Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Road Trip, Part 6: Colorado, Part 1. Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder.

*Just a quick note - as the formatting on this blog keeps some of the photographs pretty small. You can click on any of the pictures to enter a slide show, which will allow you to see larger format photographs*


Hows that for a confusing title?

Scottsbluff, NE to Denver, CO.  198 Miles, 3 Hours 10 Minutes.

Bear peeking into the Colorado Convention Center
One of the most enjoyable and staggeringly beautiful (and desolate) drives I have ever taken was from Estes Park, CO to Rapid City, SD following route 85 through Wyoming. I was pretty excited to make the drive from Scottsbluff to Denver because it went along a bit of the same route - but for the most part it was a dull drive. We were both very excited to get to Denver, finally see some mountains, and to visit our first National Park together. 

We got into Denver in the early afternoon. The weather was dramatically different from what we experienced the night before in Nebraska. We were shedding layers throughout the drive and by the time we were in Denver we changed into shorts and t-shirts. We didn't really have much of a plan for our time so we just started chipping away at our list. 

Pink fountain at the Museum of Outdoor Arts
Our first stop was the Museum of Outdoor Arts. Immediately we were amused by its bright pink fountain (we found out it was dyed for breast cancer awareness). We strolled around inside for a bit - browsing the mostly contemporary mixed media collection in just under half an hour. 

Sculpture at the Museum of Outdoor Arts
We were getting kind of hungry so we stopped at Whole Foods to grab some food, which we took with us to Chessman Park. It was an unbelievably nice day out - and we were happy to see the park was popular, but not overcrowded. We took up post under a tree, had a picnic and took a short nap.

View when I woke up from the nap
We decided to check out the 16th street (pedestrian) mall, which was a total, complete waste of time. Nothing but touristy shops and restaurants. We were pretty off-put so we quickly decided to go find someplace to grab a drink. We decided on a hardcore/punk/metal microbrewery called TRVE (pronounced True). The bar was mostly populated by crust punks and metalheads, the music was good - and so was the beer. We liked it here and felt much more comfortable than we did at the mall.

In the bathroom at TRVE
It was approaching dinnertime, so we headed out to the outskirts of the city to cash in a groupon for some sushi at a place called Japon. No surprise, it was garbage.

We spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in Westminster, which was the first nice Walmart we came across on the trip. Colorado seems to have a lot of nice Walmarts...

This is what the bathroom at Walmart looked like. Seriously. 

The next morning we had breakfast in the parking lot and got ready at the Target down the street. We drove into the city and headed to the City Park Esplanade farmers market. We walked around a bit and grabbed a Palisade Peach, which wound up being one of the best we had all year. 

Panoramic in the Kirkland Museum
After the market we headed to the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. This place was really cool - just a house packed full of mid-century modern furniture and cool art. There were SO many cool chairs. Once we were done here we wanted to check out another microbrewery, so we headed to a place called Our Mutual Friend. It was OK at best. The silver lining - on our way to it, we passed a street festival - so we ditched the car and went it. It was some Mexican Street Fair, and it was WAY too crowded so we left pretty quickly...but on our way back to the car we found a woman selling elotes and churros out of a basket on the sidewalk. We bought a few and they were fantastic. 

Typical snack on our trip.
We spent the rest of the evening driving around in a futile attempt to find some food trucks to grab some dinner at. We wound up staying in the same Walmart Parking lot as the night before.

This cave was transplanted from somewhere in Mexico to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The next day we were heading to Fort Collins in the afternoon to visit a friend, so we didnt really want to get into too much. We went to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and quickly realized it was an all day kind of place. We tore through the place, seeing everything we possibly could as quickly as possible before we had to leave for Fort Collins, as we had to catch our friend before she went into work.

Denver, CO to Fort Collins, CO. 65 miles, 1 hour 7 minutes.

We arrived at our friend Nicole's apartment about an hour before she had to leave for work. We settled in quickly and cleaned ourselves up (first shower in six days!). She left for work and we headed downtown. Fort Collins is a very charming town, not unlike Ballston Spa, New Paltz, or Saratoga. Its littered with bars, breweries, shops, and restaurants. We walked around for a few hours - grabbed a margarita somewhere in there - and eventually made our way back to Nicole's apartment. We spent the rest of the night by her fire pit, having drinks and eating pizza, and catching up.

Horsetooth Reservoir
The next day (day 20 of the trip) we woke up and did some laundry while we had breakfast. Nicole had the day off and was going to show us around. Our first stop was the Horsetooth Reservoir, which - as you can see - was quite nice.

Roadside Old West Town
We drove around  a bit by the reservoir, stopped at some random old west themed road side shop and then headed to New Belgium Brewery to try and hop on a tour. 

