End of the road (for now)

 

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Above: Oh, the sadness of a road trip ending

July 9, 2016 Our last day, for a little while, anyway

Hal and I moved slowly this morning, dragging out our last day on the road. It would be at least a couple of months before we would be able to go again. We had a leisurely breakfast in Alpine, talked to all the locals that we have gotten to know by now from our many trips there.

We walked around town for a little while, then went back to where we were staying and slowly (really slow motion) packed the bikes. After that, we walked back up to the Thrift Store to look around. You never know what you’ll find in a thrift store, especially in a small town. I found a rodeo shirt there once. But this time we didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without, which is good because there was no more room on the bikes anyway.

We had decided that we would really drag our feet coming home so we could avoid the heat of the day in Phoenix. But Hal was getting restless, so we left at 12:00 instead of 2:00, which was what we had originally planned. We rode to Springerville and stopped at Western Drug, one of my favorite stores. I actually bought a couple of patterns to sew, as if I was going to have any free time once work started up again.

It was somehow an ordeal to find a working gas station (out of premium gas at the station at the west end of town, and no sign to warn us), but at last we found one and left Springerville behind. It is always sad to see Alpine, then Springerville, fade in the rear view mirror.

The day was sunny and hot (what else?), no lovely rain and storm clouds like last year. In fact, there were no clouds in the sky at all, even on the Mogollon Rim. I had hoped for cloud cover at least part of the way. Ice falling from the sky in the form of hail would have been nice, too. Our next stop was in Show Low to visit a friend who had moved there from Phoenix via Seattle (kind of a long story).

Next we rode through Heber, looked longingly at our favorite places, then after few miles, stopped at the Woods Canyon Lake road, first at Military Sinkhole overlook so we could gaze over the abrupt edge of the Colorado Plateau, then again in the big parking lot where we first turned off the highway. We ate Clif bars and drank water. I was so tired that I didn’t know how I was going to make it home.

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It was the days of not sleeping well, and the depression of returning home that made the fatigue wash over me in waves. We took a break for a while, and I felt a little better.

We stopped in Payson for gas and Douwe Egbert’s coffee (the best in the world, in my opinion) at the Chevron station. I needed some caffeine. We were watching the sun getting lower in the sky. I did not want to return to the furnace of Phoenix with the sun still glaring like an eyeball under a raised eyebrow. We waited for a while, drinking coffee, and I was feeling very downcast.

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It was good that we waited, though, because the sun set by the time we got past Rye, a small town about 10 miles south of Payson, and the ride was much more pleasant without the sun ruining it. When I got closer to the city, the temperature never went over 104° F. Bad enough, but better than the 114° F. when I’d left 12 days before.

It was hard to go our separate ways when we reached the split point. Hal and I had been through so many days and miles of amazing riding, and I wondered when I would again get to be behind the windscreen of my F650GS and experience day after day of not having to worry about anything else but the road unraveling toward the horizon in front of me.

On the other hand, I was glad to finally get home when I did. I missed my husband, and my dog. I was beyond tired. But, in a tiny room in the back of my mind, I also missed “the road” already.

**

Thoughts at the end of the trip:

  1. Perfect schedule: two weeks on the road, two weeks home. Repeat.
  2. One of the pleasures of traveling is being in places where we are able to get tap water that is both cold and drinkable.
  3. Country song title of the day: “The music was good when we couldn’t hear it.”
  4. Hal and I talked about getting foldable mountain bikes for traveling. This thought was inspired by our riding adventure in Winter Park, and how much we’d enjoyed it. It would be nice to ride mountain bikes in many other places as well. I used to race mountain bikes.
  5. All my “stuff” and me when I am on the bike still weighs less than most adult humans.

 

Below: Washing my side cases from the bike (lots of bugs stuck on them) after I got home:

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A souvenir from Winter Park (I actually got this when I was there in the 90s, but kept it all this time):

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Until next time, as they say …

Across New Mexico

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July 7, 2016, Day 9

It was our last morning in Taos for this trip. Hal and I had free breakfast at the hotel, packed up, got on the road. We took NM 518 south past Sipapu ski area, and as we passed, we saw people working on the roof of the part of the ski lodge that burned almost two years ago. Maybe, we thought, it will all be fixed by the time we are there for our BMW rally in September.

