My Dear Friends,

Nine days ago my very wise kids Mateo and Amy as much as begged me to stop my Lyft driving for the foreseeable future. I admit I did not grasp the gravity of Covid-19  and its implications. I now do. This is real, and none of us can accurately predict how it will affect each and every one of us. Mary Kay and I are practicing social distancing.  I am hoping to write something each week.  Today I ask you all to take very good care of yourselves and trust scientists, physicians, especially epidemiologists. We will learn a lot about ourselves both the good, and not so good.  I will be Lyfting you up every day. 

Onward and Upward,


Texas Skiers

I grew up skiing. We started at at Broden’s San Isabel hill. It was a single hill with a rope tow. We had wooden skies, cable bindings, lace up boots. We were bundled up like Randy in “Christmas Story”. For those of you unfamiliar with a rope tow, you slide over to the rope, line your skis up in a groove, put the rope in your right hand in front of you, while letting rope glide through your hand and then the hard part comes. You take your left hand and grip the rope behind your back, squeeze hard and if your shoulders stay in the socket you fly up to the top of the hill. In 1962 my dad bought into Monarch Ski area. I still have a lifetime pass. I know every square acre of that whole mountain. I was spoiled; we knew most everyone on the mountain or so we thought. However, every Christmas and Spring Break, Salida was invaded by 100’s of Texans. I will default to stereo types— loud, pushy, hot girls, horrible skiers. We took delight in directing them to black diamonds or dead ends. I skied for 50 years, my knees won’t work anymore so I go skiing in my memories.
Last week I picked up three twenty-somethings at DIA who had never been to Colorado, never skied, full of questions and yes, from Texas. “Where are you going”? “We don’t know, do you have any suggestions”? We began an interchange that revealed a naïveté of Texas proportions. They were oooooing and ahhhhing about the whole front range. “Think of all of Colorado as a wrinkled sheet. If you flattened out all the surface area guess what it would cover? “We give”. “Texas… we have more surface area than Texas”. “So where should we go”? “First of all, book a total half day lesson package. Then take off at 5:30am, as the traffic is horrible”. They literally booked everything at Loveland per my recommendation. “I think you saved us a lot of hassle”. “Yep”… this was my amend for sending about 10 Texans from a Baptist youth group, in l967, down a path that the only way out was to hike back up.
A side note. My daughter, a light of my life, said, “I will never marry: a single child, blonde, blue eyed Texan. Christian Piatt is all of those… and I have fallen in love with Granbury, Texas – their home.
Onward and Upward, Mark

Dr. Jim

IMG_1405About three weeks ago I got a ping to go to a high rise senior living facility off of Speer Blvd.  The 80-something woman hopped in the back seat and asked me if I knew the street of her destination.  I said, “I sure do, I took you there from here, before Christmas.  You go every Tuesday to have dinner with your old neighbors who you lived next door to, in Park Hill”. “You have a great memory”. “Well, about some things.  Ask me where I left my car keys.  I spend my days herding my stuff”.  She laughed, “Well, I warn you young man, it doesn’t get any easier.  I remember, you are that Lyft driving pastor”. “Ding, ding, ding you win tonight’s prize”.  “I do, what pray tell, is it”?  “A 20 minute ride with my favorite Lyft driver…”.  “I’ll take it. So how is the church business”?  “Truthfully, it’s pretty amazing.  I am working on a workshop called “The End of Church as We Knew It”.

I then asked her what she did professionally. “I was a pediatric nurse practitioner”. “Did you know Dr. Jim Strain”?  “I sure did. He is the best I have ever known”. “Well, I have known him the better part of my life. He is in home hospice; I was just with him a couple of days ago”. We continued our conversation about Dr. Jim.  She got out at her neighbor’s home. “I sure hope I get you again”. “Well, if I am by this place at 6:30p on a Monday, I will turn on my app and hope for the best”.

Dr. Jim died on February 4th. I don’t know that I have ever known a man who lived as fully and richly as he did. Every person he met was important.  He is the reason I ended up as pastor of South Broadway Christian Church from 1997-2015. He was driving through Alamosa in 1995 and took me to lunch. He gently planted the seed that brought me to that magical, historical, gem of a congregation.  There is so much I could share about Dr. Jim. But I will agree with my Lyft passenger, ‘the best I have ever known’. He was never my doctor, but he was truly as fine a human, student, father, husband, grandfather, Day 1 Bronco fan, life long learner, with whom I have ever had the pleasure of sharing life.  Four years ago I went by to visit him as I was trying to figure out this whole retirement thing. “So Mark, what are you doing to stay busy”?   I told him about Lyft. “Oh, so you’re a taxi driver”. “Well, not exactly”. “Mark, call it for what it is… you’re a taxi driver”. A couple years later I remember another conversation we had. “Mark, we are two of the luckiest guys I know”. “Yes we are, Dr. Jim…” and sharing my life with him confirms it. 