Kettles at New Belgium
Look who we found in the Mosaic
We put our names on a list and crossed our fingers and in 10 minutes or so we were on a tour. Ive never been a huge huge fan of New Belgium - its totally fine, but not anything crazy - but I totally fell in love with them after this tour. They are, I am convinced, the coolest company you could possibly work for (rock wall, ping pong table, slides - all in the brewery... a position called the director of fun, free bikes on your anniversary, paid trip to Belgium, etc..). We got to try some of their sour beer, which was pretty fantastic.

Neat tables at one of the many bars in the New Belgium Brewery
The appropriately named bottling room at New Belgium
The rest of our day in Fort Collins was spent bar hopping, trying various microbreweries, which was actually a pretty good time. Later on in the evening we made our way back to Nicoles and crashed hard. The next day we packed up and said our goodbyes. 

Paper hat at Hammonds
We headed back to Denver. Our first stop was at the Hammonds Candy Factory. This was a complete shit show. Our tour guide was incredibly unknowledgeable, the candy was gross, and all in all a big waste of time. From here we went to Dino Ridge for a hike but  by the time we got there it was pushing 100 F and we were a bit concerned about making the hike....so another waste of time. 

Very weird, giant (4 feet or so) lily pads at Hudson Gardens
Back into Denver, we stopped at Hudson Garden to eat lunch (sandwiches). This was really pleasant, but there was a group setting up for what looked to be a wedding. We wanted to check out happy hour at a place called Linger because we read about its rooftop bar and the great view of downtown. While the setting was nice, the happy hour sucked and there was either something wrong with their water or dishwasher because it tasted like shit (kind of like fryer oil). We were striking out so we decided that we were going to grab some ice cream at the giant milk jug next to the bar - at a place called Little Man Ice Cream. We actually really enjoyed the ice cream here, sampling about half a dozen flavors. 

Ice Cream! Well...sorbet!
It was approaching dinner time and we had one last groupon to cash in at a place called Sherpa House. The food here was pretty crappy, the service was truly awful - but the decor and setting were hard to beat. We tried Yak, a first for both of us. 

Inside Sherpa House
We headed towards Boulder CO after dinner, stopping at a Walmart along the way. We were woken in the middle of the night by some police at our window, letting us know that we were okay for the night but Walmart was changing its policy and would no longer allow overnight campers in their lots. We were pretty bummed out, but a bit skeptical. We checked on Walmart's corporate site and their policy had not changed - it was still up to individual store managers/local laws. Cops were likely just checking to make sure we weren't doing drugs...or each other. 

The next day we wanted to get to Rocky Mountain National Park with enough time to pitch a tent before dark - so we knew we didn't have a ton of time in Boulder...so what did we do?

Celestial Seasons!
Celestial Seasons Tour, of course! We actually had a pretty good time here, believe it or not. Our tour guide was awesome.

After drinking all that tea, we needed some alcohol. We stopped at Redstone Meadery for some mead. Much to our surprise, it was all pretty good - but we especially enjoyed the juniper and the boysenberry flavors. From here we walked around a bit and then made a stop at Boulder Creek Winery. The woman pouring our wines was great - talked to us about the park, Grand Junction (our next stop after the park) - as well as eastern Washington, where she was from. She told us we had to get dinner at Pizzeria Locale, so we did! 

Apps at Pizzeria Locale
We got there just as they were opening, and had a chance to try their happy hour menu, as well as order a pizza. This place was incredible. Everything was top notch. I still think about this pizza often!

Really exceptional budino at Pizzeria Locale

After we ate we high tailed it to Estes Park, where the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is. We arrived just as the sun was setting - also a perfect time to see lots of Elk grazing in the tall grass along the road to the campsite. What a wonderful welcome.


Up next: A few days in Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Junction and many stops near it. 

