Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jessica is a long-time Projector. She was communications director for Colorado Stonewall Democrats until the end of July, has an infrequent podcast/blog and is a hilariously funny travel guide.
One of my favorite things about living in a place like Denver is being able to show off some of the natural beauty of our state to people from out of town. When Bil mentioned early last week that he and Jerame (who I learned pronounces his name the same as "Jeremy") had most of the day Friday to go check out the mountains, I jumped at the opportunity to play tour guide. After a couple of emails and calls, we made plans to meet after they checked out of their hotel on Friday.
I went into the office Friday morning to wrap up a couple of things at work before the holiday weekend and learned that my current client would not be renewing my contract after it ends next Tuesday. It wasn't totally unexpected since they are a small company feeling the pain of the Bush economy like the rest of us, but I was still bummed out.
I ran home to change quickly before picking up Bil and Jerame at their hotel. Normally, the hotel is about a five minute drive from my apartment but lunch hour traffic caused me to be running about fifteen minutes late in picking them up. So far, the day was shaping up pretty poorly. Little did I know that my delay would end up being a blessing in disguise and that the day would turn out to be one of the more memorable days of my life.
Jerame, Bil & Rep Baron Hill
I pulled up in front of the hotel's entrance and got out to meet Bil and Jerame. As we loaded their bags into my car, they pointed to an older guy in a green shirt across the parking lot and mentioned that he was Rep. Baron Hill from Indiana. Bil said that he was one of the Democrats in Congress who was not supportive of trans-inclusion in ENDA and that I should go talk to him. As we continued loading their bags, the Representative started walking our way so I stepped up an introduced myself.
"Hi Representative Hill, my name is Jessica and I'm a transgender woman," I said as I shook his hand. As I began asking for him to support trans-inclusion in ENDA, he cut me off and said, "those two already talked to me about it," pointing at Bil and Jerame. He told me that he comes from a conservative district and would have a hard time supporting it but that he was trying to become more educated on the subject and may reconsider his position in the future. I thanked him for his time and felt a little stunned as I got into the car after my impromptu parking lot lobbying attempt. I didn't hear the answer I'd hoped he would give, but appreciated his honesty and willingness to listen.
Bil and Jerame really perked up when I mentioned that we'd be passing by Focus on the Family on the way to Pikes Peak and that maybe we could stop for some photo opportunities. We stopped for a quick lunch then hit the road toward Colorado Springs.
Focus on the Family
An exit or two before the sign for Focus on the Family's welcome center (yes, they actually have an "official" road sign for it), I pointed out Ted Haggard's former church out the left side of the car. Jerame commented that it looked more like a stadium - it's around the size of Pepsi Center where the convention had just been held - and we all knew were definitely entering Fundie Land™.
We pulled up at the Focus on the Family compound and walked around taking pictures outside. On our way back to the car, we decided to go into the welcome center to use the restroom and look around.
As we walked into the welcome center, we all commented on how creeped out we were feeling to be entering the belly of the beast - or as one of us commented, the colon of the beast. We split for the restrooms and as we all met up near the entrance after taking care of business, Bil had a mischievous look on his face as he showed me a picture on his digital camera of what he'd done in the men's room. My instinct was to bolt out of there, but we decided to hang around for a few minutes and check out the visitor center.
The Focus on the Family workers made us sign into a book and put Focus on the Family stickers on our shirts. Bil signed in for us and I didn't see what he wrote but expected it was something like "two fags and a tranny." After taking pictures of something that looked like a water slide on the side of the building and displays in a domed circular room that actually reminded me of a colon, we left the building.
Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak
Our next stop was a shortcut through Garden of the Gods, a Colorado Springs city park famous for its rock formations, on our way to the mountain. The most famous formation is called Kissing Camels and looks like two camels kissing. We wondered aloud whether they were same or opposite sex camels before deciding that they were probably gay. I had been to Garden of the Gods countless times in the past and the question had never occurred to me - leave it to Bil and Jerame to ask that one.
As we approached the mountain, we couldn't see much of it as it was covered in clouds. Clouds are always a mixed blessing on these mountains - sometimes they add to the scenery and make everything look a little more majestic. Other times, they sock in the mountain like heavy fog and don't do much other than obscuring the view. I was hoping for the former as we began our drive up the mountain.
The drive up was pretty uneventful with Jerame and Bil entertaining me with stories of the convention. We stopped frequently to take pictures, which ended up being a good thing since the mountain would look completely different by the time we drove back down.
The cloud cover thickened a bit as we neared the summit but didn't completely block our views. We saw occasional lightning in the distance and some light grauple (a kind of styrofoam-like snow/hail mix) started to fall as we pulled into the summit parking lot. We got out of the car to take some pictures in front of the sign on the summit when I started to hear a buzzing in my ears that I knew meant that lightning was about to strike. We ran for the cover of the summit house in time to hear them announce that there was severe lightning danger at the moment and that everyone needed to remain inside.
I went to go stand in the fifteen minute long line for the women's restroom while Jerame and Bil shopped for souvenirs. The lack of lines for the restroom is something I definitely miss about my old life. Oh well - small price to pay, right?
It was getting late and they had a plane to catch, so we decided to brave the weather and head back down the mountain. When we got outside, the scenery had completely changed. What was the barren rocky tundra of the summit area was now a white winter wonderland. The grauple continued to fall and by the time we were about a half mile down the mountain, completely covered the road and made for treacherous driving conditions.
We got stuck behind a line of cars that were taking things very slow and even though we were in a bit of a hurry to get to the airport, I think Bil was relieved that we weren't driving any faster than we were. He'd commented on the way up that usually he's pretty scared of heights but that it wasn't bothering him too much. On the way down, I think his acrophobia kicked into full effect.
About half way down the mountain we were able to break free of the traffic and made good time back to the interstate. We were running late, but I thought we'd still make it to the airport in time for their flight. We spent most of the way back talking about trans politics and Bil asked about several items most gays and lesbians don't know about trans people.
We arrived at the airport with no time to spare and quickly said our goodbyes. As I drove home, Bil called and said that their flight was delayed about thirty minutes so it had all worked out perfectly. I was relieved since I had a bad track record recently for getting people to the airport on time.
I got home and drew myself a nice hot bath. Even though the day had started out badly, my adventures with Bil and Jerame had erased all of that and I felt very contented. When I got out of the bath, I noticed that Bil had texted me a thank you for one of the best days of his life. My phone's battery died right after I read the message so I didn't get a chance to reply right way but thank you guys for a truly unforgettable day!