The little creek was joyfully running, sparkling in the sun. We kept it with us on the right until it disappeared from the roadside. We said “goodbye, see you soon!” thinking of the rally. Could it be only two months away already? We rode through Mora Valley (thought of Willie and his lemonade stand), then continued on NM 518.

Outside of Mora, the scenery changes, and it isn’t as beautiful as near Sipapu. We rode through dry rolling terrain, junky desert – ugly. Maybe I am just sick of the desert from living in one for way too long. We fueled up in Las Vegas, NM, got on I-25 for a brief time, then took a new (to us), interesting road, Hwy. 3.

At first, Hwy. 3 was twisty and narrow, had a few technical curves, and then squeezed through a tunnel of some amazingly beautiful red rocks. After 10 miles or so, the road rose and I rode up into a golden boundless sphere of blue sky and sunlight. Along the road, the land belonged to big ranches in the high plains, like the Eby Ranch near Silverton, a place I’d visited several times in a book, and once in person. Here on Hwy. 3, the golden grass bent, quivering in the strong wind, and the purple mountains lurked in the background through a haze of distance. It made me feel small but content to be out here in a world where there was only the road.

We reached Hwy. 60, finally, then fueled up in Mountainair. The town wasn’t as charming and orderly as I’d thought it was, my impression from the last time we’d passed through here.

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Hal said, “this is a town where the men have all been used up by hard work.” They looked that way, all bent over or limping, yet worthy of earned respect. The gas station was rough, too, with broken, uneven concrete and limited pumps. We took a break for a few minutes in the shade of a scraggly tree, drank a cold drink and ate a granola bar. Then we got back on the bikes and hit the road.

We rode through more open land and big sky. In the distance, I saw clouds and hoped we’d get into some rain after Socorro. Meanwhile, it was getting hotter as we dropped in elevation. We rode for some time, and then rejoined the interstate, a contrast after the nearly deserted loneliness of Hwy. 3.

The brief time on I-25 gave us a short sprinkling of rain as the sky darkened and the temperature plummeted. It went from 96° F. to 76° F. in two minutes. Soon we exited the interstate at Socorro, got through that town as quickly as possible, and immediately started to go up into the cool, rainy mountains. As the sky grew darker, we pulled over to put on rain gear. We didn’t get into a lot of rain, but it stayed very cool.

Between Socorro and Datil, in the wide open space of the plain between two mountain ranges, we stopped at the VLA (Very Large Array) rest stop to shoot photos of the giant satellite dishes.

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They were stark white against the dark clouds of the summer storm clouds that surrounded us. We watched lightning flash in the distance. Then we continued to Datil, our last gas stop. After we gassed up again, we turned south onto Hwy. 12.

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On Hwy. 12 to Reserve, we were amazed at the terrain – dark brown mountains in the background and in the foreground, a caldera lit by the orange rays of the sun through a break in the clouds. I’d been on this road before, but I didn’t remember the beauty or how unique it is. Farther on, a herd of elk grazed placidly in a field by the road. We slowed down, watching for more elk. We soon saw another herd moving through the forest.

We finally made it to Reserve, NM, and turned onto Hwy. 180, the last 34 miles to Alpine. The roadway was wet and steaming because it was hot, and the rain was cold. Above the road, towering over it, the rocks were steaming, too – an otherworldly sight. We were just behind the rain.

Finally, we made it to Alpine at about 6:30, after nine hours on the road, with stops. We had a nice dinner at Foxfire restaurant, relaxed, and later fell into a deep sleep.

Next: How could it be over so soon?

A spirited ride to Chama

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July 6, 2015 – Chama, NM

On this day, the ninth day of our trip, Hal and I rode to Chama, about 100 miles from Taos, to get a piece of pie!

