July 07, 2010

Colorado Road Trip

Back in mid-June we headed to Colorado for some Denver time and then a road trip. I've finally sorted and posted the pics with a bit of narration. I tried to keep things short and to the point. The pics do most of the talking. The trip was great fun. K & D were our main hosts. D & K & L made other days in Denver tons of fun. We weathered heat and sun and bloody noses (from the altitude) but all in the name of fun. Don't forget to click on a photo to enlarge it.Riding the Link Light Rail to the airport was easy. We only checked one bag between us and it was rolled easily from our place of employment to Westlake Center where we hopped on the train. For $2.50 we didn't worry about traffic or parking. The rail drops you at Sea-Tac at the far end of the parking garage level where ground transportation is located.
Instantly, we're in Denver. Well, what could I tell you about waiting in the airport or riding in a plane. Both were uneventful and that's just how we like it. Our first day in Denver we spent with D & K & L. They were excellent hosts the whole day. Here is K at the farmers market showing off her skills. Brunch was at Lola and it was delicious. Take a look at the menu. I had the "al pastor" benedicto. I never order pork in a restaurant and I never order eggs benedict. Lola put a new twist on an old dish and I ate every last crumb. I need to learn how to make the masa-buttermilk biscuit.Some of the Lola decour. I really dig the Southwest and Day of The Dead influences.Much like Seattle, Denver is teeming with bicyclists. Unlike Seattle, Denver is flat. I'm just sayin'. Denver also has this cool bike sharing program, Denver Bike Sharing. You can join by the hour, the day, or even the year. A whole year is just $65! There are lots of membership options. The baskets carry advertising (hey, non-profits gotta pay the bills too). It's a great idea for health reasons, environmental reasons, traffic reasons. But, come on, Colorado, we need to get helmets on riders. Make it a law already. Will that make everyone wear one? Of course not. But MORE people will wear one. I noticed a big difference between Denver and Seattle riders. Way more riders in Seattle wear helmets (it's the law).Here is the beautiful cat belonging to D & K & L. Her name is, forgive me if I get it wrong, Addie.
And here is their dog, Kopi. Very handsome.Coffee is and always will be an important part of our travels. We really like coffee and we seek out the local java joints wherever we go. We were pleased to find plenty of independent coffee options on this trip. The first is Buzz Fill'er Up Cafe just a half mile from K & D's place, our Denver hosts.The coffee was so good I thought we were having a Jesus moment once we hit the open highway. Off in the distance I swear I could see Jesus.I was right, it's Jesus. But it doesn't look like a kind, sweet Jesus. It looks like Jesus is pointing at the passing drivers, giving them a stern warning: Slow down, wear your seat-belt, don't text and drive!Kenosha Pass is just one of several mountain passes we traverse on this trip. Colorado west of Denver is all mountains. East of Denver is flat, flat, and then flat. We knew what we were doing when we planned our route. I think we got the prettier, more interesting side of the state. We wanted mountains so we really had no choice but to go west.

Kenosha Pass is 10,000 feet high in the Rocky Moutains. Route 285 takes you over it and beyond.I wish I could remember the town in which I pulled over to snap some shots of this cemetery. The graves were elaborate works of folk art and personal touches. No granite slabs here.This is a really beautiful valley. There is a turn out from the highway, a large parking area and this view. I wish I could remember what it's called.Fast forward miles and miles and here are are getting pretty close to Ouray, Colorado, one of my favorite stops on the trip. Ouray is in a beautiful valley (when you're in the mountains you see lots of valleys and it's great) and surrounded by mountains on three sides. The "Switzerland of America" but without any kitschy Swiss stuff. In Washington we have a "Bavarian" village and I think if I were Bavarian I'd be insulted. It's over the top with cornucopias painted on the Safeway and little else than beer and brauts to eat. I know it's for tourists but it's also for people who need a place to sleep on their hiking, climbing, rafting vacation.

Here is some of the pretty red rock we'd see in various parts of Colorado. Some is bright orange like this. Some is deep orange, like Native pottery.
Here is the dining room at Spangler House Bed & Breakfast. Steven and Jill are great hosts. Steven makes a delicious breakfast. We stayed here two nights and really enjoyed it.In Ouray, I felt like I was in Ouray, not Switzerland. Yes, it caters to tourists too but in a Ouray way. Two-thirds of the original Victorian buildings remain and are still used as residences and businesses. I can buy Native American pottery, bug spray, a latte, and a plate of Southwest Mexican food. Definitely eat at the Bien Tempo and get the spicy camarones. Here's a shot of the ceiling, covered in dollar bills. We watched a waitress shoot a dollar up there. You put your tack on one side of the bill pointing up. You put a magnet on the underside to keep the tack sitting on the bill. Then you fling it all toward the ceiling and it sticks.In Ouray we took a hike on the Ice Park Trail. Really nice hike. Great views. Not sure what animal this was but it made a nice meal for something.We left a rainy and chilly Seattle but on this trip we had nothing but sun and heat. Sometimes that was nice. Sometimes it wasn't. But at 7,792 feet it was really nice.Not only is it warm in Colorado, it's dry. Real dry. Hydration is key. We drank and drank and drank and were better for it. And sunscreen. Lots of that too and we used 70 SPF. No fooling around.
Aspens! S's favorite tree and Colorado has plenty of them.Here comes a thistle.

