Ahhh. Vacation is magical. Real life… is real today. Can’t someone pay me a living wage to travel around the world and take photos of awesome things and write about them? Is that a real job? I know I make video games for a living and that’s pretty cool… but it’s so… INDOORS…. ><.
Instead of by a beautiful lake….
Anyways, I’m happy to report that this vacation went much better than the last half of the last one with the work thing. I was threatening to remove the book of faces from my phone for the trip, but I ended up using it for communication and meeting up with people. I just tried to steer clear of anything real-life related and did fine to keep my reality adjusted to vacation mode (see what I did there?).
I’m going to be splitting this up into two parts because I have way too many pictures to be contained in two posts. If you want to skip ahead and see the photos without so much jibber jabber… you can here.
I’ve actually decided that I quite liked traveling on a Friday evening. I was able to leave work at 5pm, get to the airport by 6pm, and through security by 6:20. This would have been quicker because there was no line, except Zliten decided to bring his bike multi tool, which put us in the long slow TSA process to have his carry-on searched, but hey, bike safety first! We ordered dinner from Maudies, which ended up taking way too long and being kind of disappointing and small, but *shrug* airport food.
Girls who unknowingly photobombed us talked THE WHOLE FLIGHT loudly. I was amused. Zliten was NOT.
The flight itself was a little late, but I didn’t mind. The airport is the best place to catch pokemon! Also, a lot of other flights were getting cancelled around us due to weather issues, so I was just happy ours only experienced a 40 minute delay. The flight itself was a little bumpy, but otherwise fine. We retrieved our rental car without any trouble, and hit the hotel (#1 of 4 this trip) around 11pm (midnight Austin time).
The disappointing dinner at the airport many hours earlier meant we needed a snack… and the only thing open in the area was the Applebees in the parking lot. I had a salad and some boneless wings and wine because… vacation.
Not exactly a local experience, but at least Zliten was drinking Coors?
The nice part about the Friday evening departure was a) didn’t have to take time off -and- b) got all the business time traveling stuff done so starting Saturday morning, we could just wake up and start playing instead of the inevitable 7 hours of BS it takes to travel one state over for a 2 hour flight these days.
We woke up, checked out of our hotel 11 hours after checking in, and headed to Chatfield Lake for an open water swim. It satisfied the requirements of being a) not too far out of the way (e.g. running at Garden of the Gods was nixed because travel time) and b) it was not going to turn me into an icicle! Sadly it also c) had a swim beach about the length of an Olympic swimming pool and d) was really dirty – there was a sign saying “Don’t Swallow the Water” which I saw AFTER swimming… and I always end up drinking some of the lake. Ah well. A little under 1 mile on the garmin, and spoiler alert: I survived.
Beautiful place to bike, run, and hang out. Not the best open water swim of my life as you can see from my mud beard.
We hit the road, and later stopped in a little mountain town called Genesse, and I ate one of the best turkey clubs I’ve ever had in my life at Hideaway Kitchen and Bar. Influencing that may have been no breakfast and an open water swim before lunch, but that’s just details.
I will dream about this bacon for years.
Our drive continued over the pass. This takes you above 10k feet. If you haven’t been that elevated outside of an airplane, let me tell you – it feels woogy. I felt oddly fatigued all of a sudden, and on the edge of being dizzy just sitting. So, what did we do after that? We went and ran 5k in Vail (at a much lower elevation of 8200+, heh) to see what it felt like.
Running in Vail = sucking my oxygen through a teeny straw. But the scenery almost made up for it.
It was both easier and harder than I expected. I didn’t feel quite as flattened as I had anticipated, but just that pace didn’t feel like pace. Just under 12 minute miles, less than 24 hours at altitude, and at over 10x the elevation I normally run at, felt like a tempo run. It was bizarre, just like I was having a really off day or my garmin wasn’t working right, but I imagined it would be more like running in deep sand. It wasn’t.
More pretty stuff in Vail. Especially that watermelon sorbet.