I suggested this ride just so we could enjoy the 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras. It is curvy and climbs over a mountain, with spectacular scenery in between. We’ve done it many times before, but like many things near Taos, I never get tired of it.

Hal and I rode our secret escape route north out of town to get to Hwy. 64, the road we took west, away from town. We had to stop and wait near the Earth homes for some cows to get out of the road, but soon we were at the intersection with Hwy. 285. We were ready to go up into the most fun part of the ride.

Behind us were some H-D riders, so Hal set the pace – quick! Later, when I asked him about that, he said “I was not going to be passed by Harley riders.” I agreed, but I hadn’t intended to ride like that! It was a lot of fun, though, to let my bike, Kat, stretch her legs. We swooped and turned and flew. The H-D riders didn’t pass us until outside of Chama when we pulled over for an emergency vehicle behind us with its siren going.

So, we got to Chama quickly, parked near the train station, and went into the Boxcar Café, a favorite place to get pie. We’ve had many great varieties of pie there, blueberry being the favorite. I remember once when we’d just ridden through a muddy construction zone with fully loaded street bikes. I’d felt as if I’d passed a test, and celebrated it with a good piece of blueberry pie. This time we had peach and apple, and they were as good as we’d remembered.

Train yard in Chama. If you look closely, you can see one of the steam engines in the background. It is fired up, but it did not move. Also, they do not have a roundhouse like in Durango. Their “garage” is the big building on the right side of the photo:

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Finished with our pie, we wandered around the shops in Chama, looking at “touristy” things that sparkled and caught our attention. We also walked down to where the trains are, but the steam engines in operation were all out on their daily runs. We saw a young boy learning to weld as his grandpa showed him how. It gave me hope that some kids really are interested in other things besides video games.

Chama “tower:”

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Our ride back to Taos was more sedate, although not too sedate, and soon we were again passing the Earth homes on the Taos Plateau. It struck me how they look more like alien space/warships than actual homes. One of the houses in particular looks like it has melted into the landscape, another looks like it imploded. I “get” the concept and think it’s a good one, but I don’t know why the homes have to be so weird-looking. We saw one that is currently under construction that looks like something out of Star Wars.

We got back to Taos around 4 o’clock, read for a couple of hours again while sitting outside, then went to dinner. Later, we walked a short way out onto the grassy plateau, then had a pleasant conversation in the courtyard with an interesting couple. Night fell, and we got our “stuff” organized to pack up in the morning. Tomorrow we ride to Alpine. I can hardly believe it, but our trip is already coming to an end.

Next: Alpine, AZ 

Taos and Mora

The golden Taos Plateau:

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July 5, 2016 – In Taos

Continuing the saga of last night’s creepy hotel room drama, what a relief – we got moved to the regular part of the hotel. I couldn’t sleep last night, somewhat normal for me, but more so because of that nasty room. I was super tired today as a result.

After moving to different rooms, Hal and I rode to Mora. We did the usual fun stuff – including a stop at Family Dollar, where we happened to meet a guy named Willy. He was riding an H-D, and getting supplies to open a lemonade stand! Well, it was hot. After we talked for a while, I invited him to the rally in September. He said he would try to come! This is one of the many things I love about New Mexico, and especially Mora – everybody is nice. I have had that experience before in this wonderful little town.

Hal and I went into the weaving shop, which we’ve always wanted to do. It was interesting, lots of history. There were also some hand-made sewn items. I found a cool thing that someone had made called a “potato baker.” It is basically a pouch to put potatoes into while microwaving them. The directions say not to puncture the potatoes, and that they apparently turn out nice and fluffy! Later, I drew it in my journal so I could try and make the fabric pouch when I got home.

Then Hal and I rode to Angel Fire on the 434, the tiny road that weaves through thick vegetation and trees and gets narrower and narrower until it finally widens again just before Angel Fire ski area. We then took the 64 and wound up and over the mountains to get back to Taos. It was a wonderful ride!

