Sharing On the Road and At Home

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Dale & B-cycle stationThe sharing economy is increasing opportunities for travelers who want to explore what the world has to offer, with less damage to their pocketbook and the environment. A woman who works for a new car-sharing program called RelayRides has asked me to share one of my favorite “hidden gems” in Denver so she can give customers ideas about fun stuff to do in my city. The RelayRides concept is similar to Airbnb or other budget vacation rentals in which people briefly rent out their homes while they’re away. With RelayRides, when you travel to another city you can rent your car to someone who’s coming to your city, and then rent a car from someone in the city you’re going to.

One benefit of this sort of sharing program is that it decreases the cost of renting a car. Another is that it decreases the energy-consumptive nature of rental companies maintaining huge fleets of rental cars. Of course, it can consume even less energy to simply drive your own car across the country, but not everyone has time for that. To me car-sharing looks like a great option, so long as I’m comfortable with the private parties I’m renting from or to.

The concept has certainly worked for me in renting vacation homes. My sister and I recently stayed in a fantastic condo in Puerto Vallarta that was much cheaper than a typical hotel, with more room and more privacy. The time-honored traditions of hostels and couch surfing create even cheaper options. When we “share” in these ways we have access to more for less.

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For RelayRides users who visit Denver, the concept seems like a great combo with Denver’s B-cycle program, one of the largest bike-sharing systems in the country. Denver is a very bike-able city, connected by plenty of bike trails and bike lanes. My favorite trails run alongside lovely waterways, such as Cherry Creek and the Platte River. A couple of my friends have used the B-cycle program and loved it.

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B-cycle stations are conveniently located at major points of interest all over town. You simply pay an $8 fee to join and then anytime you want to use a bike it costs $1 for an hour. If you keep the bike for more than an hour, the per-hour fee goes up, because the main idea is to get you to and from the station near your destination. But hey, even if you want to take your time enjoying the trails, an hour is plenty of time. I envision budget travelers in Denver using a car-sharing program for longer trips around the city, and then switching to the B-cycle program for shorter jaunts.

B-cycle Dale

Which brings me to the “hidden gem” I’d like to suggest to Denver visitors as a possible biking destination: Old South Pearl Street in my neighborhood. In the 1890s it used to be the end of the trolley line between the cities of Denver and South Denver. Today, you can still feel the history in its little brick businesses, old street lamps, and neighborly vibe. There’s a B-cycle station at the corner of Florida and South Pearl, so you can check your bike in, hang out as long as you’d like, and check out another bike when you’re done. In fact, South Pearl has plenty of bike racks for everyone, so if you’re biking with locals they can bring their own:

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From late spring to early fall, I suggest visiting the Old South Pearl Street Farmers Market on Sundays between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. It’s my favorite street market because it’s not too big or overwhelming, but still has everything you could want in just a block and a half: local produce, homemade tamales, food trucks, roasted chilies, popsicles, kettle corn, pastries, live music, balloon animals, antiques, Biker Jim’s gourmet hot dogs, and a carnival atmosphere.

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On other days, Old South Pearl is a lovely place to stroll, shop, and eat. My husband and I frequent Pajama Baking Company, where we often grab coffee, chai, and delicious pastries and walk them three blocks to the restful Platt Park to sit and eat among big old trees. Sometimes we eat their homemade ice cream instead. They have eclectic, ever-changing selections, such as: almond butter fudge, chocolate-chocolate chip, avocado, butter pecan, maple-bacon, chocolate cherry bomb, and coffee.

Pastry Platt Park

Our favorite pizza joint is Kaos Pizzeria, with wood-fired ovens and a delightful garden to sit in, though we usually take our pizza home. We always order the Smokehouse, with roasted poblanos, bacon, and goat cheese. They sell bottled Mexican Cokes, the kind with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup—they taste so much better, I’ll never go back to cans or plastic.

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Our favorite burger is a few blocks south of the main drag: Park Burger. You’ve never had such fresh ingredients on a burger, and the sweet-potato fries are perfection: crisp and lightly salty outside, soft and sweet inside.

For consignment shopping, Common Threads is fun. However, for the most exciting consignment finds, I suggest walking a few blocks north, across the highway at the tiny section of South Pearl behind Whole Foods. That’s where you’ll find Birds and Belles Clothing Boutique. The owner is an artist and it shows in the clothes she picks: I get compliments on everything I buy there. If you like funky shops with unique novelties, Five Green Boxes is a fun spot to explore.

5 Green Boxes

Even if you’re not usually much of a shopper, and I’m usually not, Pearl Street’s charm might temporarily convert you. So it’s good to know that B-cycle bikes have handy-dandy baskets on the handlebars, just in case.

I’m reminded that the best sort of sharing that travelers do is exchanging information. And the best info we all have is not about places we’ve traveled, but our favorite places to hang when we’re back home. Who knows better than us? And who knows more about the value of sharing than a budget traveler?

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“Be Safe” – A Ritual of Love

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KissOnce many years ago, when I was staying with a friend, she ran outside to kiss her husband goodbye before he drove off to work. “Wait, I have to kiss you!” she said. “We don’t want you to have an accident.” They chuckled together as she kissed him. She explained to me that they had recently read about a research study that indicated that married people who kissed their spouses before they left home each day were less likely to be involved in traffic accidents.

