January 3, 2015: A New Play Group

Yesterday was a day of firsts. The first time I joined an organized 'social' group in Denver.

I went through a similar process many moons ago when I first moved to Omaha. Although the technology has changed for finding these groups, the bliss of sharing time with new people hasn't changed a bit. And spending time doing something we collectively enjoy, even better.

I moved to Omaha in 1989. That was 26 years ago for those doing the math. Fresh out of college, I shared with a college friend my sadness on moving somewhere where I knew no one. Knowing I liked to run, this same friend encouraged me seek out the local running club.

"Every big city has one. Just look it up in the phone book."

For those born post-1990, let me explain. A phone book was a large paperback book which listed every individual and business phone number (land line, not cellular) in alphabetical order and then had yellow page ads just for businesses.

I followed my friend's advice and pulled out the Omaha phone book at my new job. I was one week into my new life in Omaha and although I had met people at work, I longed to find the comradery I was accustomed in my college life. Being a new grown-up and on my own, I also had the discretion to seek out others with similar interests.

Listed in the business section I found "Omaha Running Club Hotline" and promptly called and left a message on an answering machine. Within a day, I received a call back with an explanation of upcoming runs and events.

My first run was with the monthly women's group coined "Ladies of the Evening". A potluck following an after-work run was hosted at different members homes each month. I loved these ladies and ended up hosting and running with them for years.

I soon became very involved in ORC events as both a volunteer and runner. It wasn't long before I was asked to join the Board of Directors. In 1992 I served as Omaha Running Club president. Although the addition of my kids hampered later involvement in this favored social group, many of these early friendships still exist today. For my hard work, I was given a lifetime ORC membership.

Fast forward to 2015. My kids are now grown and I find myself in Denver every other weekend. Although Garrett and I live a wonderful life as a couple and with our Denver kids, I find myself alone at times and longing for social companionship outside our little bubble.

Yesterday this little bit of loneliness became apparent as I found myself home alone for the day. Garrett took a 'guys day' skiing in the mountains. He and I forgot about our anniversary until after his day was planned. I thought a Plan B was in order. One that didn't involve staying home alone. So I started Googling for options in the area.

In the dark of night on my IPad, I discovered "Meetup" groups. I had never heard of such a thing, but my find was a Godwink. Unknown to me was the evolution of organized interest groups since my original telephone book research in 1989. There are thousands of organized groups for about anything imaginable. All found on the Internet. Whether your thing is square dancing, billiards, jazz or hiking; there is a group  for everyone out there. And even better, it's organized by city and desired location.

Wow. I was in Heaven.

After an hour of due diligence, I settled on the "Trails and Ales" group. Their Meetup page gave the following description:

"Our main goal is to explore as many wonderful hikes/trails as well as socializing in a responsible manner, so members can get a greater sense of all that Colorado has to offer and enjoy. Come join us!"

So that I did. I signed up as a member and RSVP'd on-line for the Saturday hike. After a purchase of new snow shoes, I was ready to go. Water proof was a necessary shoe functionality in the snowy Denver terrain. I loved my furry boot purchase along with the fun socks I chose.

With a 10:00 Saturday morning start, I parked the car in the Google Mapped lot to be greeted by head-banded man, a bit of a hippy, handing out cookies. I kindly passed on the suspicious cookies and went on to meet the larger group at the gathering spot.

Twenty-nine strangers dressed in their winter outdoor best. And I didn't know a single one.

I quickly learned two things. First, you never really live among strangers. And second, a lot of people have relocated to Denver to enjoy the quality of life it has to offer.

From Terry whose son just graduated from Creighton to the young couple who recently relocated from Massachusetts, the conversation was great and the exercise, invigorating. I soon met a young man who moved from Minnesota and another from New York, simply to live in Denver. There were dogs joining us on leashes and lifelong Denver residents joining their weekly organized Meetup.

The air was crisp and the panoramic views were stunning. Just as the website described it. And then our group completed the planned outing by going from the trails to the ales. Lunch was at an area Indian restaurant with Indian beer on tap.

Over a beer, Doug and George told me about their favorite mountain hikes and must-see treasures hidden in burrows throughout Colorado. Tracey explained her love for organized runs and her forty+ half marathons under her belt. As various other Meetup groups were explained and recommended, it was apparent that Denver has much to offer and many avenues to experience it all.

A good day and a good Plan B, if I say so myself. The great thing about technology was the ease of accessing comments and pictures later posted on our Meetup site. Everyone has a story tell which was apparent by the group overview. They were as eclectic as I originally inferred. Just like my old ORC group.

I did think a lot about my old days with the Omaha Running Club on my hike yesterday. Sharing of life with those with common interests is fun and fulfilling. Regardless of their age or background, everyone has a lifetime of experiences to share with others.

I look forward to the next adventure. As I like to say, you can't have too many friends.



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