Tag Archives: Colorado

“Travel America” and Me

20 Feb

The other day, we were flying to Arizona, and I picked up a magazine to read on the plane. Travel America lists over 250 places to visit in the United States. As I skimmed through the pages, I began to count all of the ones that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to all 50 states and have seen some great stuff. This is a list of places that Travel America and I have in common.

Wait, here is a picture that I took on the trip to get you in the mood. It is in the Superstition Mountains.img_2279

Massachusetts

Paul Revere House

Old North Church

USS Constitution

New York

Central Park

Madison Avenue

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Broadway

Niagara Falls

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

National Constitution Center

Rhode Island

The Breakers

Florida

Walt Disney World

Kennedy Space Center

Everglades National Park

Miami Beach

South Beach

Georgia

River Street

Buckhead

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coca-Cola Museum

Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Louisiana

Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery

French Quarter

Louisiana State University

Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Delta Blues Museum

Natchez Trace

North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Biltmore

South Carolina

Harbour Town Golf Links

Tennessee

Beale Street

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Graceland

Ryman Auditorium

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Hermitage

Union Station Hotel

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Alum Cave Trail

Cade’s Cove

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon

Illinois

Michigan Avenue

Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Michigan

University of Michigan

Missouri

Gateway Arch

North Dakota

Badlands

Fort Mandan

Ohio

Progressive Field

Warehouse District

Oklahoma

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Cattleman’s Steakhouse

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Wall Drug

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park

Saloon #10

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Arizona

Tombstone

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post

Sedona

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Montana

Billings

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield Indian Memorial

Beartooth Highway

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Luxor

Excalibur

Venetian

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Cavern

Palace of the Governors

Inn of the Anasazi

White Sands National Monument

Texas

Sixth Floor Museum

South Congress Avenue

Sixth Street

River Walk

The Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon

Temple Square

Wyoming

Snake River

Grand Tetons National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

Denali National Park

California

Universal Studios

HOLLYWOOD sign

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive

Golden Gate Bridge

Chinatown

Redwood National Park

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

Pacific Coast Highway

Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial

Lanikai Beach

Volcanoes National Park

Waimea Canyon

Oregon

Haystack Rock

Columbia River Gorge

Mt. Hood

Historic Columbia River Highway

Crater Lake

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Four Corners – All the States at Once

16 Aug

Today, we held our annual tradition of starting the academic year with faculty meetings. I say that because my colleague in history said that my last post left him in suspense. He had to know what my wife and I argued about. Well, here it is.

She wanted to start the next day with whitewater rafting. I knew that we had a long drive through desolate territory ahead of us and did not want to get a late start. This went back and forth for a while on the sidewalks of Durango, and, at some point, I brought up the wine that was served on the train. That is when my stepdaughter and her friend walked off and left us to our discussion.

The next morning, we were back at that same spot to go whitewater rafting.

Our guide arrived on his motorcycle, and the girls went kind of googily eyed. His name was Paden, and I immediately wondered if he was named for Kevin Kline’s character in Silverado. That probably means I have seen that movie too many times.

It was a good ride. We hit a enough rapids to make it interesting, but it was mostly a smooth ride. Paden talked about going to college and about life in Durango. I never did ask him if he was named after a character in a movie.

After the boat ride, we headed further down Highway 160 and passed through towns like Hesperus, Mancos and Cortez. After that, we did not pass much, and my wife began to realize why I wanted to get off to a good start. When we arrived at our destination, she admitted that she was hoping we did not have a flat tire.

Despite the desolation, we were not out there alone. A bunch of cars were on the road, and many of them were going to the same place that we were going – Four Corners.

When I was a kid, we went to Four Corners, the place where four states come together. I remember that my dad could not find it, and we drove back and forth for a while. When we finally got there, it was a round slab with the borders outlined. There were not many people, and you could walk around on the slab.

Now, Four Corners is completely different. They charge to get in, and an entire complex has been built. The state borders are in a theater type setting that can be used for ceremonies, and booths filled with Native American wares surround it all. On top of that, you have to stand in line to get a picture at the Four Corners.

Like everyone else, we stood in line and got a picture. I am pretty sure that I am standing in Utah. My wife is in Colorado, and the girls are in New Mexico and Arizona. image-42

At least, I am standing in Utah if that is the correct Four Corners. I did not tell anyone, but there is a chance that the real spot is somewhere in the distance.

Oh yeah, we took this picture, too.image-43

We left Four Corners and made our way through the Navajo Nation. I have been through different parts of the Nation, and I always wonder the same thing. How do people make a living out there? I know that poverty is everywhere, but, in my mind, reservations are the epitome of the problem. On top of that, I do not see many people speaking in support of Native Americans. I guess it is out of sight, out of mind.

After hours of driving by me and hours of worrying by my wife, we made it to Tuba City, Arizona and turned off Highway 160 for the first time in a few days. From there, we made our way to our ultimate destination – the Grand Canyon.

