From Colorado to New York, America is still a land full of natural beauty and opportunity.
But the very crowded Empire State Building was a bit much.
Last week, I waited in long lines in the hot sun, got shuttled from one crowded building to another, hiked up and down countless stairs, walked for hour upon hour on city pavement and flew from one side of the country to the other.
The event was a vacation, a marathon of planned mayhem, which included tours of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, two days with relatives in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado and two days in the thriving city of Denver, Colo., the new home and last chance for Peyton Manning.
Most people come back from vacation rested and ready on Monday morning. Not us. We repacked our bags at least three times and shuffled through airport security four times. One time through, the security folks confiscated a dangerous weapon I had forgotten to check, my tube of Crest toothpaste. It was a small price to pay for air safety, I suppose.
There were a half dozen hurried taxi rides and a couple of subway misadventures. I returned home with a sinus infection and a credit card more worn out than Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger.
Still, I’m glad I went.
The view from the Empire State Building was beautiful, although the building was as jam-packed as King Kong in a phone booth. The attraction was constantly hawked on the streets below by dozens of ticket sellers.
The Statue of Liberty was well worth the trip, despite the crowds. No doubt, immigrants of a 100-plus years ago who beheld the 305-foot copper colossus on Liberty Island in New York Harbor felt they were entering a new world. And they were. Beyond the statue, erected in 1886, was a land that needed their skills, work ethic and spirit.
This is still true today, even as America plods through historic high unemployment rates. As I bounced around the country last week, I met numerous people who had immigrated to America within the last five years, and found jobs. They weren’t lucky, just willing to work and make a better life for themselves.
A few days later, we made our way to an isolated cabin high in the southern Rocky Mountains, surrounded by forests of ponderosa, pinyon and juniper. It was in Colorado, after a visit to Pikes Peak, that Katharine Lee Bates wrote the words to America the Beautiful. Sitting on the front porch 7,800 feet above sea level, those purple mountains were still quite inspiring.
Yep, despite my clogged up sinuses and sore feet, this vacation was well worth it. But I sure am glad to be home.