Monday, September 26, 2011

Bye, Bye Durango - Hello, Estes Park

Originally published in My Trip Journal on June 5, 2011

Estes Park feels like home!! We were in this same cabin for three weeks in May/June of 2009 and it remains one of the coziest places we've ever stayed. We are on the outskirts of Estes Park, out of the tourist fray, but within easy walking distance. We are nine feet from the banks of the Big Thompson River which normally flows peacefully, but today is a raging river that promises to rise even higher over the coming days due to record breaking snowfall amounts which, thanks to several days of higher than average temps, is now melting quickly. Our landlords have assured us they are monitoring the situation closely and for us not to worry - just enjoy the sight and sounds of the rushing water.

As is our custom, we will spend a quiet laid-back "day after travel" day. We enjoyed "worshiping" with our own church family this morning via the live webcast and now Bill has settled in for a Sunday afternoon nap. We'll drive up into the park (Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) later this afternoon to get some advice on clear trails and snowmelt progress, then I suspect, we'll need to walk into town this evening to make certain the ice cream store was able to continue operating after we left two years ago!

We had a really nice last day in Durango on Friday. After a short hike, we drove up to
Honeyville . Another "quirky" thing I always do in pre-trip planning is find something "local" in the area we are to visit, so we can contribute to the local economy. These visits are always trip highlights. Our two spots in Durango were Durango Joes Coffee Company and Honeyville. Between the two, let's just say the local economy has been supported and remember, gifts are forthcoming to all who assure me they have read every journal entry!! Follow the link to learn the Honeyville story, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and were fortunate to spend time one of the co-owners who answered our questions about the giant beehive and honeycomb actually located in the center of the factory store. They were bottling Chokeberry Syrup while we were there, so we got to watch that process as well. Nice, nice people and a fun place to visit.

We've realized that a tradition of revisiting our favorite places in a community seems to have taken hold as the agenda for last days. Following the short drive to Honeyville, we headed back downtown and took a final stroll down historic Third Ave. where all the impeccably restored grand Victorian homes are located and then went to Durango Joe's to stock up on their delicious coffee.

There is ALWAYS something going on in Durango. Last weekend, it was the Iron Horse Classic, this weekend is was to be the Man Cook. On Friday afternoon, some pretty fancy set-up was already taking place and we could tell it was going to be quite the event on Saturday morning. I'm here to tell you, my "man" can cook and he'd have given any one of them a run for their money, so kind of sorry we had to miss that. But it was time to move on.

With a long day of travel ahead and the need for a very early departure, we did something we don't usually do. We have the packing and loading thing down to a very efficient system and can normally do it in about an hour, so we try to avoid losing an entire day by spending any part of it packing, but in this instance, we felt the car and the bikes needed to be loaded so we could guarantee ourselves a departure no later than 7:00 a.m. So that's what we did late Friday afternoon. Having that done and off our minds, my man did his version of Man Cook and grilled some fabulous steaks, baked potatoes and asparagus for our final Durango dinner.

We were on the road right on time Saturday morning for the final trip across the Million Dollar Highway. First break was two hours later for another sugar high from the to-die-for Cinnamon Rolls at Artisan Bakery in Ouray.

I tend to estimate travel times based on mileage and thought this would be a similar travel day to our trip from Colorado Springs to Durango. What I failed to consider was the difficulty of this trip by comparison. Colorado Springs to Durango was lots of level, flat, straight and rural driving with only one significant (Wolf Creek) mountain pass. After eight (more than 10,000 feet) passes yesterday, I stopped counting. Neither of us are prone to motion sickness, but I'll have to say we were both a little green around the gills and all to happy to see Estes Park. The drive was stunningly beautiful and there really wasn't any alternative, but in retrospect, I might have broken it up into two days and spent one night in Carbondale (an eclectic little town where we ate lunch in their city park) or Glenwood Springs.

After a quick stop in Boulder for a hamburger at
Smashburger, we drove the last 30 miles to Estes Park. Speaking of Smashburger, it was one of our "local" finds the last time we were in Colorado and I couldn't wait to have another. IMHO, it is the ONLY place that gives Five Guys a true run for their money. No Smashburger in Tennessee yet - I hope its only a matter of time! And what a fitting place to enjoy our 34th anniversary dinner. It was delicious and even as tired as we were, it was fun.

Bill was a tad greener around the gills than I was, so after we unloaded the car, he took a quick nap while I did some unpacking. But neither of us stayed awake for long and we both had the best night's sleep since we left home. I can truly say this FEELS like home and it's going to be a great two weeks.

Honeyville and I thank you for reading!

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