"I want my kids to be able to live in a world where they can breathe clean air, drink clean water and see the Rocky Mountains and not a brown cloud," says Steve Trammel, 44, of Denver, a manager for a petroleum information company.
In nearby Golden, where a ubiquitous malt smell tells visitors they are in Coor's country, brewery supervisor Jerry Mott, 43, sees the once stable, family-oriented business being "corrupted" such '90s trends as "downsizing" and "out-sourcing."
"Ten, 15 years ago, our slogan was 'We are Coor's.' It's not the same at all anymore," says Mott, the father of two.
"Our kids are going to have a heck of a time finding a career they can stick with. Corporate America is not the way to go anymore."
Unlike four years ago, when Americans registered a vote for "change," or two years ago when a "throw the bums out" anger shaped the midterm elections, there appears to be more flat-out apathy this time, born of hopelessness and disgust with the political process.
The sentiment is so strong that many -- Democrats, Republicans and independents -- say it hardly matters who's in power because they're all a bunch of liars and crooks.
"It might be interesting to throw them all out, randomly choose people from a phone book and say, 'You go to Washington and vote,' " says Jerry Mott's wife, Debbie, who works at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver. "They'd probably do a better job."
Hers are some of the kinder words.
Hovering over much of the angst is an overall sense that life isn't as sweet or sensible as it was when today's adults were young.
There is an almost reverential, perhaps unrealistic, longing for a time gone by, what Heber City jewelry store owner Roy Broderick -- who recently had to install a security system in his shop -- calls an "Ozzie-and-Harriet type life."
"I know one thing, I wouldn't have kids today -- not looking at the world we're looking at," says Roland Laventure, 48, a heavy-equipment operator in Heber City and grandfather of two.
"What do they got to look forward to? It has nothing to do with the economy. It's just normal values. We've lost the basics of what's right and what's wrong."
Donna Breslin, a park ranger at Dinosaur National Monument, says that even though she feels good about the country's direction, she worries that something has been lost in today's youth.
Perhaps, she says, a sense of heroism.
Breslin, a Baltimore native who previously worked at Fort McHenry, saw it with the city school students who visited that historic site with no idea about the nation's heritage and "with a chip on their shoulder this big," she says, holding her hands several feet apart.
"That's all been lost -- almost to the point where it's a matter of pride now to be against patriotism, against your family, your parents."
Targets for blame
People place the blame for this sense of disillusionment all over.
The Bauers blame the education system, which they say is grossly lacking. They have put their 9- and 13-year-old boys in private school, and they limit their children's TV to one hour a day -- plus "The Simpsons."
"Americans don't value education," says Mr. Bauer, who writes musical scores for movies. "America's favorite success story is the person who goes out and makes a million dollars without an education."
Others blame the government, their neighbors, even themselves for their sense that the nation is headed in the wrong direction.
"As a generation, we have failed raising our kids," says Judy Sheppard, 42, a preschool teacher and mother on vacation in Colorado.
Sheppard, a Democratic-leaning independent and Clinton supporter, says that although she believes the preschool experience in moderation is good for children, many of them are "dumped in these places for 10 and 12 hours a day instead of being home with mom.
"I don't care what they say, it does affect the kids. I see 4- and 5-year-olds who are out of control."
Sheppard says she'd like to see the government encourage businesses to offer flexible hours, job-sharing or telecommuting opportunities to working parents -- both mothers and fathers.
But many people, especially in conservative Utah, by some measures the most Republican state, say the government is already too big, too intrusive and too wasteful of their money.
"The government takes 35 percent of my paycheck, and I work awful hard for that," says Park City, Utah, builder John Reise, 43. "I don't mind paying for what we really need in this country, like infrastructure."
What he does mind is paying for what he calls "handouts." He says he is proof that "there is opportunity here for a person who wants to work hard."
He and his wife, Jackie, left California three years ago with $1,000 in the bank. Six months ago, they put $43,000 down on a $182,500 home in this expensive ski resort town.
A speedboat sits in the driveway next to one of their two sport utility vehicles.
"I was raised on values -- if you give someone something he