Part one, if you missed it, lives here. Onward and upward (again)!
On the road again! The mornings in GJ kind of blended together, but there was definitely one more sampling of the typical hotel breakfast (I am DONE with traditional breakfast [junk] food for a while…), probably either a hot tub or pool, and then the suitcases made their way to the car again and we were off!
Not sure if the reflection ruins the shot or makes it artsy. We’ll go with artsy.
We really enjoyed breaking up the drive with a run in Vail on the way there, and we had recommendations to hit Hanging Lake for a hike, so we stopped. There was a line out of the gate (at noon on a weekday?) and we almost skipped it, but something made us wait and I’m so glad we did.
Seriously, I’d suggest checking out my facebook album if my tale of Hanging Lake intrigues you at all, because this was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. And me, the water baby, saying that about something not on the ocean or that I can even swim in? You know it’s crazy amazing.
First of all, it was a lot of up. We went up over 1000 feet very quickly. Our garmins say somewhere around 5 miles total, the official site says just over a mile each way, but there was a bit to get to the trailhead… so, whatever. It was a decently hard climb that took a while. It definitely counted as leg day.
Once we got past the initial rocky part, it was just waterfall after waterfall. Every scene looked like one of those motivational posters. I kept thinking “this is the best picture I’ve ever taken” and then we’d go around a bend and I’d see something more awe-inspiring. It was insane.
The water shapes the rock through patience and persistence. Bam. Blow that up and sell it to poor saps like me stuck in a office box with no windows.
After some crawling on rocks at the steepest part, we reached the top and took a short break to eat a snack overlooking Hanging Lake. I wanted to stay there and watch it much longer, but there’s no rest for the wicked. Places to go, driving to do. We did make the trek to the top of the waterfall and got some other hikers to take our picture (see larger album for that one).
Hanging Lake itself. So very much worth the climb.
On the way down, we decided to run it as much as we could. I did fall on my ass once, but it was exhilarating. It was like being a kid at play again, finding the right spot to place my feet while they were in motion, letting gravity help us down instead of fighting it… magical. And then, all of a sudden, we were back down at the trailhead and we ran the rest of the way to the car and were STARVING and it was SO MUCH LATER than we expected to leave but somehow would have done the climb again in a heartbeat right then if it was feasible.
Lunch was tacos from Qdoba. Tacos are the best. Sadly, we drove RIGHT by the hot springs we were going to visit after the hike (when it wasn’t going to take 3 hours), and put that on the list for next time. We drove to Vail and got out and walked around a bit again, mostly to stretch the legs, and then made the rest of the trip back to 10k feet (even after acclimation, still felt a little woogy) and back down to Boulder.
Hung above the bed (thus the “also here”).
Boulder is a bit of a lie from the 70 freeway. You see signs to exit, and you get all excited… but then it’s another 45 minutes away. And this particular night, it happened to be getting stormy. Zliten held it together though, and we arrived at the hotel just after 7pm.
The good: the hotel had changed from a slightly ghetto Quality Inn and Suites motel to Boulder Basecamp, which was completely redone and much more hip and refined. There was a spa and sauna, a lounge with a rock climbing wall and ping pong, and a very homey breakfast nook. The bad: they didn’t have my reservation. The great: they were able to clear it up with Expedia in about 15 minutes and ended up giving us a suite for no extra charge.
If I was on death row, it’s likely my last meal would involve a club sandwich on sourdough.
It was raining pretty hard, so sadly, we had to get back IN the car (all we wanted out of life was to walk and not drive) and parked at the downtown area. We walked around and found the Lazy Dog. I was in the mood for some comfort food, so I got a club sandwich, a salad, and a glass of chardonnay. Trivia was about to start, but we were beat, so we called it an early night and hung out at the hotel reading and relaxing.
We had a date with dirt in the morning, so we woke up, leisurely got our breakfast on, and Zliten searched where we were supposed to go. HOLY CRAP it was an hour away instead of the 20 minutes we thought, and we had to leave RIGHT THEN to be 15 minutes late. We called the guide who reminded us we were meeting at a trail, not the shop, searched the trail… and it said TWO HOURS away. CRAP CRAP CRAP! Then Zliten realized it was 2 hours WALKING, and only 15 minutes driving, and we were just fine. Whew. Way to get us truly awake!
