We have traveled a long way since I last posted, let me get y’all caught up!
When I last wrote, we had just reached Grand Junction, Colorado, and the lovely El Palomino motel. We slept well at El Palomino, and had an adequate (and free!) breakfast. Then we were back on the road, headed East.
Our first diversion was to Aspen. Interesting place, beautiful setting with beautiful people. We followed a Tesla into town, saw a guy running errands in his Ferarri, and other interesting examples of the affluent at play. The weather was OK, not great, and the town was packed with viditors for the big Food and Wine festival.
As it was getting to be time for lunch, we decided to grab something to eat and see some sights. We killed two birds with one stone by taking a gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain, and having lunch on the patio there. A bit chilly and breezy, but all in all a great stop.
From Aspen we headed up to Independence Pass, a very high (over 12,000 feet) crossing of the continental divide. We took a walk around, were duly impressed, then got back on the road to Leadville.
Leadville is one of the highest reasonable-sized towns in the USA at over 10,000 feet, and, believe it or not, Karen’s mom was born there. We decided to stop and snap a picture or two to send to her, grabbed a cookie and some coffee, and continued to Denver.
Looking at the clock, we decided we had time for one more diversion, so we left the freeway at Silverthorne and went north to Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive through the park was pretty amazing, it goes through long stretches well above timberline, with steep drops into deep valleys. As Tyler is not a big fan of heights, he was most comfortable driving avout 15 feet from the edge, well into the oncoming lane! He gladly relinquished the wheel at the earliest convenient opportunity.
I spent the night at the home of some old friends, Carolyn and Cody Sutherland, in Niwot, Colorado. Tyler had dinner with us, then spent the night with his friend Zach, who graduated a year ahead of him at Wake Forest.
We were on the road by 9AM, headed in the general direction of Santa Fe. While not the most direct route, we decided it would allow us to enjoy some more lovely mountain scenery before spending some quality time on the prairie. We went south to Colorado Springs, where we saw some of my old haunts there, including Garden of the Gods (which looked fairly humble a day after Utah!) and Manitou Springs. We drove by my old house in Chipita Park, then got back on 24 for the drive through South Park.
Our next stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park, a really uniqu place where several miles of sand dunes have piled up against the mountains, completely devoid of vegetation and up to seven hundred feet in height. It was an interesting time to visit; the wind had come up to about forty miles an hour or so, and sand was swirling off the dunes. We wend for a short walk and were thoroughly sandblasted. Peapole were fleeing off of the dunes themselves, staggering through the wind and looking like the walking dead in a zombie movie as the came towards us in the dust and sand.
Taos is almost directly south of the sand dunes, so we decided to make a stop there. We were prey disappointed, actually. We both thought that it had the feel of a planned development rather than of an authentic place. We got our of the car in the plaza, took a quick picture, then got back on the road.
Years ago, Karen and I had been through the area, and we ate lunch at a place in the small town of Chimayo. As I had fond memories of the place, and remembered it as being very authentic, we decided that would be our dinner stop. Rancho de Chimayo did not disappoint, and the margaritas and the food were delicious, and the atmosphere was a welcome relief from all the ersatz adobe of Taos.
As Taos was so disappointing, I was fully expected to experience the same feelings in Santa Fe, and was delighted to find this was not the case. Santa Fe was lively, charming, and authentic. We got a bargain on a room at the Hilton there, and took a walk around town before retiring for the night.
Since we are both meeting friends in Dallas, we got on the road early on Monday, at 7:30 or so. Knowing that we had reached the end of the scenic portion of the trip, we decided it was time to put some serious mileage behind us, and hopped on 285 South, towards Roswell, and the long drive to the Lone Star State.
Not much to say about the drive, other than it was longer than we calculated. I had it in my mind that it was 570 miles, but I think that must have been as the crow flies. The shortes road route is more like 650 miles, and the route we selected was just over 700 miles.Seven hundred flat, straight miles!
We made it to Texas in plenty of time to meet with friends – Tyler with a friend from school, and me with John Little, a good rugby friend who is now a lawyer and bar owner. After a few beers and a delicious burger, it was time to head to Plano, and the opulence of the Fairfield Inn.
By the way, for those who are interested, here are maps of our route so far. Enjoy!