Saturday, July 17, 2010

Roaring Through the Rockies, Day 10

This post is going to be brief. We got up this morning in Colorado Springs, grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and got on the road. We made it back to the Harley dealership at around 10:15 and got the bike returned. After 637 miles, the bike was back home, and we were on our way.

Sure, if we really tried, we may have been able to catch a Southwest flight home, but we decided to enjoy the day around Denver. We checked into the hotel, relaxed for a bit and made sure everything was ready for the flight tomorrow.

We then went to the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. The pedestrian mall is a nice concept, but it seems to be getting overrun by the homeless and/or street performers. We grabbed lunch and then went to see "The Sorcerers Apprentice." We all enjoyed the movie. It's definitely not going to win any awards, but it's a nice 2 hour diversion. Brenda and I both liked the nod to the original with the dancing brooms, etc.

After the movie, we finished our walk, then got in the car and drove by The Pepsi Center. We got back to the hotel, grabbed some dinner, now it's time to wind down and get ready for the flight tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get home and get our bags in time to make it to Delray before 6:00 to get the dogs.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Roaring Through the Rockies, Day 9

We started off with a late start this morning. It was nice to be able to sleep in a bit. We got out of the room around 9:30 and headed to breakfast. One of the guys at the hotel suggested The Western Omelette. After looking at the reviews on Trip Advisor, I wasn't sure about this, because the other place that they recommended was just above this, and that place was not that great. We got there and ordered. Brenda got a "Harley" which was 2 eggs, 3 strips of bacon (extremely big, thick, bacon), and a plate size pancake. When they said plate size, they weren't joking. That thing was huge. I got an omelet with sausage and mushrooms. I also got their chili on the side. Now, remember this is not beef chili like one would think, this is sort of like a green chili gravy. I got the mild, which was actually hot, but very good. The waitress gave me a bit of the hot on the side, I was too wimpy to try it. She said it was made with habaneros, which was too hot for me. Regardless, I asked if we could ship some of this back home, which unfortunately we could not.

After breakfast we went to the Garden of the Gods. We drove around for about an hour or so, stopping to take some pictures and everything. We then went to the gift shop, then headed to Santa's Workshop.

The kids loved Santa's Workshop. The park included rides that one would typically find in a fair, basically a lot of rides that go around in circles sometimes very fast. We spent about 3 hours there until we did everything they had to offer.

After the workshop, we went to the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company for an early dinner. The beer was good, I had a bison burger, and Brenda had the regular burger. Both were very good, and the price was very reasonable compared to some other meals we have had on this trip.

Tomorrow, we are heading back to Denver in the morning to return the bike, then maybe go into downtown Denver, walk around the pedestrian mall, show my son where the Avalanche play, and possibly go see a movie. The vacation is definitely winding down.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Roaring Through the Rockies, Day 8

Today we made it to the top of Pike's Peak. My original plan was to ride to the top while Brenda and the kids took the cog railway. A couple of days ago, I was thinking about it more, and decided that I had not spent as much time with the family as I wanted to on the family vacation due to being on the bike. I decided to forgo the bike ride up the mountain and take the cog railroad with everyone. When we got to the top, I saw a couple of guys who obviously rode up, and I asked them how it went. Now, these guys definitely seemed like more seasoned riders than I am. They said that it was OK, except for the 5 or so miles of gravel due to the construction going on. Now, knowing how I felt at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park, with that construction, I was glad I made the decision to ride the train. Additionally, the guy I was talking to said it would be even more fun going down. We then both joked about staying in first and riding the clutch the whole way down.

I can also tell you that trying to walk around at 14,115 feet I definitely felt some altitude sickness coming on. I felt the shortness of breath and lightheaded, it was a sort of weird sensation, and as fascinated as I am with Everest, and the people that are able climb it, I can definitely understand why they would spend so much time at base camp just to get acclimated. The fact that base camp for Everest is 3,000 to 4,000 feet above the summit of Pike's Peak is just crazy. Oh well, that's what I get for living at sea level. Maybe I can continue to try to get Brenda to move out here so I can get ready to spend the night at Everest base camp.

Moving on, after we made it back down to the train station, we went over to Santa's Workshop. We decided that due to the time we would go back there tomorrow, since it would probably be a couple of hours to get through the park. We then came back to the hotel for the kids to go swimming for a little bit before we went to our dinner.

Our dinner tonight was at the Flying W Ranch. If you have ever been to the Hoop De Doo Revue at Disney, this is sort of like that, only not as campy. They offer a "chuck wagon" dinner, which is beans, applesauce, baked potato, your choice of beef or chicken (steak is a $7 upgrade), biscuit, and spice cake. The food was really good and filling (although my son actually went back for seconds). After dinner, they had their show, which was just four guys playing country music. The show was very good, and the whole family enjoyed it.

Tomorrow, the plan is to go to Garden of the Gods, then back to Santa's Workshop. After that we'll see what time it is and how everyone feels, and decide if we want to do something else like Cave of the Winds or the Olympic Training center. However, knowing the kids, we'll probably just come back to the hotel so they can go swimming.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Roaring Through the Rockies, Day 5, 6, 7

Continuing in Glenwood Springs, the hotel was just acceptable. The room was big enough, and at least there was a door separating us from the kids. However, the A/C was extremely loud, and the view from the bedroom window was of I-70.

After waking up, we went to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Overall, we had a good time. They have a "self-propelled" roller coaster called the Alpine Slide, we all had fun on that. They also have a human maze that if you complete it within a certain time limit, you get a crappy prize (think of something you might get out of a gumball machine), there is also laser tag, the cave tour, and the giant canyon swing. I was actually amazed that my son was willing to go on the swing with Brenda. The swing is one of those mechanical ones where you are sitting in a roller coaster type seat and it swings you out over the side of the mountain. I was not willing to do it. the only downside to the whole day was when we were on the cave tour and the tour guide basically kicked a couple off the tour because their two year-old daughter was talking. He said they could get a refund, but I don't think anyone was really bothered by it, and he could have handled the situation differently.

After the adventure park, we took the relatively short drive into Aspen. Once we got to the hotel, we were told we could park in the garage. We'll just say that trying to park a Tahoe in their garage is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I spoke with the guy at the desk, and he then told me that usually the bigger cars are parked on the street as long as you can find a spot. After we showered, we went to meet my Houston family for dinner. We got in the car (that took us a good 10-15 minutes to park in the garage), got out of the garage, and entered the address into the GPS. Well, it turned out the place was about two blocks away. I dropped Brenda and the kids off and went back to park the car in the designated section in the street. After dinner (a really good buffalo rib eye), we walked back, and the kids played in the park for a while.

We got up the next morning for our horseback riding adventure. Of course we had breakfast first. We went to a place that was recommended by the guy at the front desk. The place was called Poppycock's. They had good oatmeal pancakes, and that was about the extent of why this place was good. The omelet that I had was OK, but it just wasn't worth the $10.25 price, oh I forgot, + $2.00 because I got egg whites. When we asked if my daughter could have a refill for her chocolate milk, the waitress said "NO" almost in a tone that I thought she was joking, she wasn't. She said she would have to charge us for the refill. Well, with tip and everything, the breakfast came to $65. That is when I realized that Aspen was way too expensive for my tastes.

Our horseback ride was fun. However, the horse I was on had two speeds, slow and stop. Regardless, we all had a great time. After the ride, the kids went swimming for a little while, and then I took them to go see "Despicable Me." Brenda met us after the movie, and we had dinner.

This morning we got up and moving relatively early because we were heading into Colorado Springs. My whole goal of this trip was to make it past Independence Pass alive, and with no damage to the bike. Some of the corners looked familiar, but I was not able to pick out where I had dumped the bike before. The road going up out of Aspen was a little harrowing at times with it narrowing around corners, and multiple corners and S-turns. However, after making it to the top at 12,000 ft+, going down was easy. Oh, the bike and I made it in one piece. We stopped for an early lunch in Salida, then went to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. We took the tram across, walked back across the bridge, where the kids had a good time seeing all the state flags, and we went on the vertical train. We left the Royal Gorge around 3:00, and decided it was just best to follow the GPS to get to the hotel, instead of taking the scenic route through Cripple Creek and the mountains. We made it to the hotel, relaxed for about an hour, I showered, and we went to dinner.

Tomorrow is Pike's Peak, possibly Garden of the Gods, and Santa's workshop. Once again, I'm still working on posting pictures, I just keep doing these entries on my computer, and all the pictures are on Brenda's.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Roaring Through the Rockies, Day 3 & 4

After waking up and getting moving yesterday, we went and had an excellent breakfast at The Mountain Home Cafe in Estes Park. The Huevos Rancheros were out of this world, and the pancakes were phenomenal. After breakfast we went to our ghost tour at The Stanley hotel. The tour was very informative about the history of the Stanley, and gave some ghost stories. We just didn't expect it to take as long as it did. After the tour, we had lunch, and got on the road. Even though it would have been nicer to get an earlier start, we actually got going probably closer to 2:00 - 2:30.

We headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the ride up was really good. However, once we got closer to the top of the mountain, they were doing road construction. Thankfully, the construction crew wasn't out yesterday. However, the road was very gravelly(sp?). The road condition made it very difficult to find the "sweet spot" in the road. I made it through, and probably got a couple of people behind me upset for going so slow, but, oh well. We made it to the top, and made a pit stop at the tourist center. On the way down, the road was at least paved, but once again, I was taking it slow and easy. Then the deluge began. Rain on a mountain doesn't start as a drizzle, and get progressively worse, it starts hard and gets harder. Additionally, my brand new rain gear was in the car with Brenda and the kids, who had gotten ahead of me due to people either coming out of the tourist center, riding their brakes and stopping down the mountain, or stopping to take pictures of moose. With the rain, it also got dark, combine that with a tinted shield on my helmet and wearing sunglasses, and well, it wasn't a pleasant ride. by the time I passed where Brenda had pulled over, and I found another spot to pull over, I was already soaked, and just wanted to keep moving to get out of the rain. She said at one point the thermometer in the car read 45 degrees, picture that temperature being cold, wet, and moving at about 40 MPH. Yeah, as cool as the ride was, that part wasn't fun.

We got out of the park, and did the remainder of our driving for the day and got to Winter Park at about 5:15. The kids did a "Child's Night Out" where they had dinner, played games, and made S'mores while Brenda and I had dinner and walked around the village. The condition was that we spent $60 ($30/child) in the village, and the child care was free. Well, considering the village is almost a ghost town in the summer, luckily, the dinner was $50 alone, so we just had to spend an additional $10, so Brenda got a couple of magnets, and we had coffee.

We really (Brenda especially) like the hotel. She said in a couple of years she would love to go back there with the kids for skiing in the winter. If you want to check out a nice hotel, look at the Zephyr Mountain Lodge.

While we were walking around the village, we asked someone working in the gift shop where a good place to get breakfast would be. He suggested Carvers. Carvers is not easy to find if you don't know it's there. The restaurant had about 10 tables inside, and maybe that many outside, I didn't really see. The breakfast once again was amazing. I had an egg white omelet with blackened chicken, avocado, cheese, and some Mexican type sauce.

After breakfast we got on the road to head towards Glenwood Springs. We were following the map I plotted out, but somewhere missed a turn and got to I-70 about 15 miles east of where I wanted to get it. Unfortunately, we didn't follow the Colorado River as much as I wanted to, because we missed the sign for the Colorado River Road. Regardless, the drive was very scenic, and even the drive on I-70 was scenic, it was very interesting going through some of the tunnels with my sunglasses on, but I just kept at a constant speed and followed the person in front of me.

Once I got to Glenwood Springs, I was sort of on my own. Earlier, before we actually got on I-70, we stopped for lunch. As we were eating, I noticed some very ominous looking rain clouds and really wanted to get going to avoid them. Brenda said to get going and she would catch up to me. As cautious as I have been going, and with her in the car, I figured she would catch up to me before the 41 miles it was to get here. Well, even though she was going over the speed limit, and I was going under, she didn't catch up, so I didn't know the exact way to get to the hotel. Additionally, the signage after getting off I-70 sucks to say the very least. I should have taken a left, and took a right. I finally stopped and asked, and realized where I should have taken the left. Once I got to the road the hotel was on, the signage on the hotel wasn't very good because the words blended into the building, so, I still drove past it. Well, I finally made it, and now I'm posting this blog, and the kids are using the indoor pool.

