A Week Coasting on a Dream

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Immediately following the end of a summer class I caught the bus to the airport and headed off to California. The trip had a trio of motivations. First off, my partner in crime Griffin Bohm was wrapping up a summer internship in Silicon Valley and as I drove him out of Boulder in May, we figured it would be fitting for me to help him pack the Prius and bring him home. Second, a Granada study abroad reunion was planned with my good friend Kristen and Natalie, her roommate while in Spain, a UCLA Bruin originally from Oklahoma. Finally, Rosa Baum, another old friend from home, finished up a summer in the White House and flew out to spend a few days at her family cabin just south of Lake Tahoe. A triple end of summer reunion was a perfect excuse to make a trip to Northern California.

Griff picked me up from the San Francisco airport around 9:30 and we headed into the city. We met up with Kristen and Natalie at an old bar in Chinatown known as a former haunt for Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan.

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We had a night of exploring and eventually ended up at our hotel exhausted.

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Saturday was spent wandering around the city. We hit all the sites, including Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Ferry Market. Despite an underwhelming burrito marketed as one of the best in the nation it was a solid trip around a great hilly, diverse city.

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We headed up to Palo Alto for an unforeseen learning experience. After dinner and wandering around the gorgeous, grandiose Stanford campus, we met up with an old high school friend who belongs to a co-op on campus. A “formal” dinner party was held, and the night that followed was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. With respect to the integrity of the institution, I will only say that I will never again see Stanford in the same light.

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On Sunday Griff and I packed the Prius and headed off for a surprise detour to Lassen Volcanic National Park and met up with my cousin Joseph, his friend from Oregon, and another friend from Boulder out in Eugene for the week. We luckily borrowed tents from the park rangers, and after a sleepless night trying to cram three young men into a one-person tent we spent the following morning exploring the park. The road wound through tall pines slathered in moss, and pale mountains jutted out of the forest.

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We hiked through Bumpass Hell, the main volcanically active portion of the park. Boiling springs and bubbling mudpots spewed wafts of sulfurous eggy clouds into the cloudless sky. Bumpass Hell was an amazingly colorful collection of yellows, reds, greens, blues, and greys that meshed with the California pines on a bright bluebird of a day.

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The hike was incredible, the people full of laughter, and the feeling as light as the subterranean air escaping all around us.

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Griff and I took the afternoon driving southeast, and we arrived just south of Lake Tahoe to a furious downpour. Our final two days were spent at Rosa’s cabin across nearby, yet much smaller, Echo Lake. We caught the sunset on the dock before jetting out across the lake on boat, the only way to the cabin. Built in 1967, the cabin was entirely gas-powered and we carried out all our waste at the end of our stay. Our one full day at Echo was spent hiking and packing the car, and it is really a gorgeous spot.

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My time in Northern California proved to be extremely demographically and geographically diverse, and the Tahoe area is a great combination of summer and winter outdoor fun. At Wednesday we rose well before sunrise, hopped in the Prius, and made the 16 hour trek on I-80 across 5 states to Boulder.

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An extreme end to a fairly extreme trip, the drive was made easier by the company and a few blackjack stops along the way. The only thing I can say with certainty is that I will certainly be back; to San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Tahoe, whether for personal or professional reasons, in the very near foreseeable future.

After a night-long stopover in Boulder, I recollected myself and headed off to DC the following morning to visit my dear cousin Rebecca Lea. B has worked as a policy aide for Rep. Adam Smith of Washington’s 9th District for the past two years. An older sister and an inspiration to me, we share so many interests and character traits the similarities are uncanny. I made it a priority to visit before the beginning of the school year and was overjoyed to make the trip happen.

After some catching up over a great Thai meal (as always, a Nathanson trip involved great food) we had a great, full day, my first in the city. We made our way down to the National Mall and walked up and down the length of the corridors under a cloudless bluebird sky.

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The famous humidity was pleasantly lacking, and it was really great to stretch the legs following two consecutive travel days. We saw the Gems and Minerals and Mammals exhibits at the National History Museum as well as a good chunk of the National Gallery, with Impressionists galore. A failed attempt at scoring cheap tickets to the Nationals-Pirates nightcap just meant an earlier start to a night out with part of Becca’s never ending social circle. DC is definitely a work hard/play hard city, much more so than tranquil Boulder, and the fast pace of life was invigorating and fun. So many intelligent young people in one place provide great opportunities for friendships, relationships, networking, and fun.

Saturday was the National Portrait Gallery, easily one of the top 5 museums I’ve ever been to. Exhibits on the Civil War, American landscapes by Bierstadt and Catlin, American presidents, and profiles on “American Cool” were outstanding.

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I was blown away by the simplicity, the depth, and the magnitude of the pieces. In the afternoon Becca attended a coworker’s wedding, but not all hope was lost: I went out with a few of her friends and we all met up in the end. My cousin’s friendliness aside, it was another fun bougie DC night.

Sunday we grabbed a big, late brunch like true DCers and walked all around DuPont Circle and the downtown area. Gorgeous old townhouses ring wide tree-lined streets, and it is a great walking city. The fact that no building can be taller than the Capitol gives parts of the city an ironic European feel, and it was a pleasure to wander. At night we had a great cousin date courtesy of our grandparents at Rasika, a highly acclaimed upscale Indian restaurant. I would still prefer messy, spicy Indian on a regular basis, but the meal really was outstanding. Another great day in the District.

My final day in DC was a classic Max city travel experience. Becca and I went to 6am spin class at the Y by her house, and it was great to be on a bike, no matter what kind. After dumping my bag at her office, I set out for another day filled with great free museums and walking. The weather held up nicely as I traversed the Mall a few times. Beginning with the National Archives was a must, and my first encounter with the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights was righteously incredible. I was impressed with how worn they were but also how beautiful the penmanship was, especially on the Bill of Rights. There was also a great exhibit with signatures of famous Americans, including politicians, actors, athletes, and scientists. I then went to the Air and Space Museum, housing the Apollo capsules, the first spaceship, rockets and missiles of all kinds and a plethora of famous planes including the Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk flier, Amelia Earhart’s red cockpit, and models of international planes from both world wars.

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My favorite exhibit was a photographic tour of Mars courtesy of American landrovers, displaying stark desert, rolling sand dunes, massive craters, and rock in many shades of red. Air and Space definitely captures a childlike sense of awe.

After lunch and a Capitol tour with Becca, I saw the Museum of the American Indian, one of my favorites of the trip. The craftsmanship, creativity, and respect with which the objects were made was incredible. There were every kind of ceramics, clothing, utensils, masks, and carvings imaginable from peoples spanning the entirety of the Americas.

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The reverence for the natural world was an overriding theme, as were very positive, peaceful notions of spirituality, the circle of life, and humans’ place and role in the world. I was very inspired and relaxed amidst such calming ideals.

In the end, DC paralleled California, with both coasts providing ample sunshine, reflection, and fun. Friends new and old along with family made this week the best it possibly could have been. I could not have asked for a better conclusion to the summer before I start my final undergraduate year at CU-Boulder. The markers of a great trip were all present: countless pictures taken and memories made, relationships forged and strengthened, insight and growth attained, physical and mental exhaustion, and above all, a maximization of fun. I am ready to be home, but am so glad to have made this whirlwind cross-country trek with all the enthusiasm, energy, and serenity I could muster. Most importantly, it’s almost Broncos season.

Full heart, clear head, can’t lose.

Max

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