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