The blog was still the last week as this was some vacation time- first a few days to check on our cabin in Strawberry. The threat from the Cave Creek Complex fire, which burned more than 240,000 acres of wilderness area, decreased for the small communities up here. This time.
So with that, my wife and I piled into the VW Bug and headed to a family wedding just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado. There and back, we managed to cover 1700 miles in 4 days, and much of that time was just saying “Wow” at the beauty of the mountains in southwestern Colorado. Pictures may be coming (but not while on the slow dial-up here), but some highlights included:
* Eating breakfast out of the cooler at a truck stop near Joseph City, Arizona. Busy place for 6:00 AM.
* Heading north on US 191 across the Navajo Reservation, we came across a Native American couple looking at a pick up truck hanging at a precarious angle off the roadway. When we asked if we could help, they asked if we had a tow chain, and then all four of us laughed at the thought of a Volkswagen having any pulling capacity.
* North of Many Farms, we encountered a bad head on collision on the highway… very familiar to one we were involved with in 2000 on the way to Lake Powell. The smell of oil, the look of crunched cars, flashing lights of ambulances, the gawking of witnesses, all mixed up in those thoughts of “I hope no one is seriously hurt” along with the honest “I am glad it was not us”.
* Approaching the Utah state line, we passed a Denver-Phoenix delivery truck– we saw the same truck 4 hours later in I-70 AND in the return trip 4 days later. We made it to Utah in just under 5 hours, good timing– except for losing an hour to the time zone change.
* Finding an old style gas station in Bluff Utah, marveling at the old metal pumps, before realizing the place had been closed for quite some time.
* Not so great was the fan blower for our A/C dying about an hour south of Moab. The dash would start smoking if we tried the fan again, so it would be no air conditioning for the rest of the trip, not a problem in Colorado but…
* The slowest fast food franchise in the universe must be the Wendy’s in Moab– all we wanted were some drinks and fries, and bored looking guys behind the counter moved in ultra slow motion.
* The scenic highway 128 that took just north of Moab was cause of much mouth gaping as it followed the course of the Colorado River through your typical classic southern Utah canyonland landscapes.
* Watching the rain fall elsewhere as we moved east in I-70 across Colorado. Seeing rain fall someplace far off while you are in the sun is not something one gets to do on the East coast.
* We must have gotten the last tent spot at a campground in Glenwood Springs. We were traveling without RSVPs and it was July 4 weekend after all. It was a classy gravelly spot overlooking the freeway from “Ami’s Acres” but it did well. We met some of the most fun-loving folks across the way who were Oklahomies who had come to Colorado to go 4 wheeling. Thanks “Harley” for showing all the photos on your laptop! That was about 600 miles in day 1.
* With an early start, we decided we had time for the scenic loop on highway 48 through Winter Park (bad cell phone connections made it impossible for us to get in touch with friends there). We got through Granby in time to miss the July 4 parade down main street.
* What more could be said about the drive through the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park!. Incredible vistas, and we hiked to a lunch spot on the Colorado River, here not more than a creek close to its source, and hard to reconcile with the blasting river that rushes through the Grand Canyon.
* Driving above treeline and crossing passes at 12,000 feet. We were dawdling at the little climb adjacent to the Alpine visitor center when we realized we had little time to make it to our Inn where we needed to clean up and get to the 4:00 Pm wedding.
* Getting to the Baldpate Inn south of Estes Park with about 45 minutes time left before the wedding. We’d have to look around at this early 1900s creaky log structure inn later, but it has a majestic view of its own outside the crass commercial district of Estes Park.
* We got to the wedding near Allenspark with only 5 minutes to spare. It was a lovely setting outside, overlooking a creek. We spent a wonderful couple of fun hours with some of the most fun loving relatives on the family tree. It was worth all the travel to get here. Congrats to Zach and Lisa!
* Watching fireworks from our window back at the Baldpate Inn. Okay, there is nothing novel about fireworks, but a few “oooohhs” and “ahhhhs” are reflexive.
* Yum, the maple chedder waffles served in the morning at the Baldpate Inn. Apparently it is named after a 1913 murder mystery,”The Seven Keys to Baldpate” which was set in a place similar to this Inn. The story is an eBook, a play, and a movie! Off the lobby is a “Key Room” where they have collected thousands of keys of all shapes and sizes sent from places around the world. This is a place to stay if you like ones with character (and do not mind shared bats, creaky floors, and dirt road entrances).
* On the way back, heading west again on I-70, we diverted to highway 65 which took us in a spectacular drive over Grand Mesa National Forest. The road starts in a sandstone canyon, and climbs high into this tall mesa in the fir and spruce tree zone. At the top are hundreds of lakes, and the woods were full of snowbank remnants of the 40 feet of snow they had over the winter. But also with the full lakes were lots of hungry mosquitos.
* A night in Ouray, an old mining town in the edges of the San Juan Mountains. We loved Ouray, great food at Bulow’s Bsitro, and a nice stay at the Silver Nugget Inn (since the forest campground was closed, we were tired). We skipped the swimming pool crowds at the hot springs, and with the advice of our waitress, went a few miles south to Orvis Hot Springs, a more natural setting of springs, and ahem, clothing optional, the only way to go.
* We hit the road early (nothing is open in Ouray at 6:00 AM), and took the twisty climbing road to Silverton, along the ways seeing some immense views of snow capped alpine peaks, remains of the mining boom times of the 1880s. We saw two car wrecks and two dead elk on the roadway. Not a good combination at all.
* Breakfast at the Brown Bear Cafe in Silverton, and walking around the streets of another town with roots in the 1800s and mining times.
* Nothing special in Durango, a big sprawling place. Tied up with road construction and slow moving over side haulers on the road to Cortez.
* Entering the vast emptiness of Arizona after crossing the 4 corners. At first there seems like a whole lot of noting, miles of yellow and red sandstone bluffs, but looking closely there is more signs of life than at first glance. It was a hot drive across the Novajo landscape without our air conditioning, so we rewarded ourselves with big heaping Navajo Tacos in Kayenta.
* Taking a brake at Cameron Trading Post. The tourist bus loads come in like clockwork.
* Finally getting some cooler air climbing to 7500 feet for the entrance into Flagstaff. Knowing how slow and bust US 89a is through town, we know to jump in 1-40 ASAP. We missed the right turnoff to get to the Lake Mary road we hope to take as a scenic route, and end up gambling on a line on the map at the Munds Park exit of I-17. It turns out to be a 12 mile dirt forest road, not ideal travel for the VW, but actually pretty smooth. We finally exit to pavement near Mormon Lake.
* Finally, 1700 miles and 4 days later, returning to our cabin in Strawberry. We were eager to get back here to enjoy a few more days of not driving.
You know how maps have larger type for larger cities? My observations form this trip are that you can apply another scale of town/city size. Bigger towns have at least a Walmart. If there is a Home Depot too, then it is bordering on a small city. The biggest metro areas have at least a few of these plus a Costco.
Well that’s the quick blog-less travelogue. It was better to be there in person! I enjoyed not having a computer at all.