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My vacation that proved life can be stranger than fiction
On Monday I returned from the most unusual vacation I've ever taken. Try 2,640 miles of unusual.

A road trip started Wednesday and sent us in the direction of Denver, Colo., where our second oldest son is living and studying.

There was no real agenda, other than maybe catch a site here and there. Our route took us through Las Vegas where we had never been but was frankly wondering what the big deal was. Then it was off to see the pawn shop featured in the History Channel's "Pawn Stars." No sight of Chumley or Rick or the Old Man. Nothing but tourists pouring through a well-visited shop that didn't have a whole lot besides T-shirts and coffee mugs from the show.

After spending the night in St. George, Utah, and a must stop at Cracker Barrel, we were off to the barren wilderness where only Indians had inhabited over 150 years ago. Always wanting to see natural stone arches, we detoured off the main highway toward Moab to see Arches National Park. It did not disappoint; the formations were incredible and no photo can capture the size and dimensions.

Our Friday night ended at a motel in Grand Junction, Colo. Sometime after midnight as we were sleeping 257 miles away, in a town 15 miles from our destination of Littleton, a man by the name of Holmes was blasting away at innocent people who just wanted to see a Batman movie. The carnage was unbelievable on the motel lobby TV screen just eight hours later.

Stunned and glued to the radio back in the car, on a swing through Glenwood Springs, I decided to pull off and check out things there being the history buff that I am. I knew Doc Holliday died in this town but I had no idea that I would fall into a pursuit to climb hundreds of feet up the side of a mountain to walk the burial grounds of a hero of O.K. Corral in Tombstone. It turns out that someone forgot where Holliday was actually buried and they set up a grave underneath a tree that probably was not his burial place. How do you lose a historical figure like him?

We arrived and one of the first places my son wanted to show us was Columbine High School just a few miles away. My son and I stood high on a hill behind the high school where another mass murder spree on April 20, 1999 resulted in 12 students murdered by two other students. I was moved by a memorial to the dead, which immortalized sayings of students in the aftermath of the shooting. Two in particular gripped me. "I would be misleading you if I said I understand this. I don't," read one. It had relevance to what happened in Aurora just east of there.

The other words etched in stone read: "I used to fight all the time with my sister. I used to pick on her a lot. I don't do that anymore."

Life goes on in the midst of disaster though and it felt odd celebrating the day in downtown Denver, which offered an interesting social scene. We sat and ate burgers on the sidewalk eating area as a repeating camera flash drew our eyes to a balcony of an apartment way up high. Let's just say a woman was posing and she didn't appear to be wearing much of anything.

The next day Mount Evans was the destination. We stopped at a 7-Eleven in Littleton and gazed at the front page of the local paper reading about the shooting when the clerk uttered his profanity about Holmes. He told us that one of the 12 dead victims was his friend, Micayla Medek, 23. We were profoundly saddened and felt as though the shooting was not a distant news item but real with real pain.

We tried to shake it for better times. This was, after all, our vacation.

It was 100 plus degrees in Denver and like 50 degrees and stormy on the top of this 14,130 feet high mountain. As the car climbed I watched lightning strike below us. At the top my son and I felt static electricity that made hair stand on end and we decided not to become toasted lightning rods so we left. We ended stopping by Lookout Mountain where another western figure, Buffalo Bill, is buried. We chatted with a couple - she was from Russia and he from Texas - who were there with their baby. I told you the trip was weird.

Sunday morning goodbyes were offered and we drove out of Denver as Obama was flying in to visit the wounded and relatives of the dead. The trip home was split between two days of traveling 650 miles. Monday we left Cedar City, Utah and headed on a road that would take me to my next unscripted visit down the Extraterrestrial Highway that comes near Area 51. My mouth dropped when I learned that we'd be visiting Rachel, Nevada, the town which has a special Ceres connection.

I got a story out of that visit but I haven't had time to write it yet. You see, I drove straight from there to Tonapah, Nev., where a McDonald's had been invaded by a busload of Chinese tourists (go figure). I then made a bee-line home through the Sierras and enough time to catch Monday's City Council meeting and get a jump start on this paper.

They say life is stranger than fiction. Now I believe it.

See what I have to write about Rachel next week.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at