Once in Taos, we stopped briefly at Albertson’s, thinking we might get some dinner there, but we only got some fruit, and some wine. We both wanted to eat at our favorite restaurant at the hotel. The traffic was crazy, and it was so hot that the pavement squirmed under my front tire as we were turning from the parking lot onto the road. Luckily, I was paying attention and was ready for it, or I might have had the front tire “wash out” from under me. We returned to the hotel and sat outside in the cool grassy common area to read for a couple of hours before dinner. It was peaceful and beautiful.

Later, for dinner I had a cheese enchilada, the “real” layered kind, which was very nicely done. Hal had salmon and vegetables. After we ate, we sat outside again and looked at maps until it was too dark to see!

It had been a beautiful day. I will never get tired of seeing the lush forest, and the river that runs through the Sipapu ski area, nor will I ever get tired of seeing the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains, and the golden Taos Plateau. I always say I want to live in all these places that I visit, but I think my true home is on the road, so I can “live in” all of them.

Next: A “spirited” ride to Chama

On the road from Winter Park to Taos

At San Luis Valley Brewing Co.:

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July 4, 2016

It seems as if we are always on the road on the Fourth of July. Last year it was the endless day to Durango. This year it would be a full day on the road again, but much less stressful.

Slowly, we packed up to leave Winter Park, then bid it good-bye as we hit the road and left it behind. If we’d known how nice it was going to be, we would have planned to stay another day, but in the jumbled plan that ended up being our summer trip, we were lucky to have the days there that we did. It was about 60° F. and partly cloudy as we left town on Hwy. 40, the same twisty road that had led us here two days ago.

Once we got on I-70, we flew along at a quick pace, keeping up with all the other traffic. There were several steep grades, and we went through the Loveland Pass tunnel, properly called the Eisenhower Tunnel, or, the Eisenhower Memorial Bore. It is quite a feat of engineering, and you can read more about it here: https://www.codot.gov/travel/eisenhower-tunnel

Then there was a long descent, an 8% grade, for several miles. We finally got off the interstate at Copper Mountain, where we fueled up at an amazingly convenient (for once) gas station.

We rode through a bunch of little towns, Leadville being one of them (lots of mines in this area). We rode through towns that were getting ready for their Fourth of July parade, and one that had a crafts fair in progress. We saw towering peaks with snow, saw reservoirs for water management, and we rode big sweeping turns. We climbed and descended, and finally, as Hwy. 285 headed south, the route flattened out and we were back in familiar, well-traveled territory. We didn’t stop until we reached Alamosa.

In Alamosa, we stopped at the same brewery and restaurant where we stopped last year, San Luis Valley Brewing Co. The town was very quiet for the Fourth of July, I thought, and we were glad to see that the restaurant was open.

Quiet town:

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In fact, I thought the brewery was the liveliest place in town. We got a delicious sandwich, I got a bottle of beer to go for my husband (as I did last year), and Hal and I took a break for a while.

Alamosa Amber:

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It was warm, and aside from the people in the brewery, the town seemed deserted. Then, we re-packed the bikes to accommodate the bottles of beer we were taking home, and headed down the road to another small town between Alamosa and Antonito, where we fueled up.

From there, we stayed on 285 to the 64, and that is when I knew how close we were getting to Taos. 64 is the highway that we almost always take into Taos when we go in September. This time, we had time to stop at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, which we’ve ridden many times but never stopped to really look at how deep it is. We got off the bikes and were able to take photos, but it is impossible to capture the vertiginous drop from the bridge, an almost unbelievable sight.

Rio Grande Gorge:

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The ever-present “love locks:”

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I hope this helps any potential jumpers:

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I looked into the distance, and saw a familiar and inspiring sight, Taos in the distance,the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind it. I was ready to be there.

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We got to Taos, to our favorite place to stay. I was very disappointed when I found out that they stuck us way in the back of the hotel, in rooms that I always thought seemed ugly and looked abandoned. That evening, however, we did get a glimpse through the trees of some fireworks in the center of town.

