Rocky Mountain high

Susan Flanagan
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Election fever is contagious in Colorado

Voters cast their ballot at the Westside Community Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Tuesday, Nov. 6. — Photo by The Associated Press

It’s our 20th wedding anniversary this month and we’re celebrating it in Mile High Colorado, home of Celestial Seasonings tea, Crocs shoes, and now legalized marijuana.

When we booked the trip, I forgot the nation would be gripped with election fever. At the local convenience store you could vote with your coffee cup and order an Obama double-double or a Romney latte. Imagine if, next election, Tim Hortons offered Newfoundlanders the option of buying Harper coffee? How many cups do you think they’d sell?

Anyway, the night before our 5 a.m. flight the children were watching “The Hunger Games” on DVD. Little did I know that, within hours, I would be in my own federal District 13 of Boulder.

Unlike the impoverished District 13 where Katniss and Rue kept their families alive by hunting squirrels, this District 13 is a pretty posh place. The squirrels on my friends’ front lawn are the size of small cats and since we arrived they have been methodically eating the three Halloween pumpkins sitting on the front step.

Boulder is a university town. The University of Colorado has more than 25,000 students who walk and bike under skies that are blue and cloudless up to 300 days a year. The intense sun is shocking. There are so many people outside moving that I feel like I’m in an outdoor rec centre, and really, I am.

Did I mention that Colorado is the fittest of the 50 states? No sooner had we arrived, then our friends took us to play Frisbee golf, which to my surprise does not involve the use of golf balls or clubs.

Our friends live in a cushy neighbourhood where bungalows start at $600,000.

Their split-level sits at the base of the Flatirons, red granite mountains that make up the foothills of the Rockies. Our second day in Colorado, they drove us in their hybrid vehicle along potholeless roads an hour north to Rocky Mountain National Park, home of the Continental Divide, where rivers either drain east into the Atlantic or west into the Pacific. There we hiked and visited the Stanley Hotel, opened by W.O. Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer car.

It’s the hotel where Stephen King wrote “The Shining,” so there are ghost tours and “redrum” postcards for sale. Our friends hadn’t been there in years and seemed to enjoy themselves.

They are definitely outdoors people and extremely health-conscious. They buy expensive organic foods. (Whoops! At breakfast we polished off the second $13 jar of almond butter since we arrived. Good thing the five children aren’t with us.) Our friends compost and recycle. They drink water from a municipally owned glacier that feeds the dozens of microbreweries in the area. The Boulder -Denver area has more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.A.

Colorado Gov. John Hinkenlooper started Denver’s first microbrewery in 1988 — Wynkoop Brewing.

He’s also the guy who urged ecstatic pot smokers not to “break out the Cheetos and Goldfish” crackers just yet, as the federal government will undoubtedly not look kindly upon 21-year-old Coloradans who choose to grow a half-dozen pot plants in their basements.

Legalizing marijuana seems to be more a paper victory than anything else.

When I spoke to child No. 4 on the phone post-election, she knew all about the pot victory.

No. 2, who will turn legal voting age while we are here, had told her all about Amendment 64. I can only assume which way he would have voted. One thing I know is, had he been travelling with us, he would have definitely gone to hear Obama give a late-night speech not far from our friends’ house the day we arrived.

Obama came to the Boulder area three times during the election. The first presidential debate back in October took place in Denver.

It’s surprising the two candidates agreed to a presidential debate at such high altitude. I know my mind hasn’t been firing on all neurons since I arrived. No wonder Obama did not perform all that well. It’s difficult to formulate rational thought and speak eloquently when there’s little oxygen flowing to the brain.

I keep having to search for words as if I’m speaking Japanese.

Maybe Romney, who’s from the high-altitude state of Utah, secretly acclimatized by wearing an oxygen-deprivation mask in the weeks leading up to the debate. Maybe Obama forgot to drink his rhodiola-enforced sports drink and that’s why he bombed in the debate.

Maybe it’s because the debate fell on the Obamas’ 20th wedding anniversary. He and Michelle, like my husband and I, were married in November 1992. Maybe the poor soul probably just wanted to go out for dinner and have a glass of wine with Michelle at sea level rather than debate his nemesis in an oxygen-challenged city.

I know the night of our 15th wedding anniversary my husband begged me to go out for steak and a movie rather than to the hospital to deliver surprise baby.

But alas, some things cannot be changed. That’s how Obama must have felt the night of the debate.

Regardless, it proved to be a turning point in the campaign. Perhaps Colorado’s thin air is what made Obama realize that Romney is a force to be reckoned with.

So, since election night a week ago, my brain has been trying to digest why Obama made it to a second term when the race looked pretty neck-and-neck on election night.

Is it because he bailed out autoworkers in midwestern Ohio?

The commentators here repeated that no Republican presidential candidate has won a federal election without the

support of white blue-collar workers in Ohio.

Or is it because Bill Clinton campaigned in Pennsylvania, allowing Obama to spend more time in the swing states of Colorado and Ohio?

Who knows? One thing I do know is that as I leave District 13 and head west towards Vail, I realize this 20th anniversary vacation will more likely be remembered as the election vacation.


Susan Flanagan is enjoying Colorado immensely and can be reached at




Organizations: Celestial Seasonings, Tim Hortons, University of Colorado Stanley Hotel

Geographic location: Colorado, Rocky Mountain, Denver Rockies Rocky Mountain National Park Atlantic Pacific Ohio Utah Pennsylvania Vail

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