Wood: After 35 years, Colorado is home

think I’m officially a Coloradan. It’s been 35 years since I embarked on a quixotic journey from the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, to Boulder, as I wrapped up four years in the Marine Corps and readied to attend the University of Colorado.

My trip began in mid-July, 1985, with a flight from Honolulu to San Diego, where I visited an aunt, to Oceanside, California, to pick up my 1968 Mustang convertible, which I had shipped from Hawaii and which I planned to drive to Boulder. I had intended to drive mainly at night to avoid the heat of the Mojave Desert, hoping that the engine would hold out. Fate had other ideas, and the engine blew as I entered Baker, California. I didn’t have money to fix it, as I needed to preserve cash for school, and I wound up trading my precious Mustang for a Ford Fiesta. That engine blew, too, and I spent the night in a Bob’s Big Boy, eating pie and waiting until I could catch a Greyhound bus bound for Denver.

I remember little of the trip, except the filthy restroom at the Denver Greyhound station and the majestic view of the Boulder Valley as my RTD bus headed into Boulder.

At the Walnut Street Station, I immediately found a pay phone — remember them? — grabbed a phone book — remember them? — and found a motel for the night.  I spent the first night at the old Skyland Motel at Colorado Avenue and 28th Street and quickly signed a lease for a room in the basement of the house on East Pennsylvania Avenue. But the landlord wouldn’t let me move in for another day. So, to save money, I spent my second night in Boulder dozing on the grass near Regent Hall.

Soon, I got a part-time job at Target, and my limited veterans’ educational benefits kicked in. Back then, during peacetime, there was no G.I. Bill. We had the Veterans Educational Assistance Program, or VEAP. I had saved $75 a month for three years, and I got back $225 a month for three years. It wasn’t much, but it helped pay the rent.

Three years after reaching Boulder, I graduated with honors from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, securing an internship with the Rocky Mountain News along the way, filling in for a summer as a business reporter at The Denver Post, working for a year and a half at The Boulder County Business Report and spending five years as a reporter and then managing editor at The Denver Business Journal.

By 1995, married with two kids, I co-founded The Northern Colorado Business Report in Fort Collins. We launched a third paper, The Wyoming Business Report, in 2000.

As the years wore on, we obtained full ownership of our publications, sold the Wyoming paper and combined BCBR and NCBR to form BizWest in 2014.

Life brought many changes, including eventual divorce and more moves.

Now, I look back on the Colorado of 1985, and I marvel at what’s changed in this state in the past 35 years. Some changes are not for the better, i.e., the loss of the Rocky Mountain News, and the severe cuts in journalistic enterprises of all types.

But it’s striking to me that I’ve now lived in Colorado twice as long as I lived in my native Illinois, which I left at age 17 on the night of my high-school graduation, heading for boot camp in San Diego.

Colorado has grown from 3.2 million residents in 1985 to almost 5.8 million in 2019.

During the beginning of my tenure at The Denver Business Journal, the state was weathering a severe energy-sector, real estate and banking downturn. I lost count of how many stories I wrote about commercial foreclosures. Times were bleak.

Since then, the economy has diversified, but the state is experiencing a very different downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have no doubt that we will emerge from this stronger, eventually. I hope the same is true for Illinois, where my family roots go back about 170 years.

I still keep up with news from Illinois. For a long time, I still thought of it as home. But somewhere along the way, as my kids were born and grew to adulthood, as I progressed through my chosen profession, as our business itself weathered turmoil and changes, Colorado became home.

Life experiences will do that for you. I can imagine living nowhere else.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwest.com.

think I’m officially a Coloradan. It’s been 35 years since I embarked on a quixotic journey from the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, to Boulder, as I wrapped up four years in the Marine Corps and readied to attend the University of Colorado.

My trip began in mid-July, 1985, with a flight from Honolulu to San Diego, where I visited an aunt, to Oceanside, California, to pick up my 1968 Mustang convertible, which I had shipped from Hawaii and which I planned to drive to Boulder. I had intended to drive mainly at night to avoid the heat of the Mojave Desert, hoping that the engine would hold out. Fate had other ideas, and the engine blew as I entered Baker, California. I didn’t have money to fix it, as I needed to preserve cash for school, and I wound up trading my precious Mustang for a Ford Fiesta. That engine blew, too, and I spent the night in a Bob’s Big Boy, eating pie and waiting until I could catch a Greyhound bus bound for Denver.

I remember little of the trip, except the filthy restroom at the Denver Greyhound station and the majestic view of the Boulder Valley as my RTD bus headed into Boulder.

At the Walnut Street Station, I immediately found a pay phone — remember them? — grabbed a phone book — remember them? — and found a motel for the night.  I spent the first…