My heart is in Boulder but my brain is needed in Denver, so I'm putting my body in Broomfield

I wasn't really joking when I told people the university hands you an eviction notice with your diploma.

"Congrats! Now get out."
The university doesn't do this for everyone, of course, just those of us who live in student housing. I lived in Smiley Court for more than 9 years, longer than I've lived anywhere other than the house I grew up in. It was home, and home can be hard to leave.

Admittedly, the apartment had gotten a bit cramped. It was tight from the start, since I was downsizing from a two-bedroom apartment into a one-bedroom. Adding an extra bicycle and a few hundred books along the way didn't help. The apartment was also miserably hot in the summer, with south- and west-facing brick walls and a location on the top floor. Even with a small air conditioner wedged in the too-small windows, running all day, the temperatures could get over 85 degrees and stay that way past midnight. So it wasn't perfect. But then again, it had this view:

A recent sunrise from the balcony of B1-31
From this apartment I managed to turn myself into a runner, pounding the pavement along Boulder Creek, and later I turned my attention to cycling. If there was an event on campus, getting there required a brisk 20 minute walk. I could also walk to the grocery store, the movie theater, and multiple bus stops. One time I climbed Mt. Sanitas by walking out my front door, across town, up the mountain, and back home. It was a tiring 10-mile round-trip, but a reminder of why Boulder can be a wonderful place to live.

Winter sun through the trees. My apartment was on the top floor.
It's probably true that my happiness with my living situation delayed my graduation from the university. It's a lot more complicated than that, of course--I think I'd be a student forever, if I could, and big, time-sensitive projects with my state job didn't allow the schedule flexibility I needed to finish my dissertation. But eventually a good thing comes to an end. I worked day and night during September and October to finish my dissertation, and successfully defended in November. A few days later I had to fill out my intent to vacate papers with the family housing office. That also meant finding a new place to live, something I hadn't done in a long time.

I wanted to stay in Boulder, despite the challenges of doing so. The apartments and condos that had been selling for $200,000 when I moved to Boulder in 2009 were now frequently listed closer to $350,000, and even at that price you were looking at an apartment with 20+ year-old furnishings and maybe 800 square feet of space. There's probably a bit of a bubble in the market and now didn't feel like the right time to buy. The rental market is driven by the cycle of undergrads coming each fall. The first apartment I looked at was 624 square feet for $1200 per month--but only until August, when the owner said they'd renew the lease for $1600 per month. Having a landlord tell you they plan a $400/month rent increase is the kind of thing that makes you consider other options.

There are some nice places to live north of Boulder along some of my favorite cycling routes. I really liked the idea of rolling out my front door on two wheels and onto the roads of Boulder County. Unfortunately, that would have added to my commute. I haven't driven to get to work or school since 2006 and I wanted to keep it that way, so that meant figuring out new possible bus routes. Living north of Boulder would have meant riding one bus into central Boulder, then transferring to another bus to get to Denver. It was going to be at least 90-100 minutes each way. I really like the service RTD provides, but three hours a day on a bus was just too much to consider. I needed to get closer to Denver, not further away. I scoured the listings for places to live in Louisville or Superior, but there weren't many listings within walking distance from the bus stop. That meant going one more bus stop down Highway 36 and into Broomfield.

Broomfield is a bit of a compromise. Not just for me, but historically so. It began as a little town in the southeast corner of Boulder County but as it grew it spilled into multiple other counties, making the politics and administration of the area rather complex. In 2001, Broomfield became a new county and a city all in one. It is still split across five different school districts, so that part remains rather complicated. As much as I wanted to stay in Boulder, or in Boulder County--where I've lived and voted for 9 years--I was won over by an apartment in Broomfield within walking distance of Flatiron Station. If I walk a few hundred yards west, I'm back in Boulder County. Interestingly, if I walk a few hundred yards east, I'm also back in Boulder County. These apartments exist in a weird little "thumb" on the map that outlines one of the many irrregularities of Broomfield's county boundary. These apartments were built here to attract commuters wanting access to both Boulder and Denver, and I'm one of those people, so here I am.

I moved the last of my things out of my Boulder apartment today and turned in my keys, just before the deadline. Making a new home has been a lot of work and a rather expensive endeavor, but getting my stuff settled in a new place has taken the sting out of leaving Boulder. I have more room here and while I can't see the Flatirons out my window, I can still see mountains. I'll find new cycling routes, and from here I'm much more likely to bike to work in Denver than I would be from Boulder. If there's something going on at the university that I want to see, now it's a 20-minute bus ride instead of a 20-minute walk. Instead of running along Boulder Creek, I'll probably end up on the trails in the nearby nature preserve. It will work, and it won't feel like a compromise for long.

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