After that, we cleaned up, got some ice cream, bought me a hoodie, and then kept on driving towards our final destination for the day, Grand Junction.
East to west from the drive.
The views did not suck, but we determined that both ways, the drive took an hour too long, for some reason. We checked into hotel #2, which smelled like overmicrowaved chicken noodle soup (one night with the window open fixed it), and then hit a brewery nearby for dinner and a beer with Zliten’s cousin. I got this lovely caprese chicken sandwich and some ridiculous spinach artichoke dip (half of which came home with us), and a sour plum beer.
After, made our way to Charlie Dwellington’s for drag queen karaoke (to watch, I wasn’t nearly “up” enough to participate). Since we were running in the morning, we cut ourselves off around midnight and moseyed back to home base.
Being vacation, and vacation in Colorado, we slept in a bit. I figured this would be no problem because I figured I’d get hypothermia here from lows in the 50s. Look how hopeful I was with that long sleeve shirt! However, this was a particularly warm day, so getting out late was not ideal, nor was my attire.
So hopeful. Didn’t quite pan out.
I had picked a trail that sounded awesome, and happened to be 8 miles (since I wanted to run 8 miles that day). Zliten took one look at the elevation profile and decided I was out of my mind (I was), and took us to a different trail – Dinosaur Hill. It ended up being less than 1 mile, completely in the sun, and in disrepair, so we only ran it once. After striking out twice, we decided to play it safe and run in town.
Pretty, but not something I wanted to run 8 times.
The first half, I was hating life. Then I ate a gel. Then life slowly became fine… then fun! If we weren’t slated to climb a mountain the next day, I may have actually pushed and finished up 8, but I got 6.65 miles or so total, both on a trail and through a new town. It was 84, feels like 92, at the end, which is actually pretty chilly compared to our normal run weather here.
I’m taking a bike selfie. The world feels more normal all of a sudden.
After the run, we ate the other half of our food from dinner the day before, and picked up our steeds from Bicycle Outfitters. We rode around town a bit to make sure they were in working order. They were, and then some! I have some major n+1 issues right now (n+2 actually, but we’ll get there later) because that is the nicest road bike I’ve ever ridden.
Didn’t get to see a sunrise the whole trip, but the sunsets made up for it.
We went to Zliten’s cousin’s house and she prepared us some delicious chicken and veggies on the grill. I may have ruined that healthy meal with a half a bag of chex mix, but I needed carbs for the epic ride the next day…
We set the alarm for 5:30. And then snoozed. And then dragged ass to get ready. It was after 8am when we got out, which ended up being okay, because it stayed overcast and cooler for the morning. Although… the temperatures they were warning us about were laughable to us Texans. 80s? Please. That’s what happens at dawn here in August.
Within 2 miles of downtown, you’re into the wilderness. By mile 4, you’ve started noticeably climbing, and you’re not even to the Colorado National Monument state park yet. I almost asked Zliten to do a little more of a warmup, because my legs do not handle bike work well in the first 20-30 mins, but figured we should get this ascension over with… so we paid our 5$ each and in we went!
Non-selfie scenery shots. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
I figured I’d need to rest a few times. Within two more miles, I was essentially hyperventilating from breathing so hard on the constant 6-8% grade and lack of oxygen at 5k+ feet and had to stop at just about every other turnout. My head went to a lot of negative places on the approximately 2 hours it took to climb less than 10 miles.
My attitude on the first half of the climb.
A caffeinated gel about 10am (oops, I should have been stuffing my face sooner) helped a bunch, and eventually we found some flatter road (only 2-4% grade?) and we started pulling off the road to take pretty pictures instead of simply to get my breathing under control. Gritted teeth became grinning smiles. We climbed a mountain, through patience and persistence. It. was. awesome.
