The California lifestyle is one of leisure and is permanently sunshine-filled. Almost every morning begins with cloud cover or foggy haze, but is soon followed with abundant West Coast warmth. Much time has been spent discussing the current prolonged drought and policies have been proposed to solve the water shortage. Any instance of rain has been a welcomed occurrence. But even the cool, wet days don’t distract from the natural beauty and opportunity California offers.

The grind of regular five-day work weeks still encourages the anticipation of an escape, even if only for a long weekend getaway. Since moving, I have returned to Chicago for Christmas, visited extended family in Palm Desert, and attended a work function in San Diego. Memorial Day offered the first chance at an actual vacation, and I’m glad I was spontaneous enough to take advantage of the holiday for a trip to Colorado. This is a retro diary of my brief mountainous escape:

Thursday: I put in a full, hectic day at the office before racing home to pack and make final preparations for the trip. The intent was to watch the first period of the Blackhawks game while packing, listen to the second period while en route to LAX, and view the final frame over dinner at the airport. I was able to commandeer a table at Sammy’s Pizza in Terminal Four with about fifteen minutes remaining in the game where I shared a table with another Hawks fan who was headed home to Naperville. I washed down the BBQ Chicken Pizza with a ten dollar Pacifico and boarded a tiny plane destined for Denver.

The ride from DIA to Winter Park, Colorado was much longer than I remembered; Partly because of the long work and travel day, but mostly because of the snow and fog we encountered on the drive up to the mountains. We spent most of the drive discussing the timeline of my last visit to the mountains and had a hard time solving why it had been so long. We stopped in Avon during the cross-country move from Chicago, but had not spent extended time in Colorado since that one New Year’s Eve Party that should not be further discussed. I do remember that webMD’s recommendation to treat altitude sickness was to get off the mountain. Thanks.

Friday: I was completely zonked until after 9:30 am Friday morning. We didn’t get to Winter Park until after 2am and took some time to wind down and tour the palatial mountain estate. I was probably still catching up on sleep after attending the triple-overtime Blackhawks/Ducks thriller earlier in the week and was grateful to skip an early morning wake up call.

We debated the weather and appropriate attire before driving to Grand Lake. Friday was a day to be spent enjoying nature and Rocky Mountain scenery. California is an amazing place because of its setting along the coast and all of those days spent basking in sunshine. Colorado offers so much wonder in its scenic vistas and views from the top of the mountain or along the river or even I-70. We entered Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake and embarked on a four-hour hike where we covered nearly 6.5 miles of beautiful territory. Other outdoor adventurers were spotted along the trail, but we enjoyed the privacy of the hike among ourselves and took plenty of breaks to catch our breath, have a sip of water, or capture the beautiful scenery. Be sure to check out Jenny’s Instagram page for other, more fantastic views of Colorado and beyond.

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As delicious as CLIF Bars and pistachios are, we needed to recover some of the calories lost during the afternoon hike and wandered through The Village to find food and drink. We settled on dinner at The Ditch, a friendly, divey spot specializing in choices from Colorado and New Mexico. Dude bartender talked me into a margarita and for that I’m eternally grateful/buzzed. The chile relleno covered topped with fried egg helped soak up some of the liquor while also satisfying my appetite after a full day of fresh mountain air. The three of us capped our night with a poor display at The Foundry. It’s the perfect combination of bowling alley, bar, game room, and cinema where we all cheers’d our beers and crammed in three games before stumbling back to the condo. I would announce the winner, but no one should be proud of our straight-ahead bowling performance.

Saturday: We had two goals for Saturday: trek back from the mountains to Denver for a Rockies game, and station ourselves somewhere to watch the Blackhawks play Game Four. The drive down US-40 to I-70 was marred by sleet and hail and driving rain, but we made it downtown safely. We checked into our hotel and checked the radar and deemed it safe to walk the two miles to Coors Field. About halfway there the skies opened above us and we took cover under a tiny tree along Speer Boulevard, before eventually taking cover inside Colorado Convention Center where COMIC-CON was being held. It allowed for some comic relief and amazing people-watching as we wrung ourselves dry.

The storm delayed the Rockies game by two hours, giving us the chance to take a tour of Coors Field. We sampled the ballpark fare, viewed the field from various areas around the park, and scouted Yelp for a spot to watch the Hawks that evening.

After six innings of hot National League action, we walked down Blake Street to Hayter’s, one of the best Blackhawks bars in the country, per random internet source. There wasn’t a table to be found inside the restaurant and we meandered to the rooftop to find Tap Fourteen. The bar features only Colorado beers and spirits, and we did our best to sample them all. Another evening rainstorm thinned the crowd and gave an even better view of the flat screen and the Blackhawks late game heroics. We were fortunate to find a street vendor selling gyros to soak up some of the whiskey and moonshine, and a friendly รผber driver to safely transport us back to the hotel.