I dig lichen. I love that they can grow just about anywhere - the arctic, the desert, a toxic waste pile. They are survivors. Some are leafy, some are spongy, some are flat against where they grow, like the white one in this pic. They come in so many different colors and textures. I just dig 'em.
Wild geraniums.
OK, the black fuzzy thing is a spider. Not exactly sure which parts of it but it's a spider. When I tapped the rock it scurried into the web. I wanted to SEE the spider but couldn't coax it back out and wasn't about to destroy it's web.
Back at Spangler House, plotting our course.
Here is the resident mama deer at Spangler House. We were fortunate to see mama and her two twin fauns. They were tiny and spotted with big ears, really adorable.
She slept here for a couple of hours.
Pretty good cuppa at Mouses's Coffee & Chocolate.
Plenty of tasty sounding drinks but I stuck to my usual. I really just like a straight latte, no flavor, no sweetener. I want to taste the espresso and I want to taste the creamy, foamy milk.
Colorado's state flower is the columbine and it's everywhere. We're lucky to have them in Seattle too and plenty in our yard. They come in just about any color you can imagine. OK, so this shot is not the Colorado Blue Columbine (aquilegia caerluea), the official flower, but you get the idea.
While S was looking in a shop called The Blue Pair, I stepped into the lobby of a building next door. Check out this stamped tin ceiling.
While we were shopping in another store I spotted this cool handle on an old cabinet used as a display case.
Driving out of Ouray with the San Juan Mountains to gaze upon. Not at all a bad way to start the day.
Ah, more coffee. This day we are in the tony ski town, Telluride. We tried to ride the gondola but missed it by, literally, one spot. We were next in line watching the folks ahead of us try to cram the whole family and two small dogs into the moving gondola car before it took off from the platform when the attendant got a message on his radio - no more rides - gondola closed. ?? No reason was given and no estimated time of re-opening. So we walked around and found Between The Covers. Books and coffee in the mountains? Pinch me.
Our destination this day was Crested Butte. We'll have coffee there soon. In the meantime, we hiked in the tiny ghost town of Gothic, just north of Crested Butte. Gothic is basically a giant outdoor laboratory, home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. You can spot experiments of one kind or another here and there in a field. The small general store has cool t-shirts (of course, I bought one) with various prints of critters. I love to buy t-shirts (got 3 on this trip) and I want to help support the lab.
Gothic is at 9,485 feet so we took it slowly on our hike. Just more time to enjoy the surroundings. The local foxes aren't too shy of people. Just outside a house and right under the badminton net this fox was stalking breakfast.
Not bad, huh?

More aspens.
I like bugs, what can I say? These ants were BIG and had striped butts. They were really groovin' on the bud of this plant. Not sure if that's helpful to the plant or not.
This chipmunk sat frozen in this tree until I was just a couple feet from it.
Now that's a view!
This marmot squeaked at us as we approached. Well, maybe he didn't squeak at us but he squeaked loudly. It's a piercing sound. Notice the marking on his back. I played with the exposure on this photo to enhance it.
Back in Crested Butte we explored the streets. Loved his giant buddha outside a small restaurant. And around the corner from the buddha? Coffee!One side of the building housing the coffee shop is covered in license plates.Camp 4 Coffee had what we needed.From Crested Butte we mad a long haul to Glenwood Springs. Along thw way we drove through Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Monument on the North rim (CO highway 92). Spectacular. There aren't many places to pull over but the link will take you to the National Parks site and you can see some dramatic shots. We did stop at this pull-out for lunch to take advantage of the covered picnic area.Hey, finally in Glenwood Springs. This area is known for its hot springs. Here is the main hot springs joint and the pool.Another shot, this one including I-70. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can probably see all the construction going on. What a nice treat on this already narrow and twisty highway. Once you are past the construction, it's a pretty ride through this canyon.Hey, Washington, even Colorado has medical marijuana.We weren't crazy about Glenwood Springs but we did find a Sacred Grounds coffee shop with free computer access right across the street from a good book store.About eleven miles south of Glenwood Springs is Carbondale and we really liked this town. Found really good grub at Eco Goddess Edibles. I had this: and it was delicious. S had the egg salad. I never think to get egg salad because I'm always afraid it will be really dull. This wasn't dull. Those focaccia breads really hit the spot too. Hey, in a flash we are back in Denver at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This is diorama heaven! Here is the nice view of City Park and the Denver skyline.
Dig the totems.
Now we are at the Cherry Creek Fresh Market (farmers market) eating the veggie and goat cheese tart. And that's the end of the photos. I really pared it down to make this relatively quick to view in one setting. For that same reason I didn't write much. Just wanted to post some pics and nail down some highlights of the trip. It was a lot of fun. We had good hosts, good food, good hikes and scenic views. Next week we hit the Olympic Peninsula for an early birthday celebration (my birthday).

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