We didn’t exactly live like paupers during this road trip. We Couchsurfed everywhere of course, but we also splurged on quite a few meals out and quite a few brewery stops in Colorado. It was a mini vacation! Still, I think the fact that we spent so little proves something…
We left Denver early after a fun few days around town. The Rocky Mountains loomed before us and we patted our old car whispering “Come on, you can do it!” Up, up, up, we went, ears popping. The aspens were just starting to turn giving the mountains beautiful touches of gold. We headed toward Durango, where we would stop for a rest. The car made it up and over the mountains where everything leveled into a high plateau. We drove through some pretty hick-ish Colorado towns, including Fairplay, famous for inspiring South Park. Thankfully, there were no delinquent children running around or political movements occurring.
Eventually we came to a “truck on triangle” sign signalling a hard downhill for the next 10 miles or so. This was the end of the Rockies, a spot that would test our car to the limits. We switched into a lower gear but about halfway down our breaks started smelling of burning rubber so we stopped at a scenic view point to check out the damage. There was smoke pouring out from around the front wheels. I threw all of our water on them, plus half a cup of coffee, and some coolant, everything instantly turning to steam. We waited around, worrying, for about a half an hour. There were only a few more downhill miles to go so, after testing the breaks, we set out to make it to our break spot.
After a quick stop in Durango, we were back on the road and headed through the familiar Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona. “The res” is always an interesting place, with packs of dogs, no one speaking English, locals sitting along the road watching the cars pass. The sun went down fast but we were still able to catch some of the cool rock formations and the painted desert. We were pretty tired by this point and the miles left didn’t seem to be getting any fewer. The last few hours of any long car trip are always the hardest.
We got into Williams, Arizona around 9pm and went straight to bed. We planned to rest for a day then head to the beach!
After our long day driving through corn fields and spending the night in North Platte, we were SO READY for some mountains! It took about four hours to drive to Denver from North Platte, and the whole way we were looking out for our first glimpse of the Rockies. However, we forgot how totally HAZY the skies around Denver are, so you can barely see the mountains even from the city that is surrounded by them!
Despite the lack of visibility, we had a great time in Denver, catching up with some of my old friends from Peace Corps who I hadn’t seen in over two years! On our first night in town we headed out to Beauty Bar, where we danced to Motown music and got photobombed.
Denver seems to be a city that has something for everyone. It’s a great place to be young and out on the town, but I could also see how it would be easy to raise a family there. Our favorite thing about Denver is, obviously, the beer. So on our second day in town we walked around enjoying some happy hour microbrews and the beautiful weather.
We also got to catch up with Zach’s cousin Michelle, who lives in the awesome Five Points neighborhood.
Michelle was headed off to a pirate-themed bike party. If only we had had the proper attire and bikes with us we would have joined!
We also talked to one of Michelle’s friends who moved to Denver from Atlanta. I thought her story was really cool. “I was totally an urban shopaholic city girl. I wanted to move to New York. I only came out here on a visit with my sister because she paid for my flight. Then we went to Red Rocks and I just started bawling. Surrounded by all those mountains I all of a sudden got how tiny I was and how I really don’t matter. It was amazing. I decided I had to live here.”
Everyone we know who lives in Denver loves it, and we can see why. It’s a big city with lots of life but also super accessible to all the outdoor activities the Rockies offer. We could definitely see ourselves living there someday. But for now, the ocean is still calling!