Monday, 23 September 2019

Last day in Colorado

Day 4- Last full day in Colorado

Saturday morning began late, we had a very lazy morning and spent the time updating the blog and reading. We even had our breakfast of fruit and yogurt in bed. Just what we needed after a busy few days.

Around 11am we felt it was time to get ready and head out for the day. We never had much planned but did know that we
wanted to visit the 'Celestial Seasonings' factory, so we headed of to Boulder and Sleepytime Drive - Celestial Seasonings are a tea company specialising in herbal and fruit infusions since the 60's and are a leading brand in the States, but not sold in the UK.

Arriving at the factory, we spotted a ton of Prairie Dogs as we drove up to park the car, such characters. When we arrived we were given a 1pm slot for the free tour, we had about 20  minutes to go so while we waited we were able to sampled the teas that were out. They had about 6 teas made up to try and would make up any of their extensive collection at your request. For some reason we didn't take any photos apart from one with the sleepytime tea bear ( sleepytime being their best selling tea and the bear that appears on the box's artwork).

It was soon time to don our hairnets and in Paul's case a beard net as well, and we were ready to enter the working factory. The tour is a nice little history of the company and jaunt around the factory, we checked out the tea plant  room where they have small amount of black, white and green tea to add to some of their blends then onto the peppermint room where they store all of the mint used in their teas, it was a glorious smell of a little overwhelming. As it was a Saturday there wasn't much happening in the factory so didn't really see the machines at work - however we both agreed that our favourite was the "tea bagging" machine, yes we are not 15 years old but innuendos like that do make us snigger!

The tour is well worth doing if you find your self in the area with a bit of time. After stocking up on teas in the shop, including both old favourites and some new ones we've yet to try we went back to the car. 

On opening the boot - or trunk to you Americans - we were overwhelm by the smell of beer. On closer inspection we realised that one of the cans of beer we picked up had managed to be punctured and half the floor was wet through and now smelt like a brewery - very poor form!

Not really having any plans we hit up 'the Rayback Collective" at Boulder.

It's a great concept, a bar selling craft beers and a coffee bar, then they have 2-3 food trucks which change half way through the day. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh hand rolled pasta with garlic alfresco sauce that we share along with a crooked stave sour rose wild ale from Devour for me, whilst Paul stuck with coke.

We decided that we would head back to the Airbnb  via Walgreens for Paul to pick up some medicated lip salve, as his lips seemed to have dried out like the desert and Starbucks for coffee to go.

Around 6.30 we headed out, yes in search of more food and beer! After passing several restaurant none of which we fancied, we found ourselves back at Wonderland brewery again.

We sat outside enjoying the last of the daylight sharing a mushroom flatbread and for me, a pumpkin-delicious ale and a "ickle" pour of silverball stout while Paul enjoy pints of 3-putt pale ale and one he can't remember, must be his age!

We both suddenly came over tired - maybe the altitude getting to us - a windy walk back with a few spots of rain in the air, lucky we had coats and hats, a very quick stop at Wholefoods for breakfast supplies and we were home and straight to bed.

Fact of the Day - The difference between black, green and white tea - To make black tea, the leaf is first rolled and crushed so it oxidised. Green tea is the same leaves but are quickly steamed to minimise oxidation. And fine white tea is made by harvesting the leaves before they are fully open a few days of the year with minimal processing.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Birthday in the Rocky Mountains

Day 3  - 20th September 2019

Birthday Day! We both woke early - around 5.15 am - but it was only to be expected after going to bed around 9 pm. We decided we might as well get up and on with the day, but first we had to get down to the important business of opening the mountain of presents and cards, so many lovely gifts and well wishes.

We breakfasted on french pastries and before we knew it it was time to head to The Rocky Mountain National Park - the first of 3 National Parks we shall visit on this trip. It took about an hour to drive there, skirting Boulder and passing through the very lovely Roosevelt National Forest to Estes Park and the gateway to the Rocky Mountains.

By 9.30 am we had brought our 'America the Beautiful' pass, (entrance to each of the 3 parks we will be visiting is 30 dollars, the pass is $80 and valid until next September and will give us entry to National Parks, Forests and Battlefields).

From the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on the East side of the Park we drove down towards Bear Lake, We hadn't travelled very far when we noticed a herd of Elk in the Moraine Park area, so we  stopped the car to take a better look. What a start to our visit, framed by wonderful scenery was a male Elk and his harem of around 20 females, keeping our distance we got out the binoculars and set up the camera for a better look. It was then we noticed another 2 Male Elk in the vicinity, alas a rut between charging bulls didn't happen but still a spectacular sight to witness.

Continuing on to Bear Lake notices informed us that the parking lot was full and to use the shuttle, well on reaching the shuttle parking we noticed the line queuing from the shuttle was heaving and one bus had just left. As much as we would have liked to have walked around the Lake doing it with so many people didn't really appeal - it was only a short half mile trail! - so we double backed on ourselves and pulled into Mill Creek Trail for a mile round trip walk. Wow the scenery is stunning!

Cracking open the trail mix we headed back towards the visitors centre and onto the 48 mile "Trail Ridge Road" through the Park. Connecting Estes Park on the East, to Grand Lake on the West, its the  highest continuous paved road in the United States, traversing forest of Aspens, Pine, Fir and Spruce, before climbing above the tree line and reaching alpine tundra and a high of 12,183 feet for views as far away as Wyoming and the Great Plains and into the heart of the Rocky Mountains. 

We stopped along the way at Rainbows Curve lookout to take in the spectacular vista, 10,829ft and just above the treeline looking over Horseshoe Park.

Journeying on gaining elevation, we witness the changing of landscape and begin to feel the temperature dropping - it is normally 20-30 degrees cooler then down in Estes Park - by the time we reach the Lava Fields pullout it is 10 degrees and rather windy. We could still see areas of ice that have remained all throughout the Summer.

We made it to the top of the Ridge Line and to the Alpine Visitor Centre where we were able to grab some light refreshments of coffee and a peanut butter bar, along with the obligatory postcards. 11,796ft up above sea-level and with conditions resembling those found in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic, its rather splendid, Quite a view to have will your morning coffee!

We began the descent down towards Grand Lake, passing the most amazing views, we can understand why its been named ................ 

Not far from the end of the road we pulled in to another trail head, unfortunately there was no parking spots but we did see a beautiful female deer just near the entrance. Never mind it was only a few minutes before we were able to pull in and get out onto the Colorado River and Red Mountain Trail, a short hike through meadow, before a short pull upwards, continuing through forest before met the river then returning back to the car the way we came.

After driving onto the Parks West exit, we had a brief stop for toilet then turning a round took the Trail Ridge Road back again to the Park's East Entrance. We pull off at several places catching the odd glimpse of autumn coming through - we were probably and week to early sadly to see the spectacular colours. 

We drove back across the Continental Divide before making one last around Beaver Meadows area where we saw a lone Bull Elk laying by the trees, a magnificent beast with a very impressive pair of antlers - a male Elks antlers can be reach up to 4ft in length and weigh up to 40lb.

Time to head back, we had spent about 6 hours in Park and could have quite easily spent a whole lot more, what a way to spend my Birthday! 

We made a quick Target stop to grab a drink and some "essentials" dollar spot items before making a quick detour to the brewery we went to last night, someone had left his sunglasses there. Of course we had to pick up some beer, we chose the Silverback Weiss, it donates a portion of the profit to the Gorillas, we do like to do our bit to help! We finally got back to the Airbnb  around 6pm, feeling tired and in need of some proper food, we decided to freshen up and head out to 5280 Burger for an early dinner.

It was only a 5 minute walk away and we were quickly seated and toasting the day with a glass of Prosecco and a local Blueberry Wheat followed by a portion of fried pickles with ranch dip. We shared a house made quinoa and black-bean burger and a  power house salad. Delicious, just what we needed. We popped to the wholefoods next door to pick up some yogurt for breakfast, then back for birthday cake before heading to bed for another early night - I can see a pattern here!

Fact of the day - The Rocky Mountain Range represents a series of more then 100 separate mountain ranges.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Road Trip West - Wisconsin to Colorado

Time for another adventure road trip through America. This time we are heading West passing through Iowa, and Nebraska to spend some time in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains before continuing into Utah and visiting Arches National Park, up in to Idaho, through Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota , Minnesota and finely home to Wisconsin.

Day 1 - To Kearney Nebraska

As we knew we had a long journey - 602 miles to be precise - we were up early and ready to hit the road by 6.50 am, having packed up most of the car the night before. The plan was to head West across Wisconsin into Iowa then down into Nebraska. After about an hour we stopped at roadside favourite, 'Kwik Trip' filling up with fuel and grabbing a breakfast of coffee and southwest omelette breakfast sandwiches to eat on the road.
We crossed into Iowa at Dubuque on what was to be a mainly uneventful journey, apart from a woman with a death wish. She was all over the road and as we passed her, we noticed that she had her phone clamped to the windscreen right in her line of vision! A stop for soda was soon needed after that so we pulled into a Kwik Star this time.