The rooms were very creepy, and I couldn’t sleep at all during the night. It turned out to be the “lowlight” of the trip, when usually it is the best. That’s what I get for wanting to be in Taos, always and again. It’s such a beautiful place, though, and I had hope that things would improve the next day. Taos is one of our “homes” on the road, and I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Next: Riding some of our favorite roads

Rocky Mtn. National Park

In Nederland, CO:

(This story is kind of long, but hang with me until the end. It was a long riding day!)

July 3, 2016 

I was dreaming. I was a marble rolling down a hallway. The hallway was carpeted maroon and purple, a floral swirl, yet there was a track down the middle for the marble – me – to roll on. I rolled faster between closed doors, trying to reach the end of the hallway where a mirror glinted. Suddenly, I gasped for air and surfaced, waking up, thankfully, still in Winter Park.

Day 6 of our trip was mostly not spent in Winter Park, CO at all. We were still based there, but our destination that day was the town of Estes Park. Still kind of bleary-eyed from that weird dream, I started the day having free breakfast at the hotel with Hal, then we geared up and rode across the street to air up our tires. The elevation and temperature changes, I supposed, had changed what tire pressure I’d started with, so we checked to be sure. That experience turned into an ordeal that included a gas station too crowded with vacationers, a giant fuel-delivery truck that took up most of it, a stupid air pump that wanted 25¢ every 30 seconds it seemed (who would have thought a few years ago that people would have to pay for air for their tires???), and a tire gauge that wouldn’t read correctly. Despite all that, we finally got on the road with somewhat accurate air pressure in the tires.

We took Highway 40 again, but this time through Fraser and Granby. I saw “in person” all the places I had looked at from home with Google Maps. I remembered them from those evenings of planning, trying to find a place to stay, and was glad once again that we had ended up in Winter Park! Everything along the road looked extremely crowded, and that was because of the holiday weekend. This condition would plague us for the rest of the day. We took the 40 to Hwy. 34.

What we didn’t quite realize, I guess, is that 34 went directly into Rocky Mountain National Park, and it was the only route to Estes Park. There was no turning back. At the gate we were charged $20 for EACH bike and rider. In my opinion, that was extreme price gouging, especially since we really didn’t want to go into the park on a holiday weekend in the first place. Yet there we were, and we were doing it.

The road started climbing right away, but gradually. The trees were beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and I put behind me the feeling of being fleeced at the park entrance. However, as we climbed, the traffic seemed to increase as we went up, with people in cars and trucks going more and more slowly in front of us. Soon, we were in an unbreakable chain of traffic.

The road grew steeper, and the switchbacks increased. Every single pullout or parking lot was jammed with traffic, and we didn’t dare pull over. I got ZERO photographs in the park because of this. Soon, I looked up and saw that we were climbing even more steeply into the alpine environment above the tree line. There was a steep switchback that we had to ride at about 5 mph, and up on the top, the wind was blowing hard. I started to worry about keeping my momentum, and keeping the bike balanced in the strong wind. Between my bike and me, we weren’t very heavy, so the wind was pretty much having its way with us. I was creeping along on exposed roadway, hanging on the side of the mountains, the wind blowing hard and cold. I didn’t see much except the back of Hal’s bike in front of me, but I saw enough to know that the bottom was V-E-R-Y far down. I was glad I had thought to wear layers of clothing under my riding gear. I saw other riders who were wearing thin t-shirts, and knew they were probably freezing!

I didn’t see much of the natural beauty, either, since I had to concentrate so much on riding, watching for people to do stupid things like suddenly pull over, or stop, or pull out into traffic without waiting. At one point, there were some caribou just laying there, relaxing at the side of the road! The traffic in the lane going in the opposite direction was completely stopped because one inconsiderate person HAD to stop to get a photo (with his phone, of course). I had time to glance for an instant at the amazing animals, but that was all. I didn’t get to enjoy their wild beauty.

