About Me

My photo

I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

So many things...

Where in the hell have I been? Yes. Good question. Short answer? Busy and not blogging. Why am I back blogging now? I don't know. Just felt like writing again after I looked back on one of my entries from years ago. Also, in the spirit of the original reason I started this blog, there's much to tell.

Remember that part where I said I was busy? Since I last wrote anything at all on here right before Guadeloupe, I went to Guadeloupe, proposed to my girlfriend Amy, traveled out west to Utah and met my long lost cousin on my mother's side, got married to Amy in October of that year, landed a voice over agent, scored another film, went to Nicaragua again, voiced the open for a documentary on CNN, started performing with Lacy James again and have almost finished a novel I've been writing.

A lot, I know. It's been over a year though so it probably sounds more impressive than it is. Nah, never mind, I think it sounds pretty awesome. First of all, Guadeloupe was fun and amazing and gorgeous and deserves it's own entry. Here are some pics.


However, like many things that you build up in your mind, it sort of left a bit to be desired. Finding gluten free (for me) and vegan food (for my wife) that was interesting and worth going out of the way for proved to be damn near impossible some days. The people were nice but, since it's a French overseas department, we spent most of the week keeping to ourselves, driving around to see various sights on the island, going to rum distilleries and hiking. We did manage to meet some fellow Brooklynites on the volcano hike which just blew my mind. We've even stayed friends with them and hung out a few times in the city.

The craziest moment of the weekend, though, came when I got super sick from eating the local food and threw up all over our Airbnb. Craziest because it managed to stop me overthinking how I should ask Amy to marry me and just do it. She took care of me immediately after without batting an eye and it dawned on me how lucky I was to have her. Not because she simply cleaned up after me but because of all of the other times I've seen how caring she can be and how I've lacked that in other relationships. I called her into the bedroom and as we gazed out the window at the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea, I asked her and she said yes.



We took it easy the rest of the night and spent the next day, just browsing through Etsy for engagement rings. Later that year, we got married at the marriage bureau in downtown Manhattan with two of our friends as witnesses.




That summer, I finally got to meet my cousin from my mom's side, with whom I'd recently connected on Facebook. He lives out in SLC, Utah and is always having outdoor adventures with his pals out there. Having just bought himself a river raft, the plan was to take it down to a stretch of the Colorado River in Castle Valley, near Moab, Utah and float for a day and a half, camping overnight on the river.


It was incredibly fun. So much fun, in fact, that I went back to visit him again this summer the weekend of the total solar eclipse. We didn't get close enough to see full totality but it was still a good trip in itself. Here are those pics.



Both trips deserve their own entries and there's far too much to include here. Same with the Nicaragua trip. My good friend Angela led a retreat there at the same lodge I keep going back to (on my recommendation, of course), so, naturally, I had to go again. The crew that went was immeasurably fun and we had an incredible time. We even went back to the Masaya volcano, where I went in 2015, and managed to catch a glimpse of the lava cauldron churning at the bottom of the crater, which had been blocked by too much steam last time I went. Here are those pics.


Best part? I'm still hanging out with these guys back in NYC.

So, you've probably noticed that I've caught the travel bug. The new job at CNN (relatively new...going on three years now!) has allowed me to take more time off for these adventures and that's sort of inspired me to do more and perhaps make something out of it. After Guadeloupe, I compiled all the footage we'd shot with the GoPro camera I found on the ground outside the Barclays Center and edited together a kind of glorified vacation video, complete with my voice-over and music selections. I can't post it obviously because I don't own any of the music. It was more of a proof of concept. I wanted to see if I could shoot video on a vacation, then bring it back and edit it together to tell a compelling story.

I eventually do want to produce videos. In fact, what's on the horizon for me is I'm putting together a YouTube channel for Celiacs that are newly diagnosed. I've already got most of the first episodes scripted. Once I cover all of the important topics regarding adjusting to the gluten free lifestyle, I plan on moving on to other kinds of content. Likely, this will include interviewing health professionals such as nutritionists and doctors on topics ranging from new research to debunking myths about the disease to legislation about food labeling. Ultimately, getting back to the notion of travel, I'd like to interview my viewers from other countries about how they handle being gluten free where they live, with an emphasis on questions like, "are there gluten free versions of traditional things you used to eat?" and "how aware are people in restaurants about your diet?" The idea being that people with my dietary restrictions don't travel or have difficulty traveling because of it. I hope to change that and allow people the means by which to get over any fears they might have about traveling abroad with regard to their diets.

