Uncle Sam and Jill-Freedom: Defending America, One Mountain at a Time

E pluribus unum, Americans. I hope everyone had an explosively enjoyable Independence Day. Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(obverse).svgI adore the Fourth of July. Historical sticklers might argue that, in reality, the founding fathers declared INDEPENDENCE on July 2nd, 1776; that nobody actually got around to signing the document itself until August; that Uncle Sam was merely a manhattan meat-monger; and that the Liberty Bell could never have tolled to proclaim independence because it was languishing away in an unused, badly rotted steeple during the summer of 1776. Unclesamwantyou

None of that matters to me. In fact, the anachronisms and misconceptions perfectly illustrate one of my favorite features of this fine little representative democracy we call the United States. The American mythos and the underlying principles promulgated at the outset of our origin story are FAR more important than the cornucopia of inconsistencies and contradictions that define daily existence. The American Narrative: a story of staunch optimism, independence, and plucky perseverance burns brightly within the hearts of each and every citizen, even during dark times where we need help from each other and state structures.

I’ve posted about my patriotism before. Non-secular National holidays always make me a little misty-eyed about why I love living in this crazy country. I’ll refrain from extensive repetition, but I do feel compelled to explain myself whenever I wax rhapsodic about why my heart beats true for the red white and blue. After all: I’m a politically liberal, plant-based, overeducated, self-avowed oddball, flamboyant, freakazoid, nearly-naked, mountain-man on two wheels.

Hardly Toby Keith's target demographic...
Hardly Toby Keith’s target demographic…

I love America and all that our country represents DESPITE my identity as an elite, academic, dirty-hippie. In fact…I love America BECAUSE I am a proudly partisan, ivory-tower-occupying, small-town space-cadet, with a taste for the finer things. America is a magical melange of ethnicities, opinions, origin stories, and occupations living together underneath the same expanse of wide-open sky. 

We, as a country, are a crazy-quilt. Our history as an immigrant nation precludes the existence of a single overarching national narrative; the disparate experiences of every particular hyphenate-American group each follow their own trajectories of triumphantly ecstatic bliss interspersed with deep nadirs of oppression and cruelty. Americans have treated each other pretty terribly in the past; hateful intolerance continues to engender tragedy today as the recent awful events in Charlseston painfully illustrate. However, despite our differences, all of us hyphenate-Americans share an indelible identity as Americans.

I love America because of the Americans living here. During my travels across the country on my bicycle I was overwhelmed by human kindness over and over again.

I love America because our country is home to some of the most spectacular natural beauty on planet Earth. From our flora and fauna to the geology within our geography, our fifty states can turn things OUT, aesthetically speaking.

 I celebrated July Fourth, the All-American Holiday, by spending time appreciating the landscape with one of my favorite Americans: my dear friend from UC Santa Cruz, Jill.

Jill lives in Denver these days. She came up to my casita in the colorado mountains on Friday evening. I cooked a typically all-American meal of carribean-style tofu with a huge pile of grilled vegetables.

 For dessert we continued on our char-broiling kick and made grilled pears and mangoes, with greek yogurt, pistachios, and a tequila-orange reduction.

 Catching up with Jill over a crisp Rose was delightful. We hadn’t seen each other since college so we had tons to talk about. We chatted for a few hours, then headed to bed because we both wanted to wake up early for a Fourth of July Hike. Saturday morning Jill and I hit the trail bright and early. We parked half a mile away from the Hessie Trailhead, then made our way along the Devil’s Thumb bypass trail towards Jasper Lake.

 Four point four miles, 1,900 vertical feet and three hours of leisurely hiking later we arrived at the lake. The entire journey to Jasper was jaw-droppingly lovely; July is peak-wildflower season in Colorado.

        Once we reached Jasper Lake we stopped to scarf down some snacks and bask in the beautiful afternoon sunlight. We were careful not to tarry too long, however; although the weather in Colorado is always unpredictable, summertime afternoon thunderstorms occur almost daily. The cumulonimbus clouds accumulating on the horizon indicated that Independence Day would not be free from the tyranny of mighty Thor, Thunder-God of The Indian Peaks.

        We descended from Jasper Lake at an accelerated rate: a full hour more quickly than the time it took us to climb up to the shores. We arrived at our car in perfect time: the sky was just beginning to sprinkle raindrops on our sweaty scalps. We felt sorry for the hikers just beginning their journeys into the rapidly deteriorating weather. Hiking in the Colorado high country requires an early start to avoid getting caught in an inevitable afternoon storm.

 After Jill and I rinsed off we wandered into downtown Nederland to observe my funny little community’s July 4th festivities.

 Our afternoon took a turn for the soggy when storm-clouds suddenly made a resurgence for a violent encore aria of punishing precipitation. We ran through pelting hail and rain to a favorable port in this severe storm: the wonderful, warm, dry, and delicious docks of Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. To pass the time while we were marooned, we made an impromptu investigation of the brewery’s excellent beers on draught.

 When the weather abated we made our way back to my house for a delicious dinner of grilled corn on the cob, sausages, homemade sweet potato oven-baked fries, and salad.

     We tried to recapture the magic of yesterday night’s grilled fruit dessert with an experiment in grilled watermelon.

 Watermelon is delicious because it is crips and refreshing! Grilled things are delicious because they are hot and tender! Watermelon and grilling are quintessentially AMERICAN with a capital I CAN! Grilled watermelon should be delicious, right?

 Unfortunately- warm, mushy, slightly burnt watermelon is not exactly an ecstasy-inducing freedom-loving flavor experience. If I had to describe the taste sensation of our deeply flawed dessert attempt in a single word, I’d meekly mumble: “meat-ish.” Not all ideas can be winners.

 Luckily the local fireworks show (and a decadent rhubarb cobbler brought over by our friend Teresa) more than made up for Jill and I’s disappointing fruit fiasco. Nederland’s fireworks display might not be able to compete with Disneyland in terms of scale or slick production value, but our small-town can put on a heck of a show…even if the pyrotechnicians apparently forgot to light off some of their fireworks during the spectacle itself, so we were treated to an extended encore of intermittent explosions a full fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the grand finale.


How did you celebrate?

3 thoughts on “Uncle Sam and Jill-Freedom: Defending America, One Mountain at a Time

Add yours

  1. The view of Ned.s pyrotechnics from the in town abode were excellent!!! I’m alteady looking forward to next years, I may even be up for the A.M. Hike…& parade.


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