A holiday in a holiday

 

The title for this post makes me think of inception. When I arrived in America Beth wanted to book a little get away for the two of us. For me this trip to America feels a little like an extended vacation mixed with learning so this trip seemed like taking a vacation within a vacation.

Anyway with a lack of sporting events last weekend due to the NHL lockout we decided to go to a ski town in north Colorado called Steamboat Springs. The downside of this decision was that it was about three hours drive away but it was heading through the mountains so it was to be an attractive drive.

It turned out that the drive was very pleasant and I drove us the whole way. I was also able to knock twenty minutes off the expected journey time provided by google maps. We stayed at the Steamboat Hotel because it was cheap and had breakfast. We could have gotten into the more expensive hotels as it was the offseason but the breakfast swung it for us.

On arrival we went for a walk around the town, working out our way around. We found the town ski jump in operation even without snow. I don’t think that is something I would ever have the balls to try – too many opportunities for broken bones – so I just admired the folks with the bravery for a while. We also walked past the town rodeo which unfortunately was closed and continued down the main street where pretty much of interest was situated.

For dinner that first night we went out to Big House Burger on the edge of town which served great

 homemade burgers, we both went for the buffalo option. On the way back we stopped at the hot springs in town for a little swim, it was great as the temperature outside the pools was very cold. On returning to the hotel I still didn’t feel like I was on holiday but that we had just travelled three hours for some reason.

The following morning we found out that the hotel no longer offers breakfast. When we complained they told us that, oh, we can go and get breakfast next door if we want to. So we did but felt mislead by their ad on hotels.com and by their in room literature. In the adjoining ranch we found maps of the surrounding area and planned out our day.

We drove about five miles out of town to the top rated hike in the area called Fish Creek Falls. You basically start at a waterfall then walk two and a half miles (all of which is up a mountain) to a second bigger fall. It was a lovely if strenuous walk with great views of the surrounding area, we hung around at the second falls for about twenty minutes before starting our much faster descent. When we were finished we ate our packed lunch and headed to the out-of-town Strawberry hot springs. These were much bigger and better than the in town springs offering a more natural feel. We enjoyed our afternoon there.

In the evening we found Beth’s favourite pizza place Beaujos in town. I’m still not sold, I think their pizza needs more tomato sauce. I then fell asleep watching football (the real English football but starring subpar American teams).

Sunday we hiked the mountain to the West of the city, the walk was straight up the whole way but gave us views of the town below and the surrounding area, well worth it. In the afternoon we went to the small (largely dead) botanical gardens and ‘Johnny be goods’ diner in town. For dinner we went to a Thai restaurant serving great food and then went back to the town hot springs. The drive home the following day was much the same as the one there.

looking out over steamboat

I definitely grew into the holiday spirit as the weekend progressed. I suspect this was helped by not bringing my laptop along with me. We both had a lovely time even though Steamboat was clearly between its two seasons. There was not yet any snow on the ground but neither was there anything growing. This may have lowered the prices for us but it also meant there was no green around, just brown. The town and countryside were still pretty but you could tell we came at the wrong time of year to see them in all their glory. It was a nice getaway and we did some good walks and ate some great food. I also clocked up another three hundred miles of America driving. All in all a successful and enjoyable trip.

Choosing our church

 

So we arrived in Denver with no church to go to. This needed rectifying. Fortunately Beth waited until I arrived so that we could make the decision together. So over five Sundays we tried four different churches. Two of these were Methodist, one was Presbyterian and one was Anglican. So, all were my non-happy-clappy style of worship.

We started off at Wellspring which is an Anglican church  which is part of the Rwandan mission to America, and about 15 minutes’ drive from Casa de Blomberg. I was rather jet lagged as I had landed only the previous day and while the worship band isn’t something I’m accustomed to, they did a decent job. I still get a little annoyed when there is a different tune to the one I am used to but I am just difficult like that. The two best things about the church were the sermon, which was part of a series working through the beatitudes and was one of the best sermons I have ever heard and the chairs… which after a flight were very nice and comfortable, thank you very much.

After the service people were friendly and I got to chat to a lot of Broncos fans. I also got on well with a couple from seminary that Beth knew, we went out to a waffle place in downtown Denver and it was a nice way to feel like we fit in.

The following week we went to St Andrews Methodist Church which is just over a mile from the Blombergs’. This should have been in my comfort zone, being Methodist and all, but it wasn’t really. The church was too big, for one thing. The sanctuary was spread very wide and thin. There was a choir which was nice. Between us signing in as guests and leaving the service they had put together a welcome pack with directions to our house stapled to it and a loaf of bread inside. That’s neat… but a little creepy. The service itself was good with a strong sermon, not as good as the prior week but still good enough to keep me interested. Music came both from the choir and an organ as well and was good. There was also a fantastic view from the church of the mountain range. It was a nice church but a little too big and scary for my liking. It also has a giving kiosk, which is an credit card machine in the lobby for your donations…

Week three we headed to another Methodist Church, this time Trinity in Central Denver. Due to its location it was never seriously in the running for our church pick but I had enjoyed a previous service there so it was nice to visit again. Trinity is the oldest church in Denver (despite only being founded in 1859) and has a nice atmosphere to it. Trinity also had a choir and looks more like the Methodist churches that I am used to from the inside. The music came from their big old organ and was nice. We also got to talk to the preacher who was friendly. As I said, distance was a bit of a problem. We took the lightrail (Denver’s interconnecting train network) downtown which took about 30 minutes and then walked to the church another five away. Not too bad but not something for every week, if we wanted to feel like we never left England this would be the Methodist Church for us.

Finally we went to Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church about 25 minutes East of the Blombergs’. This church has a rather large plot with half as the sanctuary and half as teaching rooms. We arrived early and went to the young adults’ class. It was very enjoyable and we met some lovely people. It was also well structured by the girl who was running it and had a similar vibe to an Ichthus meeting. After the class we went to the sanctuary for the service. I was surprised having seen the size from the outside that there weren’t hundreds of chairs inside and that the alignment of the chairs was odd. The various sections of the congregation were not focused on a central point as you might expect but instead we were looking at the worship band and not the preacher directly. This detracted from my focus on the worship. The service was nice enough, I will admit to checking the time a little as we were heading to the Broncos shortly after but I still enjoyed it. In the end though it would have been the class and not the worship (with a band including a banjo) that would have swung it for us.

So there we are, four churches. I decided that we should try Wellspring again, to see if the sermon could match the first and to also make sure that it wasn’t jet lag talking to make me like the church. It turned out that my initial thoughts hit the mark, the second sermon was close to the first in quality and the worship was very pleasant so after a short chat Beth and I decided that it would be our church.

Saturday night we went to a young adults group run by some 20-somethings from wellspring. We had a good time and got to meet a lot of other people who have come to the church in the last six months. It was a nice way to get to know people our age and feel justified in our decision.

Then on Friday we went to a mosque with some Denver Seminary students. I couldn’t convince Beth to become a Muslim, so Wellspring it is. Seriously though, it was a very different experience and I was surprised by how close the religion is to Christianity on a lot of subjects. I am glad I got to try a service there and thank both the mosque and Denver Seminary for the opportunity.