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Photo Diary: Colorado, Day 1, part 2

pdcolorado

After we left the Stanley Hotel, we drove back to the main road and stopped at KFC for lunch. I know; not very exciting but we were in a hurry and didn’t want to rush through a restaurant meal that really deserved more time than we had available. We ended up getting the 8 piece meal so we’d have something to eat later. Then we headed over to the jeep tour meeting place. (Click on photo to see larger on Flickr. There are also more photos in the Colorado Album, if you want to see them.)

We used Rocky Mountain Rush for our jeep tour and opted for the Panoramic Peak Tour, the medium wild with tower photo tour. It had begun to drizzle at this point, which was a little disappointing, but they gave us rain slickers and covered the seats of the 4 wheeler we would ride in. Now, I want to make something very clear here that I did not think of at the time. I’m fat. I readily admit it. I’m also not agile and my balance sucks. My brain did not make that connection with the fact that these are jeeps and thus pretty high off the ground. I needed a step ladder to get into and out of the jeep. They had one and besides some embarrassment and ungraceful moments on my part, it was fine. But there was no way I could haul myself in and out of those things without the step ladder. If you have problems with mobility, I suggest calling and asking a couple of questions just to see if this is for you. We did drive past the jeep they use for the milder tours that looked easier to manage, so don’t count yourself out until you check. Ok?

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Now, the tour we chose didn’t take us into Rocky Mountain National Park. (Again, I really suggest you call and double check everything. You’ll get more details talking with someone at Rush than just relying on the website like we did.) Our tour instead took up back up Highway 36 into the Roosevelt National Forest. It’s still forest and mountains but it’s not where we thought we were going. Our driver switched the jeep to four wheel drive and up the trail we went. There was a lot of pretty scenery and our driver was a wealth of information. We stopped once on the way up to wander around an aspen tree cluster and have some snacks. (He brought snacks for us and bottled water. I thought that was a nice touch.) I was very impressed with our driver. Then I hauled my ungraceful-self back up into the jeep and we headed to the top of the trail to the watch tower.

Alright, fair warning. The trail is rough. You will be tossed around. The jeep goes fairly slowly but it’s still a bumpy ride. Do not try and hold yourself still. You will pull something and be sore as hell the next day. (Yeah. Ow.) Be loose and sway with the jeep. You’ll be fine.

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

There I am in all my wind blown, pink cheeked glory. I’m in the blue jacket on the left. My travel companion is in the tan on the right.

When we reached the tower we all piled out and climbed up the stairs. I’m scared of heights but I was fine. The stairs are solid and I didn’t feel unsafe going up. There is a little room under the top deck if you don’t want to go all the way up. There were more snacks. (I had a mini pack of Oreos.) Then we all trooped up to the top. This is where the tour earns it panoramic title. It was a little cloudy but had stopped raining by that time and you could see all the way down into Estes Park and clear across the horizon. It was really a beautiful view.

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Way down there, kind of middle right, is the white speck that is the Stanley Hotel.

We spent around 15 minutes up there before heading back down to the jeep and then down the trail back to Estes Park. We didn’t see any animals up there; which I know disappointed my travel companion. It is a rather noisy jeep, so I think they know to steer clear. We then headed back into Estes Park and I kissed the ground when we finally stopped. I felt like a shaken cocktail by the end. Oh my god.

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

We headed to the hotel to check in after the jeep tour. We stayed at the Best Western Plus off of Big Thompson Ave. It was the most expensive hotel we stayed at during our trip, at about $130 for one night, but it was also the nicest. The room had its own mini fridge, microwave, and coffee pot. We booked a double room, so we each had our own full sized bed. They even had an indoor pool, although we did not have time to go for a dip. My only complaint is that the sink and vanity were pretty much out in the room. The toilet and shower were behind a door. I’m not really thrilled with the idea of someone being able to see me brush my teeth even if they are my friend.

My travel companion pulled out her laptop from her suitcase to see where we should have dinner. It was then that we discovered her bag had been pulled for a random search, they leave a little card inside, and they had pretty much broken everything inside while doing it. Her laptop screen was broken. Even the mirror in her makeup case had been shattered. It kind of put a downer on the trip. She called the airline and got the process for reimbursement started but it sucked. (And took her and her husband several months to get the full amount for what had been broken. One big headache.) I’m glad I thought to take my camera out of my bag before getting it checked. Honestly people, all of your electronics should travel on the plane with you. Airport personnel just sling those bags and suitcases through the air like it’s a game. If it cost you more than $20 to purchase, it should be in your carry on/backpack.

We headed out for dinner blind. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and we knew we’d find something. The main road through Estes Park is a cute strip with stores and restaurants and everything you could want. There is fast food, if you want to go simple, but we opted to eat at The GrubSteak. Why, you ask? Two words. Elk. Burgers. Like most non-cow burgers, the elk burgers there were juicy and yummy and probably one of the better burgers I’ve ever eaten. (I’ve had bison and venison [specifically deer] burgers too.) Too bad I had kind of lost my appetite from being tossed around in the jeep all afternoon and only managed to eat half my burger. I planned to eat the rest of it later but never got around to it. I mourned that uneaten elk burger. I really did.

We went back to the hotel and pretty much just crashed. My friend called her husband and her kids. We both showered and watched a little TV before pretty much zonking out. I got up in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf because my body hates me. We had plans to meet up with my friend that had moved to Colorado a couple years ago for breakfast. She was nice enough to drive up to Estes Park even though it was a workday for her. I was really excited to see her. And I don’t think she minded having an excuse to head into the mountain even for just a couple of hours.

