Brimming with a sense of quixotic adventure five and half years ago, I rolled over Berthoud Pass into Grand County to become news editor at the nation's newest daily newspaper.
Since then, I've had a hand in producing about 260 editions of the Middle Park Times and 820 editions of the Sky-Hi News, which is more headlines, captions, stories, editorials, columns and press release rewrites than I care to calculate. While it didn't pan out exactly as planned - what does? - it has been an adventure.
I say "has been" because later this week I'll be rolling out of Grand County down the Colorado River to write the next chapter in this traveling show known as my newspaper career. But fear not, you won't get rid of me that easily.
I won't be too far downriver, and return trips will be within easy striking distance. So, even though good friends and unforgettable memories will be in my rearview mirror next week, soon enough I'm sure I'll be seeing that "Welcome to Grand County" sign through the bug-smeared windshield of a high country summer day.
The cold numbers don't begin to tell the real story of my tenure, which is more accurately measured in the extent to which Grand Countians let this institution share their lives. During the past five and half years, these pages have borne witness to your joys, sorrows, anger, elation, disappointments, losses and triumphs - and will continue to do so.
It is the characters who give a place its ... well ... character. And Grand County has a richer cast than many. I won't diminish the memory of anyone by trying to single others out --there are simply too many worthy of mention. I feel genuinely privileged to have been a part of your lives during my time here, and the experience will always be part of who I am moving forward.
Time was I willing to leave such a wonderful place behind for sake of sheer wanderlust. That is decidedly not the case as I head on this bittersweet journey west toward home, family and friends. The move is one I have coveted since returning to Colorado seven years ago following newspaper stints in Idaho and Wyoming.
Nevertheless, I am beset by small daily epiphanies, the sudden realizations about people and experiences that don't dawn until you examine them with the perspective of a relationship in flux, the nagging questions about whether staying put or moving forward is preferable ... is it better to be a rolling stone that gathers no moss or an old tree with deep roots?
Well, I'm certain my mother didn't intend it as a curse when she advised me not to let the grass grow under my feet, but it's something I've never had to worry about.
So here I go again ... I'm trading my snowblower for a lawnmower and heading down country. Once in my new home, I intend to honor one high country tradition: When people ask me how long I lived here, I'll answer, "Six winters." And, no, I didn't come here for the winters and stay for the summers, but I'll certainly cherish memories of both.
I would be remiss were I not to mention the amazing staff I'm leaving behind. I'd like to publicly thank them for making me look good.
They will be coping with much change in the coming months as they adjust to new personnel, an entirely new content management system and a new website. Their dedication and commitment to bringing you Grand County news cannot be overstated. Please treat them well. Trust me, they deserve it.
Happy trails, Grand County. Until we meet again, keep the shiny side up.
Drew can no longer be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org