Obviously, this is going to be a great outlet for my music composing and voice-over work as well. Which leads me to the next thing. Back in mid January, I got a phone call from my voice coach's assistant telling me I'd probably be getting a call from an agent. Floored, I waited, but what came was not a phone call but several emailed auditions, a few of them in person at various production houses throughout the city. Excited but panicking that my full time job wouldn't allow me to make all of them, I talked to my boss, who is always supportive of these kinds of ventures. Ultimately, I worked it out with my agent that I would get mostly mp3 auditions (the kind where you record at home and send them in) and worked it out with my boss that whenever I had an in person audition, I'd just have to let him know. In the months that followed, I went to something like five to seven auditions a week, maybe got one second round audition, but have been keeping at it, determined to book something soon. I've been having a blast and learning a lot more about the industry and still seeing my coach every once in awhile. I even took an improv class the other day to get out of my skin a little more and tried to get even better at auditioning. Last month, I officially signed my contract and am now represented for the next year. So, wish me luck there.

Film scoring? That thing I moved here for? Yes, I still do that. Here's a trailer for the film that just had its first screening a few weeks ago.

https://vimeo.com/215764480

I hope you all enjoyed the update. It's been a while but I'm going to try to keep updating you. So much exciting shit. And here's a bonus, the open for the Carolyn Warmus Story, featuring my voice!

And, lest I forget, since she's coming over to rehearse soon, Lacy James and I have a gig at Sidewalk Cafe on October 26th at 7:30pm. All donations to the tip jar are going toward hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, so come out and be generous! Would love to see you there.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guadeloupe...

It's the first morning of the year where the sun is far enough north in the morning to pierce my office windows.  Spring is coming. It feels good. It was ridiculously mild this weekend too. I mean, I was walking around with my jacket unzipped for crying out loud.

Even though this winter has been milder than most up here I've still reached that point where a tropical vacation is looking pretty good (Let's face it, that's been happening since I got back from Nica last March). So, I've been planning one. You know I have.

This one: Guadeloupe. In the Caribbean, not Mexico...the Mexico one is not even spelled the same. Just focus. Here's where it is on Google maps in case you have no idea. Why Guadeloupe? Several reasons. I've never been to the Caribbean before and have wanted to go for as long as I can remember...though I've never been interested in the typical Caribbean vacation: cruises, resorts, touristy shit. Nope. Not for me. So, then, Guadeloupe happens to be the easiest one to get to that is off the beaten path and not covered in resorts. No, in fact, there are rain forests, volcanoes, deserted beaches (some of them all nude), rum distilleries, hiking, organic tropical fruits, world class diving, an underwater nature reserve, probably monkeys and French and Creole speaking people. Yes, Guadeloupe is a French overseas department still so I'll get to use my French a little, if not a lot. Excited? You bet I am.

It all started with landing on articles like this, this and this while searching for seclusion and adventure in the Caribbean. I had originally zeroed in on Dominica for a destination.  It had everything. Beaches, jungles, volcanoes, wildlife, history, French speaking people, and it was off the beaten path for sure. But it was too off the beaten path. Flying into the place took two to three connections on most itineraries that were popping up and, in some cases, overnight stays on another island. That had me initially considering going ahead and making this a two or three island visit. I even considered making the second leg of the trip a ferry ride instead of a flight as there is a pretty extensive network of ferries that go between many of the islands.  The method became, find a direct flight from NYC to one of these islands and then take a roughly two hour ferry ride over to Dominica.

So this is how I landed on Guadeloupe (Gwada as the locals affectionately call it). There were flights to Barbados, Montserrat and Puerto Rico that were direct and I figured I could fly from any of these over but Montserrat and Guadeloupe were close enough to ferry and Guadeloupe seemed like it had enough going on that we could justify staying a few days there. There were even several smaller islands that are all a part of Guadeloupe, reachable by the same ferry system.  In fact, people usually consider Guadeloupe an archipelago of five islands and that's if you don't consider all the smaller atolls and sand spits surrounding it but I digress. I started to really discover Guadeloupe and become intrigued by it...and I also discovered that the ferries are shit. No one anywhere on the web had anything good to say about them and where they did, it was only generic reviews. The worst ones went from detailing the all too common delays and cancellations and the difficulty in getting a refund in the case of delays, all the way to people vomiting in bags due to rough seas.  No thanks.