Onward and Upward,


What are the Odds?

My Wednesday day off began with lunch with a friend in West Arvada. I decided to do a little driving from the ‘Heaven Dragon’ parking lot afterwords. It took 10 seconds and I was picking up Jason to head out on a 41 mile trip to DIA. Not a word was spoken for the first half of the ride. I have learned that not every rider wants a conversation, and so it was dead silent for the first half of the way. Then from the back seat the questions began to rain. I soon learned that he had four kids – 16, and 9 year old girls, followed by a 6 and 2 on the boy side. “My last Lyft driver said, ‘You have them at every phase, teenage drama and diapers’.” We had a fun time talking about kids, Colorado, and the upcoming Super Bowl. As we were pulling in to the drop off area I was pinged with a double shared ride, Steve and Mariel.

I circled back to level 5, Island 1,West side, and they both hopped in. Mariel was a 20-something who grabbed the back seat and Steve was a 50+ guy who got shotgun. Front seat: “I hope we are going to Boulder? I didn’t realize I ordered a shared ride”. Back seat: “Yep.” It is a 44 mile trip to Boulder. Steve began the conversation by sharing he was from Pittsburgh and he had just taken a side trip to Montana to ski before business in Boulder. We started talking about skiing. “I made my last run at Steamboat about six years ago. My knees can’t take it. I grew up skiing at Monarch, as I am from Pueblo”. Mariel said “Really! My dad is from Pueblo”. “What’s his last name”? “McCown”. “Bob or Mike?”

“Mike”. “Oh my, I know your family. Mike and I went through high school together. Your grandmother Muriel was the best English teacher ever. I am a pastor, I had your grandpa Dean’s memorial service”. The fun began.

It turns out her boss in Boulder was a fraternity brother of Steve’s. (Remember the front seat? )The energy in the conversations filled the 45 minutes with Joy. “Your Grandma Muriel was the best teacher I had in high school. We did Silas Marner and Shakespeare my junior year and advanced composition and vocabulary building my senior year. She brought out the best in her students. She respected us and expected us to give our best. We did”. Mariel’s dad Mike, was a ferry boat captain for the Seattle Transit Authority in the waterways of the Pacific NW. “My dad Bill Pumphrey, was born in Bellingham. He thought your dad had a dream job”. We agreed that our Lyft drive was more like a fun family reunion. I asked her for permission to share this with my blog. She said “Sure”. “I can still see your dad Mike, running for a touchdown our sophomore year. He was our hero. Tell him and your grandmother hi”. “For sure”.

Small world.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Mutton Buster

Up until the recent great migration into Colorado, Denver was known as a ‘cow town’. Every January we host The Great Western Stock Show. We traditionally leave our Holiday lights up until the last cowboy hits the dirt in late January. Believe it or not, many of the folk who come to see bucking broncos or ‘Spin Dry’ the Brahma bull, actually prefer to take a Lyft to the Stockyards and leave their ‘big A-s’ truck parked far away. Well, the Stock Show makes me happy. I especially felt that way when I picked up a family of four at a downtown hotel. Little Jimmy, who was sporting a cowboy hat that almost covered his floppy ears said, “I am a mutton buster”. Which in cowboy talk means it’s the first step to the broncs – they try to ride sheep.

Mutton Busting has been an annual event at the last half time show of the year of the Broncos game. It’s a Stock Show preview. It always gets a lot of laughs as the kids fly off a terrified sheep. Jimmy began to proudly tell me he had been practicing on Fluffy, the family golden retriever, and just last week he ‘almost got to the flower bed’. His older sister was his trainer and cheerleader, “I think he is going to win, he’s not afraid of anything’. I was having a flash back to when I was eight and my brother Charley was four. We spent two weeks on a dairy farm in Iowa. I talked Charley into dropping on top of a young calf from the fence. He lasted about two seconds.

We pulled into the ride share drop off at the stock yards. It was a parade of hats and boots and a whole lot of smiles. Some traditions are worth maintaining. I have no idea how Jimmy fared in his debut. But if

confidence is any predictor, there is a sheep who “got busted”.

Onward and Upward, Mark


Let me first tell my readers that I took three weeks off from blogging.  Between the Holidays, writer’s block, and flying to California to play with family, I took a nice break.  This piece begins year 3 of my dive in to the blogosphere (autocorrect knows the word).  Over the past three weeks I have been doing some intermittent Lyfting.  There are probably 20 stories I could reflect on and share but one in particular stands out. 

