Denver/Albuquerque/Austin

Well. This journey is coming to a close, as I sit here in my hotel room in the middle of Texas with an Otis Spunkmeyer muffin by my side. What a name. Otis Spunkmeyer.

I haven’t written any posts in about a week or so, and that’s just fine and dandy. I love sharing my journey through the blog, but something I’ve realized on this adventure is that I don’t want to live my life primarily for an audience. At times I felt myself grabbing for my phone to try and take a picture of every little neat thing I came across, so I could be sure everyone else could see it, too. It’s something I wanted to let go of a little bit so I could be present in the moment as much as possible. 

At the same time, I’ve realized this trip wasn’t really about me. I took a train around the country by myself when I was 18, and that was all about me. Then again, everything is about you when you’re 18. This time, I’ve still learned a lot about myself and grown a tremendous amount from my 37 days on the road, but I’ve realized that it’s everyone else who makes my life special. Everyone else who makes life special. Everyone makes life special.

Most of “my” life, I’ve thought about me. What am I going to eat, today? What do I think of this? What am I going to do, tonight? What am I going to do with my life? It has all centered around the phrase itself. “My life.” But it’s not my life. It’s your life. It’s Jimmy Dinglebat’s life. It’s Otis Spunkmeyer’s life. It’s everyone’s life. We have our own perception of how life looks through our unique set of eyes, but we’re all living it on the same plane. At least here on earth. There’s probably other dimensions and a lot of wackiness going on, but we won’t go into that. The point is that we’re all experiencing this life together.

We may look different, talk different, and act different, but at our core we are just a collection of matter, a moving set of atoms, borrowed energy… and we can feel that energy all of the time. Even when we are away from someone, we seem to be able to sense if something is wrong. The amount of times I’ve been thinking about someone and then they’ve called me within minutes or even seconds is remarkable. And for all of the times on this trip that I’ve felt alone, and trust me there were some times where I felt very very alone, I always knew that I wasn’t. I may have been alone physically, isolated in a hotel room in or in the middle of the New Mexico desert, but I could feel the people I love with me. 

I’ve grown closer to so many people in my life on this trip. I’ve been heartbroken, too, and realized I can’t be as close as I wished to some people; but I’m grateful for that, too. It’s okay to be heartbroken. It’s better to connect with people and try to make it work, only to have it fail, than it is to live in fear and disallow yourself from having any true meaningful connections with anyone. Fear is what makes us become truly alone. Then we become angry, and that energy permeates throughout the world. And everyone else takes it on, because you’re not alone. You’re never alone. 

I know this pandemic makes it more of a challenge to connect with each other, and it’s okay to be fearful of disease and death, but we shouldn’t be fearful of connecting with each other. We can be safe with our physical distance, but we should be fearless with our souls. We should give as much of ourselves as possible to everyone and everything that means something to us. We should allow ourselves to fall in love every day. I’ve said on this trip that it feels like I fall in love with every place I go, and then have to go through a break-up a couple days later, only to fall in love again with the next place. Going through these emotions has helped me open myself up more to the people in my life, because I know I can handle heartbreak. Being heartbroken just means that you allowed yourself to love, and that’s a beautiful thing. And just because it’s painful doesn’t mean it’s bad. Heartbreak can be a beautiful thing, too. 

As far as the last couple legs of my journey are concerned, I had a wonderful time in Denver and Albuquerque. I was originally planning on spending a couple of weeks in Denver because I wanted to get to know the city, but the weather was like a potato in an ice cream cone, so I decided to only stay for four days and come back in the summer. I had an awesome time visiting with my cousins and being snowed in, though. The first night we got Denver stoned and ordered mac n cheese from the MacnCheesery. Good lord. I knew I was gonna pay for it later but I ordered the mac n cheese with pulled pork, jalapeños, and green chiles anyway. 100% worth it. Honestly, it might have been the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. I still think about it. I’ll think about it for a long time. I love my cousins, but that’ll be the first thing on my mind next time I go to Denver. 

