State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

labor

by Natalia

Americans celebrate mourn the end of summer a.k.a. the Labor Day weekend by driving away to vacation destinations. Like Breckenridge, Colorado. With all the energy spent on securing a lodging in an attractive place they neglect to devise an interesting activity to fill 3 days. They wander aimlessly down the street looking for any diversion. Eventually they fall back onto familiar pastime: shopping. Only they don't buy much as the looming recession put an end to guiltless spending.

American holidays are one of the most noticeable symptoms of yankee pragmatism. Europe celebrates its solemn anniversaries on specific days of the month. In some years the May 3rd and May 1st which are both holidays in Poland conspire with the calendar to provide an easily extensible stretch of time where entire country stops functioning for entire week. Not so in the US. Most holidays (with a notable exception of the 4hth of July) are defined as the first or last Monday of a given month. Which nicely compacts the free time to 3 days. And judging by the behavior of people on Monday afternoon the end of the long weekend is greeted with an almost palatable relief. People can finally go back to the predictability of their daily lives and brag about fantastic time they had when not working.

To tell the truth it's not easy to find suitable amusement in Breckenridge. The town guards closely its many attractions. We try to get hiking trail recommendation at the welcome center and learn that there are many trails but only one map. Literally. We are allowed to look briefly at a copy owned by the center and then we are sent in a random direction by a young staffer. We do manage to have a pleasant hike by turning left at every trail fork.

The next day, armed with a digital version of the rare map we attempt hiking again. Total disaster. We cannot find the trailhead and once we do find something that resembles a hiking path it quickly takes us back where we started. Clearly the welcome center policy of restricting access to the map is for our own good. Damian goes to the bookstore to find some info but it's dominated by publications on climbing and hiking 14K feet peaks. We are not that ambitious yet.

Discouraged by our mixed hiking experience we decide to give biking a chance. A free leaflet boast about 50 miles of paved bike trails in the area, so equipped with a map - again - we embark on a loop around Dillon Reservoir with a side trip to Keystone. The accuracy of the map leaves something to be desired: there is a 2 mile stretch where bike path disappears: apparently multi-use in the map description includes cars. And then the path appears again and goes in a completely different direction than the map led us to believe. The last 7 out of 40 miles (64 km!) is a gentle but relentless uphill and we suddenly realize why the first 7 miles were so pleasantly effortless. We clearly underestimated both map scale and our abilities. We get home exhausted, but certain that any attempts of hiking or biking on the following day are out of question.

We are staying in Breckenridge for a month and fully intend to pry open all its secrets - confusing maps and sneaky uphills notwithstanding.

cheap

It's hard to be a cheapskate. Harder than you think. Especially when one is just starting now after years of learning how to spend more as a patriotic duty in the golden Bush years. But it's austerity time now - the Obama era of great deleveraging. The government is still shy about it hoping against reason for a swift recovery but writing is on the wall - the conspicuous consumption is over.

foreigners

The common opinion is that American tourists abroad are a bunch of insufferable ignorants. Supposedly they take their prosaic habits, funny packs, running shoes and a desire to find a McDonald in France and proceed to trample all over the world's treasures. Well, that may be. But if you hope that European tourists behave better in US you are seriously mistaken. Visiting Utah deservedly famous Canyonlands and Arches National Parks we are being unwillingly subjected to an invasion of German, French and Russian touring groups. Compete with one another in a strangely seductive game of let's confirm the worst national stereotypes.