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A summer of traveling is not a summer well-spent

Kaylee Matuszak at Red Rocks. (Photo by Sue Matuszak)1 / 3
Kaylee and Brian at Ashfall Fossil Beds. (Photo by Sue Matuszak)2 / 3
The family at Red Rock. (Photo by a fellow tourist)3 / 3

So last week I told you about about my family's summer visit to the City of Broad Bellies and Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago. But it wasn't the only excursion we attempted. We also set aside six days in August to road-trip 6,450 feet above the level of Lake Superior to Denver, Colo.

You see, my wife and I foolishly promised our teenager a gift for her 17th birthday and she opted for a ticket to see her musical idol, Brandi Carlile, perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. We tried to placate her with tickets to the Hot Air Balloon Festival right here in Duluth's Bayfront Park, but that idea never got off the ground. So we donned the Matuszak traveling pants and headed out.

Friday: Visited Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska. Apparently, a volcano erupted in Idaho a billion years ago and a giant ash cloud floated all the way there to cover the animals that were drinking at a water bed, but I'm skeptical. The only horrible item that's ever erupted out of Idaho is Larry Craig in a restroom. But there were several skeletons being unburied while we visited, which made it similar to a presidential campaign: Educational AND creepy!

Later Friday: Upon entering Colorado, the first rest stop we ran across had clean facilities and informational brochures. However, it belonged in a museum because there wasn't another one like it in the entire state.

For example, the next exit seemed to have been designed by M.C. Escher because it took us off the freeway into weird dimensions with no clear path to our destination. When we circled back to resume our original quest, we were spit back out onto the freeway but traveling in the wrong direction. Desperate bladders call for desperate measures and, as far as you know, we didn't make an illegal U-turn to get back on track.

Saturday: Safely in Denver, we checked out the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The place is a geological phenomenon, an acoustically perfect venue made entirely out of naturally occurring rocks. However, to see it, one must hike up a steep incline, a thousand steps and another incline, all while trying to breathe air thinner than Chuck Horton's mayoral chances. Finally, we got a great view of the stage where Brandi would be performing that night, but the perspiration pouring out of our bodies had made the walkways dangerously slick, so we headed back down.

Signs everywhere warned of pests like rattlesnakes or guys wearing black socks with sandals but thankfully, we didn't see any when Sue and I dropped Kaylee off at her designated waiting spot and went back to the hotel to drink more water, sweat and die, not necessarily in that order.

Next week: The trip back home, featuring the Oregon Trail, Mount Rushmore and lots and lots more heat.

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater, and visit their website at He wonders if recent Colorado marijuana laws have anything to do with Denver drivers who flash you a peace sign instead of a one-fingered salute.

Brian Matuszak

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at