Before we get into the road trip my big-little-shit-of-a-brother said your mother would love this and followed it with a you’re turning into mum! Okay, I know my jambalaya is pretty bloody nice, whether it’s authentic or not, but turning into my mother is just plain mean. That’s not supposed to happen for another 20 years or so. I have to admit I’ve thought similar lately, usually when eating Avocado or throwing hot sauce onto my breakfast.
Okay, on to the road trip. My apologies if you don’t like the long posts, this will likely be quite long. On the plus side the most vocal person on the topic of long posts is Ben and he’s living the road trip so he doesn’t need to wade through it.
First things first, Ben drove day one. I have already driven the 285 to Mt Princeton (a bit over half today’s drive) so I didn’t need to have fun driving that. Then I got doing work and it was just better that he drove. Actually quite a productive way to spend most of the day working.
Our first stop was for coffee at Fairplay. I’ve been told that this is the town that South Park, the TV show, is based on. A brief moment googling and Wikipedia seems to agree, the best evidence for me is that the creators are from Colorado, so maybe it’s right. Anyways, we stopped at the Java Moose for a coffee. There we met Lucy and her dad (whose name I immediately forgot). Now Lucy is brought to town each day for an hour or so to get her social fix while dad has a read and coffee. Her dad is now a local working in commercial construction. He has clearly spent some time with Aussies, he picked it immediately and effortlessly threw in a number of colloquial Aussie-isms that I’ve not heard much here. Hell, he even almost said “Aussie” correctly! It’s bit if a bug bear for me when its pronounced “ossy” rather than “ozzy”. turns out a couple of dad’s mates are Australian, been here a long time, came to ski and never left. I can see that.
So we had our chat and a cruise around Fairplay/South Park then headed on our way.
Our next stop was Buena Vista. On the way we paused at the view point for the collegiate peaks, there is a plan to hike Mt Princeton next weekend.
Buena Vista is a cute little town, maybe medium town. We paused under the one shady tree so I could hook up to the internet and send some emails. That job done we stumbled across the local history museum. Here the nice lady at the desk told us the history of the building. The town was incorporated in 1879 and the towns people wanted Buena Vista to be the county seat. In discussions the current seat, St Elmo, refused to give up the position. To set matters straight some of the locals headed down to St Elmo and stole the documents – the clincher – there was no courthouse at Buena Vista yet. The records were handed around from house to house for two years until the courthouse was completed. Not terribly much later Salida came into being and the whole position went that way. The courthouse was at one stage turned into a school house. Then in the 1970s it was proposed for demolition. At this stage the local historical society was formed and they started taking donations of interesting paraphernalia to set up the museum. In the 1980s a couple of old chaps started a model railway of the lines in the region, 12 years later it was done.
We popped in to a surf clothing store (yep, why in blazes is there a surf clothing store so far from any surf). I do not know the context of the the following but I heard the guys who work there saying one of the most seemingly random but also logical things I’ve heard in a darned long time: if frogs had wings they wouldn’t smack their butts as much.
We then have a medium interlude for me to dial in to a teleconference. An hour of designers talking later and Ben and I were ready to cruise again. I have to say that was a decently boring drive. There were miles of dead straight, no rises, open driving…then there were road works, because going slower on a long straight road is so interesting. 😐
Then we landed in Alamosa, we got in and headed to the Welcome Center. The experienced lady was on the phone so we talked to a couple of newbies. They told us a few places to visit but really nothing interesting aside from the sand dunes (see day two).
Final step for the day is a place that was written on my hand late Thursday “Green Chilli Beer at Alamosa Brewery”. Ah Colorado, so many breweries! We got in and the lovely girl serving us was well…Lovely. She looked after us perfectly. We had a taster plate to start with, now normally you get four tasters on a plate, here you get ten. Thankfully she told us that we should be sharing the taster. The chilli beer is indeed really very good! Their Hefe was good also but the chilli was better. I got one of my growlers filled up. Yay! We also had a very late lunch. My burger was really quite good, and sounds like Ben loved his sandwich!
To start the day we needed some food. Now there is a brand new IHOP and of course Starbucks in town, but who wants to eat that junk? Yelp found me the Wake and Bake, good reviews, I would have been less surprised if I’d read those reviews! The place was pot heaven. Open 24 hours, always breakfast, full of smoking paraphernalia, they are a volunteer place raising money for the local hemp farm. I got a “Roll Your Own”, a wrap with egg, sausage, and a hash brown. Now it wasn’t amazing food, but it sure was better than maccas.