From our book:
DENVER, CO
Food:
  • Watch sunset on rooftop patio @ Linger Restaurant. Great view. Happy hour Tue-Fri 4-6:30 ** o 2030 W 30th Ave/Denver CO/80211
  • Farmers Markets
Free to do:
  • Hudson Gardens - 9-5 o 6115 S Santa Fe Dr/Littleton CO/80120
  • Museum of Outdoor Arts – indoor gallery Tue-Thu 10-5, Fri 10-4, Sat 11-4 –
    outdoor hours – sunrise to sunset. o 1000 Englewood Pkwy #2-230/Englewood CO/80110
  • US Mint Tour – must make reservation online, usmint.gov/mint_tours/index.cfm?action=StartReservation then click on Denver> Create Reservation o 320 W Colfax Ave/Denver CO/80204
  • Coors Brewery Tour – Thu-Mon 10-4, Sun 12-4 o 13th Street & Ford Street/Golden CO/80401
  • Hammonds Candy Factory Tour – Mon-Fri 9-3, Sat 10-3. o 5735 Washington St/Denver CO/80216
  • Washington Park o 891 S Downing St/Denver CO/80209
  • Cheesman Park – Has Denver Botanic Gardens o 1007 York St/Denver CO/80206
  • Cherry Creek Trail – don’t go after dark o 4785 S Dayton St/Greenwood Village CO/80111
  • Sand Creek Region Greenway o 3018 Sable Blvd/Aurora CO/80011
  • 16th Street Mall – 1.7 Mile long outdoor promenade. Cafes, stores along sides. o 1001 16th Street Mall/Denver CO/80265
  • 40 foot tall blue bear ouside Denver Convention Center o 700 14th St/Denver CO/80202
  • Dinosaur Ridge Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 10-5. o 16831 W Alameda Pkwy/Morrison CO/80465
  • Oktoberfest
Other:
  • Denver Museum of Contemporary Art - $5/student. Tue-Fri 12-9, Sat-Sun 10-
    5. o 1485 Delgany St/Denver CO/80202
  • Denver Art Museum - $10/students Tue-Sun 10-5, 8 on Friday o 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy/Denver CO/80204
  • Museum de las Américas = free 1st Fri 5-9 / $3 with i.d (Tue-Fri 10-5; Sat-Sun 12-5. Historical, cultural & visual arts from Latin America; educate via ancient & contemporary art o 861 Santa Fe Dr/Denver CO/80204
  • Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art - $6/Student. Tue-Sun 11-5.
    Museum is essentially a home décor museum. 2 Frank Lloyd Wright windows; arts & crafts; art noveau; bauhaus; art deco; CO painters/sculptors/ceramists/furniture designers o 1311 Pearl St/Denver CO/80203
  • Clyfford Still Museum - $6/Students. Tue-Sun 10-5, Fri to 8. o 1250 Bannock St/Denver CO/80204
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science = $8 (daily 9-5). One of the largest in US; health exhibits on how the body functions & changes; fossil lab on prehistoric journey with lights, sounds & vegetation; mummies; minerals; Native American culture; S Pacific Islands, Australia & Africa exhibits o 2001 Colorado Blvd/Denver CO/80205


BOULDER, CO
Food:
  • Restaurante 100% Mexicano. Highly rated Mexican, happy hour daily 3-6 (til 9 Saturdays). Mon-Sat 10-9, Sun 10-6. o 2850 Iris Ave/Boulder CO/80301


Free to do:
  • Boulder Creek Winery (tastings Thur-Sun 1-5:30) tastings are $5 for 6 wine
    ($3 refunded on a bottle purchase) o 6440 Odell Pl/Boulder CO/80301
  • Boulder Beer Company Tour = free & 1st come 1st serve tours (Mon-Fri @2; Sat @2 & 4). CO 1st microbrewery; history & science behind beer making; samples o 2880 Wilderness Pl/Boulder CO/80301
  • UC Museum of Natural History - $3 suggested. Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat 9-4, Sun 10-4. o 1030 N Broadway St/Boulder CO/80309
  • Leanin Tree Museum & Sculpture Garden of Western Art – Mon-Fri 8-6, Sat 9-
    5, Sun 10-5. - paintings & bronze sculptures of landscapes, cowboys, Native Americans, wildlife of the West; outdoor sculpture garden o 6055 Longbow Dr/Boulder CO/80301
  • Celestial Seasonings Tea Tour – Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 11-3. Artwork; marketing
    displays; tea tasting; production & packing tour; aromatic mint room; herb garden o 4600 Sleepytime Dr/Boulder CO/80301
  • Redstone Meadery – (free tasting Mon-Fri 12-6:30/ tours @ 1, 3; Sat 12-
    5/tours @ 12:30) o 4700 Pearl St #2A/Boulder CO/80301
  • Pearl Street Mall – ped mall o 1942 Broadway St #301/Boulder CO/80302
Other:
  • Tue & Thu 11-2 food trucks park in civic center
FT COLLINS, CO

Food:
MoJeauxs – Wednesdays 2for1 burgers 5-9, $1 pints 9-12. , $2 wells & select
micros 4-7 every day. o 820 City Park Ave/Fort Collins CO/80521

Free to do:
  • Budweiser Tour, Thu-Mon 10-4. o 2351 Busch Dr/Fort Collins CO/80524
  • Little Thompson Observatory – Sept 19 7pm – Public Star Night – Use telescope, see presentation. o S 8th St/Berthoud CO/80513
Rocky Mt National Park (Enter @ Estes Park) open 24/7. check road status online. 
o campground closing dates/full price: aspenglen 9/28 $20, Glacier Basin 9/7 $20, Longs Peak 11/3 $20, Moraine Park 9/28 $20/$14 water off,Timber Creek 11/3 $20/$14 water off. Reservations online (reserveamerica.com/recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777
Trail Ridge Road (Main road) closes Mid October

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