One of the highlights of my recent cross-country road trip was Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And how could it not be a highlight? Here is scenery that both inspires and excites in a corner of Colorado once called the ‘Switzerland of America.’ One of several wide valleys at around 8,000 feet, which include North Park, Middle Park, South Park, and Winter Park, Estes Park itself was renowned for its beauty. Continue reading
Posted in 19th C., American History, History of the West, The British in the West, Western Romance Literature
Tagged 4TH EARL OF DUNRAVEN, Colorado, Denver, Estes Park, Loveland, Rocky Mt. National Park, William Cody
The judges have decided—the votes are in! Having traveled more than 8,000 miles and scoured the country for the very best, here are the 2015 DOWNING ROADTRIP AWARDS…in order of encounter. Continue reading
Canada Geese on my walk
The day started with all good intentions: Cristal ran her 16K, I walked my 3.75 miles, my blister from yesterday’s walk bound in gauze and two Band-Aids. Showered and changed, we jumped into the car, headed towards Rocky Mt. National Park…and discovered that the low-pressure tire gauge had come on. Uh-oh. Not good. While we had eschewed the one-way only Fall River Drive at 15 miles an hour on gravel with 12,000 ft. drops and no barriers, we are intending to go on Trail Ridge Road tomorrow, which promises to be somewhat more standard while still offering fabulous views. So, we finally figured out how to use our trusty tire gauge, found the guilty tire, and also discovered the local tire repair shop closed on Sunday. No Rocky Mt. NP for us today! Back at the hotel to collect one item, we opted for lunch. Bad decision. We waited over fifty minutes for salads to appear, effectively causing lunch to take an hour and a half all told.
The only thing left to do was to lick our wounds and eat some chocolate. A trip to Rocky Mt. Chocolate Shop
Cristal being comforted by a S’Mores Bar
was definitely called for. This, in turn, led to a spin round Estes Park village once more, which landed us in the Colorado Hat Shop that also just happens to sell books.
My book box is now seven books lighter, and Cristal and I are greatly enriched for some good conversation on the history of the west. Thank you, Ted and Susan Williams.
We needed to catch up on exercise today. Well, I needed the catch-up, Cristal needed her training time, and it was decided it was far too lovely outside to work out in the gym. Estes Lake has a 3.75 mile trail around it: paved and perfect for bikers, walkers, runners and folks willing to share those two-seater Surry bikes. Our decision was that Cristal would rent a bike and I would walk it, which I figured on NYC street walking time would take me about an hour and a half, and that I’d probably see Cristal whiz by at least twice if not three times. Ha! About a quarter of the way round, I heard a cry for help from non other than my own daughter whose bicycle chain had come off. As I held the bike and Cristal fixed the chain, her hands became black with grease. Not to be deterred, she cycled on and I walked on, braving the possibility of attack by
Canada geese on Estes Lake
Canada geese, Mother Elk and crazed fishermen. When I reached the hotel, about an hour and twenty minutes all told, Cristal still had not passed me again. It turned out she was right behind me, and, on the basis of greasy hands, got the bike rental for free.
A walk round town in the afternoon and a visit to the historic Stanley Hotel all mounted my walking mileage to just under seven miles for the day. Cristal had told me that exercise would increase my energy. I think she forgot to tell my feet.
Grand staircase at the Hotel Stanley
View from our room at Estes Park
Leaving the relative prosperity of Phillipsburg, KS, we headed down the highway wrapped in the ribbon of green and blue surrounding us. The expectation that the breadbasket of America would be rolling green pastures dotted with well-maintained farmhouses soon dissipated into alarm at the poverty we saw. While the farms seemed to be productive for the most part, the astounding number of dilapidated homes, falling down barns and silos, and other signs of abandonment, were only pointers to the towns we went through: closed and boarded shops, gas stations long ago deserted, empty streets. At times, driving through Nebraska, we wondered if we were truly in America. This was not the United States I was led to believe I live in.
Further despair was triggered when we passed a feed lot. Due to my love of anything western, and the cowboy way of life, if I eat beef it has to be grass fed. Having seen and smelled the feed lots, there is now no way I’d eat beef without the label of ‘grass-fed.’ The Yuma feed lot, in particular, which lasts for about two and a half miles, had us gasping for air and on the point of regurgitation. I cannot get across how thoroughly disgusted we felt.
This led to elation as we crossed into Colorado. In no time, The Rockies were in sight and I write to you now from Estes Park. There’s a feeling almost as if we’ve come home at last.