GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo.--It still feels like Road Trip 2009 has just started, but I've already hit 1,000 miles. Unlike Road Trip 2008, where I hit the 1,000-mile milestone while driving along a nondescript section of forested, deep South highway, this time the odometer turned over to four figures while I was rolling slowly in the Audi Q7 TDI "clean diesel" SUV I'm road-testing down a picturesque lane full of high-priced houses with fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains.
I like to use each of the thousand-mile points along the way as an excuse to blog about what has happened on Road Trip since the last such point. I suppose it's kind of arbitrary, and perhaps on my next trip I could just as well blog about where I'm at when I hit 843 miles, 1,843 miles, 2,843 miles and so on. But I'm a fan of round numbers; what can I do?
On Road Trip 2009, the first thousand miles has certainly been full of interesting stops, with a lot of variety.
I began by visiting the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colo., and learning about founder Amory Lovins' highly-efficient house in that high Rockies town. The house, which focuses on finding ways to reduce power consumption, produces more renewable energy than it uses, allowing it to feed electricity back into the grid. Also, because of its use of a greenhouse, it features banana trees that can even produce fruit at over 8,000 feet of altitude.
I also visited Boulder, Colo., and among other things, I talked to the folks at Transition Boulder County, a nonprofit focusing on how to help local communities figure out how to thrive in what they say is a not-too-distant future in which the world has passed peak oil production.
In Boulder, I also talked to a scientist at the University of Colorado who is spearheading a nearly half-billion dollar project to investigate what happened to Mars' atmosphere in an attempt to find out if the Red Planet once was able to support life.
Then I moved on to Colorado Springs, where I spent several days doing a number of things.
First, I arrived at the United States Air Force Academy for a day witnessing the in-processing of the class of 2013, a group of 1,376 new basic cadets who are willing to endure four years of hard work and at least a year of humiliation at the hands of their older classmates for the chance to serve in the "Long Blue Line."
The next day, I had a very rare opportunity to visit Cheyenne Mountain, the underground facility also known as "America's Fortress," where NORAD and many other arms of the U.S. defense and military community maintain command centers and other facilities. The focus of my visit, however, was on the infrastructure of Cheyenne Mountain.
And then, before I left Colorado Springs, I returned to the Air Force Academy to watch dozens of firemen (and women) compete in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, a nationwide tour that pits teams against each other in a bid to show who is the strongest, fastest, and best at the many tasks these brave public servants have to perform on a daily basis.
Now I'm already well on my way to the next thousand miles. Where will I be the next time those three zeroes show up on the odometer? Only time will tell.
For the next several weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2009. After driving more than 12,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and the Southeast over the last three years, I'll be writing about and photographing the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Colorado. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. And in the meantime, join the Road Trip 2009 Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed.