Saturday, July 31, 2010

Colorado road trip report

My regular readers are aware of my goal to visit all 50 states and I am now only 4 away (missing Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii). I did take a few pics but none of them turned out very well so I may or may not post them here.

7/27- woke up around 5:30 and hit the door by 6:00 for an 8 AM flight out of Birmingham. I'm really doing it and am excited. We landed in Denver around 10:00 Mountain time and I picked up some Pizza Hut to eat then went on a long walk to my gate for my connection to Albuquerque, New Mexico (state #44). I picked up my rental car and hit I-25 north and did not stop until I reached the capital city of Santa Fe. I spent a fair amount of time driving through the city. It's got a strong Spanish and Native American flavor with interesting red rock scenery but a bit too barren for my taste. From there, I took the scenic route through some mountainous terrain before getting back on the interstate just before the Colorado border. Northern NM is a bit greener and looks more like Colorado. I was only a little more than an hour from the Texas border and although I had been to east TX before, I would have liked to have gotten a small taste of west TX but I just didn't have enough time. It was almost twilight by the time I hit the Colorado border (revisited state) and drove for another hour and spent the night in a small town just south of Pueblo.

7/28-I was tired last night and there would be no rest for the weary today. I was up by 7 AM and hit the road for an hour to Colorado Springs. My first stop was the Garden of the Gods where I was blown away by the mountain views and red rock scenery. I took advantage of a bike trail in the park for a training run. How does it feel to run at over 6,000 feet elevation? Yes, it will leave you short of breath but if you keep the early pace easy enough, you can manage. Of course it did slow me down but in each workout, I maintained a decent pace and had something left at the end. This one was also an extremely hilly route so I felt good about an average pace below 8:00 for 5 miles. Next was Pike's Peak, where I drove all the way to the summit, about a 2 hour round trip up to 14,115 ft. elevation. I ran a half mile loop around the parking lot because I could. I ate my lunch at the visitor's center where I was joined by an older couple from Houston and it was good to hear a southern accent. I got a little bit of a headache but nothing too severe in terms of altitude sickness. It was now back to the interstate heading north for about an hour toward Denver. I made it to Golden by late afternoon and met my old buddy Tony, my Bible study leader at Clemson, whom I had not seen in 5 years. We went out for dinner at Woody's pizza and then he took me up to Lookout Mountain, about 7,500 ft elevation overlooking Golden with a view of downtown Denver in the distance.

7/29- I had planned to tour Coors brewing facility in the morning but it was not open. Too bad. Instead, I spent more time driving through the Rockies. I didn't turn around on I-70 until I got to Vail then stopped in Silverthorne for lunch (about 8,500 ft) then finally picked up US-40 toward Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road. I don't think words can say just how stunning it was. The road took me up over 12,000 ft. I could see clouds floating just below with mountain peaks all around and views of lakes further down. Someone once said that I should bring an atheist here and it will convince then that there is a Creator. Back down and back to the interstate near Ft. Collins. I saw corn fields to the east and mountains to the west. From here, it was only about 50 miles to the Wyoming border with the capital city of Cheyenne just a few miles further. I stayed there for the night (state #45) and would check it out in the morning.

7/30- Unfortunately, there was some type of festival in Cheyenne called Frontier Days so downtown was jammed and there wasn't much I could do. That's okay, I don't think I missed a whole lot anyway. I hit the road again, this time east on I-80 to Nebraska (state #46). I exited in the town of Kimball and stopped at a grocery store where I found the people to be quite friendly. Of course the scenery was not very exciting but a few gentle rolling hills broke things up for a bit. I headed south on US-71 and picked up I-76 west to Denver. From here, my plans were flexible until I was to leave the next evening. Denver is at 5,280 ft. elevation and just outside the Rocky Mountains but the city itself is surprisingly flat. If I could find some good running trails, this could be fun. I found the city to be very well laid out with a road called Colfax Avenue running due east-west right through the heart of town. I decided to go back to Golden and found that this time, the Coors brewery tour was open. I waited in line for the bus where I laughed to myself at northern tourists complaining about the heat (85 w/ no humidity). I learned everything I would want to know about beer and yes, I had a free sample after the tour was over. I then headed back east on Colfax where I found a nice city park called Escalande near the edge of town with views of the Rockies, where I did a 5 mile tempo run at Mile high elevation and performed surprisingly well. After a bit more driving through town, I called it a day and spent the night in Aurora, just east of town.

7/31- I woke up at 8 AM and went back downtown, where I ran 8 miles on the Cherry Creek bike trail with views of the skyline. After I recovered, I parked in a garage and did a walking tour of the shops on 16th St. Mall. That was pretty cool too. Overall, this was a great trip but I was ready to go back home. I took an evening flight and did not land until after 11 PM and arrived safely at home just before midnight. Fortunately, I would have a "slack day" on Sunday to decompress and feel rested before the work week.
Next year, I will run the Couer de Alene half marathon in Idaho and cross the border into Montana. My backup plan is the Missoula race in Montana, where I can cross into Idaho. Either way, that will take care of the entire lower 48.

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