Day Five, Part Four:
We finally caught our first glimpse of the snow covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon as we headed for Loveland Pass. It was then that I realized that the mountains we had been surrounded by in Denver and Golden were actually just the foothills to these monsters before us. No matter how I try to describe them or how many photos I take it would never do them justice. You definitely have to see it, to believe it!
Pete was quite stoked to return to Loveland even tho there would be no snowboarding this time around. However, I think the idea of taking us on a sketchy yet scenic drive that was known for it’s twisty, tight turns and lack of guard rails was equally as exciting to him. As we wound our way up into the clouds the boys were very nervous, especially each time we’d hop out and creep really close to the edge and snap a selfie.
Once at the Pass we hoofed it to the tippy top or at least as far as our East Coast lungs would allow. Ethan was the first to drop, Petey was a close second, and Will immediately following. Fortunately, the majority of the hard work to the top was done by our nearly 15 yr old truck… poor girl after all we’ve put her through! Why not make her climb an elevation of nearly 12,000 ft?!
There was a perfect patch of powder among the green grass and wildflowers that a bunch of snowboarders had taken advantage of. The boys sat throwing snowballs at each other while we tried to soak up all the beauty around us. The views were breathtaking! If you’re ever cruising along Route 6 you absolutely can’t pass up Loveland!
Higher & Higher – By: Jackie Wilson
Day Five, Part Three:
We had worked up quite the appetite watching everyone exercise at the Red Rocks Amphitheater and we knew our guys were on the verge of becoming ‘hangry’. You know that crazy emotion when your hunger takes over and turns even the most chill of folk into a raging, angry Hulk? Well, Petey had already been consumed by it and as much as we wanted to linger, hike, and take in more of the scenery Will and Ethan were getting close to the point of no return.
I guess in their defense it was nearly noon, so we hopped in our truck and had a pointless chat about ‘controlling our emotions’ while we scoped out the area for any nearby parks. We were slowly learning that food + park = happy kids and happy kids = happy parents. Even tho Will is nearly a teenager and ‘too cool’ for swings and slides he still takes off running with his bros.
Luckily, it was a short drive til we found an adorable park located in quiant, historical Georgetown. This picturesque town nestled among the Rockies resembled a movie set with all it’s victorian charm. Of course our boys weren’t as excited about that as they were to play freeze tag and down some breakfast. It wasn’t long til the green started to fade and they were back to their ‘Bruce Banner’ selves, running around and making friends… from New Jersey nonetheless!
With our bellies full and spirits high, we were back on the road in no time. We were truckin along when suddenly I realized my phone wasn’t with me. There’s nothing Pete loves more than having to back track, especially since losing my phone is high on my list of bad habits. Luckily, with the ‘Find My iPhone‘ app I have been saved more times than I can recall. Fortunately, this time was no different. The lovely, little, green light on Pete’s map showed that it was still at the park. The best part of the app is the ‘Play Sound’ feature that can be heard from a distance even when muffled by a mountain of laundry or sofa cushions. As we rolled up to the park we could hear it going off and we immediately spotted it lying on the picnic table right where I had left it. Saved again!
Day Five, Part Two:
We woke up feeling refreshed and excited for our full day ahead. We were able to recharge our minds and bodies thanks to the comfy beds and bottomless coffee. The kind staff also hooked up our gigantic cooler with fresh ice… yay! The Mountain View Inn surpassed our expectations… especially for the price!
Our first stop was the highly anticipated Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater which was located in Golden and probably one of the shortest drives at just 12 minutes. Not only was I dying to see 250 million year old red sandstone rocks towering higher than Niagara Falls but I was equally excited to see where so many legendary concerts have been performed including our favorite Dave Matthews Band album. So what better tune to crank as we rolled up to one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen?! I know it’s super cliche but I didn’t care. I think it’s pretty sweet that whenever our boys hear Dancing Nancies they immediately think of Red Rocks.
Just seeing them from a distance was quite unbelievable. When we arrived at the Amphitheater, I was surprised to see so many people getting their fitness on. At an elevation of 6,450 ft it had to be one of the best places in the world to train your quads and lungs . Wish I could say I tied up my running shoes and did a few flights but I was a bit intimidated by the sheer steepness of the theater itself. I wasn’t about to spend the rest of this road trip on crutches. So instead I watched in awe and hoped all the calories they were burning would magically come off me too!
Day Four, Part Five:
Ok… I know you’re getting a really creepy ‘Bates Motel‘ vibe from that photo. Trust me I was a bit skeptical at first too. Since we arrived in Denver with limited time before the big Rockies game we opted to forego setting up camp and instead try to find a reasonably priced hotel. We also figured we’d be arriving late and depending on the campground that could be a bit difficult to trek through the woods… especially for the ever common ‘walk up sites’.
After skimming through a few reviews on google we came across the Mountain View Inn tucked away in the small town of Lakewood. The majority had warned it wasn’t anything fancy and it was a bit outdated. However, everyone mentioned how clean it was and for $78 a night plus free wifi we were sold especially considering we’d be there for less than 12 hrs. We were in luck when we phoned and the friendly guy working the front desk hooked us up with the last room available.
