July 21, 2015
So, I’m sitting in a bar in the Austin airport a few hours before flying back to GA. I had an amazing few days of vacation in Colorado and have had a couple of long days of meetings for work here in Austin. This trip definitely put me back on wanting to get out on the road. Why? For the most part, a combination of a growing romance with my “Colorado girlfriend”, the mountains themselves, some restlessness regarding Athens, and a growing sense that I’m getting older and this is the time to make my dreams come true.
Red Rock formation along the road into Red Rocks park.
Red Rocks amphitheater.
A quick summary of the trip. I flew in Wednesday. The Colorado girlfriend (“TCG” for short) and I hit some golf balls at the range in anticipation of playing the next day, and then went to see Death Cab for Cutie at Red Rocks, which instantly became my favorite outdoor music venue. It is part of a larger park and the setting of being between huge red rock cliffs in a natural amphitheater while looking out and down across the Denver skyline and sprawl, is pretty dang hard to beat. We stayed up drinking bourbon and talking until 4 AM or so.
Yours truly and the “Colorado girlfriend”. She skis, hikes, golfs, rides a motorcycle, and skydives. Plus she’s cute. Me likey!
Denver lights in the background during the show.
The next day, we played golf at a cute little course near her house. We played with her Dad and one of her friends. I have heard a lot about her Dad over the last few years, and it was fun to meet him. My golf game went much better than expected overall. After a rough start due to not playing in over a year, a lack of sleep, and a mild hangover, I played the last 12 or so holes very well considering. I guess my recent success at the driving range really paid off. We had dinner at the course, and crashed after we got home, sleeping from 6 PM straight through to the next morning.
Here’s my driver swing. Other than that little dip at the start of the downswing, not too bad considering how little I’ve played.
On the road to Estes Park. Due to above-average rain, the hills were very green for Colorado.
Friday was an awesome day. We had a leisurely start and then headed for Rocky Mountain National Park (“RMNP”). Even though TCG has lived in the area for several years, she had not made it up to RMNP or to Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the continental U.S. that goes up and over the Continental Divide. We entered RMNP through Estes Park after getting stuck in a traffic jam in Boulder. After taking in some sights at the lower elevations, we did a hike up to Bierstadt Lake, an absolutely beautiful high altitude lake. We then continued on to Bear Lake, which always has a stunning view of Flatiron Peak in the background.
This view of Bierstadt Lake makes the hard uphill climb to get here completely worthwhile.
Bear Lake always has wonderful views. Going snowshoeing here in the winter is on the bucket list!
Along the way, we were rained and hailed on as part of a high-altitude summer freak storm. Even though there was some considerable lightening and thunder around, we made it through unscathed. We hiked about 5 miles or so, mostly uphill, and the altitude took its toll. My back was also killing me from golf the day before. The message was rapidly becoming clear – if I’m going to do things like hike Long’s Peak (on the bucket list), I better do it while most of my body is still working.
The last 6 months or so I have been feeling stiff in the mornings, and not always in the fun way. I’m talking about my back. It is hurting. This is not a total surprise – my back is crooked as hell and I’ve been swinging the golf clubs a lot lately, but haven’t completely gotten the smooth swing nailed down. I’m looking forward to having more time for yoga and exercise now that work has gotten less busy, but I am becoming aware of an aging body for the first time. And from everyone I know that is older than me, it only gets worse. I’m not complaining, but I am beginning to realize that there are certain things that I would like to do in this life that may be running out of time. It is rapidly becoming a now or never sort of calling for lots of things that I like to do.
Back to the trip. I was initially disappointed by the lack of elk hanging out in the giant meadows at the lower elevations of the park. TCG had expressed the desire to see a moose (perhaps called a caribou in CO?, but she was from upstate New York, so she knows more about moose than I do being from GA), but I had mentioned that I wasn’t sure there were any moose in the park. Turns out we both got our wishes. Apparently the elk move up in elevation in the summer; we ran into a bunch of them between 11,000 and 12,000 feet. A few of the males were showing off near a trail that went up to over 12,000 feet. We also saw a bunch of marmot, cute little high-altitude ground-like critters. Then, after we descended down the west side of the Divide, we came across an area with a bunch of cars pulled off. A moose! As always, RMNP did not disappoint. It is one of my favorite places in the world.
This was the first group of elk that we came across.
We got a great look at the second group near the highest point on Trail Ridge Road, at almost 12,000 feet.
After we left RMNP, we stopped and ate dinner at a family run Italian restaurant called Mustachios. The food was good but not great, the atmosphere was warm and friendly, and the view of Lake Granby and the surrounding mountains were stunning. Of much interest to me were the numerous campgrounds in the area where I got good cell phone and data reception, meaning that I could easily work there. You can tell where that thought is going. We enjoyed some fine cocktails on the deck as hummingbirds buzzed us and the sun went down. It was a great ending to a wonderful day. We were both fairly worn out from the last couple of days, but our lulls in conversation were not at all uncomfortable. Upon arriving home after a fairly long drive, we curled up for a horror vampire movie that turned out to be pretty good. I’m not even sure the name, but we were able to add slightly off vampire movies to the growing list of things that we seemed to have in common. We stayed up talking all night again, this time to nearly 6 AM. Yikes!
The view out of Mustachios. Not too shabby!
Perhaps I should live on a sailboat here on Lake Granby.
Italian food after a long day of driving and hiking — we are stuffed and happy.
After sleeping in to lunch, we grilled out burgers and brats in the Colorado sunshine. We then went R.V. shopping. Well, more accurately, we checked out a bunch of travel trailers, a couple of truck trailers, and one or two Class B+ motorhomes. We had noticed several dealers along I-70 as we were driving down from the mountains, and after a couple of days in Colorado, I was ready to see what these might look like and how much they might cost. We started small and cheap, like this Cherokee Wolf Cub model. We then looked slightly bigger, like this Cherokee Grey Wolf model. The former was too small to lie in full time, but the latter I could definitely live in. The prices were more reasonable than I expected. We joked about various aspects of the trailers and fantasized about trips that we might take. It was very obvious that a condition for TCG to join me on any such trip was to have a self-contained unit with a private bathroom. Sounds reasonable to me. I was surprised about the value of the trailers. The only catch is….I would have to get rid of Volga and get a pickup. I’m not saying that would be awful, but I love that car and I wouldn’t want to give it up unless I was really going on the road full-time. We did come across another option, which was a Class B+ motorhome. But on a Ford 350 chassis, this self-contained RV had a little bit less room than the travel trailers, but still had surprising room inside and had the advantage of being able to tow Volga (and perhaps my little trailer full of recreational equipment as well) behind. From a little searching, I have found that these Class B+ homes start at about $70K new. If I got rid of my apartment, that is definitely doable, especially if I spend a bunch of time parked at houses of friends and family. This option would also be better in the winter than a travel trailer, since it is mostly enclosed and they often come with generators. More on this below.
We picked up everything required to make some awesome Moscow Mules, complete with copper mugs. After a couple of warm-up drinks, we headed out for an awesome sushi dinner. Dinner was good, and the rest of the night was amazing.
We were pretty quiet as she drove me to the airport Sunday. Neither of us wanted this trip to end. But it is fueling my desire to figure out how to make this dream of spending more time in other places a reality. I can tell that I’m getting closer! I can’t wait to get back to this place and to the TCG. Who knows – maybe our ski and outdoors romance will turn into something. Only one way to find out! Here’s a few more random pics from the trip. Enjoy!