State by State

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


by Natalia

We almost missed it. When at 8pm on Saturday we decided to check it out it was already over for the day. Clearly beer drinking is not a way to spend an evening. We don’t really know what the rules are for an Oktoberfest held in September. They may as well color beer pink and serve with cookies for all we know.

The next day we wait till 12pm in accord with the unwritten rule of no drinking before noon, unless to cure a hungover and venture into the crowd milling among the stands. In an attempt to move away from a yodeling band in lederhosen we spot Polish food. I go to secure it while Damian tries to buy beer. Not that simple. In order to exchange money for alcohol one needs to purchase a ticket. The booth is located at the end of the fest ground. We get carded and receive wrist bands and then we can buy tickets. And T-shirts. And pins. And commemorative beer mugs from 2008 at a discount in lieu of this year’s ones. The lady in charge of transactions seems to be slightly affected by the joyous atmosphere. Confused by an uncooperative terminal she takes Damian’s credit card hostage and then has problems procuring a receipt. We run away before she decides to take our hard won tickets away.

There are only two breweries represented: Breckenridge and Paulaner. Aiming to increase the selection they also offer wine. Wine! I hope they don’t pour it into beer mugs but I am not going to check. We pick two different kinds of beer and are handed cups with an alarming sign made from corn. Cups I hope, not beer although I wouldn’t put it past the corn industry to push it after an attempt to shore up the demand for high fructose syrup by renaming it corn sugar.

The beer is good, cold, refreshing. What passes for traditional German beer food abounds: pretzels, sauerkraut, bratwurst. The band plays polkas, emcee sports a fake German accent and invites the public to the chicken song. No sane person can survive it all while not under influence. But judging by the crowd reaction there is little danger of soberness.

A different kind of entertainment is offered for environmentally minded: recycling. Regular trashcans are locked and replaced by drab tents with three holes (for recyclables, compost and waste) and two slots (paper and cardboard). Each tent has an attendant. When we hesitantly approach to throw away what’s left after we had the Polish food (which is not much), she instructs: everything except silverware goes here. We still mess it up as it turns out plastic forks are not recyclables and the paper plate is not trash. Bread is compost, she adds. Or you can eat it. Hopefully before I put it into the right opening in the tent. The cups made of corn turn out to be compostable.

After that interaction I am not surprised people don’t recycle. It is way too complicated. Unless every household hires a dedicated instructor. Which incidentally may also solve the problem of unemployment. Or we can just continue to send trash to China to be sorted - we still import more then we export so why send empty container when we can fill it with waste? And China needs the raw materials to produce all the gizmos Americans are going to buy with their recycle attendant wages.


Out of all the states we visited so far we liked Colorado best. May be because of the mountains: lots of very dramatic peaks in the western part. May be because the people are not so interested in our story: they seem to ignore our accents even more than folks in Massachusetts. Or may be because the food is OK here and they know how to make beer. Seems like each and every town sports its own microbrewery.


This really should not be about trees. Nor about beetles. I should write about Rockies tundra extending above 11000ft (3500m). Because tundra at this latitude is unique. And trees are everywhere. At least for now. Normally it takes some effort to get to the tundra layer. You have to either hike for a couple of hours or travel way up north. But not in Rocky Mountain park. There is a road that will take you up there. And then you can take a paved trail to have an even closer look. The trail is not steep but you will run out of breath. Only 2/3 of oxygen that your body is used to is now entering your lungs. So to compensate you breathe harder and more often. Even if you are otherwise in a pretty good shape. It’s hard to believe that anything can live here. But it does. And it’s colorful and fragile and very alien. It’s September but the cold wind tries to knock you down and slam your car doors. Chances are you are not dressed properly. After all you just drove up in comfort of a car from a warm autumn town below.