I thought I was going to be MUCH more terrified going down the mountain, but after so much climbing, I earned that shit and enjoyed it immensely. The wind whipped by me, I went from going 2-3 mph to 20-30 mph, and I got to enjoy the views on the way down that I couldn’t see because I was starved for oxygen on the way up. It. was. amazing. I didn’t have the balls to ride all the way down the mountain in Alaska, but this time, I never got off my bike once to slow down. I felt in complete control (most of the time), and only a little sketchy once. I did apply my brakes liberally, but… baby steps.
Scenery with selfies because this is how we do (as you can see, I get happier as the day goes on)…
After leaving the park and heading home (from the other side of the mountain, so I think we had about 13 miles left), I started getting grumpy at the fact there was any more hills. I though I had done all the hills? Hello? After muttering a lot of things about building a ramp from the mountain back to town, I remembered to eat more food and then my mood improved again.
Especially when I looked over and saw what we had done. We were up there. On the top. Amazing!
Me: “Was I up there?” (points at random place) Zliten: “Yep!” Me: “Wow…” —an actual conversation that happened about 25 times before we left GJ.
After we finally made it to the hotel, we snacked and rushed out quickly for lunch with family, at a Venezuelan restaurant. Beef empanadas and mashed yucca, with a side of fried plantains? Yum. Great post-bike food.
I’ve never drank Pacifico out of a 24 oz can. It tasted like old, canned Pacifico. Fancy that.
We spent the rest of the day drinking beers, eating pizza, talking with random people, and ended up at the same fun bar from Saturday night… and they had Game Show night. I ended up rocking my Jeopardy round, correctly guessing a daily double and the winning the match (so that got me 5$ and a free drink respectively), and ended up drinking water to stay coherent for the final round with the 25 dollar prize. Zliten ended up having quite a few more waiting for me to be done. I ended up second (whomp whomp… I got the final question right, risking it all, but it wasn’t enough to beat one other competitor…) and consoled myself with another drink or two, and then we called it a night.
There was this awesome Nepalese restaurant with a lunch buffet. I was SO looking forward to it, and after a morning hot tub and pool, we walked our stomachs over at opening.
Mish mash of delish.
Nepalese ended up being Indian food mixed with Chinese food. I love both of these things! It was not the best Indian buffet I’ve had in my life, but the fact that it had eggrolls, potstickers, and chow chow noodles as well? I’m sold.
Couldn’t bring myself to actually swim but you KNOW my feet were in the water for a couple hours.
This was really the first *vacation-y* day of our trip – no run bike or swim planned. We were going to go rafting, but the weather kinda sucked, so instead we went to a pretty lake called Highline, stuck our feet in for a while, read books, and hiked around it. Next time, we traverse the rapids!
Highline Lake scenes. Halfway around the lake, I found the only bugs in Colorado.
My husband has a weakness for Del Taco, and since there are none around us anymore, we hit one whenever we see it. While I’m not sure a 5k hike deserved a two taco and half a cheese fries snack, that’s what it got. For some reason, the whole time I was in Colorado, I could not get enough food. I was rarely full after a meal, and even if I was, I could totally eat an hour later.
We changed for one more GJ meal, and EVERYONE had told us to go to Bin 707 Food Bar. However, everything about it screamed HIPSTER and wayyyyyy too cool for me. I mean, it’s in the basement of a bank, right? The turning point was Zliten’s cousin recommended it and she is about as opposite of a hipster as you can get. So, that was the target for the evening.
A little bit hipster, a lot great food and service.
I’m so glad we did. Yeah, it was expensive and the menu was a little silly, but it was worth it. We started with a Colorado whiskey flight and a charcuterie plate with all sorts of local accompaniments, and it was kind of nice to feel fancy. We sat at the bar, and the bartender gave us all sorts of information about the drinks, and even gave us some samples of other whiskies he liked, and we were totally in there almost an hour after closing and there was NO rush to leave. We followed that up with the general bourbon tasting, and split one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
Also, it was on a Poke Stop. Can’t beat that! It was a fabulous evening all around, and one we were content to end with just a leisurely walk back to the hotel instead of more revelry.
Part two coming soon to a blog near you!