Karl and Kelly Con 2016 – A Few Notes About Living and Dealing With Altitude

Yep… Mountains.


Altitude Sickness

First things first. So, you are new to Denver. There is a real reason it’s called the Mile High City… and no, it’s not an obvious weed joke. You are actually at 5280 feet, a mile up from sea level. Because of that, the oxygen is much thinner up here than the thick soupy air of the Coasts. Do you feel you heart pounding, racing a mile a minute? The good news is that you are not having a heart attack (…probably.) Your body is trying to catch up and get enough oxygen to stay moving around and alive. It may sound a bit scary, but relax. It takes about a month or to two months living here for a body to acclimate to the thinner air, but there is several things you can do in the short term. The easiest and most useful thing is to keep drinking water. Your body is running faster, so keep hydrated as your body adjusts to the higher altitude. Also, the lower humidity here keeps the air dry, so you need about twice as much water than usual. Don’t go on any mad dashes either. That certainly won’t help at all.


Denver’s weather is relatively mild compared to the East Coast. However, because we are closer to the sun (remember, you are a mile up), there is 25 percent less protection from the giant glowing death orb in the sky (or… the sun.) So, think sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm… even in November.

Also by early November, it is quite likely that the first snow will have already fallen. When I say ‘snow’, I don’t mean the sturm und drang of a New England storm. More like the first dusting of the season. The easy solution for dressing in Colorado is layers. Weather can change at any moment, so just be prepared. Also… if the air around you starts smelling like a cow pasture, it’s about to snow. No, I don’t understand it or even still believe it after living here for so long, but it’s still something that happens every season. It’s… kind of weird.

FUN FACT!!! Denver’s bright blue sky really is bluer than many other cities’. Because of Denver’s elevation, the air has less water vapor than it would at a lower altitude, making for a gorgeous sky! It’s TRUE!!!


Yes, The people of Colorado do dress like most other people, just with more cowboy hats, belt buckles, and bright orange fabric. They also wear a lot of Broncos masks. I think some of them may be furries.

Another odd thing is the Colorado State Flag. It’s not the flag that is odd, just where the locals like to put it. The image of the flag (especially the big C on it) is everywhere: on t-shirts, signs, coffee cups, bags, blankets, bumper stickers, towels, key chains, magnets, people’s skin (i.e.: tattoos), likely brands of cannabis… Colorado is the third state that I’ve lived in (just to be fair, the other two places are officially Commonwealths, but that is just older states still using quaint old 17th century terminology) and the only place that I’ve seen doing merchandising at this level. Seems like not all the revenues come just from marijuana.

Booze Warning

Yes… there is indeed a booze warning. I did not believe it myself when I heard it the first time I visited, which did get me into a bit of trouble (with ‘hilarious’ results). It goes something like this: Because your body and blood cells are working overtime to process the lesser amount of oxygen that you are getting, it does not have as much time to process other things in your blood… like booze. Because of this, the good/bad news is that (unless you are acclimated) you get drunk much faster… much much faster. So, it could be a cheap night out for you sea-level style drinkers or you can find yourself in passed out condition around a toilet. Your choice. Stay hydrated and watch just your drinking.

Of course, the other side of all this is, when you are acclimated and your body can handle less oxygen, you can go down to the thick soupy air of sea level and drink like a champion.

Getting Around

Look around you. See the mountains? That’s West.

Right after I moved to Colorado, I noticed that most of the locals used the four directions when telling you a location (“Oh… I live in the red house under the elm on the south side of the street. Head around towards the back. My front door is on the west side.”) I’ve always found this kind of odd. Growing up in a city on the East Coast, I could never remember describing anything like that. Kelly once asked me about it, wondering how it was done back East… which I pretty much shrugged. There was never really any sort of mental compass growing up out there, it was always left and right (“… walk down Seventh Street about four blocks, make a left on South Street, and my door is on the right.”) How did you know which way was north or south? Didn’t really matter as it never came into it, I said pointing out that the river was always ’thataway.’  So if you’re talking to someone and come across this way of describing a location, look towards the mountains. That is West. Go from there.

The best short-hand way of viewing Denver is through it’s two main roads: Colfax Avenue and Broadway. Colfax runs East and West, Broadway runs North and South. Where the two roads meet (right in front of the Capitol) is where the Downtown area starts. Everything else pretty much hangs off these two avenues.

The easiest way to get around the city is either through Uber, Lyft, and the cabs. The best way to find a cab is to look around one of the many hotels downtown as they are usually lined up, waiting for fares. The Light Rail system pretty much skirts the city, being better for getting out into and out of the suburbs quickly. For just moving around Downtown, South Broadway, and Capitol Hill; the Light Rail is pretty useless. However, if you are brave enough to hazard the bus system, The #0 runs down South Broadway and the #15 (or the Vomit Comet… pretty self explanatory) runs down East Colfax. The base fare is $2.60 or $5.25 for a DayPass, but the cabaret that usually comes along with the fare can be priceless. There are many other buses around the city, of course, but I would only use the bus system as a last resort. However, if you are in the mood for the trip and a show, I won’t stop you.

NEXT: A Very Brief History of Denver


Posted on

September 8, 2016

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