He left Ohio a boy … no, not really
When my professor at Miami University told me about a summer internship at a newspaper, the “where of it” didn’t much matter to me. I just wanted the opportunity to do something that took me beyond my home, the suburb of Hamilton, Ohio.
I had never heard of Glenwood Springs before May 2015. After I knew that’s where my internship would take me, I did what any sane person would: I Googled.
The first note of curiosity to me was the population — just a smidgen under 10,000. Hamilton, which is 30 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, has a population nearly six times that.
Moving 1,000 miles across the country — and west, which I had never done — would be, by far, my biggest leap into that nebulous adult life.
I left a crying mother, a twin sister with sentiment running like mascara from her face and a father who actually hugged me goodbye. Truth be told, I was going to most miss my collie-Labrador, Dallas, named after the Cowboys.
In the near six weeks I’ve been in the Glenwood/Rifle area, I keep asking the locals if they get sick of the mountains or if they fade into the background eventually. Not a single local has said that’s the case.
Even so, I would think there’s no way to replicate that initial sense of awe and wonderment when arriving on I-70 from Denver. (The land around Hamilton is pretty flat.) At the time, I thought to myself that I wished my eyes could snap little digital pictures because the scenery was surreal.
Of course, that soon faded away, as I got lost coming into Glenwood itself. I tend to get lost, even with a GPS at my disposal. For the first two weeks at the Post Independent, I worried that I’d be GPSing how to get to each location when the locations are only a block or two from the PI’s building.
But it’s funny how quickly we can adapt to new surroundings. I’m actually staying in Rifle, but both Glenwood and Rifle have come to feel like home. The scenic, cool, morning commute from Rifle to Glenwood beats bumper-to-bumper exhaust fumes passing Taco Bell and gas stations in Hamilton.
I didn’t know what to expect out of a small town and its newspaper. Friends told me that covering a small town wouldn’t be like the big city; in fact, that it may even be mundane, that I’d be covering bingo night or something.
Those friends were wrong. I’ve had a chance to cover an 85-year-old paragliding off Red Mountain by the cross and a British Royal Air Force C-17 landing at Rifle airport, meet an inspiring woman named Carrie Morgridge, and of course, write a story about a pizza delivery boy-turned-man that made national headlines.
Sure, those are going to be the clips at the forefront of my portfolio going forward, but even the smaller, truly small-town issues galvanize my attention. Sitting in for three hours on a hearing regarding liquor license renewals and petitions for new ones interested me to see the machinations of small-town governance.
Then, of course, there’s marijuana. Everyone I told back home of my new Colorado adventure asked, with a snicker and a whisper, if I was going there to get high. Because that’s Colorado now, for better or worse. The fights that have ensued in my time over new marijuana licensing or expanded operations or cultivation sites have given me a firsthand experience into the laboratory on how this is going to play out in the coming years.
A friend of mine came down for the weekend last week from Phoenix, a place that doesn’t see a lot of green or mountains. Almost as soon as he arrived here, he was texting friends from all over the country telling them they have to make Glenwood a vacation destination.
Which is why the cliché comes to mind when talking about Glenwood: Great things come in small packages. Somehow, our ancestors carved out this beautiful oasis in the middle of the mountains. Somehow, delicious eateries like Grind, Chomps and the Polish Restaurant manifest out of that oasis. Somehow, the folks with Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park made an amusement park on top of a mountain.
In the Cincinnati area, King’s Island is the go-to amusement park, and it certainly gets its fair share of tourist traffic, but it’s hard to compete with a self-controlled roller coaster that takes me careening through the mountains. Or cave tours that take me, with patient steps, deep within that mountain.
And here in Glenwood, it’s not hard to see why Colorado at large is the second skinniest state in the country (Hawaii has us beat). Everywhere I turn, I’m practically already on a trail, which then takes me to some spectacular views of Glenwood and the surrounding area.
Unfortunately, I left my lungs in a different suitcase back in Hamilton.
I’m not a religious man, but I would say I’ve been blessed to make it out here.
Along the way, I’ve met some characters, like my fellow intern from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kelli Rollin, or reporter Will Grandbois, who took us camping and hiking, and arts and entertainment editor Jessica Cabe, who graciously accepted us, as if we’d always been here.
Then there’s Randy Essex, the editor. My professor at Miami had her first reporting gig under Randy’s tutelage.
On my way out here, I pictured Randy as the quintessential gritty newsman with a wealth of knowledge and experience under his expedition hat. And, well, that preconceived picture turned out to be true.
Glenwood leaves an impression, and going back to Hamilton is going to be bittersweet. I’ll miss the friends I’ve made and the friends I’ve been awestruck with since my arrival: the mountains, especially Mount Sopris. She’s straight out of one of those scenic books on a coffee table.
The “where of it” turned out to be more life-changing, if I can be grandiose, than I anticipated.
Brett Milam is a Post Independent reporting intern this summer.
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