So back to Guadeloupe itself, I also became intrigued by Soufriére. the semi active volcano on the jungle side of Guadeloupe, the larger island called Basse Terre. Easier to hike than Concepción in Nicaragua and featuring countless fumaroles and mud pits and hot springs and waterfalls. I was sold. I might make this a thing, hiking active volcanoes.

The next phase of planning had us scanning Airbnb's on the island. I ultimately decided we should split our stay between opposite sides of the island just for the sake of not having to drive an hour to get to and from the airport but also so that we wouldn't have to drive an hour to get to the trailhead for the volcano hike.  We settled on staying in Le Gosier, just outside the town where the airport is located, for the first few days, exploring the flatter eastern island of Grand Terre. Then we will move to Basse Terre to a little town called Saint Claude on the flanks of the mountainous region where we will explore Basse Terre, its national park area, the zoological park, the rum distilleries and the mountains and waterfalls. And of course, hike the volcano.

I can't believe it's happening in ten days. I'm already doing packing dry runs and seeing what I can fit in one bag, since we're taking a direct from JFK to Point-à-Pitre and I don't want to check anything if I can help it. Among the things I will be cramming in my bag? Camera equipment. A few months ago, I was walking with a friend outside the Barclays Center and stumbled on a GoPro Hero 3 camera on a monopod laying on the ground. It had obviously fallen out of the bag of some hapless tourist. I immediately swiped it up because I figured this person probably just got right on a train and could potentially have not even realized where and when he dropped it. So naturally, someone was probably going to pick it up long before he could get back there and it might as well be me. Knowing how much that would suck to lose a pricey camera like that along with all the photos and videos on it, I tried my best to figure out if there was any way to get in touch with this person. All I could determine was that this person was most likely French and had done a mud race in Lyon months prior and had come to New York, seen the sights and then dropped his camera right in my path. I tried Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter but I ultimately gave up...and then purchased a pack of GoPro accessories to have fun with while we're on vacation.

So expect not just pictures but HD underwater video. We leave on March 2nd and return on the 11th. Hopefully by then, I'll be getting even more sun through my office window.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Back from Manchester...

So, New Hampshire was a blast. At times grueling, at times exciting, at times boring, at times snowy, and even at times fun. Manchester is an interesting town. You can drive across it in about 10 minutes. It has a rather quaint downtown and a gorgeous wide river flowing through it, its shores dotted by old mills repurposed as various cafés, condos, university buildings and so forth. But where I was staying near the airport, and near the Mall of New Hampshire, seemed like it could have been any town.

Turns out the reason they threw me a curve ball by asking me to go up sooner than they originally had was so I could help with two separate town hall events that they had planned last minute.  The first was with Sanders and Clinton and the second was with Donald Trump. All in all the trip was quite enriching and I learned a lot, getting my feet wet doing audio out in the field for the first time in ages. The veteran tech guys were superb at their job and incredibly helpful. And most importantly, everyone treated each other like professionals. As soon as I realized that, it was a lot easier to do my job.

The first morning they had scheduled me to mix audio for New Day which I talked about in my last entry.  The night before, right after I landed, and before I even checked into my hotel, I went over to a café by the water, called Waterworks, where they had started setting everything up. Camera, lighting, audio. Everything cabled through an open window out to a satellite truck outside. It was incredible what they had done with only a few hours. And they wanted me to help set up the board! I only really needed a few minutes to wrap my head around what I was doing but it was intimidating at first. This is where it gets a little technical so if you're not inclined, skip past this part.

Basically, they wanted to isolate the two hosts and the guest mix so that they could mix back in New York. So I was still mixing the guests, just sending that mix out separate from the two hosts who were on the first two channels. Then they were taking those three separate mixes and sending them out the outputs of the cameras, which themselves were on their own incoming lines in New York. But of course, someone changed their mind and wanted to embed the audio after the camera in the signal chain. Which we tried but then realized we had a problem with one of the embedders and had to quickly switch everything back.

