Moving to California – Day 5

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.

Mr. Moose enjoys the aspens

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.

At least we had an awesome view while our breaks were smoking.

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.

Sun setting and miles to go

We got into Williams, Arizona around 9pm and went straight to bed.  We planned to rest for a day then head to the beach!

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Moving to California – Days 3 & 4

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!

Mr. Moose arriving in the Mile High City

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.

Maureen and me, and some creepers in the background also posing?

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.

Breckenridge Brewery has an amazing happy hour…1/2 price nachos and $1 off all drafts!
I found this “Bike-a-saurus” really amusing.
Build-your-own fro yo also happened.

We also got to catch up with Zach’s cousin Michelle, who lives in the awesome Five Points neighborhood.

Beautiful view from Michelle’s roof

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!

 

 

 

 

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Moving to California – Day 2

Sunrise in Chicago

The word was that we needed to be on the road before 7 if we wanted to miss the morning Chicago traffic.  We managed to get out of the big city with only one minor slowdown and before we knew it we were at the beginning of the world’s largest field i.e. the states that fill the space between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains.  Google approximated the drive from Chicago to Denver to be 16 hours so we decided to knock out 12 hours on the first day and spend the night Couchsurfing in North Platte, Nebraska.  We planned to entertain ourselves with music, reading, playing silly games, sleeping, talking, arguing, thinking… you get the point.

Driving through this section of the country is extremely dull.  By dull I mean the most boring drive.  But I love it because this is the section of the country that people miss when they fly.  Enduring seemingly-endless miles of those golden fields is what make you fill with joy at your first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

Mr. Moose crosses the Mississippi river.

Mr. Moose enters Iowa!

We ran into some rain and road construction, but made a pretty good pace.  There are a few restaurants that we always stop at, one being Hamburg Inn in Iowa City.

The Hamburg Inn in Iowa City, Iowa.

Breakfast.

Our stomachs were full of nothing but coffee and dry cereal so we stopped around 11 am for some breakfast.  The Hamburg Inn is a Hawkeye staple and has served many students along with a couple U.S. presidents.

They are famous for their pie shakes – large milk shakes with delicious pieces of pie broken into them.  Best. thing. ever.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Shake

We stuffed our faces, then were soon back on I-80.  Carrie took the wheel and we both got really sleepy from eating so much.  Lucky there was a rest stop with ice cold Mountain Dew to boost our energy levels.

Mr. Moose on I-80 west.

The sun setting in Nebraska.

Just before sunset we made it to North Platte, a small railroad town in the middle of nowhere.  We have had a lot of Couchsurfing success in the Midwest, and as usual had a great host who showed us around and took us out to a good diner, The Depot, near the rail yard.

North Platte is home to the largest railroad depot in the world.
Fox Theater in North Platte, Nebraska

There wasn’t too much excitement in North Platte on a Monday night, but that was fine with us, as we were eager to get to bed after such a long day of driving through the cornfields!

 

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