Somewhat fortified we headed to the Great Sand Dune National Park, about 40 minutes back the way we’d come. for me the more impressive of the views were on the way in, I guess the shadows were just right. They’re quite impressive though, I mean how often do you see 700ft sand dunes flanked by 14ers?
To get across to the dunes there is a seasonal creek. In summer it’s non existent, in spring it flows quite swiftly. There is this kinda cool wave phenomenon where the faster under current pushes up mini dams, then the water builds up, the dam breaks, and a wave comes down the creek. Not only are there waves that were almost a foot deep, but it was also ICY. I mean icy. Extremely astonishingly cold. So we went over with a shit load of swear words and a lot of jumping. On the way back there was less cursing but it was still damned cold.
We then cruised up a nice sandy gravel road looking for the walk to the outlook. We failed to find it, dismally. But we gave Red a little workout, introduced her to her rallying heritage (minus the speed). It was just a sandy gravel track that I’d have taken Mabel on happily, but then Mabel was also somewhat older. Red was awesome, of course! Next stop, Zapatta Falls. Everyone, and I mean everyone I talked to about this trip, said we had to visit Zapatta Falls. So we did. Our lovely server at the Alamosa Brewery said that we could drive up the road to it, though it’s rough. So we did. His was just a gravel, slightly corrugated, some medium rocks. Pretty easy really just slow going. Again, Red the Rally car came out. We walked up to the base of the falls and I took my shoes off, planning to walk up the creek to see the falls
I managed to get about four steps across the creek and took a fifth step, but I couldn’t feel if I had taken a step or not. I did a wobble test and realised I could feel the pressure of a solid step in my bones but not really the rock under my foot. I slowly picked my way back to the bank and sat there a while until my feet thawed out. So we didn’t see the falls. Note to self return when the snow melt is less freezing!
After crawling back down the hill from the falls we headed back to the hotel and had a quick shower and headed out, aiming for Mancos. Ben had a big decision to make, do we go via New Mexico or stay in Colorado? He chose New Mexico, even though we mostly drove through the whole way it was a stunning drive! I think the most pretty drive I’ve done yet, my favourite area is Ponderosa. It was in the hills, by a river, lots of shady trees. It would be good even in mid summer. I will have to find some camping people and return for a long weekend.
We eventually got to Chama, a tourist town in New Mexico. We had a quick wander along the street and look at the railway. Then I got on the Yelp and discovered a local Mexican joint for lunch, JVs Restaurant. It was nothing fancy but there were about eight cars out the front. We went in and it’s just a mom and pop place with some awesome food! Ben couldn’t eat all his so I had to help him out, something about messed up time zones blah blah. Gist is that I felt obese by the time we rolled out of there! It was certainly a place for the locals, most of them picked up food to go but the mom knew everyone. Great meal. I had a food coma!
From Chama we toddled up to Durango. I got frustrated by people who drove just over the speed limit in any straight section then slowed to a good ten miles under at the slightest hint of a corner! Annoying. Bens job as we came into Durango was to find a local brewery for a beer. He kinda succeeded. We pulled up, wandered through town, found the brewery…also found that it was closed for an event. So I got looking and found another (because finding breweries in this state is so tricky), turns out we found the local. Sitting at the bar a couple of locals came in. We got chatting with old man local, he was a traveler, lovely chap. Liking rain-forest, we suggested the Daintree and Cape York instead of his planned Darwin. He’d popped up to Telluride on some errand. He said that the best drive north is on the 550, sure through Telluride is pretty but the 550 is stunning. So we slightly revised our plan for Sunday.
We popped down to Mancos, pronounced ‘man-cuss’, thanks old chap. The hotel there was pretty good, I’d both recommend it and return! Of course I don’t recall the name, it was something like ‘Mesa Verde Motel’. The plan for Sunday, a look at cliff dwellings early (I called them and confirmed the park is open at dawn) then back to Durango and up to Gunnison via the 550.
Having revised the plans to include everything, yes we can have our cake and eat it too (it was a big day), we got up about six and headed down to the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. We got to the gate and there was actually someone there (we weren’t expecting anyone as the gate at the Sand Dunes wasn’t manned), they gave us a map and sent us on our way. the views were really quite the pretty, so different again!