It was on December 31st and I got a ping to St. Joe’s hospital in central Denver.  As I pulled into the drive-in pick-up I got a call. “Hi there, I am sorry the GPS brought you to the main hospital, it always does.  Could you drive to the cancer center; I will talk you there”?  She gave me perfect directions as she guided me to a complex a bit away… Siri you have competition!!! I pulled up in that drive through to be met with a big smile.  She hopped in the front seat, I hit the welcome aboard swipe and up came her destination— Evergreen 🌲– 39 miles one way into the mountains. We headed west towards the mountains. 

Without prodding she began to tell me her story. “When the cancer was diagnosed my Oncologist said ‘There are two choices. You can have four chemo treatments with a 75% survival rate. Or you can do 20 with a 95% success rate’. I chose door #2”.  “That would have been my choice”.  “I am half way through.  There are four Lyft drivers up in the mountains.  They take turns parking by my house to pick me up for my trip down.  Today you get to take me home, I hope you don’t mind”? “Heck no, I need a trip up to the beauty of the mountains”. 

I soon realized that I was riding with a 4th generation Coloradoan like my self.  She matched me tit for tat on “Native Trivia”. She even had the right answer to “If you think of Colorado as a wrinkled sheet and you flattened it out what state could it cover”?  “Well, Texas of course” she said with a cackle.  “Ding ding ding… we have a winner”. About that time we came upon a herd of elk that caused us to stop the car.  We both said almost at the same time “And we live here”. 

We worked our way up a winding road that turned to gravel.  I was in forrest heaven. We pulled up into a dapper mountain cabin.  I thanked her for her resilience and faith. She thanked me for a “fun ride”.  This made my New Years Eve.

Welcome to the next decade.  May my stories continue to Lyft you up!

Onward and Upward,



I begin my third year of Lyft driving from my location in the “Burbs of Arvada”. It is a very different experience starting at the far reaches of the NW area of our metroplex. I began over four years ago on this adventure from my perch at Wash Park. There, it usually took about 10 seconds to get a ping, as the population density and urban scene called for it. Friday is my Lyft day. Now I start by sitting in my driveway waiting sometimes 5-10 minutes. If nothing connects I usually move towards downtown. My first ride began at King Soopers where I picked up a young guy who said

“Do you mind if I eat this MacIntosh apple” ? “Help yourself”. “Well I

am from New England and they take me home”. He was on his lunch break from some big complex near the foothills. I dropped him off and waited in the parking lot for ride #2. It came after about 10 minutes – “Pat”.

I headed back north a bit to this 1960’s Arvada neighborhood that was tucked away by a small lake. It’s not an area that you would ever know was there. I was in a nostalgia Christmas trance as I admired the dapper ranch homes where no two were alike. I wondered if Pat was a boy or a girl. There she stood out on the curb, silver gray hair holding her smart phone. She could have been my Mom Pat’s stunt double. My heart sang and cried at the same time. Nat King Cole was singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”. She got in the back seat and my first words were, “My Mom’s name was Pat and she shared your stunning silver hair”. Pat smiled and thanked me. “I sold my car last year. I figured that I was better off taking Lyft for two reasons. I save a lot of money and I love being taken to my errands. It gets lonely living alone”. The next 10 minutes on our drive to Walmart were a delight. “I miss my Mom more than ever at this time of year. Pat, you have been a treasure to me today”.

We pulled up to Walmart and I saw her reaching into her purse. She grabbed my hand (just the way my Mom did) and put a handful of $1’s in my palm. “Mark, thanks for the ride, I really appreciate your time”. Her grace was a reflection of her 88 years of living gratefully. I knew better than to refuse her tip. As she walked into Walmart I admired again her stunning hair. Today I got my car cleaned at Water Works. The only $1’s I had were from Pat. I dropped a dollar in the tip can and somehow knew it would do some good.

Onward and Upward, Mark


This past Monday, which is my “Lyft Day”, I pulled up for my first ride in a suburban cul-de-sac in Westminster. Out the front door walked a young man dressed in US Army fatigues. He hopped in the the front door, and we began an engaging conversation. He had recently completed basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He was headed to his first deployment in Fairbanks, Alaska and he was home through Christmas. His job was to go to the Army recruitment center, and share with other young women and men about why he chose to enlist. “Why did you choose to join the military”? I enquired. He gave me a very thoughtful and complete answer. “Nobody in my family, that I know of, ever served in the military. I felt I owed it to my country who has done so much for us, to represent my family. Yes, there is also the fact that I will get my college paid for. I wanted the challenge to prove to myself I could measure up”.