I took a look at the board and thought for a minute and then scrambled to unplug and replug cables to get everything set up the way that was going to work...and this minutes before the show was going to start, normally a time when I hate to be unplugging anything! The moment I realized that my setup had worked warranted a fist jab and a semi silent triumphant, "yes!" The rest of the show went fairly well considering I had put the guests on an Auxillary send output and needed to mix them with knobs instead of faders.

It was a heck of a way to start off my trip but it certainly boosted my confidence for the rest of the week. For both town hall debates I was really just helping pin microphones on guests and taping cables to the floor so no one would trip but it was great experience and a necessary role.

For the Clinton Sanders debate they had us set up in the balcony of the for Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett's shows and we had several quick swaps.  My coworkers in New York were watching the incoming lines and seeing everything going on between commercial breaks, congratulating me every time we pulled off a narrow swap. Often times Erin Burnett would be talking to one camera and I'd be just outside the frame prepping the next guest, pinning ear pieces and microphones and hiding wires. Oh and did I mention we were essentially on the front row of the mezzanine where there was really no railing and only a two and a half foot wall between us and the potential to pitch right off the balcony.  At one point, David Axelrod was using my shoulder to balance as he stepped down.

The following day was Donald Trump doing his town hall in a diner during which I hardly had any role except sitting in for the lighting guys and winding cables. We set up a three camera shoot with a fourth handheld camera and did everything live to tape, with some 40 diners and us, all in a tiny tiny space. I don't know how we did it but I saw it later on the air and it looked good.

That Friday was the snow day and I had no assignment but ended up hanging around the workspace they had set up at WMUR until I just decided I didn't want to get stuck there in case the snow got worse.  Well, it got worse and I almost wound up stuck at my hotel. But driving in the snow is something I can manage even though I never get to do it. I feel like I've read one or more articles like this recently anyway, which while not the same as practical experience, can keep all the more important points in the forefront of your mind. I also noticed this weird light on my dash in the Kia Soul I was driving flickering on and off while driving in the snow. So, I just Googled it out of curiosity and sure enough the car has built in stability control.

After the snow day, my last four days of work up there were at the station and I was again, mostly pinning mics. For the last two days I was basically both running the board and prepping guests for Early Start and New Day...which meant being there at 3am. Ugh. But somehow, I managed to get around and try out a few cool local spots.

The first place of note I went, Republic, was a cool Moroccan inspired joint with a fantastic wine list and amazing food. I came here a few times throughout the week as they were open for brunch and lunch and had great coffee (it was ok...I mean it was probably the best coffee I had all week considering I had been drinking diner coffee and preground mess out of stryofoam cups at the station mostly). I even ran into a few other journalists here and made some friends (one of them I ran into on two separate occasions). I swear the town population must double when all the news crews move in to cover the primary election.

I also tried a nice seafood restaurant, Hooked, where I ordered lobster and chatted with the bartender most of the night and narrowly avoided a political discussion with the owner of the restaurant who came over when someone mentioned the Donald Trump rally going on down the street at the Verizon Wireless Arena. I think everyone in every diner was talking about politics the whole week though.

The coolest place I tried though was the speakeasy everyone had been talking about, 8one5. It was on the second floor of what looked like a regular apartment building. I had to find out the password on Twitter and speak it into an intercom in an old timey phone booth, randomly wedged into a wall, after which said wall moved away and the hostess let me in. It was a Tuesday night and the place was virtually empty save for the bartenders and hostess, at first. But the cocktail menu was creative, as was the bartender who made me a few concoctions of his own.

So that was my final night and the following morning I awoke to snow but fortunately no airport delays.  After having breakfast at the Purple Finch Diner where I had found gluten free options earlier in the week, I trotted off to the airport, dropped off my car and headed in, where I ran into at least 6 old co workers of mine from NY1 who were all heading back on the same day. It's amazing how small the news business is sometimes.

Here are pics of the week.






Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Manchester...

I'm typing this blog from a hotel suite near the airport in Manchester, NH.  What the hell am I doing here? Don't worry about it. I'm getting to it. I just first want to make reference to that bit about me being the time management ninja. I time managed. I ninja-ed. And all went according to plan.