I'll try to put up some pictures later, they are all on Brenda's computer.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Roarin' Through the Rockies Day 1 & 2

I'm combining the first two days, because the technical first day was just the flight into Denver. During the flight, I was speaking to the guy next to me. I told him about the route I was going to take, and he made a suggestion to go through Boulder on the way up to Estes. I'm glad we did. To start off with, the flight was uneventful. We made it into Denver with no problem. After getting our luggage, we went to get the rental car. I had originally reserved a midsize car. When I went to the lot to get it, I asked which had the most trunk space, since we all had our own suitcase, and a couple of carry-ons. The person told me to get the Dodge Caliber, since it was a hatchback. Well, I pulled it around to put the stuff in there, and it couldn't even fit the two big suitcases. I then went inside to get a bigger car, well, we ended up with a Chevy Tahoe.

The hotel was just outside of the airport. We had dinner at Ted's Montana Grill. Brenda's steak was really good, and I entered the clean plate club with the Bison meatloaf. Needless to say, we may go back there when we get back to Denver next Saturday.

After we got up and had breakfast, we went to go pick up the bike. I knew I had to get new rain gear, which I did (and will probably pretty much guarantee it's not going to rain). I also got a new jacket. The jacket can be used in cold or warm weather as it has a removable liner. I got the bike, and headed out to Boulder. We stopped and went to the Pearl Street Mall, and had a really good sandwich at snarfs. After lunch we walked around the mall a bit, then took off towards Estes Park. We both enjoyed our first taste of mountain roads, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and beyond. In a way, it's sort of like being on a roller coaster that you control.

After getting into Estes and checking into the hotel, we went for a ride on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway, where we were able to feed chipmunks peanuts by hand. After the tramway, we had a B-B-Q dinner at Smokin' Dave's. The St. Louis ribs were really good, the Bison baby back ribs were a little tough and not very meaty. Although there is a rodeo in town, we decided to just come back to the room and relax.

I've had a headache today, and I'm not sure if it's from a lack of caffeine, or if it's the altitude. A couple of Tylenol seems to have helped.

Tomorrow it's a ghost tour at the Stanley Hotel, the ride into Winter Park, then "Kid's Night Out" where Brenda and I can have dinner together while the kids do activities and make S'mores.

Here are some pictures:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vacation all I ever wanted

I guess the name of my blog should really be "Very Select Days in the Life of Evan." I tend to get caught up in every day life, such as working and getting my kids to whatever activity they need to be at, and forget for long stretches to actually post something on this blog. Well, once again, the best laid plans may or may not come true. We are going on vacation, as I think I may have put in an earlier post, the vacation is going to Colorado with me on a motorcycle, and the family following in a rental car. I am hoping that I can post a daily recount of what we did each day. We'll see how tired we are at the end of the day, and how much the kids will actually let me get on the computer at night. To begin with, here is the map of our trip.

As you can see, I am trying my best to avoid any major highways, and get some nice twisty, scenic mountain roads. I had some pointers on places to go from Brian Ibbott who has a podcast called Coverville, you should really check it out, he does a great job. I also got some last minute pointers from Ken Bingenheimer, who I found his blog about Motorcycle riding in Colorado. Ken said I had a good route picked, but let me know that the last leg between Royal Gorge and Colorado Springs looked boring, and I should try an alternate. Looking at the map, I think he definitely made the right call, and I'm glad that the last bit won't be boring.

We are planning on a ghost tour of the Stanley Hotel, which is where Stephen King got the inspiration for The Shining. We are also planning a horseback ride when we are in Aspen, and a cuckwagon dinner in Colorado Springs. Aside from that, the only other plan I had to make due to the possibility of it selling out was to get Brenda and the kids on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway so I could meet them at the top when I ride the bike up there.

Brenda did make it clear that she didn't want me making a lot of plans, and didn't want to be forced to be at a certain place at a certain time. Considering how I usually plan things, this is tame for me, and Brenda was agreeable.

Anyway, I'll do my best to blog from the road, and hopefully upload some pictures along the way.