A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Missouri

My son Alistair and I had just spent three days crisscrossing South Dakota. Some of the candidates for President in 2020 will not spend as much time in that state or see as much of it as we did. It is amazing and varied state. Yes, there are a lot of cornfields but there are also hidden lakes, agate beds, a great river with an immense connection to our nation’s history, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and that oasis of interstate highway boredom, the Corn Palace.

But as we we’re passing into Nebraska and soon after Iowa, I didn’t know what I would write about the election outcomes South Dakotans might be looking for that would be any different than what I might have written before we embarked on this journey; we talked to some folks in our three days across the state, but not about that. Why that is should be the subject of some future post.

In any case, with a post still to write about South Dakota and the growing realization that I needed a different approach to the district we visited next (the Missouri-5th – outside Kansas City was in my sights) I was getting increasingly anxious and irritable about how I was going to get it all done and take Alistair to the places I wanted him to see and get us back home to Vermont on time. That afternoon driving down I-29 could be categorized by any number of adjectives – fun was not one of them.

But then, I had a forest-for-the-trees kind of moment that is easy to see when you are following a story but not so easy sometimes when you are living it. It dawned on me that spending all of my energy on what may well be a vain attempt to create a better version of the future for my son at the expense of an opportunity to spend real quality (read interesting and fun) time with him right now when he’s 11-years old and willing to spend it with me was stupid, perhaps insane.

All this to explain why Alistair and I spent the last week seeing interesting things: lots more of the Lewis and Clark Trail, which we followed from North Dakota all the way back to St. Louis, Omaha, The Gateway Arch, the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, but barely paused to think about what district they are in. There will be time for all that but quite possibly never a better time for this.

More about the districts and updates to PFA coming next week.

District 1: CO-2

The Colorado-2nd

I’ve been waiting to write this post for quite some time. Waiting until I had the financial security to embark on this project. Waiting until I had enough followers to make it worthwhile. Waiting until I had just the right message. I don’t have any of those things but it’s time to stop waiting.

The podcast, 435 Voices, which will launch in about a month, will feature a pair of people, often journalists, talking about the issues that actually matter in each congressional district. But what should I write about after visiting the district itself, particularly if the visit precedes the podcast as it often will?

Well, I’m not going to bother with things you could just as well learn on Wikipedia from people more informed than I. There are nice entries for Boulder, Fort Collins and pretty much every town in the Colorado-2nd.

I’m also determined not to write a book about every district. You don’t have time to read it, I don’t have time to write it and even if we both found the time there are too many districts to keep up the necessary momentum to get us to Election Day 2020.

But when my son Alistair and I set off from Denver on Thursday morning I tried to give him a framework to do his part in helping me chronicle our experience. I asked him to take his best guess at three things as we spent a day in the district.

  1. Where do you think people in this district work?
  2. What do you think they do for fun?
  3. What do you think they would change about this area if they could?

Alistair’s guesses and my own were not too different. But before I get to those, just a bit about what we did. We picked up our rental car for the next 10 days in the Denver suburb of Arvada on Thursday morning. We are outfitted in a Nissan Rouge, not quite the Escalade my son was pulling for but a more manageable size in my book. We headed northwest for the 30 minute drive to Boulder, stopping off in a Super Target just across the border of the 2nd district in Superior for the rest of the camping supplies we will need on our trip this summer.

Once in Boulder we spent most of the afternoon walking around the campus at the University of Colorado. It is a large beautiful campus where Alistair found a whole colony of large turtles and Koi swimming in a pond (pictures link forthcoming as soon as I figure out some efficient way to post them). We walked down to downtown Boulder and had some lunch then searched quite some time for a copy of the local paper, the Daily Camera. The difficulty we had in finding it is worth some discussion in a future post.

Then came a moment of decision. We had reservations at Chambers Lake campground in the Roosevelt National Forest, it would have given us a nice circle route through the part of the Rockies that is in the 2nd district and set us on our way toward Fort Collins for Friday morning. But the forecast, 80 percent chance for thunderstorms and lows in the 40s on the first night of a multi-night camping trip caused us to opted to out of the mountains and head for Fort Collins.  The decision was made easier by the fact that our family went through Estes Park and camped at Grand Lake three years ago and, the fact is, most of the population in this district lives in the strip of land in the eastern foothills of the Rockies between Boulder and Fort Collins.

Which brings me to our observations. Alistair’s guess about where the residents of the 2nd district work was in the seemingly endless string of shopping centers and chain restaurants that stretch along the main highways between Denver and Boulder and then again between Boulder and Fort Collins. Certainly many do work there. But when I offered a guess that many of these folks commute into Denver everyday he agreed. There were at least 25 checkout lines at the Super Target we stopped at, only two were staffed – more on that another time.

As for fun, Alistair’s first guess was shopping, which is pretty funny, but when I pointed to the ever present (though cloudy on this day) mountains to our left he said skiing, hiking and swimming. Probably not too far off.

As for what these residents might change if they could, he said they might make it more scenic. I was tempted to get into a dissertation on the topic of irony but he would have checked out before I got very far. A good part of the Colorado 2nd is undeniably some of the most beautiful (and scenic) landscape our nation has to offer. But the parts we drove through on this day, the parts near where most of the almost 800,000 people live, only hinted at that scenery. I’ll bet infrastructure that gets them to work in Denver and back and into those mountains and back with as little disruption to the environment as possible would be high on the wish list. The Colorado 2nd edition of 435 Voices is coming up in October, I’ll try to find out.

Oh, and an addendum before I forget. I think it goes without saying but I’ll say it once just in case. This is designed to be an outsider’s impression of the district and an impression based on an unfortunately short amount of time. If you live or have lived in the CO-2 please let us know which outcomes (not issues) matter most to you in the 2020 election cycle. The comments box is just below. Thanks!