We were keen to add Boulder to our Colorado trip, as we’d heard about its prevalence of startups and reputation for innovation and creative approaches to things. In addition, it came up really high in the search for cycle friendly cities and interesting food and beer choices in the USA.
Our trip South from Fort Collins to Boulder was uneventful, with just a remark on the IBM complex on the way in and the Google Boulder offices as we approached the city from the East, along Pearl Street, which goes on to be the main street downtown and forms the famous Pearl Street Mall.
We’re booked into another AirBnB right in town but arrive early and spend some time wandering up the Mall and getting a feel for this part of Boulder. Our apartment was ready by now and we checked in and got set up before heading down to the Mall for one of the “Band on the Bricks” gigs; starting at 7pm and ending at 9pm.
So, picture this: a stage is set up halfway along one of the blocks on the mall and a dance space left in front for about twenty metres and then rows of plastic chairs sit waiting for those wanting a less ambulant music experience.
Then, a few metres behind this, is a fenced enclosure: not overwhelming,with fences only about 1.2 metres high. Inside this space, about 40 metres by 20 metres, there was a bar at the end away from the band with a couple of nice craft beers on tap and some basic wines. It was a bit like some other events, (e.g. Bluesfest) where you buy drink tickets and use these at the bar. As a guide, a pint of a very nice local IPA was US$5 – can’t go wrong with that!
The band was great: one of those combinations of musos who’ve clearly been playing a long time and had every band member helping out on the backing vocals and a very good 70s 80s rock vocal as lead. Down in front, the dance floor was pumping; with a bounce of baby boomers. Welcome to Boulder; just what makes this place so popular?
A look around the city environs answers one question: it’s a naturally beautiful place to live. Not far from the main downtown area, wonderful scenery awaits, with the FlatIrons and vistas of granite and fir.
A drive up Flagstaff Hill provided another answer as we watch cyclist after cyclist either concentrating on a cadence while stomping in low gearing up this huge hill, or crouching to maximise aero-dynamics on their return from the top. People here have a reputation for fitness and an interest in wellness across the spectrum from mind to body.
There has been a range of influences, from the planning of the city, the establishment of the Chautauqua, the location of key establishments nearby, the influx of sixties hippies and alternate lifestyle people and the location of important elements of global companies like IBM and Google, along with the 30000 students and then associated faculty at the University of Colorado. For us at home, think Byron Bay at a time where it, and the surrounding hinterland, became a haven for creative people working at realising ideas in an environment which also offers a quality of life. Then, overlay this with a sense of connectedness and community permission giving to have events like this where there was no starkly visible security presence but a shared commitment to everybody being able to enjoy the event their own way. The dominant legacy of this group was clear at the Band on the Bricks. And, there didn’t seem much wrong with a bunch of people who would be seen as seniors enjoying life and beaming with the gladness; interspersed with their children’s generation.
Maybe the fact that Colorado is one of the first states in the USA to legalise and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana to people aged over 21 has something to do with it?
It has evidently pumped millions more than expected in taxes back into state education and the state budget. And, it has clearly created a vibe at events like these which seem to buzz along on a collective carpet of goodwill. We had a ball despite only recognising a few songs amongst two full rock sets. It’s clear that there are some well known US artists and bands that we don’t necessarily get to hear about down under. The crowd knew all the songs and words too.
It seems that the weather also has ideas about how we might get around in Boulder. We’d planned to use the B Cycle and set off to grab our bikes at a rack nearby. (Similar system to the Boris Bikes in London, Velib in Paris etc) After one bike with a slipping seat, we were caught by the rain and managed to stumble upon the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and pay our $1 at the door to muse about in spaces with installations and perspectives; some fine cut maps of famous places and a discography of thematically matched shapes in remnants of 33 rpm vinyl records.
Our next B Cycle hire saw us off on a ride to the West End, only to be quickly docking bikes and heading for cover at a Brewery. Fancy that. From the West Flanders Brewery it was only a short walk to the Walnut Brewery.
Walnut Brewery, Boulder. CO
West Flanders Brewery, Boulder: not a bad shelter from the storm.
More to come about Boulder and the mountains to the West…..