When my wife asked me to describe the Grand Canyon, I could not do it. I told her that she had to see it for herself. When arrived just before sunset and had to drive through the park to get to our hotel. There was enough light to stop and look at it. That is when they understood what I had been saying. The Grand Canyon has to be seen.

We took pictures, but they are not as good as the pictures we took the next day.

 

Four Corners – I Hear The Train A Comin’

10 Aug

On this day, we were doing something that I have always wanted to do – ride the train from Durango to Silverton, Colorado. This means a serious climb in elevation to the old mining town that has become a destination for bikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Our car had no windows, but it had a hostess who talked about the stuff we were passing. She also had food and drinks. How can you beat that? Actually, how can you write about it? I will just let the pictures do the talking.

First, there should be a people picture.image-35

Then, there was this.image-36

Oh yeah, we saw this.image-37

Plus, we passed this.image-38

This is my favorite.image-39

When we arrived in Silverton, my stepdaughter’s friend asked, “Why did they put a town in the middle of nowhere?”

I have to admit that I was fired up because that question was right in my wheelhouse. I went into full teacher mode and explained that mining towns were built where minerals were found. That is why many towns in the West appeared where logic says they should never be. Anyway, they probably zoned out before I finished. Besides, we were looking for somewhere to eat.

We found it at the Grand Imperial Hotel.image-41

As you can see from the picture, it started raining. The air got colder. We had to ride back in an open-air train car. For a while, it looked something like this.image-40

As we descended in elevation, the air warmed, and everything returned to normal. Well, my wife and I had our one argument of the trip, but you will read about that in the next post.

Four Corners – Wolf Creek Pass and Home Grown Delights

6 Aug

We left Alamosa, Colorado and headed west on Highway 160. This took us through towns like Monte Vista and Del Norte. It was one of those days on a road trip where you are just trying to get from one place to another. I drove and looked at the scenery. My wife rode shotgun and looked at the scenery. The girls read, listened to music and occasionally looked at the scenery.

We made our way into the mountains and into a landscape that most people think about when they think of Colorado. The road was almost straight up as we made our way through Wolf Creek Pass.

At the time, I did not know that was its name. The other day, I was at Rotary and was telling one of my table mates about the trip. When I said that we drove from Alamosa to Durango, he said that we went through Wolf Creek Pass and that he had ridden a bicycle through it. I immediately thought about the cyclists that we saw and how miserable they looked.

We were cruising along when I realized that we went by the marker of the Continental Divide. Of course, that gave me the chance to explain what that was to the girls. I was bummed that we did not stop, but that made me determined to stop at the next place.

Crossing the divide meant that we were heading down, and that meant driving down a steep road instead of up one. As we came upon a curve, I noticed a sign for a scenic view and whipped the car into the parking area. When we got out, this is what we saw.image-33

There was a trail that led to a rock outcropping on which my wife and stepdaughter did not want to venture. They were fine behind the fence. However, I could tell that my stepdaughter’s friend wanted to go, and that gave me the excuse to go, too.

It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. When people think of the West, they may think about cacti or mesas or plains covered with buffalo. I think about all of that, but I also think about places like this.

It brought to mind Centennial, the miniseries from the 1970s. At the end, Merle Haggard sang “I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado.” At that moment, I could think of no place that I would rather be.

We continued driving to Pagosa Springs, a town that I thought would be a good place to stop and explore. However, the girls wanted to keep going. We got a snack and chugged along.

Finally, we made it to Durango, and cool town in the southwestern corner of the state. After some spirited discussion over who was going to get what room, we ate at the Irish Embassy Pub and walked the streets filled with shops of many kinds. There was one place in particular that caught my wife’s eye.

We had already discussed the fact that marijuana is legal in Colorado, and we had wondered if there was a store in Durango. Suddenly, my wife looked across the street and saw a place called Eolus. It had a sign that said Home Grown. She immediately said that it had to be a marijuana store. We crossed the street to find that it was the nicest restaurant in town with a menu of locally grown ingredients.

It looked fancy, but the food could not have been as good as the Bangers and Mash I had at pub. After more walking and shopping, we made our way back to the room. The next day, we had to get up bright and early for something that I have always wanted to do.

Four Corners – The Largest Beach in the United States

5 Aug

My family loves going to the beach, and I decided to take them to the largest beach in the United States. After a walk around Santa Fe to see the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, we hopped into the car and headed north to Colorado. We passed through Espaniola, New Mexico and past San Antonio Mountain, which was mesmerizingly beautiful. We spent a lot of time driving toward it, and, as along every mile, I became more amazed by it.

Eventually, we made it to Antonito, Colorado, which is a neat little town. Then, there was Alamosa, Colorado, the home of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Before we could get to the sand dunes, we made a detour to Arby’s. Then, it was on to the beach. Yep, they wanted to go to the beach, so I found one in Colorado. However, it is not just a beach. It has sand dunes over 700 feet tall. It is a never-ending beach.image-32

Our only disappointment was that the snow melt stream was not flowing. The Great Sand Dunes are usually a natural water park, but the water was only a trickle.