The gig with Ryan and Jordana went swimmingly and was super fun to boot (there's some video on FB). And, already in awe at how the previous weekend timed out, in that I was able to use the disruption of the blizzard to our rehearsals as a way to push forward on the News Literacy Project's music, I was supremely awed at how it just happened that the night of the gig, I finally got word from NLP that I could push ahead on the project. See, I had been waiting to hear some direction from them, and frustrating though that can be sometimes, it was quite a boon in that I could meanwhile focus all my energy on rocking the F@$% out at the show and, as soon as it was done, shift my energy to writing the music for those educational videos.  The timing of everything was impeccable, in that nothing was simultaneous. It was all sequential and I could devote all my energy to one project at a time.

Fast forward: My boss had previously mentioned to me the possibility of doing some field work as I had shown some interest in getting out there and trying something new. He did, in fact, also mention that these things can get sprung upon him at a moment's notice and, bada-bing, bada-boom. But I was surprised that something came up so quickly.  They needed an audio tech out in the field for the coverage of the New Hampshire primaries and my boss offered it to me.  After all, I can audio. I can tech. So I said hell to the F@#$ yes! Then, the day before I was finally going to get time to finish the NLP music, I get a call that, rather than go out on the 5th of February, they wanted me there as soon as the 1st and still until the 10th.  !!!

The girlfriend didn't like it but I obliged because when else? (Incidentally, this is something my boss says to me and my colleagues a lot...when else?)  So, I had two full days to wrap up work on the music for NLP and pack my bags before I had to catch a plane to Manchester. And I knocked it out. Just under the wire. I didn't even have my flight booked until two days before it was supposed to happen and I had to borrow a bass guitar from a friend to get everything done.  Sidebar: I'm buying a bass guitar soon.

What a freaking whirlwind this year has been already, am I right? Sheesh! But I am loving it. You know how much I love travel and adventure.  Day 1 was pretty intense already.  I flew in yesterday and went straight to the anchor location for set up and then had dinner with one of the producers and the photojournalist. Then I had to go check into my hotel (a suite with a full freakin' kitchen!) because I had to be up at 3:30am for a 4am call time. Our first hit was at 5:30am.

They had us set up inside a cafe for New Day (CNN's morning show) and we had to basically turn that place into a news studio, complete with lighting, in the space of a few hours the night before. But CNN has an entourage of professionals that are on this shit and everything looked great. Meanwhile, I was thrown in on an audio board I'd never seen before with a set up I heard described to me in an email I read while waiting in La Guardia International Airport for three hours because airlines still can't get their shit together. So, that was quite fun. Once I got my feet wet, and twiddled some knobs, I started to feel much more comfortable...but then comes the shit storm of audio issues that you get when you have too many hands stirring the pot. Ultimately, we got everything on the air and I got the hang of what I was doing.  And I remembered that, on some level, I enjoy this work.

After we took everything down though, I started to realize that I had no idea where I was going next. And I think that is going to characterize the rest of this week. Last minute assignments. This is why they gave me a rental car. Tomorrow, I finally found out, I'll be heading to Derry, NH where there will be a town hall style Q&A session with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (one candidate after the other) and I'll be running the audio. Which means I will probably be pinning a lapel mic on both candidates.

It's amazing what can happen in the space of a week. More to come!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My cup runneth over...

At the end of 2015, say around November, I hadn't had much in the way of voice over or music work. I had previously even stated that I was okay with it since I had been devoting so much time and energy to taking advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself at CNN.  Now, somehow, in the wake of a quick job for Mohammad writing a track for his reel, I now find myself positively saturated with work of the kind that I love and enjoy and, in fact, live for.

Here goes: News Literacy Project got in touch with me about writing a track for their latest series of educational videos. Then, last Friday, Edge Studio got in touch with me about doing the voice over for a handful of TV and radio spots; and it turns out to be the biggest pay day I've had from a voice over gig to date. And then, as if all that wasn't enough to be going on with, I got a call from a friend with whom I had been jamming last summer.  We had been on hiatus while he and his wife finished school but they got a gig next Thursday the 28th at the Emerson in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn and asked me to join them. So now, I gotta learn a bunch of songs in a week and a half. Solid.

I'm buzzing with excitement right now and simultaneously trying to wrap my brain around how I'll manage.  The VO gig will be a quick hour long engagement tomorrow, then I have the rest of the day off. NLP should be giving me some direction tomorrow and we have until the end of January to write, record and polish off the track. My entire weekend this weekend will likely be devoted to rehearsals for this gig. But who are you dealing with here? Yes, that's right. The time management ninja.  I will kill this. Just watch.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Obligatory end of year post...