I never had to put my feet down and stop, but we continued to inch along. I realized we were finally descending, but we were still hanging on the sides of mountains with steep drop-offs and no guardrails. Get me out of here, I thought. I was tired of having to be so ultra-aware of my riding, worrying about keeping the bike upright, and just generally tired of being in a huge f-ing crowd. Pedestrians kept running in and out of traffic, and I really had to watch what I was doing. Finally, we got back down into the trees, the road split, and it felt like the traffic eased a little. We were still going down.

After a few miles, we passed the gate on the other end of the park. Bend over, I thought to myself as I saw other riders in the line. And that line! It went on literally for about eight miles. We were finally getting to Estes Park, we had seen it far below when we were on top on this side of the mountain, but traffic was a nightmare.

We had thoughts of finding a coffee shop in Estes Park, I had visions of a charming little town with cool places to take a break, but I was wrong. Traffic was an angry snarl, and all I really saw were the backs of cars. At one point, we had to get over into the right hand lane, and I had to put my motorcycle between Hal and a car so he could get over. There were just too many people, and there was absolutely no opportunity to find a place to stop. So much for Estes Park. Later, we both said we never wanted to go there again even though we had once thought being there would be a highlight of the trip.

At last, we eased out of town, and there were more twisty (and busy) roads to negotiate. It would have been fun except for the “crowded-ness,” and we rode many miles through varying terrain. Yet in all those miles after Estes Park, there were no coffee shops to pull into, and it was getting very warm. I still had all my layers on, and I had been riding non-stop for about five hours.

Fatigue was setting in as we finally came to a little place called Nederland, which was, of course, crowded. We ended up in a crazy, uneven dirt parking lot where, after a couple of laps, I amazingly found a wedge of space in which to park. I waved Hal in behind me. Breathing a sigh of relief, I eyed a coffee/sandwich shop where I could finally get some refreshment! Hal, however, had other ideas.

Hal insisted on going into a Nepalese restaurant. It was literally the very last place I wanted to go, but that is where we went. I tried to get something normal (read: “not spicy or exceptionally greasy”) and appropriate to fuel my hunger, like French fries, but I couldn’t seem to get anyone to bring some, even after I thought that I ordered them. Hal ate a huge buffet lunch. I was so overheated that I almost threw up just thinking about it. I did manage to get a cup of coffee just because I needed caffeine, I don’t even remember where at this point, and I eventually pulled a Clif bar out of my side case. Good thing, by then I was shaking and needed to eat. I drank a ton of water, too. It was NOT relaxing at all to sit there amid the dust of the parking lot, in the sun, on a rock or piece of concrete or whatever it was, and chew on that Clif bar. I was grateful that I’d packed it, though.

But wait, there’s more. We got out of the crazy crowded town of Nederland, thought we were done with extreme travel situations, but we rode through a town called Central City that had streets that either went straight up or straight down. Like, 8 or 10 percent grades. Plus, we got stuck behind a tour bus, couldn’t see around it to find the right street on which to turn, almost got in trouble and had to go back the way we’d come (impossible), but luckily I spotted another route that gave us a quick escape.

I was thinking by then that the motorcycle gods were completely throwing every single weird situation at me that day just to see if I were worthy of being a true “adventure” rider! There was one more situation – a gas station that was all catty-wompus (is that how you spell that??), and was not in any way shape or form an easy in and out. –sigh- By the time I got on the Interstate, I was kind of done with all the juking around. I still felt elated, though, because I MADE IT.

Riding down Hwy. 40, I was struck by the feeling of déjà vu as we rode the same route we’d taken two days earlier to reach Winter Park. As we rode back into Winter Park, closing the loop of the day’s ride, I felt content, loving the clouds and the cool temperatures. We pulled into the hotel parking lot, tired but happy.

Before we walked to dinner, Hal and I thought we deserved a soak in the hotel’s jacuzzi. We were lucky, no one else was in the pool area, and we were able to totally relax in the hot water without nine million people around. Then we went to dinner at the Smokehouse, a BBQ place. They had “burnt ends” which were charred and crusty on the outside and tender and meaty on the inside, all dipped in wonderful BBQ sauce. Heavenly. I tried to restrain myself, but between that and a huge salad, I ate more than I should have. I was so hungry from earlier in the day that I couldn’t help it.