By the time we arrived it was after 10pm and we carried a snoozing Ethan up to our room on the second floor with Will and Petey staggering behind us. The room was cozy, clean, and most of all free of any sign of Norman Bates. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t be peeking out the shower curtain every few seconds tho!
Day Four, Part Four:
Will was probably the most pumped of us all to finally be in Colorado considering he’s a huge Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies fan. We decided to surprise him, so along the way we ordered tickets for the Rockies vs. Diamond Backs scheduled to play that evening at Coors Field. He was beyond excited all decked out in his Rockies gear.
Our tickets were in the ‘Rock Pile’ which was a semi-circular shaped bleacher section located in straightaway center complete with a sick view of the Denver skyline. We had a quick bout of rain that left a beautiful rainbow over the city. It was the perfect time to let the boys play a few games and grab another beer. Ethan didn’t quite make it to the end but we welcomed the chance to snuggle since the temps were dropping. Overall, we had a great time and would love to return someday! Between tickets, parking, food/drinks, games, and of course souvenirs we came in right around $200. Will would definitely agree it was worth every penny… especially cause the Rockies won 10 to 5!
Day Four, Part Three:
When we arrived in ‘Mile-High City’ we were starved and it just so happened that friends of ours had been to Denver about a year before and raved about Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs for a unique, quick bite to eat. Motorcycles, meat, and cold beer… does it really get any better? Oh it did. The boys were beyond thrilled to see a Boylan’s fountain soda dispenser… the best cream soda ever! The Door’s ‘Riders on the Storm’ was playing when we walked in which we totally took as a sign considering that was the first song we listened to on our ‘road trip playlist’ as we set out on the PA turnpike through torrential downpours. Plus, everything on the menu sounded amazing. I got the ‘Bat Dog’ a smoked bacon brat with avocado puree, tomato cream cheese, caramelized onions, bacon bits, and tomato bacon powder all paired with a side of charred tahini cauliflower. Pete went the spicy route and topped his dog with the ‘El Diablo’ which consisted of tomatillo green chile salsa, sriracha lime mayo, and smoked bacon bits. Read that without your mouth watering! The boys were a bit bummed they didn’t serve ‘Ballpark’ franks but they are often disappointed unless they are eating cereal, Kraft Mac n Cheese, or chicken nuggets. They don’t really love the idea of trying anything new… we’re still working on that. Speaking of trying something new, we did fall in love with their ‘elevation’ organic ketchup and mustard which is handcrafted right in the city at 5,280 ft. Overall, we loved everything about this place. The food was fast, fresh, and filling. We liked the chill atmosphere and thought it was the perfect pitstop if you’re passing through Denver. Our only complaint is that they aren’t on the East Coast!
Day Four, Part Two:
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies. It’s time to leave this town, it’s time to steal away. Let’s go get lost anywhere in the U.S.A.
As we crossed the Colorado border the temps began to fall as my hair began to rise. The boys were bursting with excitement and apparently so were the chips! I no longer needed my ‘sun shields’ which consisted of a bunch of sweaters hung around the windows to help cool things down. Our truck’s AC was working overtime in the Kansas heat so it was nice to finally see the outside temp gauge read below 100F.
We were so stoked to be in CO… we were more than halfway across America and still going strong! Plus, this marked the 8th state in just 4 days… we had driven about 1700 miles and were still amped on this crazy adventure. Pete had lived for about two years in Denver when he was very young and has traveled back to snowboard numerous times. However, this was my first time. It felt like a major milestone in this journey, especially because seeing the Rocky Mountains in person rather than from an airplane window was always high on my bucket list. Before setting out, I had also secretively wondered if at this point in our trip I might be hitting an airport buying a one way ticket home. That definitely was not the case tho. I was feeling proud of myself and our crew… plus I would have never experienced such a fantastic hair day!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful with just a few clicks of our ruby red slippers we were whisked away to another land? Guess that would defeat the whole purpose of our road trip tho. Even if it did work there was no way Pete would have let me pack them. We were on a strict ‘two pairs of shoes per person for a 30 day voyage’ rule. These babies might have been tough to hide…
I must admit I was terrified to sleep in our tent the first night. I laid awake for hours and hours chanting to myself ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ but sadly I was still surrounded by the sounds of the creatures of the night. These same sounds that lulled the rest of the guys off to a peaceful slumber. Of course my imagination got the best of me and I envisioned huge, frightening, wild beasts shredding us to bits or worse some crazy Kansan (yes it’s a real term!) ransacking our site. I tried not to wake Pete up too much since I knew one of us would need to be coherent enough to drive if we made it through the night alive. I may or may not have asked him ‘What was that???’ every 5 minutes. I literally slept a total of 2 hours and that was mostly thanks to the ridiculous thought I had conjured that nothing will attack when the sun begins to rise. So as I was drifting off at about 5:30am the guys were all beginning to stir. As much as I wanted to snooze my senses were awakened by the smell of bacon and coffee. Pete loves his Coleman Camping Stove that he received a few years ago from my parents and I love that he makes all the meals!
