Tag Archives: travel Thursday

Durango Photo Essay

I spent Monday driving seven hours to the southwest corner of the state, to a small city called Durango. I spent Tuesday conducting a training and taking photos, and spent Wednesday driving home.

Here’s some of what I got. I love Durango; it is one of my favorite places in Colorado. It’s touristy but you can tell that people live there. The community is closely knit. There’s a college, a culture of outdoor activity, and some beautiful scenery. Also, they have some pretty fantastic restaurants.

Unfortunately, this time my room did not look like a brothel, but I made do.

The infamous Strater Hotel, with Old West-themed bar, restaurant, and decor. They claim Louis L’Amour wrote some of his books here.

I saw lots of people hunting on the way down and the town was swarming with men in camo. My favorite part of this sign: cats negotiable.

I took most of these photos on Main Street, some of which retains old-timey charm (rather than faux-timey charm)

The best place for breakfast, hands down. They serve Dan’s favorite coffee in the whole world. This time I sweet-talked them into selling me 2 pounds of coffee beans and it totally made his day. Oh, and I think they’re a brew pub, but I’m all about the pumpkin grill bread.

Never let it be said that Durango takes itself too seriously.

I took this one just for Jive Turkey because I thought she’d appreciate that somewhere in the world, someone gets paid for being melodramatic. It says so right on the sign!

Inside the Strater

Also inside the Strater. The place is full of old stuff. I liked this framed poster telling people to call their business contacts instead of write.

On the way back, we stopped near the summit of Wolf Creek Pass and I was able to take some photos. This one looks like a painting or something. You can see lots of aspen still golden amongst the evergreens.

Most of the mountainous areas we drove through had snow and golden aspens. Then we hit Alamosa and it was all dry scrub from there.

Travel Thursday 3: Bits of tid I can impart from learning them the hard way

Don’t try to eat dinner on Labor Day in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. The only place open will be crapplebees.

A national parks pass will get you in (or get you a discount) to a lot more places/attractions than one might think.

Wyoming has weird weather at all times of the year.

Tourist attractions in many big cities are not worth bothering with (Fisherman’s Wharf in SF, for example).

If you’re visiting Seattle when it isn’t baseball season, the parking areas near the baseball stadium are much cheaper than the ones in the downtown area and a nice walk (not too far).

Don’t camp in a campground right next to a major highway or a busy rail line if you have any desire for actual sleep.

Consuming regional specialties is usually a good idea, unless it’s old fashioned horehound candy in Salem, Mass. which is just disgusting.

Diners in small towns/cities can provide great entertainment at breakfast.

Any attempt to speak French to locals is better than just addressing them in English and expecting them to accomodate you. Actually, that goes for most countries. It’s just common courtesy to attempt to communicate in the native language unless (say, you’re a white people in China) it’s obvious that you’re a foreigner.

Sortie means exit and once you exit the metro in Paris you can’t get back in, even if it was a mistake.

Plan ahead for the Louvre and decide what you most want to see, because there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to see everything in one visit.

Eat bread. And cheese. And yogurt. And chocolate croissants. Drink wine.

Drink sangria. Eat paella. The Sagrada Familia and Park Guell are totally worthwhile, though it’s probably best not to take your entire backpack if possible.

You can gamble at Monte Carlo, but will only have access to a few slot machines unless you are wicked wealthy (or at least willing to dress up and pay the entrance fee). Also, the aquarium here is really cool.

Do not let anyone dressed as a gladiator try to jump into your photos at the Coliseum in Rome, because then they will ask you for money.

Eat gelato. Eat tiramisu. Drink wine. Eat local specialities; they are almost always worth it.

Do not, under any circumstances, get stuck in the train station in Bologna between midnight and 4 am, because you will be afraid for your life and unable to sleep.

If at all possible, hike the entire Cinque Terre, even if you are sick and have a fever. You will not regret it.

If you are 12 like me, a lot of German words will make you laugh. Like abfart. Hee.

If you are vegan, expect to find hardly anything to eat. Maybe pretzels.

Do not eat the Mexican food. Eat the Turkish food instead (kebab etc.). Also, when in Rotenburg do not eat the regional specialty. It is gross (giant fried ball of greasy dough covered in powdered sugar or chocolate. The worst gutbomb ever). But do go to the torture museum.

The Museum of Science in Munich is worth every penny of the entrance fee.

Do not attempt to access the Black Forest from Stuttgart. It is impossible. Go to Freiburg instead.

Eat chocolate. Eat yogurt. Eat whatever is grown locally and in season. From Interlaken, do the waterfall hike.

The Sound of Music tour is just OK. But Salzburg is pretty.

Do not, under any circumstances, go to Auschwitz alone, especially if you are already depressed from leaving your traveling companion. Also, they don’t sell nonfizzy bottled water (at least, I couldn’t find any). Only water with more fizz and less fizz. Also, the pizza is not very good. But the bread they sell from carts on the street is very good.

Czech Republic:
Prague is a beautiful city to explore. Take the time to go down small alleys; you will find hidden shops and galleries that are very cool.

Be careful with the absinthe. Do not, under any circumstances, drink 5 shots of absinthe at your hostel, then go out and eat a magnum (ice cream) bar, then go to a bar and drink 2 more shots of absinthe, and then go outside and vomit all over your feet and the street. If you must do this, please do not wear socks and Birkenstocks, and PLEASE do not pull your camera out and take a picture of it. And if you MUST do all this, please at least change your clothes and socks before breakfast the next morning. UGH. (For the record, this was not me but some guy at my hostel. I will never forget the disgust I felt when I went to breakfast the next morning and he was still up and hadn’t even changed his socks.)

England (London):

Don’t walk around by yourself at night near King’s Cross Station, because it’s creepy and weird. In fact, try to stay someplace that is not there.

There is no way you can see all the stuff you want to see in 2 days.

See a play while you are there if at all possible.

Learn a few important words and phrases before you go, if possible. We learned hello and thank you, and while there we learned yes, no, I want it, I don’t want it, water, go away. These are important things to learn.

If you are not Chinese you will be hounded incessantly in touristy areas to buy things. People will follow you for miles on the Great Wall. Be prepared for it.

Eat street food if you can see it being prepared. It is delicious.

If eating in a restaurant, especially one with no English menu, it is generally a better idea to see what other patrons are eating and point at something that looks good, rather than just pointing at an all Chinese menu and hoping for the best. You may end up with a dish of spicy peppers and mutton, which, while tasty, made for a very eye-watering meal.

Be prepared to be stared at. A lot. There is a very different concept of privacy (none).

Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Bathrooms won’t have toilet paper and will have only cold water, often with no soap.

If you want a Western toilet (rather than the squat kind), look for a McDonalds or KFC.

People spit all the time, everywhere. Don’t drop anything on any floor-type surface and plan to eat it. The 3-second rule is not applicable in China.

If possible, tag-team when bargaining for souveniers. Also, listen to see how much other tourists are paying and try to judge your fair price accordingly. Prices will be incredibly inflated and you are expected to bargain them down to more reasonable levels; otherwise you will be thought an idiot.

Travel Thursday: Places I’ve been (and where I’d like to go)

When I was a kid, we didn’t have much money for traveling. I remember taking exactly one vacation before I graduated high school (at least, one that wasn’t just going to Southern California to visit my dad’s family). We went to Santa Cruz when I was seven for a weekend; I have vague memories of the boardwalk and playing on the beach in a bathing suit. Usually if we went anywhere, it was a very very long drive down to LA, and we stayed at my Grandma’s house and played with cousins. We flew to Texas a few times in my adolescence to visit my mom’s aunt and other relatives. The summer after I graduated high school, we went on a week-long family road trip around California, which was mostly uncomfortable with five of us in an un-airconditioned minivan in August. We camped in Lake Tahoe and Sequoia and King’s Canyon and somewhere near the southernmost glacier (I think that was in Kern county). We drove through Fresno, the armpit of California, on the hottest day of the year. Being 17 and being forced to go four days without a shower was a somewhat stinky, hairy, and miserable experience, so I insisted I be given some quarters to take a shower in one of the campgrounds – only to determine that trying to shave one’s legs in a cold shower proves a bloody exercise.

In my senior year of high school, a project for one of my classes included a time capsule to be opened at least 5 years later. One of the many elements of the time capsule was a list of things I wrote that I wanted to have accomplished or done or experienced by the time I opened it. On the list I wrote was a secret dream I’d been harboring for years – to go to Europe after college, on my own. I worked my butt off in college to earn extra money to pay for my trip, spent four years with the trip in the back of my head, and a few weeks after I graduated I went on the trip. I’d planned it all myself, with the help of a Let’s Go Europe and the website where I ended up meeting Dan (and EEK, and QIR, and Monkey, and Cil, and Yank in Texas, and Guateholla). I flew open jaw into Paris and out of London, in between getting to experience Barcelona, Nice, Monaco, Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Interlaken, Salzburg, Krakow, Prague, Munich, Wurtzburg, Rotenburg, Heidelburg, Freiborg, back to Paris and the chunnel to London. Plus some day trips I’m forgetting. It was probably the most amazing experience of my life, and gave me the travel bug, big time.

Since going to Europe, I’ve mostly traveled around North America. I went to Michigan to visit my Europe travel friend, and we went down into Ohio to the amusement park in Sandusky. I went to Chicago, and DC, and Toronto. I’ve been all over Colorado, to Wyoming and South Dakota and Nebraska. When I moved to Colorado, on the trip we went to Tijuana and through Arizona and New Mexico. We’ve driven and taken the train through Utah and Nevada; work has taken me to Boston, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis. This summer, we went to Kentucky, passing through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. The list of states I’ve been to has grown exponentially since my paltry high school two. But there’s still an entire South, most of the East Coast, and a good chunk of the midwest I’ve never seen. And there’s most of Canada, and almost all of Mexico, and that’s just this continent!

Precisely two years ago right now we were in China. Our three-week trip included about 10 days in Beijing and a week in Xi’an, with a few days in Luoyang when we went up to the Shaolin monastery. But we barely scratched the surface of China, and haven’t been anywhere else in Asia (other than Tokyo Narita airport). We’ve never been to Australia or New Zealand, anywhere in Africa, South America or the Middle East. There’s most of a world out there, actually. So many places to go, and luckily I’m marrying someone with just as much wanderlust as I have. We won’t have enough time to do the UK/Ireland trip we’d fantasized about as a honeymoon, but we’ll get there someday. And we’ve got pages and pages of blank space in our passports.

Thursday travels 1: Glenwood Springs

Sunday afternoon I got back in my state car and headed west on I-70 again, through the Eisenhower Tunnel and over Vail Pass, zooming at 75 MPH where allowed by law and slowing to a 50 MPH crawl about 15 miles outside of Glenwood Springs. I arrived just after dark, checking into the Hotel Colorado, home of many ghosts. My room was on the first floor (something I wasn’t entirely thrilled about) but I didn’t feel like quibbling. The room had a 12-foot ceiling (I know this because the wardrobe was 6 feet high and another could have fit on top of it) and a mysteriously locked door, the bed about 15 feet away and across the room from the TV perched somewhat anachronistically on the period bureau. It was kind of a weird room, but I got two wireless signals between which to choose when I attempted to steal internets so that was OK.

Dan had given me a book to read (more on that in another post) so I headed across the pedestrian bridge (you can’t hurtle yourself to your death onto the freeway or the train tracks, but you can jump in the river), book tucked under my arm, to a restaurant we’d eaten in last year called Italian Underground. The nice thing about this place (aside from good food and good service) is that you can kind of customize the menu (I asked for spinach lasagne, no extra serving of pasta in marinara, and it came with a small salad, bread, and spumoni ice cream for dessert). After I was finished, I headed back to my room and read some more, because despite having about 80 channels between which to choose, there wasn’t a damn thing on the television.

Another drawback to my room was the lack of a functional alarm clock, which I discovered upon waking 20 minutes later than I’d intended on Monday morning. Luckily, I still had plenty of time to get ready, head across the bridge again to eat breakfast, and was setting up my workshop by 9:30. The training went well, and after everyone left I cleaned up the room and changed into jeans and a t-shirt. It was gorgeous outside, so I went out to wander around town, take some pictures, and look halfheartedly for a gift for my mom. I wasn’t disappointed; it was about 70 degrees and the mid-afternoon sun started to cause all kinds of illumination of gorgeous fall color. The town of Glenwood Springs is filled with oldish houses, deciduous trees that turn lovely shades of gold and russet and purple, and the perfect fall atmosphere to make a great place to celebrate Halloween. It almost makes me think of a New England sleepy little town, and there is more than one ghost story to go along with the picture-perfectness. For instance, the hotel where I stayed was once a sanitarium for rich people recuperating from tuberculosis (apparently the hot springs in the area were considered to be beneficial to said condition). During World War 2, it was converted into a hospital for returning injured troops. Each time I’ve stayed there, I’ve had staff talk to me about experiencing the ghost who likes to wander between the kitchen and the service elevator, and this was the first year where I didn’t hear all kinds of weird noises in the night. I guess the ghosts are all up on the 2nd – 4th floors.

Anyhow, I had lots of fun taking photos and then remembered something Dan had done last year. One of the two bars on the little touristy strip is called Doc Holiday’s Saloon, after THE Doc Holiday who came to Glenwood to recover from TB and ended up dying there. Apparently, he’s buried somewhere up on Cemetary Hill. Last year, Dan came with me to this particular training and he made the trip to see Doc Holiday’s grave during the day when I was working. I asked a couple of locals, who pointed me in the direction I needed to go. Dan had said it was “up a little hill” but I’m telling you that hill was not little. It was up a BIG hill, and despite being in good shape I considered the climb to be a good workout. Partway up I stopped to admire the view, noting the splotches of color both in town and on the hillsides all around.

The cemetary itself was one of the more interesting I’ve been in. Once upon a time it was privately owned, so only very important or wealthy people got buried there (I’m sure the whole hassle of carting a body up the damn hill factored into it). The city of Glenwood Springs bought it in the 1930s, but I didn’t see anyone who had been buried later than the 1950s (though I didn’t look at every stone). The most interesting grave marker to me was one that had two men’s names and “Brothers who died together in a mining accident”, leading me to think some about how common that used to be and how the mining accident just a few months ago was such an anomaly these days. There was also a family site where Mom, Dad, and Kid all died within a few months of each other in the late 1800s, Dad being the oldest at 32. It didn’t say how they died, but I expect there had to be some sort of disease involved.

Anyhow, I’d come to see Doc Holiday’s memorial site. Nobody knows where he is actually buried (apparently, there’s some sort of strangeness surrounding the burial) and for a while there was a memorial headstone that apparently had some misinformation on it. It was replaced by the city in 2002, so Doc Holiday (who died in 1880-something) has, by far, the most recent headstone. Even though he isn’t actually buried underneath it. I wasn’t the only one in the cemetary; it seems the trail to get up the hill is a multi-use trail (bikes, hikers, dog walkers) and I’m not the only one who found it to be a great workout getting up there. Two parents with a toddler had made it up the hill, and the toddler had no interest in anything other than practicing her running skills. Little trails had formed within the cemetary, so I explored a bit before heading back down.

My hike down the hill was shared with two off-leash exploring dogs and their person, and when I got downtown I decided I’d had a good enough workout for the day. I took some more pictures and headed back to the hotel to wait for my cousin who now lives in Vail. She got there around 7:30 and we went out for mediocre Chinese food (next time, I’m going back to the brewpub because I know that place is good). Afterward, we had a few drinks at Doc Holiday’s Tavern. Just after our discussion about how I never get picked up in bars or have people buy me drinks (really, it’s OK, I don’t need skeevy guys to buy me drinks), this guy came over and offered to buy us some drinks. It must have been because she was with me. The guy, one of the many oil workers in the area, was actually pretty nice and it turned out we had similar taste in music. But later his skeevy friend who claimed to be in his 30s and looked at least 50 joined us, so my cousin and I excused ourselves soon afterward and headed back to the haunted hotel to have more cousin chats.

Tuesday morning I’d intended to get up and avail myself of the hotel’s nearly adequate gym facilities, but we’d stayed up late so I slept in until 8:30, showered and had breakfast at my favorite breakfast place in town (Daily Bread cafe, not open on Mondays). It was delicious. I had a bit of time to relax before presenting the material for day 2 of my training (all bad news, unfortunately), which wasn’t as well attended as it was supposed to be, but everyone there asked a lot of questions and that was what I was hoping for. After lunch, several of us took the suggestion of one of the attendees to take a short walk over to where he had seen a herd of bighorn sheep the previous day, and we were rewarded with a herd of about 20 sheep of various ages, including two rams with enormous balls.

After the training was over, I changed and packed up the car, making it home in 2.5 hours. The drive home was uneventful and I amused myself by seeing how efficient I could make the Prius by judicious acceleration on the mountains. I arrived totally exhausted and thoroughly glad to be home with my kitties, getting to sleep in my own bed with Dan beside me. I do like the traveling bit, but I do get tired of being away from home so much in such a short period of time. Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Glenwood, and kind of wished I lived there as a kid so I could trick-or-treat through the old spooky neighborhoods, dry leaves blowing in the wind, making myself shiver deliciously with thoughts of the ghosts floating down from Cemetary Hill to oversee the night’s activities. Some kids have all the luck.