2011 Vacation – Days 2 & 3
Much has been done these past two days. Alex had to work on Friday so I was on my own until late afternoon. My first stop of the day was Tattered Cover Books on Colfax Avenue. I don’t think I’ve seen so many retro 50s signs and buildings as I did driving up and down that street. Found the store and bought a collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, then wandered through Twist & Shout Records without making a purchase (their extensive used DVD section was too pricey).
Then I drove up a few blocks to the City Park, where I ate the pb&j sandwich and cookie I had packed, read a bit from “At the Mountains of Madness” and enjoyed the sunny afternoon. It was a warm day but lacking the oppressive Iowa summer humidity. A cool breeze kept me comfortable at various benches around the park.
Returned to Alex’s apartment and took a nap until he came back from the college. We drove downtown and walked up and down 16th St in the LoDo district. 16th St is a long ped mall with lots of touristy stores. At the SW end is a steep hill that leads to the state capital building. We walked through a few stores but otherwise spent our time people-watching and wearing our feet down to nubs.
Finally, at the end of the storefronts, we decided to get dinner at Anthony’s Pizza. A $12 pitcher of Avalanche hit the spot, as did the way-too-much Sicilian pizza. We crossed the South Platte River and browsed the extensive goods at the flagship REI store. I love this store. If I had driven to Denver instead of flown (and if I was made of money) I could have spend a fortune on camping supplies.
Evening came and we agreed our feet would not hold out for a bar, so we drove to a theater near his apartment and saw “Rise of the Apes”. A surprisingly good summer film that I would like to see again. I liked how they integrated elements from the original film into this one, like Caesar playing with a model of the Statue of Liberty and the infamous line Charlton Heston delivers in the original re-worked for shock value. I must give credit to CineMark for delivering one of the brightest, most in-focus screenings I have ever seen in my life. Well done.
Today we were out the door by 10 a.m., heading west towards the Rockies. Our goal: Mount Evans, which is the highest drivable point in North America. Alex’s cell phone tried to navigate us more than an hour farther along the interstate but we ignored its advice and followed the road signs. Good thing we did. After an hour of driving, weaving along switchbacks and roads with virtually no shoulder to them (with VERY steep drops!) we made it to the utmost parking lot. Along the way we spotted a couple dozen bicyclists, very brave souls with thighs as thick as tree trunks, pedaling up that fucker of a mountain. I was in awe of their endeavor.
Getting out of the car, I felt light-headed, due to the elevation. I brought along a jacket, which I needed, as it was a brisk 44ºF even in the sun. Also, according to our brochure, the sun is 5% stronger with every 1,000 of elevation gained… so we were getting plenty of UV up there! We hiked the final couple hundred feet to the summit. 14,265 feet. Once on top, the sharp cold winds blowing from the other side of the mountain hit us. I could have tried to jump down the north side and I’m certain the winds would have blown me back! We were elated, tired, and oddly hungry, but we made it and were happy. And the view was absolutely astonishing.
We spotted some mountain goats along the roadway and a herd of elk through a spyglass mounted near the summit. On the way back down we stopped at Summit Lake to eat lunch and play with some snowpack.
Our next stop was Golden CO for a tour of the Coors Brewery. We parked a couple blocks away and waited a half hour for a tour bus to take us where we could have jut walked in about 15 minutes. D’oh. The tour, sad to say, was not as impressive as the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis. This place merely handed us some audio guides and had us press buttons along various stops within a very small section of what is heralded as the largest single-site brewery in the world. Alex and I are not ones to stand and listen, so we just meandered through in about 10 minutes.
Then the good part — the hospitality room! Nothing beats a freshly-brewed, freshly-poured Coors in a fluted glass on a warm Saturday afternoon. We also sampled Batch 19 (based on some pre-prohibition formula — pretty good) and Colorado Native (not so good). A tip — you have to wear a wristband if you want to drink in the hospitality room, and they only allow the wristband to be punched three times. Along the self-guided tour they offer you tiny half-Dixie cup sips of beer, but if you accept them they take a punch out of your wristband. So refuse the tiny samples so you can have three full pours at the end.
We wandered around downtown Golden, which looks a bit like the Parkade in Cedar Falls. Stopped inside a couple bike shops and picked up a new water bottle. We returned to Denver and back to Alex’s apartment. Dinner was at Red Robin, where they brought out our food one minute after our onion rings, basically defeating the purpose of an appetizer. The burger was a fat slice of greasy heaven.
We were pretty beat from the day and went back to his place to drink and chitchat. After a while we decided to try a bit of Saturday nightlife. We drove towards downtown and found the Mayan Theater, boasting a most impressive facade which I sadly did not get a picture of. We walked up and down Broadway, stopping inside the cleanest and most expensive Goodwill store we had ever seen. Stopped for a $2 draw of PBR at a sadly empty bar and decided we were still fairly exhausted, so we gave up and returned to Aurora. A good night’s rest will give us energy for Sunday.