With many more nights of camping ahead of us (gulp) Pete gave the boys a lesson on properly taking down the tent and most importantly the art of rolling a sleeping bag and fitting it back into it’s sack. That is easier said than done considering the storage bag is comparable to a snack size zip loc. You’d think they’d make them with a little bit of stretch. Kind of like when they finally got wise and added 1% spandex to jeans… Hallelujah!
As we were packing up a pickup truck came cruising towards us. Immediately I panicked that it was a Ranger telling us we weren’t in a designated site. However, the kind Kansan told us that his company gets bug spray by the caseloads and he wanted to pass along a few to us. So he tossed a couple bottles out the window and then he was off. Kind of strange but very much appreciated! With our arsenal of insect spray we finished loading up, fueled up our truck, recharged our devices and set our GPS to Denver, Colorado. All we had to do was follow the yellow lined road!
Day Three, Part Two:
We were so stoked to finally put our new camping gear to use! We had googled some places to stay in Kansas and came across Cedar Bluff State Park in Ogallah. It was a toasty 95 degrees but with the promise of swimmable water we pulled into this very empty campground. It was odd to not speak to anyone regarding a reservation but luckily they had a sign posted explaining the process. Might as well had been written in another language tho considering we were still clueless being the amateur campers that we are. Nevertheless, we grabbed an envelope, filled out the appropriate info, and dropped our payment down the tube.
We drove around til we found a beautiful spot right at the water’s edge where we were greeted by Bambi and a few of his friends. We all jumped out of the truck and sprung into action.. well the men did anyway! While they setup camp, I took a blanket and stretched out taking in the fresh air and amazing views.
We had read about a ‘sunken cedar forest’ and wanted to check that out. We weren’t really sure if it was somewhere we could swim but with the temps rising we were desperate. So we hopped on our bikes and sped off in search of a watering hole. We didn’t have to travel far til we spotted some spooky looking tree tops. I was a bit unsure of what kind of sea creatures we’d be wading with but after the boys and Pete paddled around for a bit and stayed afloat I decided to take the plunge. Yes I know… my boys are way braver than their Mama!
It turned out to be amazing! Even tho we’re still in the early phases of this cross country road trip, I’m making a conscious effort to not be such a wuss. Especially because our goal as parents was to always instill a sense of adventure and spontaneity in our boys. Luckily, despite my over cautious habits they have a Dad who lives by the motto ‘If it isn’t dangerous, it isn’t fun’. So no matter what they all have a dash of dare devil in their genes.
On the way into the campground the boys had spotted a BMX track. Despite this place looking like a ghost town they had some pretty sweet amenities. We explored on our bikes making a few pit stops along the way including this state-of-the-art ‘Simon Says’ competitive game. Not only was it challenging for the boys and Pete but entertaining for me to watch!
We got back to our site and the boys played with their new BB gun and slingshot while Pete cooked up some dogs for dinner. I tried to stay out of the firing zone while yelling to them not to shoot any wildlife. As with everything it quickly became a competition of who could shoot further and nail specific targets. Of course Pete couldn’t resist joining in… he’s the biggest kid of them all.
As the sun started to set we walked down to the sandy water edge. The sky was gorgeous… the best view ever for washing dishes and skipping rocks. Overall, Cedar Bluff State Park so far had surpassed our expectations. The landscape was really interesting and the camp itself offered not only fun stuff like the BMX track but also clean, hot showers, flushable toilets (always a bonus!), and some really unique things to see like the sunken forest and bluffs. If you are ever passing through Kansas it’s definitely worth checking out!
Day Three, Part One:
We left Boonville, Missouri behind in the dust and cruised across the Kansas state line. Even tho we wasted our applause for Kansas City, Missouri we were still stoked to reach Kansas City, Kansas. The roads appeared to go on forever disappearing into the horizon. We seemed to go miles before passing any other vehicles. In fact, the photo below I snapped while practically laying in the middle of the road in a 75mph speed zone.
Every so often we’d pass a farm or a billboard for an adult toy store which often prompted questions from the backseat. Ironically, almost every one of these signs was then followed by another persuading folks to come to church to be forgiven. There was the occasional gun or boot ad as well.
Probably our favorite and most popular was the ‘Free Land’ signs that enticed travelers to move to KS with the promise of opportunity. Unfortunately, all good things aren’t for free as many of the farms we passed appeared to be abandoned. There must of been a few that succeeded tho cause we also saw many signs that read ‘One Kansas Farmer Feeds 155 People & You!’.
As the hours passed by the boys never once asked ‘Are we there yet???’ Not sure if that’s because we really had no exact destination in which to count down for or if our enthusiasm was starting to rub off. It’s amazing how quickly time flies when you’re passing through new places you’ve never been… of course iPads, iPhones, etc. also help the time pass too… even if we had to remind them to look out their windows. We considered not allowing them to bring along devices but figured that might be more torture for us than them! Overall, they kept themselves in check and seemed to balance their screen time with taking in the scenery… a win win in our book!