Sunday. Our second and final day in Colorado. So many things that we wanted to do.. so many things we did not do. Two days is NOT enough. For sure!
We did not get out of the house until pretty late. After eating breakfast, which is something I usually do not put that much effort into on vacations, we decided to check out the Red Rock Amphitheater.
Brian lived in Colorado for a while years ago. He told me watching concerts there during rain and thunderstorms is the best. It is open to the public for free when there is no show. The stage is not accessible if a show is setting up, though. There were a lot of people using the place to exercise. Definitely a great idea to check it out. I want to see a show there someday.
We FINALLY made it to Rocky Mountain National Park. I had been there
years ago, but wanted new memories. Zipping through Estes, we got to
the park pretty quickly.
There were signs saying that there was no more parking near the hike and a shuttle is best. We parked in a lot and grabbed a shuttle.! Naturally, there was a ton of parking at our stop, but the shuttle did not take that much more time than driving.
We went on the awesome hike that includes the lily pads on Nymph Lake
and the stunning Emerald Lake seemingly unreal Dream Lake.
Time was not our friend. Unable to do any more activities, we zoomed
back for an AMAZING dinner, knowing we will return someday.
I won a trip to Utah from the St. George Tourism site AtoZion. It included a flight from Denver, CO to St. George, UT. Brian, my boyfriend, and I had previously discussed going to Colorado anyway, since we both have friends there and love it, so we took the prize.!! We used some of my United miles to get to Denver and used Priceline to grab a car rental. In retrospect, I wasted miles for such an inexpensive flight. Eh. We snagged a parking space at 405 near LAX. This lot does require a reservation. We were not asked to prove we had one, we did witness a woman on our shuttle who was refused entry due to her lack of one. She parked in another lot. So, I recommend doing this.
The next day, Saturday, the plan was to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and hike followed by the tram in Estes (which I had been on before and enjoyed), checking out the town and finishing up at The Stanley Hotel for a little ghost action. We took forever to get out of the house. Since I chose to sit in the backseat, I started getting carsick. I think the altitude had something to do with the severity of it. This made me dizzy, cranky and unable to make decisions and is why I completely misread a post on Facebook about National Parks being free. Thinking it was free that next day, we switched our plans. Hours later, I realized that the free day was Monday, not Sunday. Ugh.
We decided to stop in Boulder to eat and found ourselves in heavy rainstorm without umbrellas. We waited out the rain in a parking structure.
Finally, we were able to grab some food on Pearl Street at Old Chicago. We couldn’t seem to agree on other types of food, so the place was perfect. Plus, hey, I’m from Chicago. Since I completely blew the original plans, (Thanks, stomach and non-functioning brain!) Eric, Brian’s friend that lives there, suggested we drive to Mt. Evans. Up and up and up a scary ass road with no friggen rails. As we ascended, the temperature got colder and colder. Like, purple fingernails cold. The wind was so strong that Eric could not open the car door at one point. The walk to the very top was short, but, due to a lack of warm clothing, we skipped that part and just looked up from inside the car. But we did get out to see the view a little lower.
It was so cold, that my fingers could barely move and my body was stuck in a frozen popsicle position. I remember it well from my life in Chicago; When you think that by staying in the same hunchy position, it will somehow keep you warmer. Yea. That never works.
We finished the night with sushi near Denver. Hoping to wake up early the
next day and get a move on. . .
The first time I went to Salton Sea, I assumed it was some tiny little body of water, so figured it would be a cinch to find Bombay Beach. Sara and I got there and found a closed visitor’s center and a very smelly run down shack. This time, I made sure to actually research where it is. This time was also my boyfriend’s first Dart and Map adventure, where it takes 8 hours to go on a 2 hour trip.
Brian and I went to Pappy and Harriets to meet up with some of his friends and to see Lucinda Williams, who was already on the stage playing by the time we got there. Pappys is a great little restaurant and music joint in Pioneertown, which is about 1 1/2-2 hours from Los Angeles. Pioneertown was originally built as a set for Hollywood Western movies. Now, it has a motel, Pappys & Harriets and the old set buildings with weekend shoot-out reenactments.
We chatted Lucinda up a little bit after the show, which was very cool, and since I had a few drinks by then, I babbled about how I had learned to play one of her songs on the guitar. Except, it probably sounded more like “ohhh! You inspired me to pick up the guitar and PLAY! bleeh awesome! woo supporting women woohoo” or whatever I said. My happy drunk is very puppies and rainbows. And then I was probably asleep by midnight.
The discovery of the International Banana Museum trumped my excitement of finally knowing the location of Bombay Beach. Ever since I met a banana in San Francisco, I have developed a bit of an obsession for all things banana. (No, I do not have a million little banana trinkets.) Brian and I got up and out of our hotel room and drove to the banana nirvana. The website said it was open. I didn’t think to call anyway. So, of course, it was closed.
The owner did answer the phone when I called while in front of the place, but he was on his way out of town. Banana dreams. Foiled. (I can’t think of a good banana pun, so foiled will have to do.)
Next, we went to Bombay Beach. Its heyday was in the 1950s and 60s, with Hollywood celebrities flocking there. The high salinity, followed by storms destroyed this playcation hotspot by the 70s. If you look up the Salton Sea, you always see a picture of a decaying van. So, when you get there and do not see it, there is disappointment. Fortunately, Brian knows a lot of people and ran into a guy he knew. That guy was with a girl that had been visiting since the 80s and directed me to the iconic van. Now it looks like this:
There were some dead fish and random objects along with the rubble of what once was.
Brian grabbed the camera and snapped this very awesome photo.
There are a bunch of trailers off of the beach where people still reside.
We went to a local place called Ski Inn for lunch before we darted off to Salvation Mountain, which is another iconic place you have to visit when you are in Southern California.
Salvation Mountain is the recently deceased Leonard Knight‘s way of sending his message to everyone that “God is Love.” It is about 20 minutes East of Bombay Beach.
People donated paint to him so that he could create his brightly colored mountain, filled with art. We walked around and checked out all of the cool art on and within the mountain. We were curious about Slab City as well, being that it is RIGHT THERE, but have read enough about it to maybe go when we are feeling more adventurous. Slab is an off-the-grid kind of place. Though it sounds like there are plenty of artists and very interesting types of people there, we were advised to skip it.
We decided to go around the Salton Sea instead of back tracking.
Love driving through new places! I don’t know why it fascinated me that it is so close to Mexico, as was made very clear by the Border Patrol stop we had to make on our way back up. Since we weren’t smuggling anyone or anything, we zipped past and watched the Sea on our right until we reached the 10 Freeway to Los Angeles.
Once we pick a direction in which to travel, we Google everything from Los Angeles to the destination to find interesting places in which to stop. This time, our search led us to Goldfield, Arizona.
Starving, as we always are, we high-tailed it to the ghost town’s restaurant, Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon and ate our faces off while listening to a musician rock some tunes.
We schlepped down a little hill and went to the gold mine. Jumped into the old and rickety elevator and went down down down deep into the old mine. Our guide told us what all the tools were used for and other stuff that went on there. He was fantastic!! When the tour was done, we were made to walk up ALL the stairs to the top.
I will go ahead and say that bringing high heeled shoes on a road trip – as your only pair of close-toed shoes is really dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
The Mystery Shack was near the gold mine so we walked on over and went in. (Okay. Really. The whole town is near everything in itself.) It is a shack built into a hill and everything is at a 45 degree angle. The guide had people demonstrating how f-ed it makes your sense of balance. Like walking to one side and back… And he had Sara sit on a chair – then put a ball on some wood thing on the wall. The end of the wood thing would make the ball fly right at the person on the chair. So, even though we all knew damn well that thing was not going to really hit the person – was fun to watch the chair sitter freak out and jump up. HA! I didn’t get to try anything because of my freaking high heels.
There was a reptile exhibit, so that had to happen. Even though I live in California, I have never seen (and never want to) a rattlesnake in the wild, so a zoo or exhibit is the closest I will ever get (I hope!)
The next attraction we checked out was the whorehouse, of course. (p.s. My spellcheck just made sure to correct me that whorehouse is one word and not two. Phew!) Lu Lu’s Bordello. It cost a few bucks to take the tour and it was a nice quick one as well. What we learned was that whoring back then was even ickier than what ick we assumed. The girls had to bring flipping buckets of water to the house so the smelly dirty ass miners can bathe. So, the first miner got the clean water and the rest of the miners after were in nastier, dirtier & shittier water. Mmm Yes. Bathing in the same water all night long. What does that even say about the guys at the end of the night? Eww and Ewww.. Get there earlier. The girls also wrote letters home for the men. The newer girls were in this particular bordello, til the madam trusted them. Then, when they were nice and broken in, they went across to the saloon.
Only Sara and I were on the tour. But, our tour guide, dressed as a “Floozy,” projected as though she were in a room with 50 people as soon as she started on her memorized schpiel. But, if one of us talked to her, she spoke in her normal voice. At the end of the tour, we were encouraged to hang out and take pictures. There was a bathtub. (I don’t know if it was a replica or an original tub.) (Okay. I hope replica because, otherwise.. EWW!)
Sara put her foot in it to pose and it made the loudest noise, like it was breaking or something. We were sure they would come back upstairs and reprimand us, but they didn’t. Yay, Us! We broke Goldfield and got away with it!
The last thing we hit up was the train. It went around the town. It was the last ride of the day and was during sunset, so the lighting was amazing.
Before we ditched out towards Tucson, we browsed the gift shop. I have a few friends with awesome children, for whom I love to buy interesting presents, so a little bit of shopping is a must sometimes. I also bought candy. For me. And did not share it. Ney!
When we exited the parking lot, Sara’s tire died. I have changed many a tire in my life, but was in no mood. But, before I even had a chance to call Auto Club, a truck pulled up and a man, that is one of the train conductors, stepped out and saved the day. He had the best name. Whiplash. He put on the spare. Posed for a picture and sent us to a WalMart. And nothing says “Old West” like WalMart.
For girls that always lived in cities – the products in that WalMart were.. uh.. interesting..
Plans are few and far between on the road, as are reservations when Jenn and I travel, and traveling solo was no different for me. As I made my way from East to West across the states I pretty much stayed where I wound up by day’s end that had a vacancy and a cheap rate. And always only after a bedbug bed check Jenn had instilled in me whenever we traveled as I’d watch her strip the sheets of her bed while I was more worried with checking Yelp for what nightcaps were in the area. Once she was satisfied they were clear, we’d settle in and head out.
Sometimes we’d note places to go and things to see and even get to them if they were of utmost importance, and sometimes we’d see a road sign for a landmark or local must-see and take a segue from the path for that instead. For the places we’d wind up missing as a result or didn’t get to in time we’d just add them to our list for the future.
And then there are the fruitless but fun pursuits. Somewhere outside of Atlanta Jenn texted me that the Big Banana Car was on display. So with her as my co-pilot in spirit I turned around and drove in its direction. If you know anything about Jenn then you know she loves her bananas.
And if you know anything about GPS and map apps you know they’re not always right. Half an hour into my journey the directions sent me to some industrial park with a similar named street. There was no banana where I wound up, just an office building and a cop who pulled up alongside to tell me to pull into the parking lot nearby instead of the side of the road where I was attempting to re-route my route. Eventually I did see 3 banana yellow colored cars but no actual banana.
Finally I made it to the strip mall where they had tweeted they were at when Jenn texted they just posted they had packed up and were off to their next destination. Mission Banana was a bust. By this point I was hungry and saw something banana yellow nearby calling my name.
It was named Moe’s and had a great big sign hailing it as the original Moe’s.
I figured it was a local southern fave. Turned out it was more South of the border as it served up southwest fare and was a chain rather than a Mom & Pop’s type place I prefer, but new to these parts it wasn’t a franchise I was familiar with and I’m always up for a quesadilla to quell my hunger, so I ordered up a chicken club one and sampled the salsa bar as I took a bite of a new (for me) regional staple. I was less bummed I passed up something more regionally Southern in these parts, like the BBQ joint I passed back by the industrial park, than I was about being able to connect with a banana for Jenn. We have a very odd bond. But when someone has saved your life in the past you’re willing to jump on board and support what they live for.
On my way to Nashville that night I made a detour to Chattanooga and delighted myself (I’m easily amused) by standing on the tracks of where the Chattanooga Choo-Choo once chugged along.
Whiskey is another passion of Jenn’s. Bananas and whiskey, what’s not to love about that gal? She’s a fun friend. It’s a shared love, as I do enjoy a good whiskey sour time and again, so in her honor as I continued on and saw signs for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in the distance I also made a sidetrack trip to see that. Sadly it was closed by the time I made it to its gates, which is ironically situated in a dry county, but the scent of the pungent forbidden spirits filled the air. I paid my respects and took a photo before moving on.
Unfortunately Nashville would prove to be a dry stop for me as well even though it was soaking wet. After managing my hydroplaning car through a torrential downpour on the highway I could only find an affordable hotel on the outskirts of the city. I drove down the main strip of fun bars and listened to the live country music coming from each, but decided that to stop for a drink and try to find my hotel in the rain or bothering to go back was not particularly wise or safe (or would be near the legal limit if you saw the number of fun bars there were to try) so I stayed in and added a night out in Nashville to the future to do list for another visit.
The next morning I did find a funky banana yellow van in the parking lot registered to seekers of the paranormal. Proving that on the road you can count on the abnorm.
On my way out the random encounters continued as I drove through the city on a sunnier morning. I was greeted with participants dressed in tutus and even bunny ears gearing up in costume for some sort of run/walk fundraiser. I saw a big boot, a giant guitar, and the birthplace of bluegrass, Ryman Auditorium.
Somewhere outside of Music City there was no love as I came across a very likeable little place called the Loveless Café.
Well in lieu of love they had something even better, lots of bacon!
The BBQ smoker house adjacent was at it filling the air with rich smoky goodness for the dishes being served up inside but there was a line out the door and a wait for a seat so sadly I passed on some ribs and got some of their Piggy Popcorn, candied bacon popcorn, which they sold in their shop alongside an assortment of bacon concoctions and themed gifts as well as a variety of another local fave, pralines, including whiskey ones. I was really enjoying my taste of Tennessee.
As I drove out a loveless-themed tune called “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves came on the radio with the lyrics, “Mary Mary quite contrary, we get bored so we get married… Jack and Jill went up the hill, Jack burned out on booze and pills and Mary had a little lamb, Mary just don’t give a damn no more.” I turned it up as I was even starting to enjoy Country music too. They sure do know how to turn a phrase and tell a story. I looked forward to my next new story on the horizon as I headed down the road.
I thought Virginia was for lovers, but since I was traveling solo this trip, and my last relationship was in the rearview along with the rest of the roadkill, I was just passing through, so there was no lovin’ as I drove through the state, heading back to the West coast to join back up with Jenn for some new adventures ahead, but I did have some tasty sliders for supper. More on that when I get there. As I ventured further into the South on this trip, having started in New England, it was time to see some history on the southside.
I stopped in Winchester where I pulled into the parking lot of the Visitors Center so I could get some info on these here parts. Across from it was Abram’s Delight, a beautiful stone structure and Winchester’s oldest home, built in 1754. There was a fee to enter it so I just took in its glory from the outside. Now I don’t mind spending a buck when worth it, especially when it comes to a recreational experience, beverage, or bite when on the road, which is my favorite way to taste life and the local cuisine as I travel, but some things you just get with a view and a photo. You know that scene in Vacation, where once they get to The Grand Canyon, they take it in briefly before Clark hurries them all back into the station wagon to keep moving? Sometimes I travel like that. But not at The Grand Canyon. That, by far, was one of the most majestic views and best stops on trips Jenn and I have hit the road for. We made sure to see both the North and South rims on that trip, and lingered throughout both days to take it all in. But I’ve seen my share of colonial stone homes, so I headed on into the Visitors Center to learn what else was around.
Not only was there a nice little informative film montage to fill you in on the history of the area but a very helpful desk attendant who handed out maps and even guided me to specific spots I should see and go eat at.
But before I got my grub on and left there, first I needed to go through the Patsy Cline exhibit. They had one there and it was free. It was also on the backside of the wall that projected the film retrospective I had just previously viewed. Turns out Patsy was from these parts and had a home there where she once lived that I also got a picture of.
The exhibit was as adorable and “Crazy” as Patsy. It was more like a shrine of sorts.
Consisting of signed and donated items by fans, mostly photos and painted portraits, including a piece signed by Jimmy Stewart dated 1996, and a jukebox with her tune “Crazy” at the top spot as the first selection.
Along with country music, there were some serious pre-Civil/Revolutionary War activities in the acres of this region as it stood its ground, dating back to 1755 with the headquarters of a young George Washington.
My first historic stop as I headed out was to see our first President’s office, which he occupied as a Colonel in the Virginia Militia while defending the frontier.
Along with a statue of his likeness, which provided a fun photo op, was the canon he used to defend Fort Loudoun. Pew Pew!
Just up the road, and a little further along on the history timeline, was Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters.
Occupied as a Major during his time there from 1861-1862, before leaving to head up his Valley Campaign and going on to become a General for the Confederacy, it now stands as an historical landmark.
A sign displays a snippet of a letter home to his wife describing everything from the wallpaper to the paintings to how the flue heated the home. Just goes to show, if an officer in his day in the midst of military planning could take the time to pen such descriptions to his beloved the least a modern day man can do is return a text. The lessons you learn on the road…
Wanting to keep it authentic I decided to dine at a local long-standing establishment, the Cork Street Tavern. Rumored to be haunted, having once served as a hospital space for recovering and dying Confederate soldiers (some whose bodies are said to have been buried in the basement below) the only spirits the tavern seemed to serve that day were at the bar. I ordered a Chardonnay from local winery, Naked Mountain. The tavern had also been rumored to have once been a brothel, so it seemed a fittingly named beverage brand to accompany my meal, the aforementioned sliders.
These were a step up from your standard small sized bar burgers as they served their sliders in the form of mini French Dip sandwiches. Tender roast beef slices slivered on golden egg brushed buns and fresh warm savory kettle chips on the side.
And speaking of sides, to my right was a Wall of Presidents; photos of various 20th century U.S. Presidents, and to my left were photos of the White House and Air Force One. Across the room was a wall of stars and comedians featuring framed photos of John Wayne, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers and the cast of The Honeymooners. Considering I once wrote political comedy, there were at least ghosts of my combined themed past in that room on those walls.
With some daylight left, I headed out onto the cobblestone walks and made my way to a brick-lined walkway leading up to the doorstep of Patsy Cline’s home, now a landmark itself. As the marker states, she was killed in a plane crash. Seems we’re sort of kindred spirits, except I managed to escape mine. I was not aware of how she passed before I came here, but like I said, there’s always something to learn on the road…
I soon was back on it and by that night with a full moon overhead I crashed at a HoJo in Salem which provided a plentiful buffet with fresh hot biscuits to boot and a breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains when I awoke in the morning as I set out for my next destination in the South.