Gooooood morning! A little caffiene and a lot of “oh crap we’re going to miss it!”.
We got gatorade for our camelbacks and snacks and were super prepared for 4 hours out on the trails. Then, when we met up with the group, we spent the first hour learning how to ride mountain bikes (yeah, I picked up a few things, I’ll admit, but it seemed a little overkill for ME personally). We spent about 2.5 hours riding, which was actually about 1.5 hours stopping and talking about Boulder, and 1 hour riding. I was completely overprepared, but better than the other way around.
The flatirons are the backdrop of Boulder, for the most part.
It’s not to say I didn’t have a good time. I so very much did. I was pleasantly enjoying myself riding over things that normally make me shriek on my tri bike, and then our guide showed us how to jump rocks. I jumped like EVERY ROCK for the rest of the ride because it made me feel nine years old again and now I need a mountain bike (n+2 for the vacation now) and better health insurance because I am actually about 9×4 (+1) instead, and all the mountain bikers I know are pretty much held together with bruises and stitches.
I did almost eat shit going down a hill when the girl in front of me slowed down too much, I had to veer off into tall grass, and I actually hit a rock that slowed me down ENOUGH to fall back in line. #rubbersidedown for the whole ride. Yeeehaw!
A happy boy and his bike.
We drank a beer together on the side of the road, because, that’s what you do after bicycles. We left wanting a bit for more saddle time, so we rented b-cycles and headed downtown. Something about a sandwich sounded amazing to both of us, so we hit a little deli with yummy and unique sounding food. I got a chicken basil pesto half sandwich and super fun looking greek-ish salad with hummus. It wasn’t a whole lot of food, but it was enough to get to tank half full.
I may have taken a bite first. Oops!
Zliten wanted a Colorado jersey, and we looked around for one, but everything was either not in the right size, or meh. We’ll have to look around online. It was starting to get wet and a little chilly, so we cycled back to the hotel – it was such a convenient way to get around. We got some hot beverages, and hit the spa. There were plans to swim in the Boulder Resevior that evening (5-9pm no boats!), but we were already cold and jumping in a chilly lake? Nah. Next time.
Do want. Again. Right now.
Once the weather improved a little, we hopped back on the cycles and headed to a Vietnamese place called Black Pepper Pho. The egg rolls were SO flavorful, the pho was amazing and a regular size did us just fine, although I kinda wanted the large just because. I could eat pho once a week, but I could eat THAT pho about once a day. So, so good. On the way back, we found my cycle bag had ripped and hit REI for a new one, and some new walking around shoes for Zliten. Souvenirs, sort of!
After a long day of excitement, we were homebodies and read, hung out, played Pokemans, and relaxed our way into dreamyland.
Up and at em… eh, at like, 9:30. We ducked out for a little morning run and enjoyed Boulder’s river trail. Sublime. I want to run there always, at least in the summer. While I felt we spent enough time in GJ, I wanted many more days in Boulder. Sadly, we were forced to check out of the hotel by the cruel mistress of reality. We consoled ourselves by roaming around on our B-cycles for a little longer, and then waved goodbye to Boulder and got ready to say hello to Denver!
It’s just not fair how pretty this is. Usually if there’s running water on my run route, someone’s pipe has burst.
A friend from high school/college/early days lived about 20 mins away, so we made sure to meet him for lunch on his day off. It was great to catch up with some actually pretty great Mexican food, and it’s always nice to chat with someone who you haven’t seen in MANY years and it just feels like you’ve barely been apart. Facebook definitely helps this happen more often.
Our hotel view did not suck.
Then… Denver. We got our 37$ parking spot for the night >< and checked into the hotel. The front desk gal was super nice and found us the best room she could – top floor with a great view. We did dorky things and squeezed in a weights workout in the room with the bands we brought (thus validating their inclusion in the luggage), and then headed out to walk around and meet another friend!
Random Denver snaps.
