A Travellerspoint blog

Starring in the Shining

My experience in Vail and Aspen, Colorado


Driving in the mountains of Colorado was kind of like an amusement park ride. When I started out of Denver, it was really cool looking at the eye-level clouds I was about to drive into. Until the pretty mountains shrouded in a thick coat of mist turned into blindly hugging the shoulder of twisting roads in sporadic rain and snow showers. But I digress. It was still pretty cool looking, the three feet in front of me that I could actually see. Within 30 minutes I went from 40 degrees and sunshine to 20 degrees and snow.


I stopped off in Vail, CO.
The town was cute. A nice little ski town. The houses in the hills of the town were really nice, clearly high-end, and seemed family-friendly. Vail is a town of dashes, apparently. The weather had cleared up by the time I got there, so walking around a bit was a good way to release the pent up anxiety of the crazy driving conditions getting there.

Then I made my way to Aspen. One of Laura's roommates, Sarah, had suggested a couple places to go in Colorado. One of them was just outside of Aspen, an apparently gorgeous "must see" peaks/valley called the Maroon Bells. I had aimed for getting there for sunset. I ended up getting there about an hour after. I didn't think this would be a huge problem, obviously not ideal, but I figured I'd still at least see it. Now when I researched it online, all I was informed of was this 10 or so mile road out of Aspen that you have to go to the end of. That's it. End of internet story. WRONG.

So I start out driving on this road. It's a little snowy, but light snowfall doesn't bother me. At first the road takes me through a couple small neighborhoods. For some reason, so soon after sunset, the sky is pitch black. Again, that's fine. I have headlights and streetlights for a reason. Then the road stops going through anything and becomes lined by massive, snow blanketed Evergreen trees. With no streetlights anywhere. It's beautiful, but kind of silently unnerving. I'm the only car on the road. Not just driving, there's no one parked or anything. Literally no sign of life anywhere. Then I hit a closed down ranger station. I think to myself 'Great! There must be some info about the Maroon Bells here!" Nope. Nothing on the board except camping prices. So I keep going up this empty, dark, snowy road alone. I start seeing unmarked turn offs and lots of Do Not Enter signs. And still no one else. Then the signal on my cell phone cuts out. I'm only a few miles into the road at this point. As I creep up the incline looking at the snow piled on the edges of the road, only a few feet of anything around me visible when my headlights are on them, I humorously think that this kind of feels like a horror movie. Kind of like the Shining, "ha ha ha."
Another couple of miles in the humor leaks out a bit, and I'm just a little on edge. Looking back, this is where the audience member, cozy at home, is screaming at the dumb blond on the screen 'Don't keep going. Don't go up there!' I make it to the end of the road unscathed, and there's nothing there. I turn off into a parking lot, unlit and unplowed. There's no information, no people, no cars. So I think I must be missing something. So I loop back around. Nope. No idea. After a few painful minutes of trying to come up with some creative solution, I turn and head back. As I'm inching my way back down this road, heart feeling like its beating a little harder than usual, a deer leaps out in front of my car. I slam on my brake and exhale hard as it meanders across the road, unfazed by my presence. She's a beautiful, big doe. A scary, beautiful, big doe. So I drive at an even slower snail's pace down the rest of this 10 mile stretch.

That's it, really. Kind of anticlimactic, but it was still somewhat of an adventure. Hey, the dumb blond usually somehow survives. Turns out, though this isn't advertised anywhere, that the Crown Bells is a semi-advanced mile hike in either direction at the end of that creepy road. (I'm sure it's much less creepy at a time that's acceptable for hiking, like in the daylight when it's not snowing.) So of course I'm not prepared for that, with my raggedy sneakers and yoga pants. No snow hikes for this lady. Peace out, Aspen.

The downtown area of Aspen was very quaint. The whole feel of it was sweet and made me want to attempt to join the skiers cruising down the mountains; if only to curl up on a couch under a fuzzy blanket with hot chocolate and a fire afterwards. And cuddle. The whole place was really romantic, which when you're traveling alone can be kind of a bummer. Missing people is hard (and weird/rare, for me.) As uppity as Aspen is, it could be a cute vacation spot. Though honestly, I'd be likely to get the same experience for half the price in Maine or New Hampshire.

