On the Road Again – Part 1

Goin’ places that I’ve never been.
Seein’ things that I may never see again.
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.

“On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson

It goes without saying that the year 2020 damaged many of us. I know it did a number on me. I struggled mentally and ended up self-medicating with Culver’s cheese curds more than I care to admit. I put on an extra 10 pounds of pure fat and started an internal war over my self worth.

One of the culprits for my “pandemic pounds” was the absence of travel last year. I stayed close to home like a good boy, in large part because I wanted to help prevent the further spread of a deadly virus. The furthest I traveled was two hours away to exotic Des Moines, Iowa, an exceptional metropolis, but not exactly one that most people would name as a tourist hot spot.

Traveling is in my blood and I missed it big time. I missed the great American road trip. I missed simple things like stopping at gas stations for lukewarm lunch, spotting different state license plates on the interstate, and asking other vacationing couples to take a photo of my wife and me in front of some truly breathless scenery. When circumstances take away an activity you love, you feel empty inside. And I most definitely felt hollow in 2020. Fortunately, through the tireless efforts of people much smarter than me, vaccines started becoming available in early 2021. All of a sudden, “normal” travel became a possibility again.

My wife and I got vaccinated, then jumped at the opportunity to take an epic road trip, one that would end up encompassing nine days, six states, and 3,211 miles. Come along with me on a five-part photo blog series documenting our wandering out west at the beginning of what we’ve officially dubbed “The Year of New States.” For the most part, I’m keeping the wording to a minimum because the photography (primarily from my talented wife) speaks more powerfully than words ever could. But also stay tuned for random trivial tidbits and anecdotes along with a series finale that will introduce you to some of the people who made this trip a memorable one. Here we go, on the road again.

Our trips out west don’t legitimately feel official until we spot The Archway that hovers over Interstate 80 at Kearney, Nebraska. That’s the true sign that we really are westward bound.
These next two images aren’t as much scenic as they are peculiar. On the first night of our trip, we stayed at Boarders Inn in Brush, Colorado. Nice people, reasonable rate, good stay…. but there was a mirror behind the bed in our room. It’s supposed to make the room appear larger than it really is, but it reminded me of one of the bars we went to in college. The first time there, I was told, “Don’t touch the mirrored walls” because, well, horny drunk couples do certain things up against those mirrors. We took the same approach with this hotel room and didn’t touch the mirror. But I did make sure to do a Hulk Hogan flex.
The other bizarre aspect of the hotel room was the location of the toilet paper. Located under the counter and just a couple feet off the floor, you practically need to be a contortionist to reach the TP.
Before meeting up with my sister-in-law and her husband in Boulder on the second day of the trip, we explored the city and hit a few familiar places from our previous trip to The People’s Republic of Boulder. After finding some reading material at The Bookworm (best used bookstore in Colorado!), we headed to The Rayback Collective, an awesome, laid-back food truck park/beer garden. The weather was beautiful and my wife opted for the meat combo from Tibet’s (she reports it was delicious).
I headed to The Lucky Bird truck for a satisfying lunch of a Big Bird (fried chicken sandwich) with sweet potato waffle fries. Highly recommended.
After lunch, we did a 3.5-mile drive up to the summit of Flagstaff Mountain to see the Sunrise Amphitheater. Sure, it’s pretty neat to take in the beauty of the amphitheater…. but when you gaze in the opposite direction, you see this…
…the entirety of Boulder, including the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field (just visible behind the tree at center). Plus, on clear days, you can make out the towering buildings of downtown Denver.
After the four of us ate supper at Boulder’s bartaco (sesame ribeye tacos and fried plantains for the win), we walked down to Press Play on Pearl Street for some fun gaming action. Among other things, I learned that I’m actually decent at four-player Pac Man and my Skee-ball accuracy is surprisingly better with my left hand than with my right. I also learned that my wife makes the strangest faces when she’s playing Super Bikes 2, but since I’d like to stay married to her, I’ve promised not to post the photographic evidence of said faces.
The women’s restroom at Press Play featured this amusing ceiling art. Considering the infamous inaccuracy of Stormtroopers, maybe this artwork be located in the men’s room instead.
Day three of the trip took the four of us to Nederland, a town located more than 8,200 feet above sea level up in the foothills of Boulder County. Not gonna lie… I got nauseous on the drive up from altitude sickness. Luckily, some cheese naan and chai at Kathmandu (along with Dramamine) remedied the situation.
Nederland’s claim to fame is Frozen Dead Guy Days, a celebration which came about all because a Norwegian brought his cryogenically-preserved grandfather to the town.
The man’s family originally intended to create cryonic accommodations in Nederland, but Grandpa Cryo just ended up residing in a shack behind Cryo Daughter’s house. Relations between the family and the city of Nederland got pretty icy, but cooler heads prevailed. Grandpa Cryo still resides in Nederland and is cared for by a cryo caretaker. Frozen Dead Guy Days won’t return until 2022, so festival goers will just need to chill out until then.
The next leg of our journey took us to Gold Hill, Colorado, a former mining camp which is small in size but large in history. The first major gold discovery during the 1859 Colorado Gold Rush occurred here; legend has it that a small stream yielded $100,000 in gold the first year. You can still see much of the town’s history more than 160 years later while roaming its dirt roads. Visiting Gold Hill is about as close as you can get to time travel, and it’s utterly soothing.
Our initial plan was to hang out at the historic Gold Hill Inn for some live music outdoors, but the rainy weather canceled that. Before we left the inn, I had the privilege of using their restroom while Dennis Weaver watched me pee. We didn’t eat at the inn, so I guess I’ll never know if Wayne was right about the great food.
Next, we walked up the hill to the Gold Hill General Store & Pub. The people were welcoming and it was a relaxing, laid-back spot for a drink. I wasn’t hungry at the time, but now I really, really wish I had sampled some of their baked goods.
The only thing this place was missing was two elderly dudes playing checkers.
No general store is complete without a welcoming committee, and the Gold Hill General Store has a lab named Stella handling the duties.
Day four of our trip was planned as a chance for my wife and I to do separate things. I labeled it as a chance for her and her sister to spend some sisterly time together, but really my ulterior motive was to sneak away to Brass Armadillo and a few other antique malls in Wheat Ridge and Arvada. While I was scoring deals, my wife and her sister were taking in views like this at Settler’s Park in Boulder.
And just before I sat down to devour a lunch of French toast and sausage at a little diner called Sunrise Sunset in Wheat Ridge, the two ladies were enjoying scenery like this. But then the scenery turned to this…
My wife slipped on the Settler’s Park trail, stuck out her right hand to brace herself, and gashed open her palm on a sharp boulder. That’s right: she hurt herself on a boulder in Boulder. The rock sliced her hand open down to the joint, requiring an ER visit and six stitches. On the bright side, I can now joke that my wife has a Frankenhand. Stay tuned for part two of the photo blog series, as we hit a new state after a scenic detour.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for this. I feel like I have been in the backseat of your car for what has been an awesome trip.

  2. Thanks, Stacie! I always try to write in a conversational manner, so I like your description of feeling like you’re in the backseat during the trip!

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