Approximately 12 hours ago I was riding in the dark and the pouring rain to Indianapolis International Airport.  Yeah, that was about 5am.  The cheap flights are always early in the morning. But it's a mark of how well I'm doing that I'm not only traveling to see my girlfriend's family but also my own in a few weeks.  Yes, I may still be buying the cheaper plane tickets but I'm traveling twice for the holidays.  CNN has been treating me well over the last few months and money's not as tight as it was before I started working all three jobs two years ago.  Finally.  I'm really enjoying getting to work there not just for the view out my window that I can't stop posting pics of.  The people I work directly with are great, my boss is great and I'm meeting incredible people in all the other departments and learning that I can find opportunities to expand my duties there.  Sometimes they even find me.

I'm not sure I can post the last voice over I did for them but I swear I'll alert you...no wait! Here it is!
So, that was a lot of fun to do.  The job seems to get better every day and then some opportunity like that jumps in my lap.  A few weeks ago I was looking up new music for GPS with Fareed Zakaria using Turner's massive music library at my boss' request.  And I even helped translate an interview in French with one of the survivors of the attack on the Bataclan club in Paris for Anderson Cooper's show.  Apparently, I've effectively used all of my degrees at my job now.  What?!

Anyway, don't think this means I'm giving up on being a composer. Oh god, never. One of the things I can count on is one of the handful of directors I've worked with that have varying degrees of prolificness eventually calling me for a job.  I got a VO and a separate music job from the same guy last week just before leaving for my short vacation in Indy.

I will say that things were a little touch and go for a minute there as I was focusing on CNN and not really devoting time to it. Also my laptop was on the fritz.  All that is fixed now thanks to my friend with whom I had been trying to write music with.  He and his wife and I jammed together a bunch in the summer time but when their respective semesters started school just kept getting in the way for them.  Turns out though, he's a whiz with Macbooks and I happened to need a new hard drive installed and a memory upgrade.  And thanks to all those slips and disasters I had in the past, my diligence when it comes to backing up my data paid off.  I was back up and running within a few days or so once we did the install together.

And just in time too.  Mohammad came through with a quick music gig, a track for his directing reel and I busted it out in record time cuz that's how I do.  The VO for the sizzle reel (separate job) was, inevitably, a mock movie trailer voice so you can imagine I had fun with that one.  One thing that I really want to do next year is chase things like that down instead of this sitting around and waiting for them to come to me. Obviously, that's going to require a different approach and perhaps some outside encouragement.

So, what else happened during this fine year of 2015? Well besides a lot of traveling and a new job, I now have a partner in crime who just moved in with me back in November. And that's been real nice. No more roommates, I says.  And guess what else? We get to travel together, beyond going to see relatives.  Next stop is Guadeloupe this March.  A French speaking Caribbean nation...with an active volcano. Sounds right up my alley.

Another thing, I plan on doing next year is writing more in the blog...which requires having more things to write about, so look out for that.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Colorado...

This is seriously becoming a blog about travel.  Lately on the music and voice over fronts I've been languishing or just straight not doing much and waiting.  I've gotten a few royalty statements in the mail, I occasionally hear about the progress of The Life and True Love, the last two projects I worked on, I'm still trying to get back together with the couple I was jamming with but life and New York City get in the way.  And I even auditioned to be one of Voice Bunny's on demand voice talent but got a reality check instead about the mediocre state of my set up at home (too much room noise...too muffled, etc.).  But I've got plans to take over the closet in the other bedroom in my apartment once my girlfriend moves in in November.

That said, I'm getting a new feel for how much I truly do love to travel.  Traveling never lets me down.  When I get out there, no matter how much I've built up a trip in my head, I still have incredible experiences even if they don't live up to what I expected.  That is to say, I'm always pleasantly surprised because I always find something new, whether or not it's what I thought I might find.  And I come back vibrating with a new energy and enthusiasm about this place I've just seen, ranting and raving about it like I'm the first person to discover that place.  And I feel so alive.

Here's Colorado.  My friend from Carbondale planned out a whirlwind trip for us, showing me the finest her state has to offer, taking me to some of the highest places in the state and sometimes even in N. America.  We did a lot of driving and winging it when we needed to, shifting plans to accommodate our whims, having adventures and close shaves, climbing mountains and taking pictures to prove it.

