A Cuppa Tea, Guv'nor / by Deborah Clague

Our final official day in Denver was spent getting high off peppermint fumes and floating on clouds. Our chariot for the latter adventure was a rented Nissan Versa. Going up into the Rockies, it felt at times that we could achieve greater horsepower by accelerating Flintstones-style. Or at least that's what the cyclists told us as they raced past. Driving along the winding highway, we at first missed the turn to North America's highest paved road and somehow found ourselves at a creepy roadside rest that was made evermore so by the fact that there was a bullet-ridden door sitting on the hinges of the women's restroom. Quite surreal. It was at this point that I deeply regretted my decision to drink a gallon of apple juice for breakfast.

After gathering our bearings (and re-reading the map), we made our way onward and upward, literally, and climbed Mount Evans. At times the scenery provided a moonscape-esque atmosphere with flora and fauna that I have never bore witness to before. The view from the top was spectacular offering an endless vista of Colorado's main attraction (next to La Bohéme Gentlemen's Cabaret that is). The view down (as witnessed directly outside my passenger door window) was spectacularly terrifying. Pictures were taken. Memories formed. But it was now time to get down to business...and visit the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory. 

I LOVE Celestial Seasonings. I love, love, love everything about the brand...the product, the packaging, the overall whimsy. As nerdy as it sounds, this was the number one thing I wanted to see during my stint in Colorado; another checkmark off the ol' bucket list. The factory, located in Boulder, offers complimentary tours the starting point of which is a room where you can sample a variety of their flavour offerings (Moroccan Pomegranate was especially delicious). But the main draw of the place is the renowned Mint Room. Stepping into it is positively overwhelming...in the best way possible. With each inhale, I could feel it's magical properties working their way through my entire body. The experience left me fantasizing about leaving everything behind, boarding a plane to India and becoming a Guru for all things mint-related (and I would, but I'm not sure I could commit to growing a beard). Exiting the factory through the gift shop, I felt renewed. But as the natural high wore off, I caught a glimpse into a very bleak world indeed: that of an outlet mall during a recession. 

Canadian currency at par, credit cards burning a hole in our wallets, our next stop was the outlet mall in Loveland, CO. Or should I say, what once was an outlet mall in Loveland, CO. Now it was basically a multi-acreage of abandoned storefronts and vacant parking lots. A modern ghost town with tumbleweed blowing past a huge half-lit Nike sign. The visual was, perhaps, a sober reminder of the pitfalls of capitalism but I couldn't be arsed at the time to realize it; I just wanted to buy a cheap freakin' pair of jeans. Thankfully, as always, a Target was present to save the day. But sadly, it too had an air of desperation around it. We ended the evening, I kid thee not, at a restaurant called 'Rock Bottom'. The perfect end to an imperfect day. 

"No, really...I think I can hold it":

Hug those curves:

The BEST Philly Cheesesteak. So nice, I had it twice during my stay: