We got up whenever and made a breakfast scramble to finish off the groceries we’d purchased. After a quick shower we left our borrowed home one last time. We headed for Boulder to return the SUV. Due to our troubles with the battery and the vehicle/equipment overall being not as expected, we negotiated a refund. We were now vehicle-less but had to make it back to the airport in Denver. Luckily there are buses from Boulder to the airport, we just needed to walk to the bus station. We had plenty of time to get there so we decided to walk along the Boulder Creek Path which would take about a half hour according to Google maps. The path wound through Boulder and was an enjoyable walk. We purchased our bus tickets to the airport and awaited the next bus.
The bus made various stops around Boulder before getting us to the airport a little over an hour later. We made it through security quickly and decided to grab a late lunch/early dinner at Mesa Verde. I got tacos and Rob ordered a burger. While we were dining, we got an alert that our flight had been delayed. This meant that we would miss our connection in Detroit. We quickly looked at other options and booked on another flight that was going to Detroit and had been delayed from earlier in the afternoon. This flight was now scheduled to leave 15 minutes earlier than our original flight, which was perfect. At the gate there was a large crowd of people all trying to get seats for the flight to Detroit. By the time all of the passengers were assigned seats and boarded the plane it was later than the scheduled departure. And then the snow came. The plane needed to be de-iced before we could take off now. The pilots did their best to get us to Detroit as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we had rough air for much of the ride from Denver to Detroit. This was by far the bumpiest flight I had ever been on. But we landed safely in Detroit at gate A29 with ten minutes to exit the plane and get across the terminal to our connection. We got off as soon as we could and literally sprinted to gate A37. The plane was there, but the door was closed. We weren’t the only passengers left behind. There were 11 people that missed the flight. Delta gave us all hotel and breakfast vouchers and scheduled us for the next flight which left the following morning. We took the shuttle to the Holiday Inn and grabbed a drink and an appetizer at the bar before heading to bed.
Day 8: Bonus round
We got up after a few short hours of sleep, around 4am. We grabbed a fast shower and repacked what few items we had taken out. We got to the lobby shortly before the airport shuttle. When it arrived, the driver asked what airline we were flying. “Delta,” we replied. He had to make a phone call, after which he told us, “okay”. So we got on, and rode until he wordlessly stopped at the airport. We had to go up the escalator which was not working, because there was a line of about 3 loads of people awaiting the elevator. We walked across a passage over the highway, then back down once we were inside the airport proper. “It’s weird there’s no Delta desk,” Mandy mused. Yes, but it makes plenty of sense when YOU’RE IN THE WRONG BUILDING.
We went back out the way we came in, and waited for some other shuttle bus to take us to the right side of the airport. Here we got in, and got through security with time to spare before the flight, so we decided to find some breakfast and use up our vouchers. We walked past so many closed restaurants because it was just after 6am. Finally, we found Leo’s Coney Island, which serves up a very mediocre (less than mediocre) breakfast sandwich. We each got one, unfortunately. The yogurt parfait is decent, though.
Then we went to Starbucks on the way back to the gate to grab a couple coffees to help us get through the day. There was a small line of people when we got there, and shortly after our arrival, they opened for the morning. I ordered an iced coffee, which they didn’t have yet. So I received 4 shots of espresso in ice water. Close enough I guess. Mandy got an iced caramel macchiato, but there was no caramel. So she received a cup half-filled with coconut milk and half-filled with espresso. Nailed it.
We went back to the gate to wait for our flight. There were a ton of Boston Marathon jackets around the gate area, because the marathon is this weekend. That was kind of neat. We chatted with some travel buddies who were on the same screwed up flight plan as us, because one of them was planning to run the marathon. So we got way more information than we ever realized there was about the marathon jackets. We boarded into the back row of the plane and had a pretty uneventful ride home.
We hailed an Uber from Logan to home. We got in around 10am. Loki was so pumped to see us. Mandy had enough time to rinse off the travel grime and then head to work, while Rob got to enjoy a restful day with Loki.
We got up around 7 and packed most of our stuff. We ventured down Main Street in search of some breakfast, which we found at The Crown. I ordered a Jefferson which was a pesto chicken panini that was crazy good. Mandy got a Watson – a bacon, egg, and cheese with avocado on a croissant. She loved it. After breakfast, we walked a couple blocks up to a rental shop so I could pick up skis for the day. Then Mandy dropped me off at a chairlift. I took my first run at 9:30am, and it was all ice. I hated it. I skied across to a different lift, and took another run. The sun had apparently had enough time to soften up the snow and it was perfect. I took run after run in outstanding conditions with no one else. I never saw so much mountain with so few skiers. It was absolutely fantastic. I spent a good deal of the morning on Peak 6 until the wind came on so strongly that I couldn’t see my skis in front of me. I started to make my way back across to Peak 9 to meet up with Mandy for a lunchtime beer. I got a Colette farmhouse ale by Great Divide Brewing that was delicious, and downed it quickly to get back onto the snow. I tried to keep track of each run before lunch, but after, I just went where I felt like going, and it was great. At about 3pm, I finished a run and it suddenly hit me that it had been the last run. I texted Mandy to come bring my slippers because I couldn’t stand another minute of wearing the ski boots. Never call last run before it happens.
While Rob was skiing I just wandered around downtown Breckenridge snapping pictures and browsing the cute boutiques. When Rob texted me to meet for a beer I made me way through town back to base 9. Princess Yum-Yum Raspberry Kolsch was on tap. I had already tried this beer in Denver and enjoyed it so I knew it would be a good choice. Rob finished his beer and went back out to the mountain while I sipped mine leisurely. I was somewhat hungry but didn’t want anything on the menu at Coppertop. I decided to walk back to downtown to Crepes a la cart. I ordered the apple strudel crepe and it was so delicious. After my crepe I wandered a little more around town to pass the time. I eventually found myself at the gondola station and rode it up the mountain, taking a few pictures at each stop. Rob texted me in the middle of the ride and said that he was done. Once I arrived back into town I quickly made my way to him (with his slippers) so that he could take off his ski boots.
We dropped off the rental equipment at Blue River Sports and went back to the hotel. Rob showered in the fitness center so he wouldn’t be stinky from skiing all day. After we organized all of our gear we grabbed an early dinner at C.B. and Potts. It was happy hour so we got an order of nachos to split and Rob got a Cuban sandwich as well. Once we were contented, we got back on the road to make our way to Denver. The ride was pretty uneventful and we made good time getting into the city. We opted to stay with Brian and Emma one more night as they had kindly offered, and we didn’t really feel like setting up the tent again or risking getting stranded somewhere with a dead battery again.
We woke leisurely this morning. When we were good and ready, and not a moment sooner, we started out of bed. Mandy cooked breakfast for us again, while I cleaned up the cabin and the truck. After breakfast, we made our way back down to the springs again. This time we could see much better. We were in awe at the architecture and landscaping of the entire facility. Even the restrooms are in a gorgeous building. The stonework that comprises and surrounds the pools is beautiful. The springs were mostly vacant, except for a small group of people who seemed to be doing some sort of professional photoshoot. Clothing remains optional for overnight guests, until the springs are open to the public at 10am, so you can imagine the sort of photoshoot. We chatted briefly with the photographer and the models who were all quite friendly. We hopped out around 10 to finish up packing our gear and to check out.
Once again, Mandy turned the key in the ignition of the Explorer and nothing happened. We were able to get a jump start from the park staff. We went into town to find a coffee shop for coffee (obviously) and to post a couple updates for you all. We also got on the phone with the vehicle’s owner, we think. There’s some sort of weird partnership involved with owning and renting the vehicle, or something. But the point was to reach an agreement with them about reimbursing us for replacing the truck’s battery. We had been hoping to get to more remote places, but its lack of reliability and recovery equipment has us second-guessing if that is a good idea. Under normal circumstances, in our own vehicles, this sort of thing would be a non-issue, but these are not normal circumstances. We found an Advance Auto Parts store and bought a new battery after we’d been paid for the total. I replaced it in the parking lot in short order, and we were good to go. I also tried the recommended troubleshooting procedure in the Yeti Goalzero 400 manual. It just recommends to disconnect the battery terminals, wait 10 seconds, then reassemble. There was no change after this procedure, so we stored it away again, and set out.
On the road, we made way back to Breckenridge. This time for real. The weather and views were amazing all along the route. We made some photo op pit stops along the way. As we were nearing our destination, we stopped in at the Dillon Ranger Station to inquire about dispersed campsites. The ranger explained that there was nothing available this early in the season within the Dillon district. However, he suggested we call the ranger in the next district south of Breckenridge, and gave us the phone number. We reached out to a ranger there, who provided us with some tips about forest service roads.
We continued on to and through Breckenridge. We went up to Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide, and then descended into Fairplay. Just south of Fairplay, as we were told, there are forest service roads that would be open and which we could camp on. Perfect! As we continued on out into the middle of nowhere, we debated if this was a good idea. We considered what might happen if the truck didn’t start. We surveyed the surrounding area, which was wide open plains, and considered the possibility of another night of strong winds. We also estimated the drive time to get into Breckenridge the next morning, and what time we’d have to be up in order to pick up equipment, a lift ticket, and get onto the mountain for first tracks. We turned around in the middle of the dirt road we were on, (which still had another six miles or so to go) and we went back into Breckenridge. We were so torn, but ultimately agreed this was the best option. We found a hotel with room for us for one night on really short notice.
After we checked in, we walked the short 10 minutes to Main St. to find some dinner. We ended up at Kenosha Steakhouse, at the bar. We got a round of beers and ordered some appetizers. I got Broken Compass Fruit Boot double IPA, and pulled pork mac and cheese. I got the Colorado Cider Glider Cider and a cup of bison chili. Rob got a Smore's stout by Short's Brewing Company which was delicious. We figured we’d get something else for food, but after we’d eaten our orders, we were content. We ordered a night cap; Yellow Snow, and Coco-Nuts, and then went back to our room to sleep.
Not long after we went to sleep, we could hear the roar of distant winds as they raced across the plains and foothills of the Rockies. And then the winds were knocking on our door. We were high up in elevation and on a mostly bald peak. I think being in a tent on top of an SUV makes the wind more noticeable than being on the ground. Neither of us slept, constantly worried our tent might blow away with us in it! Luckily we had that small group of trees to help shield us, but it wasn’t complete protection. At 4:45am, after not sleeping most of the night we decided to pack up and hit the road. We quickly learned that it was also quite chilly outside and by the time we got the tent all packed away we couldn’t feel our hands. We were hoping it would warm up quickly so that we could make breakfast comfortably. We continued our drive towards Estes Park and arrived before the sun.
It was still a little cold to be outside making breakfast but we decided to make some coffee. The Aeropress works great for coffee preparation while trying to pack light. We simply mixed coffee grounds with water and let it sit overnight and then Aeropress it in the morning. Some coffee and trail mix helped kick start our brains into coming up with a plan for the day. We started to head out of town, but first stopped to watch a bunch of elk grazing in someone’s yard downtown.
Not far out of Estes Park is the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. We reached the entrance before opening time at 8am, which meant there was no entrance fee! We cruised on into the park and found a spot with a fantastic view to setup and cook breakfast. Mandy set to work cooking a delicious breakfast scramble and I tried to make the included solar panel work to charge the included spare battery. Unfortunately, this endeavor proved fruitless, which was a mistake. After we ate breakfast and cleaned up, we hopped into the Explorer to do more exploring. What a coincidence. Mandy turned the key and nothing happened. So we tore apart the vehicle in search of jumper cables, which were apparently not included. The dead spare battery has a connection for a vehicle battery, which was useless because it was dead and would not charge. I continued to tinker while Mandy flagged down a few passersby to inquire about jumper cables. The third passing vehicle rescued us and got us back on our way again. We made a mental note to be very energy-efficient while the vehicle was off, moving forward.
We toured the park some more and got a bunch of pictures all over. Then, we left. We made our way towards Breckenridge, but never actually went there. Along the way, we stopped in Idaho Springs for lunch on a whim. We parked, unplugged the refrigerator, and found a spot for a bite to eat. We ended up in Vintage Moose at the bar. I ordered a Tommyknocker Blood Orange IPA, which was outstanding. Brewed 2 blocks over, too! Mandy ordered a Breckenridge Agave Wheat. We each got a sandwich, too. Pulled pork and beef brisket. With our hungers and thirsts quenched, and after a quick chat with a very friendly local, we hopped back on the highway. We continued toward Breckenridge, but when we got off the highway, we decided to continue on to Steamboat Springs. I might have decided differently if I knew how far it was, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
When we got into Steamboat Springs, we went straight for the visitor’s center. We asked if there were any good places we could park our vehicle overnight, and explained that we’d just be sleeping on the roof. We were also looking at a brochure for Strawberry Park hot springs. Diane wasted no time in calling the staff at the hot springs to ask if it would be okay for us to do that, because, as she said, she believed that they allowed camping. We were upsold to a cabin for $85 per night and included access to the springs (which was $15 each). We quickly agreed to this rate, considering it would give us $60 worth of access to the springs (2 each for the night and the following morning), and the cabin only cost $25! We went to the cabin directly to check it out and help formulate a plan for dinner.