The first dwelling we came to was closed, until 0900. WHAT? I guess these people don’t like getting out of bed. Someone on the call or at the gate really should have told us that. Sure we knew the info centre and guided tours don’t start until eight, but if the self guided areas are closed ever they really should put that on their website, or in the brochure, or tell us. Grumble. We did get to see some of the ruins, all from afar really. Interesting to see but to me I’d put it in the same league as Machu Pichu, worth seeing but not so much stressed about returning.
I suspect I have got an idyllic view if this area. It’s all so green and positively hospitable! I guess in summer when its all dry and blisteringly hot it would be somewhat more representative of the area and the wild west stories we read.
Next up a well needed breakfast. Ben had his first real hash brown. The Absolute Bakery and Café in Mancos does a roaring trade on a Sunday morning. Yummy eggs, I’m getting fat! After breakfast Ben drove us up the first part of the 550, back to Durango for fuel and off we go. Oh Boy was that a fun drive! If course I do not have many photos, certainly nothing that shows how fun it was, anyone who likes me alive doesn’t want me to have photos…it was pretty darned fun and if I didn’t have ‘go slow for this fool’ issues it would have been outright dangerous in Red! Have I told you lately that I love my car? 😉
So Silverton to Ouray was a great drive, I’ll do that again at the drop of a hat. We got to Gunnison safe and sound and checked into the hotel then looked up Crested Butte; I had a nanna nap while Ben went for a jog (he hadn’t been sleeping well so hoped it would tire him out). Then we took the cruise up to Crested Butte. It’s a cute little town, very touristy, hugely made to look like a wild west town, but I could see it wouldn’t be a bad place to land. They have a rum distillery there, Montanya Rum, we popped in and tried their wares, had a drink, was not at all impressed with the service, and left. Pft, they would have had three plus bottle sales if they’d been more on the ball. Their loss. So on the cruise back to Gunnison Ben decided that he didn’t need dinner so I declared we’d need breakfast. Back to the hotel we went and off to sleep (via some snacks ;)). Highlight of Crested Butte: This cool ass statue! The knight was life sized if he was a quite big guy, and the dragon was super cool!
We planned no wake up time this morning, but of course I woke and went to the loo which woke Ben (even though he was the furthest from the bathroom), so we got up after a little – think ten minute – lie in. By the time I showered and dressed Ben was ready to go…Lucky I was organised and getting packed was swift. The goal – home time. Step one, the aforementioned breakfast – fail. Turns out that despite the website saying open on Mondays, the chosen breakfast location was closed. So we had a bagel from the hotel (Bens first American bagel (wtf)). We headed off in stunning sunshine then I think we caught up with the storms and it started to rain. And pour. And the lightning was amazing. When we got out of the storms we stopped for a brief loo break at a spot near the river. The whole way along these rivers we were surprised that we didn’t see any rafters or kayakers…we saw out first at this bridge. Now I admit I called them crazy, but it looked like so much fun! We had a chat with one of the guides while the others organised, then when they headed off we kept chatting with the driver. The driver was kind and said we could follow him to the best rapids on the Arkansas River, Cottonwood rapids I think, so we did! By the time we got to the rapids it wasn’t just raining, it was pouring again. There wasn’t a spot to pull over next to the rapids and with that much rain we weren’t keen on hanging around and getting soaked, so we kept on heading towards the Royal Gorge. I’ve kept these details for future reference.
We got to the Royal Gorge and the rain had finally moved further north than us. The car park was an inch deep in water in places so they’d enjoyed the deluge, but it was sunny and thinking about drying up. So this stop was at my behest, the bridge is supposed to be super impressive. It sure is quite impressive…but there is a $25 fee to walk across it. Seriously, $25 (USD) to walk across a bridge! We had some grumbles, I decided I’d raft through there later and look up 🙂
From here we headed home via a swift burger. It was nice to get home and have a shower in a shower that doesn’t need calisthenics to get wet. We popped up the street and got some groceries then Anna came over for dinner. We had a grand old chat, sweet lass, even when she is grilling Ben about marriage. Quite the amusing if you ask me; Ben was not perturbed.
Tuesday was both a sad day and a slightly happy day. I got pancakes for breakfast before work! Ben went into the city and did some exploration (which should feature in a pending guest post – fee for coming to visit) and I went to work for the morning. When I got home Ben had been a terribly naughty boy and had purchased me a birthday present…a sound system! I haven’t used it enough yet, but it is really quite good – may give Mr Mrs and Baby Elephant a run for their money. After getting that set up I dropped Ben at the airport.
See you in 4.5 months Benno!