One would think that climbing the tallest dunes in North America would be the end of the excitement for one day. However, this was not a normal day. We found the nicest IHOP any of us had ever seen. The service was not that great, but the building was great. A bunch of the Amish even showed up.

An exciting day. Start with the works of Georgia O’Keeffe. Play on the largest beach in the United States. Eat fancy pancakes. Then, break into a hotel room.

We got separate rooms for us and for the girls. The rooms were next to each other with those doors in between to allow us to walk from room to room. The girls locked themselves in liked they were supposed to do. They turned the deadbolt and put on the chain. Then, they came into our room and shut their door behind them. There was no way to get in.

We got the front desk clerk, and, with her help, we broke into the room. We used the special key that worked on the hidden deadbolt keyhole. We also used the special instrument that unhooked the chain. I try to learn something new whenever I can. On that day, I learned that when you lock yourself in your hotel room you are not really locked in. My family learned that you do not have to go to the beach to go to the beach.

The American West Coming Through My Speakers

14 Jan

After lunch, I was driving back to work with my iPod cranked up. The sun was shining and masked the coldness of the air. Before turning onto campus, one of my favorite songs came through the speakers.

“I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado” was recorded by John Denver, and that is the version on my iPod. However, that is not the version that I first heard and made the song hit me in my soul.

Merle Haggard sang the song in the last scene of Centennial, a 1970s miniseries about the American West. I have already written about that movie and will not repeat myself. That scene is on YouTube, and I urge you to watch it. You will probably recognize some of the actors, and there is a great message. It gets me every time.

When I hear the song, I am reminded of my love for the American West. Its history. Its land. There is nothing better than climbing the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Mesa Verde National Park brings back the echoes of the ancient peoples. The streets of Durango harken to the days of yesteryear, and the train in Durango will take you on a great ride to Silverton.Durango

The song is about Colorado, but, to me, it is about the entirety of the West. The mountains. The plains. The deserts. Life the way it was, and life the way it is. This song takes my mind to New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and all of the others states that make up that region. The song says Colorado, but it means everything. To me, the song means relaxation, peace of mind and wide open spaces.

The words go like this.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after the rain.
Once again I see him walking, once again I hear him talking
to the stars he makes and asking them the bus fare.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather play his banjo in the morning when the moon is scarcely gone.
In the dawn the subway’s coming, in the dawn I hear him humming
some old song he wrote of love in Boulder Canyon. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
I guess he’d rather work out where the only thing you earn is what you spend.
In the end up in his office, in the end a quiet cough is all he has to show,
he lives in New York City. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

Get Away From Magazines

14 Jul

I have to stop going to the grocery store because I always buy some “Special Edition” magazine. “Special Edition” is the code for something that costs more than a regular magazine. Yesterday, I got one called Great American Getaways that was put out by LIFE.Getaway

I read it and decided that the money spent meant that I should do more than that. Therefore, we have a post.

This is going to be simple. List the getaways. Write if I have ever been to them. Yes or no answers will suffice.

Mount Desert, Maine – No

The Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts – Yes

Franconia, New Hampshire – No

Block Island, Rhode Island – No

Mystic, Connecticut – No

Sag Harbor, New York – No

Tanglewood and Williamstown, Massachusetts – No

Stowe, Vermont- No

New York City, New York – Yes

Cape May, New Jersey – No

Cooperstown, New York – No

Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, No

The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – Yes

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Yes

Niagara Falls, New York – Yes

Sea Island, Georgia – No

Walt Disney World, Florida – Yes

The Florida Keys – No

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia and North Carolina – Yes

Horse Country, Kentucky – Yes

Columbus, Indiana – No

Mackinac Island, Michigan – No

Nashville, Tennessee – Yes

Chicago, Illinois – Yes

New Orleans, Louisiana – Yes

Ozarks, Arkansas – Yes

Sand Hills, Nebraska – No

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota – Yes

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Yes

Land of the Anasazi, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – Yes

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Yes

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Yes

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona – No

Alta, Utah – No

Glacier National Park, Montana – Yes

Las Vegas, Nevada – Yes

Death Valley, California – Yes

San Diego, California – Yes

Yosemite National Park, California – Yes

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada – Yes

Oregon Wine Country – No

Mount Rainier, Washington – Yes

Big Sur, California – Yes

San Francisco, California – Yes

San Juan Islands, Washington – No

Redwood National Park, California – Yes

Volcano National Park, Hawaii – Yes

Lanai, Hawaii – No

Glacier Cruise, Alaska – Yes

The Brooks Range, Alaska – No

That is 29 visits out of 50 places.

Now, I promise myself that I will not buy more “Special Edition” magazines…until I go back to the grocery store.