The cabin was very minimalist. It was perfect! It had a mattress and a propane heater and one gas lantern. There was also a full size barbecue grill, which was excellent. We went back into town to get some stuff to cook for dinner. We found a grocery store and got some small steaks and vegetables and some other miscellaneous items, and then we went back to have dinner. After a minor mishap where we didn’t light ourselves on fire, but almost, Mandy cooked up a veggie medley and grilled the steaks. The steaks were not a great cut, but the veggies were quite good. Once we cleaned up, we made our way down to the springs. Unfortunately, it was dark at this point, so it was tough to navigate the unfamiliar pools. Fortunately, it was dark outside, so clothing was optional. We found a spot of our own in one of the pools and fully relaxed. When we could no longer take the heat of the pools, we walked back home and went to sleep.
We had cracked the window open the night before as the apartment tended to run a little warm. At some point in the morning I awoke with a chill and had to close the window. Rob woke up around 7 and watched a show on Netflix while I dozed off to sleep again. Around 7:45, we finally got up and showered and dressed for the hike and then realized it was snowing outside. It looked very cloudy and there was a chance of rain throughout the day. We weren’t sure what this would mean for the hike we had planned. Regardless, we were renting an SUV with a rooftop tent out of Boulder so we were going to be heading that direction anyway and opted to play it by ear. We all agreed to go out for breakfast this morning rather than cooking our own. We went to Snooze, which is a chain but only in a few states. Emma knew the hostess and she graciously gave us a free peanut butter chocolate pancake for the four of us to split. It was so good! I ordered the breakfast tacos with chorizo. Rob got the Havana Dreamin’, which is basically an open-faced Cuban with an egg on top. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, it’s not a true Cuban, but it was quite good!
After breakfast, we made our way to Boulder. We made a quick residential pitstop to pick up our new vehicle at its owner’s house. We continued on following Brian and Emma, now in our own ride; a 2010 Ford Explorer, outfitted with a rooftop tent, a fridge, sink and grill! We all drove to the Flatirons for another hike, this time a real one. It was pretty aggressive terrain, but a fairly short duration (about a mile in and a mile back out) which made it more manageable. The weather started off great, turned to hail momentarily, and then cleared up again all on the way up. The views at the top made it worth it. After soaking them in, we made our way back down in good weather and spirits. We weren’t quite ready to part ways with our gracious hosts, so we all decided to get a round of beers at West Flanders on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. I got a sour beer which was excellent. Mandy got a gingersnap ale. We all shared a bunch of appetizers and soaked up the afternoon sun. We wandered around Pearl Street some more, until our parking meter was about to expire. At this point, we said our goodbyes and parted ways.
We hopped in our rig and drove off into the sunset.
Well, not quite, but we did spend the waning daylight hours driving along a bunch of canyon highway miles. We didn’t really know where we were going exactly. We just had a rough heading of “towards Estes Park”. We made a few stops along the way to see if a few areas allowed camping. After a few strikes, we found gold? Maybe? We aren’t really sure what the road we turned onto is. It had a few signs, but nothing that said no camping. As we drove up this windy, rugged dirt road, it became clear to us that it is regularly used for target practice, as evidenced by tons of orange clay shards littered about adjacent to the road. We didn’t see anyone as we continued climbing uphill. Eventually, we reached a dead end in a small cluster of trees. We came to be so very thankful for those trees.
We parked in a small circle at the end of the road, where the remains of a previous campfire rested. We setup our tent, which took very little time, and spent the remaining daylight doing some vehicle organization and inventory. It’s quite weird using someone else’s camping equipment! Eventually, we decided to climb up into the tent and do some writing for you all before getting some shut eye. At lights-out, we noted the silence all around us, and the pure darkness.
We woke up in the morning feeling refreshed. We all got ready and showered and had a nice home-cooked breakfast of pancakes and eggs thanks to Emma and Brian. We didn’t have any specific plans for the day, which is always a treat. A couple ideas thrown around were the Denver Botanical Gardens and Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Rob and I have both always wanted to check out Red Rocks so we decided to make our way there. We made a stop at Target to pick up some sunblock to shield ourselves from the surprisingly intense Colorado sun.
Red Rocks was a very cool venue. Almost cold, too. We parked at the bottom and climbed our way up to the stage area and then all the way to the rear of the venue. It was quite windy at the top and it made getting photos challenging. We did our best to get some good ones and made our way back down to the visitor’s center to use the restrooms and check out more scenery. It’s like everywhere you turn, there’s a new amazing view. It was less windy at the bottom so we seized the opportunity to take more photos. Once we had our fill, we decided it was time to head back towards Denver.