“So how was basic training”? “Well I loved it and hated it. Looking back it was the best thing I have ever done. It has given me a sense of pride and accomplishment. I made some great friends, you have to depend on each other”. “So you are headed to Alaska in the winter time”. “Yep, no sun for three months, and minus 40 degrees . I guess I am ready, I will be there with everyone else”. This young man was quietly full of a grace and strength that came through. I said to him “Thank you for your service”. “You are welcome sir. Did you serve”? “No I did not. My father was a pilot in WWII. He flew in Europe. I never really appreciated what he did until the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I sat our living room and listened as he shared about being shot at every day. “The hard part was in the morning flight briefings, looking around and missing a few guys from the day before. I am not a hero. The heroes never came home”.

We pulled up to the recruitment station in an Arvada strip mall. As he was getting out I told him “I am proud to be with you”. “Sir, I am just a Private”. I said, “Young man you are a soldier who has committed to protect and defend me and my family – you are a gift”. “Thank you sir, that means a lot”.

Today is December 7th. It is the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. My life was shaped in so many ways by the generation that lived through this huge challenge to freedom, decency, and sacrifice. Our challenges today are no less daunting. Can we tell ourselves the truth no matter what the cost, and then pay the price for facing down those forces that would steal our freedom for their own? I just read that there are three survivors from the SS Arizona, who are now 98. They were 19 once, like this young private. His youthful courage honors them and the 12 million men and women who served in WWII.

Thank You.

Onward and Upward Mark


“It’s been a quiet week here in Lake Lyftbegone”… to parody Garrison Keilor, the king of live radio and the imaginary Minnesota small town. I was a “Prairie Home Companion” junky. I have only given 11 rides this week and each one of them was friendly, interesting and ‘normal’. I decided to keep track and everyone of these passengers said “Thanks for the ride”. This Thursday in millions of homes, homeless shelters, church basements, Elks clubs, VFWs, restaurants and park benches, people will gather to say thanks. Often a question will be asked “What are you thankful for”? The standard answer is family and friends. Well, since I have this space, I am going to give you my longer list drawn from my 100,000 miles of LYFT driving:

*** drivers who let other people in

*** hawks that sit on telephone poles

*** smiles

*** clean public restrooms

*** Waterworks Car Wash who, for $55 per month will clean my whole car daily

*** The Frank Sinatra channel on Sirius

*** riders who are ready to go

*** all wheel drive

*** public parks

*** round-abouts

*** the new 5th level ride-share pick up island at DIA

*** Cherry Creek State Park (naps and wildlife)

*** Speaker Phone

*** Google Maps relentless nudging and most often helpful directions

*** coffee

*** snow storms that ‘thin the Lyft driver herd’

*** Netflix 30 minute shows to watch on break

*** sports talk radio

*** interruption calls from my kids and grandkids

*** daybreak and twilight

*** pothole patch crews

*** Christmas lights

*** bottled water

*** parking pickup pull-ins at high rises

*** a 25% reduction in DUI’s as a result of ride share

*** tips

*** long rides

*** heated seats

*** construction workers

*** channel 49 “Soul Town”, the ‘1 Size fits all’ radio station

*** drive-through healthy vegan food

*** L. I. G. (Life in General)

*** each one of my readers – “Thanks for all your encouragement” !!!

Happy Thanksgiving 🦃 🍁 🍽 Onward and Upward,


Grace and Brokenness

Yesterday was my Friday afternoon Lyft gig. I picked Greg up on S. Santa Fe at a warehouse. He was headed to the north end of downtown. He engaged me right away in the “how long have you been driving for Lyft, do you like it, what did you do before this”? questions. It opened up what he does. He works for a non profit that provides portable showers and laundry for homeless folk. “It’s a point of connection to try to get them off the streets and back to work. We are having some success”. We were headed to a United Way Center which is located in the center of both rapid gentrification and a growing population of homeless folk who stay in the many shelters and “camp” in every nook and cranny. I have seen this situation grow exponentially in my four years of Lyfting

I no more than dropped him off than I got a ping at the same facility but a different entrance. I was called by a man who explained that I was picking up a United Way client and taking her to an emergency shelter on E. Colfax. He met me in the drive through drop off zone. He introduced me to a young woman who had a number of bandages on her head. Her eyes showed fear and sadness. We talked for a moment and I assured him I was comfortable with the 15 minute ride. She got in the back seat but I had a clear view of her tears.

We drove silently through the streets of north Capital Hill. I was playing Coffee House on my Sirius radio. I don’t know the song but it was the soft sweet voice coming out my back seat that was filling in the space of our silence. I could see her bruised face on her 20-something body as her lips sang the words. It was hard not to say anything but I think she just needed to sing. We pulled up to the emergency shelter. She grabbed her backpack and got out of the car. All I could say was “Take care of yourself and thanks for sharing the song”. She has a name… it’s Shelby.

Onward and Upward, Mark