The next day, we all went to a break-it room. A smash room. Whatever you want to call it. A place where you pay money to destroy things. Wow, what a relieving experience that was. I absolutely went to town on a dresser with a baseball bat and I loved every second of it. I think we all need to completely lose our minds every once in a while for a few minutes, and this was a great place to do it. My cousin Brett and I tossed each other coffee mugs and launched them into smithereens with the baseball bat, which was incredibly satisfying. I grabbed the bat at one point and just started MASHING a metal file cabinet over and over again, which was really hard on the hands, but worth it. You can only swing a metal bat as hard as you can into a giant hunk of metal so many times before it starts to ring through your entire body. It’s loud and it hurts, but it’s a damn good time. 

That night we went to my other cousin’s apartment to celebrate his wife, Noel’s birthday. We had some drinks, played a little BeatSaber and some jackbox. Jackbox is super fun, especially for someone like me who is creative. There’s a collection of games you can play that generally revolve around the idea of a prompt being put on display and then everyone responding to the prompt in some way or another. Then, everyone selects which one they like best. It’s kind of like Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, but there are no cards. You can say whatever you want. Great time, highly recommend. 

Once we got back to Brett and Monika’s apartment, we officially became snowed in for a couple of days. Ryne and Noel wanted to come over, but they weren’t sure if they would be able to get back, so they understandably stayed home. So, Brett and Monika and I basically just played a bunch of Mario Kart and I was enjoying every second of it. It’s such a fun game on its own, but the nostalgia bonus is off the charts. 

Here’s a few pictures of the Colorado snow and Brett and Monika’s pets. Bandit is the longer haired cat who is a cuddly angel. Lady is the other cat who is a demon. Tucker is the dog and is the sweetest boy. 

After my time in Denver, I headed on down to Albuquerque, New Mexico for four days. And I must say, driving through New Mexico is not enjoyable. I mean if you like to see absolutely nothing for hundreds of miles I highly recommend it, but otherwise not so much. The city of Albuquerque is a bit of a shit hole, too. It’s no Roswell, but it’s not appealing. As much as I love aliens, I ended up spending about an hour in Roswell and it was honestly too long. The appropriate time to spend in Roswell is however long it takes to drive through Roswell. 

I’m sure there are nice cities in New Mexico, but I didn’t find them. I drove through several ghost towns, where almost every building looks like it hasn’t been touched in 30 years and is wilting into the soil. It’s a weird feeling driving through towns that didn’t make it past 1950. I know I can be hyperbolic and very facetious at times, but I kid you not there were several of these towns where the only structurally safe building left was the post office. 

I’d like to spend an hour or so roasting New Mexico, but I won’t. I was only there for four days and saw just a small fraction of the state, so I can’t provide an accurate assessment of the state as a whole. That being said, I thought it was a giant butthole. Big fat stinky poopy butthole. 

Okay, I got that out of my system. I’m sorry, New Mexico. This probably has to do more with me than you. And even though I thought you were a smelly concoction of poo juices half of the time, there was another half that I thoroughly enjoyed. I had the best hike of my life in New Mexico. Wow, what a journey it was. Wait, hold on. I have to mention the first journey I tried to make, which is probably what set me against New Mexico straight away.

I went to check out the petroglyphs, which are carvings made into rocks by the native people who Europeans assumed to be Indians because they thought they were in India when they arrived, so they mistakenly called them Indians, and for some reason we STILL call them Indians. People are not good at admitting their mistakes, good glob. Anyways, I hiked up this mound of rocks and I have never felt such strong wind in my life. A small rock actually hit me in the face. It hurt to even exist. Me and some lady were standing there about 20 feet away from each other, and you could tell we both wanted to say “this really sucks, doesn’t it?” but we knew our words would not reach one another, and personally, I was afraid any sudden movement, even one coming from my mouth, would send me flying over the hill to my death. Grab something and hold, baby. Grab and hold. 