On my next post, The Egg & I, up into the mountains we go, and then tumbling back down them.

Thank you for reading!

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Photo Diary: Colorado, Day 1, part 1

pdcolorado

Bad, blogger. Bad. This was supposed to be up Monday. What can I say? Procrastination is my worst bad habit.

Last year a friend and I took a trip to Colorado. We flew out of Lambert Saint Louis International Airport in Missouri early Tuesday, September 9th and then flew home from Denver International Airport early Saturday, September 13th. I must say, the Denver airport was the largest I’ve ever been in. You have to take a train – a train – to get from the main building to the terminal arms and even then you have to hoof it to your gate. That airport is freaking huge. It puts the Lambert Airport in Saint Louis to shame.

We landed in Denver around 8am, collected our bags after wandering around trying to figure out where the hell the baggage claim was (did I mention the Denver Airport was freakn’ huge?), and then caught the bus to our car rental place. I talked my travel buddy, Jamie, into springing for an upgrade on our rental car. She was going to get a compact car but I knew we’d be doing a lot of mountain driving and did not want to be sitting in a little car like that for the amount we planned to drive. We got a mid-sized SUV and were incredibly grateful that we did. It made a lot of difference in how safe we felt on those winding, high roads. Trust me, if you are traveling to mountain country for the first time, spring for a better car rental.

We headed for our first stop, Estes Park (elevation of 7,522 feet). Most of the way was highway driving but once you start climbing, you climb quick. Luckily it was sunny and beautiful on the way up and we reached Estes Park without problems. We had a tour at the infamous Stanley Hotel booked, which we were late for, but they just stuck us in the next tour. (Click on photos to see larger versions on my Flickr. Also, sorry for the freaking date stamp in the corner. They are all like that because I’m an idiot and forgot to turn it off.)

Colorado, Estes Park

The first photo of the trip, taken from the parking lot of the Stanley Hotel.

Our tour guide at the Stanley Hotel was funny, energetic, and a good story teller. We went up into the balcony section of the Concert Hall where our tour guide told us the basic story of Freelan Stanley and his wife Flora. We then went down into the empty Concert Hall and walked around. We saw the piano that Flora’s ghost supposedly plays, misplaced from its usual position in the main lodge building at that time. We returned to the main lodge building to tour the dining room, men’s lounge, and music room. Then our tour guide led us up the main stairway to the upper floors. We saw the door of Room 217, the room Stephen King stayed in where he had the inspiration for his book ‘The Shining’, but weren’t able to go in.

Stanely Hotel 5

Stanley Hotel 6

The front of the main lodge building.

We walked around the hallways while our tour guide told the story of ghost children heard playing at night and of a housekeeper who reportedly still continues her duties despite having died years before. I could have sworn I took at least one picture of the hallway while we were up on the fourth floor but for the life of me I can’t find it. It’s not on my camera either, even though I haven’t deleted any of the photos. Ugh! I wish I had taken more photos while we were on the upper floors but I was too busy listening to the tour guide and spaced.

We did have one slight ghostly encounter. Flora, Stanley’s wife, was said to wear rose perfume, which supposedly you are able to smell in odd places. Our tour guide had just told us this and then this floral scent overcame us as we were walking up the stairs. Someone else in our group asked “do you smell that?” and my travel buddy said she could. Jamie asked if I could too and I could but I can’t really accept it as paranormal because we were all trooping up the stairs, touching the polished wood banister that I know is probably cleaned with a scented cleaner, and then there was a cleaning cart in the hallway when we got up to the third floor. I think I sort of burst everyone’s bubble when I pointed it out. Sorry!

The tour guide then took us down to the basement and the tunnels. She told us about the story of the maintenance workers seen down there and about her own experience seeing someone out of time and place. I really enjoyed the whole tour. It was interesting, even for those who might be less enthused about the paranormal aspect and just there for the history and architecture.

We did some wondering around the lobby and the gift shop at the end before leaving for lunch. The Stanley Hotel is a beautiful place and I’m glad we went. This was one of the things that my travel buddy agreed to for my sake. I don’t think Jamie had any interest in it but there was no way I was going to Estes Park without seeing the most haunted building in Colorado!

Stanley Hotel 3

Stanley Hotel 9

A couple pictures of the main stairway in the lobby.

Stanley Hotel 2

The lobby.

Stanley Hotel 1

The Stanley Steamer car on display in the lobby.

Stanley Hotel 8

Safe on display downstairs.

Stanley Hotel 13

Plaque out on the front porch.

Stanley Hotel 4

Stanley Hotel 7

A couple of photos from the front veranda of the Stanley Hotel.

It was nice and sunny when we arrived at the Stanley Hotel but by the time was left it had started to rain. We had lunch at a KFC, of all things, and then headed over to the jeep tour. I’ll talk about that and show you the photos next week. Estes Park was an adorable little town. The main street is lined with restaurants, more interesting than KFC chicken, I promise, little shops, and boutiques. I bought a couple of post cards and a key chain from the “trading depot” and some loose leaf tea from the tea shop. (More about that later.) I plan to go back at some point. We only spent a day and a half there before going south and I wish we’d stayed longer. Estes Park was the prettiest part to the whole trip, in my opinion.

Up next week: the jeep tour and the hotel.

Thank you for reading!

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