A few weeks have passed since Amanda’s epic visit to the incomparably beautiful state of Colorado.
I alighted from Grand Junction on March 24th with only 34 miles on my Subaru. I stopped at Copper Mountain for gas and then careened down to the Front Range to eventually park at the Cherry Creek Holiday Inn.
On Saturday morning, I picked Amanda up at the DEN airport and convinced her to go straight away to Rocky Mountain National Park.
On the way there, we stopped at the Stanley Hotel, where many movies were filmed, including The Shining. I had never been there (which means I score a point for my New Year’s resolutions!).
We took photos, got turned around in the hedge maze which was mercifully only about four inches high (you saw the photos on Facebook), logged a geocache and headed to the RMNP visitor’s center. It was bizarrely situated outside of the park. The good news is that there was a geocache there, too.
The park was reasonably crowded considering that it was a “winter” day. We managed to enjoy the overlooks and see plenty of deer along the way.
Once we made our way back to Denver, we walked to the plaza where the World of Beer is located. We decided on The Kitchen Next Door, where I ate a beet burger for dinner. I haven’t managed to recreate it in my kitchen yet, but hope springs eternal.
Food is important, and on Sunday morning we had breakfast at the Tattered Cover before heading to Glenwood Springs to “take the vapors.” Grimy and smelling of sulphur, with nothing but the pool shower between us and the restaurant booth, we headed for Chang Thai for dinner.
Chang Thai is owned by… … …an acquaintance of mine, and I wasn’t expecting it to be super fancy, but it was. There are two Chang Thais in the area. The one where we had dinner in Glenwood Springs, and another in Montrose. The portions were huge and delicious. We had vegetable curry and cashew nut dishes with sticky rice and Thai iced tea. We ordered the one-pepper versions of the dishes, and I highly recommend the one-pepper spice level.
After a quick stop at Safeway for provisions and a geocache, we mosied back to GJ and arrived too late to make it to Gelato Junction.
On Monday we headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Our plan was to eat again at Chang Thai in Montrose, but we had too many leftovers, so we bought picnic sandwiches. We pretty well stopped at all of the available places along the canyon rim. It was overcast and cold, but the river was clearly visible, and we took some excellent photos. After the park, of course we found some caches in Montrose, one of which is at an abandoned minigolf course, which was really cool.
We arrived back in GJ too late to visit Gelato Junction.
Tuesday was for Arches. On our way to a geocache at the Utah Welcome Center, as we were passing Fruita, CO, it happened. The odometer hit 1,000 miles! Amanda was savvy enough to record these moments (it is a whole mile, after all) several times. Here they are for posterity:
Utah: Life Elevated. You already know.
The last time I went to Arches, I left with the impression that I was the only person on the planet to ever go to Arches and not see an arch. I resolved to remedy that. We walked to viewpoints 1 and 2 to see Delicate Arch. That, and three earthcaches, rounded out our accomplishments there.
We returned to Grand Junction too late to go to Gelato Junction.
Wednesday was for Colorado National Monument, shopping at City Market, and finishing our leftovers.
We had brunch of biker burritos at Camille’s Cafe before entering the Monument from the Fruita side, which I had never done before. This way, I got to see some places along the rim that I hadn’t seen (!). The only better coverage of the Monument is hiking along the canyon floor, which I got to do with some students the following week.
I learned a lot about the Monument and feel I have done it justice.
On Wednesday, we finally made it back to Grand Junction (the Monument is in GJ, after all) in time for gelato. I recommend lavendar.
Thursday, I dropped Amanda off at the Amtrak station, where she boarded the famous California Zephyr for her looooong trip home. Many special thanks to Amanda for being the first passenger in my fabulous Subaru. And for binge watching Friday Night Lights with me.
And that, boys and girls, is how you achieve Mile #1000: Four National Parks in Five Days.
If you would like to recreate this road trip for yourself, Grand Junction has plenty of reasonably priced accommodation at both hotels and AirBnBs. Here’s a draft packing list for you:
Cinnamon Bears, sunscreen, swimsuit, smartphone, walking shoes, water bottle, windbreaker, I Spy License Plates… umm… Amanda is much better at road trip packing than I am. All I know is there’s no need to bother with snack mix, because the best crack mix, I mean snack mix, is in the visitors center at Arches.
During the course of our trip, we saw license plates from 43 states and provinces: AK, AZ, CA, CO (obviously), CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY, Alberta, BC, ONT, and (drum roll) Saskatchewan.
Remember as always: the journey of 1,000 miles starts…
beneath your tires.