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Sunday: Oof. Believe it or not, there wasnt much good sleep to be had after sampling all of those Peach Street flavors. The alarm was set to go off early, though none of us were actually able to scrape ourselves off our hotel bed to hit the road for the airport. I got the scenic tour of Denver with a special drive by past 6th and Corona, where they built a brand new grocery store in what had previously been a food desert.

I made it to DIA with plenty of time to spare to sneak through security and get something in my tummy before getting on the plane bound for Orange County. My pass through the security checkpoint was briefly detoured when my glasses went missing, somehow leaping off the conveyor. I was questioned whether or not I wore glasses by one of the agents. I might have still been hungover at the time, but I was able to recall that I was wearing corrective lenses minutes earlier. Another friendly agent found my spectacles and I was on my way.

After pounding an Italian sandwich (at 10:00?!) and making some last-minute adjustments before heading toward the departure gate, I experienced a career highlight: my name was called on the airport message system. “ANDY GARMS, PLEASE REPORT TO THE GATE. YOUR FLIGHT IS ABOUT TO LEAVE.” I was that guy, dashing through the terminal and onto the plane, bumping into other passengers and receiving dirty looks before taking my window seat in the last row. I somehow avoided nap time and nausea for the duration of the flight.

Al Fresco lunch was at Open Sesame in Belmont Heights before retiring to my apartment for the rest of the evening. Too much fresh air and travel for this old man. My lamb kabob pita helped to soak up the rest of the toxins from earlier in the weekend.

Monday: Oh. It’s a long weekend. Who am I to waste a holiday Monday? After an evening of binge watching Breaking Bad, I escaped my apartment for a tee-time at Rio Hondo. The course had been recommended to me recently and was worthy of its praise. I got paired up with three friends who had no problem exchanging long strands of expletives and combining naughty words I didn’t know paired so well together. I played well, they presented good competition and plenty of impressive shots were traded back and forth in between cussing out everyone from themselves to the cart girl to golf course signage to ducks on the pond.

The last menu item for the weekend was a night of Blackhawks hockey and chili and good friends in El Segundo. I don’t even like chili but was willing to eat it as long as each bowl helped aid the Hawks comeback. I might have muttered some of the words I learned earlier in the day from my new golf buddies. Unfortunately the deficit was too much to recover from and I ate my feelings with various fresh-baked goods. Healthy Andy starts tomorrow, I guess. I’ll trade smoked meats and cookies for salad and yoga, probably.

I’m already looking forward to my next adventure and am glad to have spent time with friends and family over the holiday weekend. I hope your Memorial Day was as successful and memorable and properly noted for why the day is celebrated. Here’s to being back to reality for a short work week… While also always looking forward to the next escape.

The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States.

The Department is administered by the United States Secretary of the Interior, who is a member of the Cabinet of the President. The current Secretary is Sally Jewell. There is not currently an appointed Inspector General. Mary Kendall is the acting Inspector General.

Despite its name, the Department of the Interior has a different role from that of the interior ministries of other nations, which are usually responsible for routine police functions which are largely performed in the U.S. by state and local governments and national security and immigration functions which are performed by the Department of Homeland Security primarily and the Department of Justice secondarily.

The Department of the Interior has often been humorously called “The Department of Everything Else” because of its broad range of responsibilities.

A department for domestic concern was first considered by the 1st United States Congress in 1789, but those duties were placed in the Department of State. The idea of a separate domestic department continued to percolate for a half-century and was supported by Presidents from James Madison to James Polk. The Mexican-American War gave the proposal new steam as the responsibilities of federal government grew. Polk’s Secretary of the Treasury, Robert J. Walker, became a vocal champion of creating the new department.

In 1849, Walker stated in his annual report that several federal offices were placed in departments with which they had little to do. He noted that the General Land Office had little to do with the Treasury and also highlighted the Indian Affairs office, part of the Department of War, and the Patent Office, part of the Department of State. Walker argued that these and other bureaus should be brought together in a new Department of the Interior.

A bill authorizing its creation of the Department passed the House of Representatives on February 15, 1849, and spent just over two weeks in the Senate. The Department was established on March 3, 1849 the eve of President Zachary Taylor’s inauguration, when the Senate voted 31 to 25 to create the Department. Its passage was delayed by Democrats in Congress who were reluctant to create more patronage posts for the incoming Whig administration to fill. The first Secretary of the Interior was Thomas Ewing.

Many of the domestic concerns the Department originally dealt with were gradually transferred to other Departments. Other agencies became separate Departments, such as the Bureau of Agriculture, which later became the Department of Agriculture. However, land and natural resource management, American Indian affairs, wildlife conservation, and territorial affairs remain the responsibilities of the Department of the Interior.

As of mid-2004, the Department managed 507 million acres (2,050,000 kmยฒ) of surface land, or about one-fifth of the land in the United States. It manages 476 dams and 348 reservoirs through the Bureau of Reclamation, 388 national parks, monuments, seashore sites, etc. through the National Park Service, and 544 national wildlife refuges through the Fish and Wildlife Service. Energy projects on federally managed lands and offshore areas supply about 28% of the nation’s energy production.

(via Wikipedia)


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