We were feeling ready for lunch at this point and made our way to Bad Daddy’s Burgers. Apparently this is a chain restaurant but has limited locations. It’s like a national chain, but with only a handful of locations, which is kind of uncommon. I got the Emilio’s chicken sandwich with hand-cut fries. I got a buffalo burger and a custom built salad. All of us agreed that our meals were delicious. But now we were stuffed. So what to do with full bellies? Find more breweries! We decided to check out Epic brewing. We all got a beer and then were pleasantly surprised to find that they were doing a tour very shortly. Of course we joined in and followed them around the shop, because that’s always interesting. We then went to Ratio Brewing Company, which seemed to be much busier. Lastly we drove to Denver Beer Co. There were so many puppies at all of the breweries that it was like heaven. We debated on going bowling after this but all decided that we were feeling pretty lazy so we just headed back to Brian and Emma’s apartment to hangout. We played some cards, shared some laughs, and then called it a night as we were all feeling tired and were wanted to be well rested for a hike the next day.
It's time for another vacation! This time we are Colorado-bound. We arranged for my co-worker Jess to house sit and hang out with Loki for the week. She was also gracious enough to drive us to the airport at 3:15 am. Thanks Jess!
We got to Logan airport with plenty of time to board our Delta flight to Minneapolis. The flight was rather uneventful. Rob slept for an hour or two and I dozed off for a short period of time. In Minneapolis we each got a breakfast sandwich as it was beginning to feel like a good time to eat. We had a short layover and made it to Denver at 10:15 am local time. We're visiting Rob's cousin, Brian, and his girlfriend, Emma for the first few days and they agreed to pick us up at the airport. Thanks you two! We made our way back to their apartment in Denver and dropped off our things before heading out to explore the city for the day. Our first stop was at La Chiva for lunch where we all got the Lomito sandwich. It was tasty but I think we all agreed that we were expecting better. It was served on a hoagie roll but a different bread option would have improved the sandwich.
After lunch, the four of us made our way down Broadway and found Alternation Brewery to check out. I got the Farmgirl which was an ale aged on mango and jalapeno. I really liked it. It had a strong jalapeno scent but not too much spice. I couldn't really taste the mango but I found the beer overall to be cool and refreshing. I got a Cooper Approved which was an oatmeal stout aged with vanilla beans and cacao nibs. It's quite good, the vanilla is very apparent. We made our way to the back patio to enjoy our beers and a game of cornhole. Rob and Brian were on a team and were strong winners against Emma and Mandy. After the game, we all decided to move on once our beers were done and made our way back to the apartment so we could hop in the car and drive to the zoo.
It was a beautiful day to visit the Denver Zoo. It was mostly sunny so although the temperature was only in the 50s it wasn't necessary to wear a jacket. Until the sun dipped behind the clouds. It was a constant game of layers. We made our way slowly through the zoo and had a fun-filled day here. Our highlights were seeing the elephants, the seals, and the spider monkeys.
It was about time for the zoo to close and Emma had dinner plans with a friend, so we all made our way to downtown. Emma split off at Union Station while the rest of us stopped at Pigtrain Coffee Co. for a pick-me-up. By this point Rob and I had been awake for nearly 40 hours with only a few hours sleep in the middle and we needed a chance to get our 3rd or 4th wind. I ordered a white chocolate mocha with coconut milk and thoroughly enjoyed this as we wandered around town looking for a place to grab a beer. Apparently there was a Rockies game happening at nearby Coors stadium so the surrounding bars were quite full. We eventually made our way to the rooftop bar of the Tavern and were lucky enough to snag a table in the sun as one group was just leaving. Brian went to the bar to order a round of drinks for us. I got the Princess Yum-Yum Raspberry Kolsch which I really enjoyed. Rob wanted the Epic Tartastic Ale, however we found out that they had recently run out of this, so he settled on the Avery IPA instead. We enjoyed our beers and ordered some chips and salsa to go along with them. Rob was starting to get hungry for dinner and we all decided that we could eat but we wanted to head somewhere else for food. So we set out to the streets again to wander around until we found something that caught our eye. We wound up at Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen. I got the duck ramen and Rob had the chicken and waffles. Both were delicious.
Just as we were finishing dinner, Emma rejoined our group. We paid our tab and agreed that we were all quite exhausted, even though it was still relatively early. We decided to retire to Brain and Emma's apartment to wind down before bed.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.