Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Denver Day 1: Rich Girl

Our early arrival in Denver this morning ended up being pretty fortuitous. We stowed our bags behind the desk at the hotel and set out to explore the city. With no beer tour commitments until 7:00, we had plenty of time to get to know the mile high city.

We spent about an hour roaming the stacks at the Tattered Cover, a multi-floored bookstore that I understand is somewhat of an institution in Denver. After browsing all that time, we left empty-handed but we hope to return and pick up some souvenirs for the road. Hopefully that creepy kid sleeping on a chair upstairs with a coffee table book spread over his lap won't be there next time. We also rested our heads on some riverside rocks in Confluence Park, though we never did end up finding the dog park. (It's all good--we passed several fine canine specimens throughout the day).

Our best decision was to shell out $16 a piece to see Denver Aquarium. I go to a lot of aquariums. I won't say that this was the best, but it was a lot of fun and we got to see several species we don't really get to see out east, like Wolf Eel, Hawkfish, and several kinds of trout. The exhibits were all very well maintained and viewable from several angles, so I got to get in there with my new camera and show off.

James tried to make a connection with a river otter, and then we realized that it was being, uh, mounted. Disturbing? Romantic?

I got to see so many kinds of sharks. Denver Aquarium really spreads the sharks out, placing them in almost every region of the building. We saw epaulet sharks, pajama catsharks, swell sharks, leopard sharks, sawfish, zebra sharks, sandtigers, nurse sharks, and brown sharks. They all glided overhead and around us amongst green sea turtles, barracuda, and unicornfish. My favorite part of the trip was seeing living shark embryos in their egg cases. It was so cool seeing their gills move and watching their little tails twitch. There are some species of sharks that give live birth, but several species lay eggs in these cases that are often referred to as "mermaids purses". Stupid, I know. Oh, speaking of stupid, there was a "mermaid demonstration" at the aquarium, which basically meant that two sort of average looking girls with wigs got to sit in cheap-looking costumes at the edge of the stingray touch pool and block my shine. No matter. We still touched those rays something fierce! The cownose rays were especially friendly, slapping their fins against the side of the pool and sticking their noses up, begging to be touched. Very sweet animals!

I never get tired of aquariums. This visit was the perfect start to the trip. Well, actually the real perfect start to the trip was when we took our shuttle from the airport to the hotel: the driver heard "Rich Girl" come on the radio and just cranked that! We had a sing-a-long together while James and I noshed on our bag of Combos (the BEST road trip snack).

First observations on Denver:

Bikes! Everywhere! Fit people riding lightweight bicycles, obeying traffic laws, getting respect, looking sharp and healthy.

Marijuana! Everywhere! Yes, you can get medicinal marijuana here. We passed a truck advertising "unique cannabis options" and a few centers where you can get it.

Beer! We had our first beer ahead of schedule today at Wynkoop Brewery. It's the oldest Brewpub in Denver, and a very very cool building with free shuffleboard and billiards upstairs until 7:00 and a comedy club in the basement. The beers are excellent. I had a Schwarzbier that bordered on a porter--very toasty, very robust. James had a vegetable ale with chiles in it! It was insane! So good, and it paired well with his burrito. I enjoyed a vegan sloppy joe.

Tonight we dine with the other beer tourists at Denver Chop House where we get free dinner and two free beers. Cheers!

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