Along Vasquez Creek:

But, no worries, we walked up and down the main street of Winter Park, this time for the last time of the trip. We stopped at the bridge over Vasquez Creek with its bottom of black and brown and gold “babyheads,” the water rushing and plunging, polishing the stones with its white water. We decided again that we love Winter Park, as if we didn’t already know, and definitely will return someday.

Tomorrow we ride to Taos! I thought.

I sank into sleep, and dreamed of the purple/golden sunset I had witnessed the last time I was in Taos, NM. Between the purple of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the golden grasses of the Taos Plateau, I looked forward to soon being folded into that familiar embrace.

 

Experiencing Winter Park

July 2, 2016

A Day in Winter Park, CO

In the morning, I woke up to find myself in Winter Park, CO. So, it wasn’t a dream! The sky was overcast, and the weather was cool – heavenly. The day’s possibilities were almost endless, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it would unfold.

Hal and I walked to breakfast at a small café near the hotel. It was busy, being Saturday morning of a holiday weekend, but we didn’t wait long. While we waited, we chatted with a man from Tibet who was selling jewelry. It was beautiful silver jewelry set with different stones, of course the blue ones attracted my eye immediately. But alas, I have so much “stuff” at home, I find it hard to justify buying anything more.

After breakfast, Hal and I walked up and down the main street of Winter Park, looking at more things that were important to the locale – winter clothes, bicycle gear, maps – and other tourists. My favorite places were the bicycle shops. I haven’t been as connected to the bicycling community as I have in the past, and I liked seeing all the updated gear. This time I wanted to buy things, but I held myself back.

The sign says, “never grow up.” How could I not fall in love with a place that has that phrase as its philosophy?

We were highly aware of the local fitness lifestyle, and it was a welcome change from the “breeding” lifestyle of where we live. There were still kids around, but not as many, and their role was downplayed. The fit, sports lifestyle prevailed. I especially loved the winter culture. There were stores with winter clothing on sale, and I wanted to stock up on it, just because I want to live in a cold climate again. I sighed. It is totally impractical for me to buy any winter clothes because I currently live in a place where it is 115° F. (or more) during much of the summer, and it barely gets below freezing in the winter. I hope I can change where I live very soon!

Everyone seemed to be flying along without a care on mountain bikes, riding the various bike trails that wove in and out of the sidewalks and parks. Hal and I thought it would be fun to ride, too. The hotel had offered us free rental of bikes and helmets, so early afternoon found us on a couple of mid-range Trek mountain bikes that turned out to be a lot of fun. We rode for about an hour on the Fraser River Trail. Then, a thunderstorm moved in and we retreated to the hotel to wait it out. We had coffee and a snack, but after the storm rolled through, we re-joined the same trail and continued our ride beyond Winter Park toward Fraser.

The vegetation bordering the trail was lush and green, the air was cool. I had (fortunately) packed clothing to wear on bicycles. We took rain gear with us just in case, because the clouds were still hanging low over the surrounding mountains. It was lovely weather, and I was so grateful to be in it. On this part of the trail, the surface was dirt, much to my delight, but it also meant that we got very muddy!

We rode all the way to Fraser, then turned around and took the same trail back as the sky began to darken with more storm clouds. As I was riding, a deer jumped over the trail in front of me! Hal came up behind me soon after, and we watched the doe disappear into the deep woods. We pedaled back to Winter Park, and got back just as it began to rain again.

Dinner was in the same restaurant as the night before, only much more relaxed, and afterward, we walked around town some more. Later, I washed the mud out of my bicycle riding clothing in the sink of the bathroom, and hung things up to dry. I hoped to have an excuse to wear it all again if we had enough time to ride the bicycles once more before we left.

Our plans for the next day would take us to Estes Park. However, we didn’t know then that our riding day would be full of many challenges.

Next: Rocky Mountain National Park, and the town of Estes Park