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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A ‘once-in-a-millennium’ Colo. getaway

A couple of weeks ago I traveled more than 3,600 miles round trip for my first visit to Colorado and landed in the middle of a downpour that a Reuters story described as a “once-in-a-millennium event.”
The city of Boulder and surrounding areas were really hard hit. The devastation is still being assessed; on Friday the death toll was at 10, and about 200 people were unaccounted for.
Lucky for me, my trip was to Denver, which wasn’t a total washout. I visited the sprawling digs of the Denver Post which, like The Saratogian, is managed by Digital First Media. I received a writing award, was inspired by the excellent work being done by colleagues at Digital First Media newsrooms large and small, learned about the latest must-have apps for journalists, listened to CEO John Paton affirm the strategy of our aptly named company, and conference called with people in four states preparing for the same print edition changes that were introduced in The Saratogian this past week.
After work was mostly done, my husband and I explored parts of downtown Denver and took in a Neko Case concert in an opera house that is part of an expansive performing arts complex. We had coffee every morning at the nearest of about 70 Starbucks in walking distance from our hotel. But coffee isn’t one of the most important parts of a mini-vacation. Food is. And I scored twice with duck, at the hip and hopping Larimer Street’s Rioja, where the Greek salad was a reconstructed work of art, and the more out-of-the-way Mizuna, where I wish I’d had room for the peach cobbler.
Before going to Denver I had booked a daylong tour into the reportedly glorious Rocky Mountain National Park to be conducted by a guide named Mike Pearl who, it turned out, has in-laws in Queensbury and avoids the Saratoga crowds. But the park was closed due to the deluge. So he drove us west of Denver to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where dozens of people were getting their exercise at 6,000 feet above sea level by running up and down the venue’s wide wooden steps. We traveled through mining towns and into ski villages, including Breckenridge, where we happened upon an Oktoberfest. No duck, but a decent bratwurst — and weather fit for a duck.
All 14 of us on the tour were Colorado first-timers, including folks from Australia, Japan, Germany and Scotland. We took full of advantage of the photo opportunity at a sign for the Continental Divide, from which water winds its way to either the Pacific or Atlantic oceans.
Next to me on the packed plane home was a Denver police officer whose National Guard unit had just finished rescuing people trapped by the flooding. While some people stranded by washed-out roads needed saving, others were contentedly making do, he said. We had a good conversation as well about law enforcement and local media relations, which we agreed could be better. Same everywhere, I suspect.
That, in a nutshell, was my fleeting retreat to the highest and one of the driest states in the nation during its wettest period in the last 100 years. I returned to Saratoga to jump into a major redesign of The Saratogian print edition and how its pages are prepared for publication. Now that I’ve come down from the mile-high air of the Rocky Mountain foothills, I’ll dive into that topic next time.


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