On the list of sites:

We first hit Downtown Denver, then caught a show at Red Rocks Ampitheater (holy crap, what a beautiful venue), Sound Tribe Sector 9. They put on a fantastic show.  The next day we drove over Independence Pass then came through Aspen on our way back to her hometown, stopping briefly at a wine, beer and spirits tasting close to where my AirBnb was on the last trip.  We found a nice local cider, picked up some food and then went back to her place where I cooked us some steaks.

The following day, we took a yoga class at True Nature, a beautiful yoga studio and meditation center, which was followed by a singing bowl and gong meditation for an hour and change.  Then she took us back to Snowmass Village to hike the Rim Trail, a hike that was offered during Wanderlust but that I didn't take.  It was cool to be back in the village and the hike was a perfect way to acclimate to the elevation.  It features a pretty steep uphill climb for the first half hour to this ying yang feature:



...followed by an easy jaunt along the ridge with sweeping views on all sides and a few more climbs bringing you to an elevation of about 10,500 feet. After the hike we wound our way down to Aspen to have dinner at Pyramid Bistro and catch a show at Belly Up.

The next day, after a yoga class at another yoga studio, Kula, we got on the road again.  Back over Independence Pass to head down to The Great Sand Dunes and eventually back up to Breckenridge to crash for the night before heading up to the trail head for Grays and Torreys Peaks, the 14ers we had chosen to hike, doing a double summit in one day because we could.  On the way over Independence Pass again, crossing the continental divide yet again, we stopped to view Mt. Elbert, the highest of the 14ers.  Note the fall foliage which had begun changing color in between this ride and the first one.



Then we got on our way past Salida and Buena Vista, down the longest stretch of straight road I've been on since driving to the Outer Banks of NC on Hwy 70.  But what awaited us was nothing short of amazing. The sand dunes can be seen from miles away, butting up against the mountain range, and boast the tallest sand dune in N. America.  When you're upon them, they dominate the landscape, and what a weird landscape:



After playing around for a while, kicking up sand and acting like kids, and just enjoying the surroundings and the quietude (it was seriously dramatic how quiet it was when the wind wasn't blowing...it felt like a sensory deprivation tank or something), we sat and debated our options for the rest of the evening. We were trying to make it as close as possible to the trail head at Grays Peak that night so we could set out and be on the trail as early as possible the next morning. Originally, the plan had been make it all the way to Leadville or even Frisco, and we had been leaning toward Leadville for most of the day as we had lost some time getting out of The Roaring Fork Valley later than expected that morning, so everything had shifted. It was already going to take us almost four hours to get back up to Leadville and it was early evening at that point.  It was so long of a ride we almost considered going all the way back to Carbondale to stay at her place that night.

We scrapped that though because we hadn't even eaten dinner yet. We had our eyes on a steak restaurant in Leadville called Quincy's that only serves steak for $9.95 (seriously, the only decision you have to make is how you want it cooked and how you want your baked potato). Luckily, the restaurant had a location in Salida that was closer so once we got back out on the highway it looked liked we just might make it there before closing and have only an hour and a half left on our journey to Leadville.

We still made it to Leadville after all the hotels had already closed their front desks for the night and had to hit a couple of them before we found one that would book rooms after hours...and of course, we got the last one at the first place that would open up for us.  Good thing too because it was midnight at this point and we had to be up at 6am the next morning!

The following morning, we packed up and got on our way, with a short stop for breakfast in Frisco, making it to the trail head by 8 and setting out around 8:30.  The weather was dreary, cold and windy. Not a good prognosis for a day hike but we were prepared.  Or at least I thought I was.  My sweater, scarf and hat would eventually prove worthless against biting temps in the 30s, steady 40 mph winds and, yes, freaking snow and sleet. The climb was a bit brutal as such and we had driven up to 11,000 feet or so, so we still had about 3,000 feet of rise before we reached the top.  At one point I had to borrow a layer of clothing from my friend. Every 10 minutes or so, I'd have to stop and catch my breath and the higher we got, the longer I had to stop before I felt I could go on.

