State Sen. Mike Merrifield discusses his love for the outdoors and the reason he doesn’t miss “The Big Bang Theory,” a sitcom about nerds, in a new episode of “Behind the Politics,” the weekly podcast produced by Colorado’s Senate Democrats. He also recalls with pride that he had the distinction during his first term in the House as the lawmaker who felt the wrath of the speaker’s gavel most often.
Merrifield’s conversation with Senate Minority staffers David Pourshoushtari and Jill Mullen is the eighth edition of the podcast, available on iTunes and YouTube. Legislative caucuses have been posting plenty of material online this session, including a weekly video produced by the House Republicans and regular video releases from the Senate Republicans.
Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat and retired music teacher, was first elected to the House in 2002 and served four terms there. He returned to the General Assembly after a four-year hiatus when he won the Senate District 11 seat in 2014. The district includes Manitou Springs — Merrifield once served on the city council there — and parts of central Colorado Springs, including Colorado College. He serves on the Senate Education Committee.
An avid mountain biker, Merrifield says in the podcast that he picks his trails depending on the time of year.
“I love the trails around Colorado Springs,” he says. “We have some awesome trails that people need to be aware of. We should be a mecca for mountain bikers — we need to advertise that more.”
“When I’m at the Capitol,” he adds, “I run across town whenever I can and do the North Table Mountain, South Table Mountain, Chimney Gulch, all those trails over there. But Crested Butte is my all-time favorite anywhere.”
He says he hasn’t sustained any serious injuries but has had his share of scrapes and bruises. “Right now I’m nursing a 3-inch scab on my elbow from a fall last week,” he says. “I’ve broken a couple of ribs, I’ve torn my hamstring, but nothing I haven’t recuperated from and nothing that’s made me think maybe I should quit.”
The outdoorsman also discusses his recent foray into kayaking, saying he and his girlfriend bought a pair of inflatable kayaks known as “duckies” last summer, “and we’re just having a blast.”
Merrifield says they’d been on a trip to Glenwood Springs last summer and seen people navigating the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon — “carousing down the stream on some really incredible rapids, they looked like they were having so much fun,” he says — so they went out and bought their boats the next day. “We’ve gotten into Class 3 rapids,” he adds, which he called “a bit challenging.”
He says he’s a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory,” the CBS sitcom about a group of physicists at Cal Tech, and watches it nearly every night.
Noting that the show’s 10th season is about to wrap up, he says, “I do not want to miss the final two episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ That’s the most important thing at the moment.”
He likes the show because “it’s just so hilarious,” Merrifield says. “I happened to be kind of a nerd when I was in high school, I can relate to some of the things. I wasn’t that big a nerd, of course — I was cool, too,” he adds with a laugh.
Merrifield says he has plenty of plans for the late spring and summer once the General Assembly finishes its work next week.
“I’m going to mountain bike until my legs fall off and then I’ll get in the kayak and let my arms fall off after that,” he says. “Kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, exploring all parts of the state that I haven’t — which is not very many that I haven’t — explored. Getting outdoors as much as I can, getting down to Arizona to do the same — my mother lives in Tucson, visit with her. I just need to let it all out.”
He learned to love the outdoors from his father, a “huge outdoorsman,” Merrifield says, who regularly went hunting and fishing. “I always loved being with him,” he says. “He was a really strict authoritarian, so really our best times together was when we were out fishing or hunting, and I’ve never lost that love of the outdoors.”
Asked to recount the most embarrassing incident during his time in the Legislature — it’s a standard question the hosts have asked nearly all the senators — Merrifield chuckles and says that during his first term in the House, when Democrats were in the minority, he had the distinction of being the legislator gaveled out of order the most times, something he says he looks on more as a badge of honor than an embarrassment.
“I thought it as something I could be pretty proud of,” he says. “I remember how startled I was the first time when Speaker (Lola) Spradley gaveled me out of order the first time, when I was in the midst of what I thought was a very passionate and eloquent debate and refutation of some issue that colleagues across the aisle had brought forward. She didn’t think it was such a good issue.”
Previous guests on the weekly podcast include Democratic state Sens. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, Steve Fenberg of Boulder, Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, Rhonda Fields of Aurora, Kerry Donovan of Vail, Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village and Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada.