Mountain Air Versus Ocean Air

There is a certain invigorating quality to mountain air. It’s thinner, of course, but there’s also a coolness and crispness to it, and frequently a whiff of pine or juniper, too. Mountain air is the quintessential fresh air, and you can’t help but savor big gulps of it.

Ocean air is special as well. It’s got that salty tang to it, and also a faint (and sometimes not so faint) odor of rotting seaweed that we associate with the shoreline. And, because you are by definition at sea level, it’s a heady, oxygen-rich mixture.

So, which is better? That’s an impossibly tough call, but if I were forced to choose I’d probably go with the ocean air. I know one thing for sure, though — either beats city air, or indoor air.

Atop Pike’s Peak

On our visit to Colorado we drove up to the top of Pike’s Peak. The summit is 14,115 feet high — pretty rarefied air for a flatlander from the Midwest — and offers a commanding view of the surrounding mountains and countryside far below.

There was construction at the summit and preparations for a road race were underway, so visitors couldn’t drive up to the top by themselves. Instead, you had to stop at the 13-mile marker or the 16-mile marker and take a shuttle to the summit. We stopped at the 13-mile marker, just below the tree line. That allowed us to avoid the white-knuckle part of the drive and entrust our safety to somebody who (presumably, at least) was used to navigating the guardrail-free hairpin turns that take you to the peak.

The summit is stunning. Photos can’t really capture the vast, panoramic views. It was very windy at the top, so you didn’t want to get too close to the edge and flirt with a potential mishap. It was noticeably colder, too, with snow on the ground in spots. It didn’t take long before the thinner air and high altitude started to have a physical impact on the members of our group, manifested in budding headaches and a feeling of malaise.

Twenty to thirty minutes is plenty of time to check out the top, and we were all glad to board the shuttle and head back down the mountain. On the way down we saw some antelope and the curious rodents that inhabit the area. When we got back down to the 13-mile marker, safe and sound, we celebrated with some big gulps of oxygen-rich air.

Why TSA Pre-Check Is Worth It

It seems like the standard security line at the Denver airport is always jammed, as it was this morning at 7:30 Mountain time as shown in the photo above. If you regularly fly through certain cities — Denver is one of them, as are Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta — paying for TSA pre-check status so you can skip the lines and dodge the stress and hassle is worth every penny.

Swan Serenity

For all I know, swans are inwardly tormented creatures. They could be wound tighter than a coil, churning on the inside with deep-seated angst and concern. But if that is in fact the case, swans are masters of concealment — for no other animal or bird projects a more placid demeanor than a swan gliding gracefully and calmly across the surface of a lake.

When you can start the day with a few laps around a peaceful lake on a crisp, bright morning, with a swan for company, it’s sure to put you in a serene frame of mind.

Mountain Time

I’m out west for work, enjoying some fresh mountain air — and trying to adjust to the time change and the change in elevation.

On the time change, there’s not much you can do except try to sleep as late as your brain permits and not get too upset if you are wide awake at 3:30 a.m. You can do something about the elevation, however, and that’s drink lots of water. I ignored that advice on an early trip to the Mountain Zone and paid dearly for my stupidity with some temple-crushing headaches. This trip, I’m taking no chances and guzzling water like I’m about to trek across the Sahara Desert.

It’s nice to see a mountain every once in a while, by the way, and a time change and constant hydration is a small price to pay for the privilege.

Flying Through A Time Warp

On this morning’s flight, the snack distributed with your beverage order was a little bag of . . . Lorna Doone cookies. Seriously . . . Lorna Doones! I felt like checking to see if I had mysteriously appeared in an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show.

What other snack from the ’50s and ’60s might make an appearance on a plane flight into the past? Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy? Fig Newtons? Dots? Ruffles Potato Chips? Homemade Chex mix? A Swanson’s Swiss Steak TV dinner?