Due to the weather, we had discussed the possibility of turning back just to prepare ourselves for the disappointment of not being able to climb to the top.  But neither of us were keen on that idea. We came to climb. If anything, we debated turning back after Grays and forfeiting the opportunity to do the double summit.  But then something amazing happened.  I mean, I knew it would happen, to be honest.  I'm ever the optimist, so I knew we'd get some clearing.  There were breaks in the clouds and the winds had them moving off extremely quickly.


As soon as we hit the final stretch, one big gap opened in the clouds and as I stepped up onto the summit, I gasped as I saw clear views for miles and miles.


This was something I didn't get with my Concepcion volcano hike at the end of February. And the rush was enough that the two of us turned to the other peak, Torreys, barely a half mile away down a path that ran along the saddle between the two peaks, and said, "Why not?" We snacked and took selfies and set out, scrambling down the side of Grays and, slowly, back up the much steeper side of Torreys.  (Watch in this video when my friend pans around...the first peak you see is Grays, which we had just come off the top of; the one you see when the camera turns 180 degrees is Torreys).


At this point I was starting to notice how numb and red my hands were. I'd had them clenched inside the pockets of my jacket for too long and needed to move them around and warm them up.  We paused so I could do so and then beat the last stretch of scree reaching the top to find even more spectacular views.



The hike down was slow and easy once we were off the main slope of the mountain and we saw loads more wildlife on the way down, including scurrying pikas and the yellow bellied marmot who crossed our path and then proceeded to stand up on his hind legs and watch us for five full minutes before going back to his business.  My phone was dead or there'd be pictures. I only saw one mountain goat the whole time, far away on a ridge on our way up to the top. He promptly lumbered down the other side before I could snap a pic though.  

At the bottom, back at the car, my head ached, probably from dehydration and not elevation sickness, but I felt great otherwise. After devouring lunch we headed back to Carbondale by way of Glenwood Canyon, looking forward to an evening of lounging and Netflix.  

The final full day of the trip we blew off a lot of the planned activities in favor of trying to have a lower key day and fit in Maroon Bells which we had missed a few days back due to cramming too much in in one day.  We were going to ride bikes down Glenwood Canyon and hike to Hanging Lake but neither of us thought we'd be in any mood for physical activity after hiking two 14ers in one day. So, instead Maroon Bells it was.  In Aspen, you buy a bus ticket and they bus you up the valley into a protected wilderness site where you can take the picture that everyone takes: 


I mean, it is pretty gorgeous. We got some interesting facts on the way up from a knowledgeable guide who knew everything from local history to local geological facts to local wildlife. When we arrived, we opted for a short loop hike through the woods to take it all in and then wandered back to the bus stop.  Unfortunately, we had just missed a bus and had to wait an additional thirty minutes for the next one which set us back quite a bit (although we heard some fantastic Wild West trivia from the same guide on the way down). 

That night we were trying to make it all the way back to Denver to see another concert at Red Rocks (we found out at the STS9 concert that Counting Crows were playing at Red Rocks later in the week so we bought tickets right away).  Making it back there required one more trip over Independence Pass, so we loaded up on coffee in Aspen when we finally got out of Maroon Bells, then headed out. The time was dwindling away and, though Counting Crows had a few opening acts, we did the math and figured there was a slight possibility we'd miss some of their set if we didn't book it. Let's just say that Independence Pass was both thrilling and terrifying this time around.  

One last stop in Breckenridge for legendary crepes my friend raved about, barely set us back in terms of travel time, because where there is usually a colossal line, there wasn't a single soul waiting. Giddy at our fortune we chowed down on crepes in the car as we made our way past Breckenridge back to I-70.  We hit very few traffic snarls from there on and I finally saw the Milky Way out the car window. Arriving at Red Rocks, we found that they were between sets still.  We found our seats chatted for maybe two minutes before Counting Crows walked out on stage, almost as though they were waiting for us to get there.  

So, a perfect end to a near perfect last day.  If not for the crummy hotel I booked outside of Denver, we'd've been totally solid (we booked a non smoking room and it turned out all they had ready when we got there was a smoking room...people can still smoke in hotel rooms??).  But at the point we were so tired we just crashed.  And the following morning I had gluten free buttermilk pancakes in Denver before heading off to the airport and parting with my friend.  

What a trip! Crazy adventures, tall mountains, beautiful vistas, and three separate concerts.  And lots of driving.  Couldn't have asked for a better time and now I have reasons to go back.  As I always do. And I think I might actually have a mountain climbing addiction at this point.