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This Denver Bakery Makes Argentina Taste Like Home

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAWe all have favorite local businesses. I believe the best are those where we almost forget that buying and selling have anything to do with it, where we exchange something meaningful and the money that changes hands merely supports that exchange. Sometimes I describe such places with words like atmosphere, service, or quality. But my new favorite, Maria Empanada, reminds me that the key is the inexplicable chemistry of love—not mushy sentiment, but the love we feel when we share with others the simple pleasures that give us joy.

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Finding Beauty Close To Home: Sunset at Barr Lake

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAMy twin passions for travel and stories are no longer about escape. Instead, they have taught me a lot about finding something to appreciate every day, wherever I am. Every place I travel is somebody else’s home, so it stands to reason that my home should have its own wonders. Every story I read or movie I watch carries me into a deeper appreciation of life, so it stands to reason that by more deeply appreciating my daily life I can create my own story. I live in Denver, Colorado, where I don’t have to travel far to enjoy an experience for which others do travel far.

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When Cross-Cultural Marriage Can’t Find a Home – By Guest Blogger Susan Blumberg-Kason

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CoverPlease welcome author Susan Blumberg-Kason as she joins me on the blog book tour for her new memoir, Good Chinese Wife (Sourcebooks, July 29, 2014), which is already receiving rave reviews. Susan grew up in Chicago dreaming of the neon signs and double-decker buses of Hong Kong. When she moved there, she thought she met the man of her dreams, until her cross-cultural romance turned into a nightmare. Good Chinese Wife recounts her years in a Chinese family as a wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. Today she shares with us the importance of place in a cross-cultural marriage:

When Cross-Cultural Marriage Can’t Find a Home By Susan Blumberg-Kason

When I first met Baba, my former father-in-law, he told me a Chinese proverb—ai wu ji wu. It took me a few minutes to understand the English translation relayed by my then-husband, Cai. After discussing it between ourselves for a bit, I figured this saying was basically the Chinese version of “love me, love my dog.”

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Death Practice

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Duck-Soup-poster-marx-brothers-9268877-341-475I think about death a lot. That’s not to say I’m obsessed or depressed. It’s just one of the two weirdest things I’ve ever been aware of: the inevitability of my demise, of the demise of all of us. The other weirdest thing: that I’m here in the first place, that we’re all here. As a storyteller, how can I not be attracted to questions of existence and oblivion? Sure, I believe in a God, a spiritual universe, and an afterlife. But that’s faith. I have no scientific proof. The only things I’m sure of are the same things all living humans are sure of: there was a time I was not alive, now I am, someday I won’t be again.

I recently heard an interview on Colorado Public Radio with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and author Sara Davidson, about The December Project, her book about the aging Rabbi’s preparations for death. We’re talking some intense preparations. Let’s call them “death practice.” He practiced drawing his last breath, practiced choosing his final moment, even got into a coffin so he could practice being dead. He also did some things you might typically expect: reviewed his life, forgave others, forgave himself. His purpose was to prepare mindfully for the end of life, or as he put it: “to not freak out about death.”

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Water From the Bathroom Faucet

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FaucetWhy does the coldest water in the house always come out of the bathroom sink, never the kitchen faucet? It makes sense to me that water seems colder coming from the garden hose, because I only drink from the hose when I’m outside on a hot summer day. It’s cold by comparison of course. But what is the allure of the water in the bathroom, even when that room is not hot and steamy?

Is it because the water in that private little room seems forbidden, because that’s a place meant only for washing up, or taking care of business, or sneaking in some shower sex—not for the simple pleasure of drinking water with naked hands, not so much as a glass in sight? Or is it only my bathroom that has such delicious, icy-cold water, while yours delivers the stuff at ordinary room temperature?

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When We Have No Time to Hike

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAWhen life gets so busy, whether with necessary tasks or the pursuit of our dreams, that it feels as if we have no time, I believe it’s even more critical to carve out moments to connect with nature. I’m sometimes tempted to ignore the call of the outdoors and keep writing about whatever inspiring idea has me in its grip, or to keep doing all the things others expect of me until I’m depleted, or to crash in front of the TV because its easier to passively take in someone else’s story after a hard day. Mostly those things tempt me because I convince myself that enjoying nature will require me to spend a lot of time planning or preparing, or to spend all day far from the city. Not true.

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Meets Expectations

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imagesI was riding my bike past my neighborhood middle school when I saw a banner near the entry proclaiming, “Meets Expectations!” and now I can’t stop wondering what they’re so excited about. I find it sad that our country’s well-intentioned push for accountability and inclusion has somehow led to a celebration of mediocrity. Some part of me would rather fail than meet expectations, because at least it might mean the chance for someone to show up and demand sweeping change. Better yet, it might mean that someone simply decided to rage against the machine and do what they were told not to do – which requires imagination.

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The Three-Moon Party

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAI’m sharing some flash fiction with you today. This story is just under 500 words. Enjoy:

I hate these three-moon parties. The forced laughter, its stabbing awkwardness rising like painful rocks from the subtle surf of Tantalon Island. Someone always telling the same stale joke about how our planet’s three moons must be female because three men could never stand together for so long. Cortenya’s parties prove that old adage is not true. We stand on the beach in trios: two men and a woman, or two women and a man, and sometimes three men.

However we stand, each group sows suspicion of what goes on in that group over there. What are they saying about us?

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