Posted by katie_rose 08:40 Tagged mountains travel colorado adventure aspen shining vail crown_bells Comments (0)

Denver, CO

Jesus, Weed, and a Deer Pile non-date


When I got to Denver, I noticed that my coolant/antifreeze was practically pouring out of the underside of my car. When this happened right before I left, I had to replace my radiator. Needless to say, I was not thrilled. Also it was late afternoon on Halloween in Denver. I managed to find a place that was open the next morning and vowed to pretend the problem didn't exist until then.

I spent the weekend with my friend from school Morgan and her boyfriend Josh. Morgan and Josh were fantastic people to stay with. I really hate being a guest and feeling like I'm putting anyone out, but they made me feel completely welcome and non-intrusive. Of course one of the first things I got to see was a dispensary.

(My shirt says Think Fast, Hippie on the front bumper of an 18-wheeler. Aren't I funny?)

The dispensary was really weird feeling. You go in and have to hand over your ID like collateral before being admitted behind a locked door to the actual 'shop.' It kind of felt like a prison visitor center; not that I've ever been, but that's what I would imagine it to be like. The second room felt like a pawn shop or jewelry store, with glass cases showing different kinds of pot. Morgan picked what she wanted, they stuck it in a tube, and off we went. We stopped at a brewery and had some really good craft beer. It seems like everywhere I go likes to boast about its beer. I'm not mad about it. The bartender was dressed as a lady bug. I also was not mad about that. He was a great ladybug.

We went home and made some scissors and a sword for our costumes. Morgan was Louise dressed as Edward Scissorhands from Bob's Burgers (Josh was Bob) and I was Hook.


The party we went to wasn't fantastic, but I got hit on by a drunk Jesus who was making prophet/profit puns. So there's that.

After a whole lot of hullabaloo with my car the next day, I ended up dropping a pretty penny and getting asked out by the mechanic who worked on my car. We'd talked for a couple hours while he worked, and I knew Morgan wanted to meet more people in the area, so I invited him to come to Josh's show that night at a venue called Deer Pile.
You see why.

Jared was a nice guy. A 25 year old mechanic from Florida with a really thick beard, which he believed was a bitch repellent. Apparently bitchy girls just aren't into bearded dudes. Okay.

While my car was being worked on, Morgan, Josh, and I went to this weekly festival called The Big Wonderful. I got some hot hard apple cider, poked around the shops, and listened to some music. It was a really cute area, with all hay seating and a big stage. Apparently the new thing in Denver is clothing trucks; kind of like food trucks but with clothes.


You see why it's called the Big Wonderful.

It turned out that my college freshman year roommate had moved to Denver 2 weeks before, so Morgan and I met up with her for lunch at Jelly. Casually playing friend match-maker again.

"Capitol Hill's Hottest Breakfast Spot. Eat More Jelly."

The food was good, and Kelli and I made plans to hang out that night after she finished babysitting.

Morgan took me to Lookout Mountain, which was just incredible. My camera couldn't even nearly capture the beautiful colors of the mountains against sky or the way the snow caps glowed. I love that certain things you really just need to experience for yourself to understand. Technology can't do it for us. I tried Denver edibles right before we went. We assumed I'd have a wimpy tolerance since I don't really smoke at all, but we underestimated it I guess. I didn't really feel much, but the espresso dark chocolate actually tasted pretty good.


I got to do some yoga downtown before going to the apartment Kelli was house sitting. It was really great to stretch and do a little exercise, having been stagnantly sitting in a car for weeks. I was supposed to leave pretty early the next morning, but I didn't. My plans are constantly changing on this trip. Instead we went to brunch at Snooze. They had amazing pancakes. Then went back to Kelli's place for tea.

I liked Denver. It had really great food and some cool places to drink/hang out. I don't think I could see myself living there, with it so far from the ocean. It's also a more suburban-feeling city, so more for settling in/down. And I am not quite there yet. (At all.) But it made me stop feeling too sick of cities on the trip. I'd definitely go back.