Yes! 5 hours since we left home we hit the half way point of 301 miles, time to crack open the Colin's - brought back from a recent visit to the UK - to celebrate!I

We then thought let's go nuts, we're on holiday, let's  grab a coffee as well, so we checked out a 'Casey's Gas Station' at DeSota which was the birth place of John Wayne. I can conclude that the coffee wasn't good.

New State time, we headed into Nebraska, skirting Omaha, making it our 26th state on our American Adventure. We had up till now survived on some fizzy sweets and grapes, the car needed to refuel as well, so on our 4 visit on our gas stations of America trip we got up a 'Phillips Route 66' for a root beer and a 10 minute break to eat a picnic lunch of veggie sausage rolls, home grown tomatoes and an Apple each - living the dream!
The sun was shining, Primal Scream's Loaded was playing and as we passed through 'Goehner' we dropped in to double figures and  only had 99 miles left, someone was a happy boy.

By 5PM and after 10 hours of driving We had reach our destination of Kearney.
Time to check in to the Days Inn on Talmadge St, our room was on the top floor and fairly new. After a bit of time just relaxing we decided to drive the couple of miles down to 'Thunderhead Brewing' where we enjoyed a pint of 'Prairie Peach Wheat' for me and a 'Cropduster  Mid-American IPA'  for him whilst dining on  salad and jacket spuds.

 Well we got the taste and ended up getting a flight and purchasing a 6 pack of the 'Cornstalker Dark Wheat'  to go, delicious!

As we still had a fairly long drive in the morning we thought we best leave and after a walk round the delightful little downtown we decided to retire back to the hotel.

Fact of the Day - Nebraska is the only triple landlocked State in the USA. Meaning that you must pass through 3 other States before you reach the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or Hudson Bay.

Day 2 - To Westminster Colorado

After a good nights sleep we were both woken at 5.30 by a car alarm, not too bad as we were both asleep before 10 the evening before. We had a leisurely start to the morning before getting ready and heading to breakfast. Plenty of choice but unfortunately for me, it just was my thing but Paul was able to indulge himself. Then it was time to make a move and start the journey to Westminster Colorado where we have an Airbnb for 3 nights. 

By 9AM we were on the I-80 for the next 360 miles!

Half hour into the trip we were passing fields of corn and the air was filled with the intense stench of agriculture - which this time wasn’t from Paul!

Pulled into a ‘Cenex’ gas station for some coffee, the standard coffee run out after Paul filled his cup so I ended up with a cappuccino that I later found to taste like syrup and was undrinkable. We continued on the I-80 as it followed the meandering course of the Platte River. 

Around 10.30 I was ready for a coffee as I had yet to have one this morning, now I wasn’t going to blog another coffee stop but felt this one was worth noting. We could not believe that at the ‘Sinclair Gas Station’ just outside Sutherland not only could we buy coffee along with fuel, we could also pick up a semi-automatic rifle in case we suddenly felt a need! 

Shortly after we entered mountain time and gained an hour as the clock changed from 10.50 to 9.50AM. And after another 20 minutes we had crossed over into Colorado - our 27th State.

 We stopped at the rest area to take the obligatory photo by the ‘welcome to Colorado sign’, walked around the viewing area before nipping in to the visitor centre where we were given some brochures of the area by the friendly staff. Back on the road and back to watching the Plains roll by. 

By 1PM, we were ready for lunch, well done ‘Loves’ gas station, good fuel prices, good ice tea, clean restrooms and a very nice vegan chickpea masala wrap - top marks! We picked up the I-76 towards Devour and got our first look at the Rocky Mountains Range in the distance, very impressive looking. Carrying on a few more miles we got to our destination of Westminster. Being a little early to check in to our Airbnb, we stopped of at Starbucks to pass some time then headed a couple of minutes to our home for the next 3 nights. 

A delightful property above the owners detached garage, very modern and spacious. Looking forward to staying here. It was time to grab some dinner as we could have quite easily slobbed out in the apartment.

 So we set of to ‘Wonderland Brewing’ about a mile’s walk away. It was good to stretch the legs after being cooped up in the car and it didn’t take long to reach. Paul had the Alice Belgium Blonde and a Almighty Altbier, while I had 2 pints of the Silverback Weiss with a portion of loaded nachos to share. Delightful brewery with fab British music, I think we may just find ourselves here again to purchase some beers and glasses to take home. We headed back via Wholefoods Market to pick up a cake as it just may be someone’s Birthday tomorrow.

Fact of the day - The pony Express only ran for 19 months in 1860 to 1861 before it was replaced by the telegraph. The route ran for 1,930 miles from Missouri to San Francisco. The visitor centre was at the sight of one of the original stations on the route.