Denver is beautiful, clean, unique, cycle friendly, and full of characters. On that walk, we found dancing Jesus guy, a free concert about to start, a robot street performer, and much more I’m forgetting. Another thing I’m not accustomed to is the casual attitude to marijuana. People were smoking it all over. What’s more surprising that each one of them had their custom rolling papers. Now, I’ve never been completely averse to marijuana, as I’ve often times taken it in the form of CBD after buying from here. The dispensaries have club cards. Even my friend, who is fairly allergic to the smoke produced, is just like, eh, it’s fine, it’s great for the state, I just try to stay upwind. It seems like a much more reasonable way to treat the substance considering it’s essentially alcohol for people that would rather zone out and eat chips.
Anyhoo, we hung back at the hotel to change. I actually put on just a little bit of makeup and used my hairbrush, first and last time of the trip, heh. Once we were fancied up, we grabbed a few drinks at a “speakeasy”. I ordered an old-old fashioned and spent the rest of the early evening drinking delicious whiskey drinks and eating fried things at Green Russell.
Bathroom selfie as proof of said dressing up. Keeping it klassy with a K around here…
We wandered around a bit looking for dinner, and finally settled on Stout Street Social. We started with the kimchi fries (very much do recommend… they were great!) and Zliten and I split one very delicious burger and side salad. After a few more bevvies and chatter, we looked for one more place to end the evening and it was like Goldilocks.
One place was too crowded. One place was too loud. One place was impossible to find. Then, we finally stumbled on Polished Tavern. They didn’t have an impressive whiskey menu, but made up for it with a plethora of infused vodkas, a nice outdoor patio, and not too much of a crowd. We met up with another friend of a friend, and tried all sorts of different flavors, danced a bit, and finally got the DJ to play the entire Star Wars Cantina song.
We closed out the night wandering around trying to find the rooftop pool at the hotel (it was closed, sadface), and finally drifting off to sleep against the backdrop of the Denver skyline.
Travel home days are usually boring, but not when you fly out at 7pm! You still have lots of time for adventure! We got up and juuuuust in time, checked out of the hotel. Since we paid for it, weleft the car in parking until the last minute of our 24 hours, and scoped out lunch downtown. After hemming and hawing, we found a place that did noodle and rice bowls to order – Tokyo Joes – and both our eyes lit up.
Noms. Sans stevia sauce. Always sans stevia sauce.
Pro-tip: sauces with stevia suck. I use stevia to sweeten all sorts of things, coffee, yogurt, drinks… so I figured I’d give it a try. In savory food, it doesn’t work for me. I’ll take that little bit of added sugar if needed. So… while the noodle bowl was FAN FLIPPIN TASTIC, I am so glad they served my mistake of a stevi-yaki sauce on the side. I’m sure other people may appreciate it, but If I was avoiding sugar, I’d just go soy and hot sauce instead (which I did and loved).
Next, we hit the museum. Haven’t done anything like that in a while, and it was a nice contrast from the rest of the sporty spice vacation.
My favorites in the Women in Impressionism exhibit.
Some of my other favorites from other exhibits.
Ok, one more of the more unique ones…
After that, Zliten was ready to get this show on the road, so after a few stops, we got to the airport nice and early. Same easy check in and TSA line, same 20 minute stop for the bag with the cords and the bike tool. Friends said we MUST go to the airport restaurant Root Down, which was a branch of the super popular downtown one, and since we had plenty of time, we did just that.
The verdict? One thumb way up, one thumb sort of sideways…
My turkey bahn mi burger and sweet potato fries with curry sauce was surprisingly awesome. I’m not a huge deviant from my normal, but I figured, what the heck, and my gamble paid off. I loved it. Zliten got a traditional burger and did not love it that much. Either way, it was just fine as our last meal of vacation.
And, here’s where I cut this insanely long story short and save you from the mundane boring details about a uneventful 7 hours to fly 2 hours to the next state away home. I did definitely appreciate flying home Saturday night, so I had Sunday to relax and unpack and do laundry. Tip top. A+. Would travel home on a Saturday night again.
Overall – Colorado is on the short list of states I will probably live in someday. I’ll make that happen either when I’m rich enough to own a summer house, or when I decide that snow isn’t a deal breaker. I’m already plotting how to do an extended camping trip there soon! It’s definitely on the short list of places I will repeatedly vacation at, because friends, family, mountains, bikes, hikes, lakes, and all of the beautiful.