By Travis Ehrenstrom

For The Bulletin

Red Rocks

I had myself a revelation

Somewhere on this road of mine

Where the mountain meets the desert sand

That’s where my true ­treasure lies

In liquid light and solid air

A distant memory haunts me here

Those who set the dark star free

Came to sing their songs for me

Everything illuminated

Lightning in the skies of my mind

Then I danced along with angels

Deep into the endless night

Life is full of good vibrations

I’m working hard to harvest mine

So I gazed into my mirror

She smiled back as if to say

We are but one present dreamer

Floating in this time and space

Everything illuminated

Lightning in the skies of my mind

After spending nearly a month in Montana, the time had come to start our journey south, complete with a grueling three-day drive through Eastern Wyoming en route to Fort Collins, Colorado. I’ve made this drive numerous times as a touring musician and I wouldn’t wish this route’s endless monotony upon my own worst enemy.

Our traverse through Wyoming led us through endless miles of prairie, countless antelope sightings and an overnight stay in the sordid metropolis of Casper. The beautiful Wind River Canyon provided the only respite from the banality of the drive. The canyon itself feels much like a journey through time. Its walls are a millennium old, and the nearby town of Thermopolis boasts a fantastic museum full of locally discovered dinosaur bones.

Leaving the desolate prairies of Wyoming and arriving in Colorado was akin to leaving purgatory for the pearly gates.

It didn’t take long to notice the higher prices, $50 per night compared to $20 per night, of the Colorado State Park’s campgrounds. While annoying, the raised prices versus our budget led us to cheaper — and less common — camping alternatives. The options seemed like they were pulled from a late night game show: the Cracker Barrel parking lot, BLM land, a UFO watchtower, a vineyard or an extended stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.

It was this style of boondocks camping that really opened our eyes to the new community we had unconsciously joined. Half of all national RV sales are to individuals under the age of 45. Over one million Americans now roam as full-time RVers. People from all over the country are living this lifestyle and finding ways to network with others via different ­internet mediums. These new friends helped us find great under-the-radar camping spots as well as notified us of a few events unbeknownst to our traveling circus. Hello, Labor Day Lift Off (Balloon) in Colorado Springs. How’s it going, Rocky Mountain Beer Festival?

This modern movement of “Van/RV-Lifers” is composed of like-minded folks opting to own less and do more. For us, that has materialized into lots of hiking, biking, kayaking, plenty of small craft beers and, sometimes, no movement at all. Courtney and I — and I suppose Bo, Pinto, and Nala as well — are learning that one of the biggest challenges in adapting to this new lifestyle lies in the pace at which everything moves. Each day is filled with more, making each month feel like a year. We’ve been out of Oregon for two months now, and it’s felt like an eternity … in both good and bad ways.

In the short time spent in Colorado, nearly every one of my favorite bands happened to be in the area. Posters for events like Rocky Mountain Folk Fest, Brandi Carlile, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Damien Jurado, and Gregory Alan Isakov lined the coffee shop boards. I’m happy to report that Colorado’s music scene is thriving as it has for years.

A not-so-secret plan of mine was to attend a show at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheater just outside of Denver. Red Rocks is a naturally occurring amphitheater in which the stage is positioned between two massive rock formations. Our Lyft driver said it best when he alluded to the Paleolithic spirit of the surrounding area.

Visiting Red Rocks has been a long time bucket list item for me. We were lucky to be in town the same night as one of my favorite groups, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. JRAD is a group of East Coast musicians who play mostly Grateful Dead music. As a songwriter, I’ve been steadfast in believing that cover bands aren’t “real bands” because they don’t write their own material. JRAD is my one exception as they blur the lines of what a cover band can be at a professional level, as opposed to the local cover bands pandering to patron’s memories of bands long gone.

The evening proved to be as magical as I had hoped and one that we will always remember. Courtney and I danced the night away under the stars while the band played a deeply inspired set of music backdropped by the vast Denver skyline.

In many ways, my experiences in Colorado reminded me of much of my life in Oregon. In comparing the two states, it’s easy to surmise that Colorado is likely the older sibling to its Oregonian counterpart. For example, Boulder is a city that could easily be mistaken for the town of Bend, but Boulder has learned through progress how to scale and stabilize a rapidly growing outdoor-enthused population. In Boulder, you’ll find bike paths detached from roadways, a downtown corridor void of traffic and shuttles to nearby hiking, biking and rafting.

Our time in Colorado left an indelible mark on me, so much so that I found the inspiration to write two songs for the state of Colorado. The one I’m sharing with you today is titled “Red Rocks.” This song is a thank you of sorts to the power of music in my life. Music has always been my guiding light, and I suspect it always will be. It’s quite clear that the great people of Colorado need their live music just as much as I do.

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