Posted by katie_rose 10:30 Comments (0)

Route of Month 1, 6700 miles and counting

Approximate, the cool ap thing doesn't have real roads on it.


Posted by katie_rose 10:26 Comments (0)

Presidential Pleasantries

America, the beautiful, la la la la la

I hadn't planned to stop by Mt. Rushmore initially. It actually hadn't even crossed my mind. Someone mentioned it to me, and it went right in one ear and and out the other. It just wasn't something I was very interested in. But when I was going to head up north then back down, I figured I might as well at least see where the hell Mt. Rushmore is. Turns out it's on the west side of South Dakota, and fairly within my path if I drove down to Denver on a new route. I hate the idea of driving the same road twice if I don't have to, so I decided 'sure, why not?'

The road to the site was fine. Nothing too spectacular. Then I started passing through winding rock hills, which were new, but still not super exciting. I was also running a little late (having chosen sleep over setting out again) so I was even less invested in seeing the monument. When I passed through a tunnel carved out of rock, I got a somewhat excited. Driving through something solid like that is a little thrilling. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to see Rushmore. Did I have to drive into the park and find it, or what?

That lack of knowledge I think actually really benefited me. Because when I rounded one of the many corners I'd been taking and it just appeared above me, I was totally struck by it.

It wasn't a heart skip, or a missed breath; it was just a feeling right in the center of my chest. Something that I don't experience often, quite honestly, and only during moments of extreme beauty (of some form or another.) Maybe it was the immersion of man and nature, or the actual size of the carvings, or the abruptness of how I became aware of its presence, but it touched me. And I was surprised by that. Sure, I like good ol' Abe, but I'd never been particularly into that aspect of history or politics. It was a really pleasant surprise, and something I'd largely been missing on the trip so far. I'd definitely recommend the drive through nothing for it. It's worth it.


It's so much more majestic in person.

But don't take my word for it. Go!

Posted by katie_rose 19:03 Tagged road_trip adventure south_dakota mount_rushmore kflaherty katieroseusa Comments (0)

The Midwest Smells Like a Soiled Diaper

And other unpleasantries for the olfactory system

Driving in the Midwest is really different from driving in the East, in what seems like minuscule ways. But they add up. There are an immeasurable amount of country music stations, guns, and God. As you drive, the radio stations become almost entirely country or gospel, or static. Sometimes it's all static and then I'll get excited when a station is clear, but it turns out to be gospel. I'll take the static.
At one point I was laughing so hard at an anti-evolution advertisement I had to pull over and call my friend through my watering eyes. The closest picture I could find online was this:
Luckily, the REPENT, SINNER signs and anti-abortion billboards had a similar, rather than shameful, effect on me. Gun shows, gun sales, and fireworks were advertised about every 3 miles. They even had to tell people at a rest stop not to bring their guns in. I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.... Or actually we are in Kansas now, and it's slightly funny, slightly frightening. But mostly just interestingly different.

Some things were just funny. Like the winery with a stripping cowgirl as a logo (classy; also exists in OR....) and the 18-wheeler full of chickens. (That one gave me a bit of a fright when I pulled up behind it.)

As for the smells, piss or shit from the cities and general manure from the roads. But sometimes it was actually nice, fresh, open air. I'm just being harsh. I did keep my windows sealed most of the time, however. Even on these really cool dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. The dirt roads were fun to see connecting to the highways, with pickup trucks trailing dust tails behind overgrown cornfields.

And run-down barns. The wood tumbling out of itself is actually weirdly beautiful. I'm sad I didn't get a picture of the really fantastic one I saw in MO. These ones are more put-together, but still pretty typical.
I don't recognize about 1/2 of the road kill on the road, and there's sadly a lot of it. Parts of car tires seem almost as abundant, and empty cars on the side of the middle-of-nowhere highways just confuse me. (Where'd they go!?)

As much as I'm ragging on the Midwest, I can't say I disliked driving through it (with my windows up.) It's true that there's a lot of the same flat land and corn fields, but it can be really beautiful to look at. And sporadically there are little lakes and such that just glisten.



They cross the highway, and some are just like tumble twigs.

Posted by katie_rose 14:25 Tagged road_trip travel usa missouri midwest maysville Comments (0)

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