The next day was much kinder to me. I drove up to the La Luz trail in the mountains, and the temperature kept dropping dropping dropping. I saw it was supposed to be 60 degrees in Albuquerque so I decided to wear shorts, not considering that I would be going to the mountains, not Albuquerque. I get there and I see snow everywhere. I realize trail shoes and shorts are probably not going to be great for hiking through the snow so I sit in my car for a minute and think about what to do. Then I remembered that I hadn’t taken my bag full of golf clothes out of my car, so I had some rain paints with me. Perfect! 

I put on the rain pants over my shorts, packed a backpack full of water and snacks, snapped on a jacket and began hiking up the mountain. It was 40 degrees out, but it was sunny and I was immediately too warm. So, I took my jacket off. Then I said you know what, I’m just gonna take my shirt off, too. I’ve been doing the Wim Hof breathing technique and taking cold showers, I can handle a little cold. It turned out to quite possibly be the best decision of my life. 

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so free. Not only that, but the cold felt great. There’s a certain kind of clearing of the mind and body you get when you take a cold shower, and this was like that but even better. I felt clear, free, and happy as a bee in a sea of… whatever makes bees happy. I don’t know, maybe a flower or something. The point is, I felt fantastic. Here’s a look into my journey.

Another wonderful part of my New Mexico stay was the company of my AirBnB hosts, Elizabeth and Michael. Elizabeth actually came outside to greet my upon arrival and helped me bring in some of my stuff. She was always so friendly and said hello whenever I came back to the house. I had great conversations with both her and Michael throughout my stay. Michael is an actor currently working on Better Caul Saul, which is pretty neat. We talked about all sorts of things on the morning of my departure from psychedelics, meaning and purpose, finding your joy in life, trying to put yourself in other people’s shoes, and so much more. It was so rewarding to meet new and intelligent people and talk about life with them. That’s definitely one of the best parts of traveling. 

After Albuquerque, I drove on over to Carlsbad, New Mexico. I stayed the night at a nice little AirBnb on a farm and went over to Carlsbad Caverns in the morning. I didn’t get to actually see the caverns, of course, because tickets were sold out. Only a limited number of people were allowed to purchase them because of, you guessed it, dinosaur attacks. No, it was because of COVID. Everything is because of COVID. 

I was disappointed for a couple of minutes but got over it very quickly because it was mostly my fault. I could have researched and planned ahead if I really wanted to see the caverns. But that’s not how I was going about my trip. My strategy all along has been to wake up and have an idea of what I’d like to do, but to mostly see where the day takes me. No reservations, no plans, just getting up and living. So, I let the day take me to a sketchy hike out in the middle of nowhere. 

I had been on a couple of fairly desolate hikes with not too many people around, but this one was the definition of isolated. There was one other car at the trailhead, so they were out there somewhere, but I never saw them. It was terrifying but also exciting. It didn’t help that the trail was called “rattlesnake canyon.” If I got bit by a rattler out there I probably would have been done for. So that was fun to think about. Nonetheless, I carried on for a couple of miles until the knot in my stomach grew too large to continue. Trusting my intuition has been a huge thing for me on this trip. When you feel like something’s wrong, it probably is. So, I turned around and made it back to my car with relief. It was an exciting adventure, that’s for sure. Here’s a few pictures of the oh so desolate Rattlesnake Canyon. 

Well, folks. That about wraps it up. I started this post in San Angelo but I have now arrived at my final destination of Austin, Texas and I am so glad to be here. I’m still processing the entirety of this trip. 37 days, 4,500 miles, 16 cities, 14 State/National Parks… it was one to remember, that’s for sure. I hope you enjoyed following along and continue to read about my journeys in life as I start my new chapter here in Austin, Texas. 

Jason Brendel
Jason Brendel

Jason Brendel is an author, poet, and comedian from Northern California. Navigate the buttons below to follow him on social media, make a donation, or purchase his collection of laugh-out-loud poetry on Amazon.

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