June 9th, 2009

PNR, days 8 and 9: midweek chill in Denver...

It's a long way...but you can drive fast.
One of the sights in Denver's LoDo.
This used to be the home run capital of MLB...but now it's in the Bronx.

I knew it would be a long drive from Lincoln to Denver. I didn't expect there'd be very much along the way. This was confirmed what I put my car onto I-80, and the Garmin displayed "Turn in 294 mi." In fact, the first 75 of those miles were a nearly perfectly straight line. I saw clouds and rain; those were absolutely expected, given the weather report and the general pattern of the first few days of the trip. I also saw speed limits that are unfathomable east of the Mississippi (75 miles per hour), and plenty of future hamburgers along the roadside. I only made the minimum stops - one for food, and two for gas. At the lunch stop, I saw something quite surprising; a filling station advertising that it had the "best looking cashiers." Apparently, in North Platte, Nebraska, that will sell some gas. It was an otherwise long and nondescript trip...but it had an interesting end. Upon arrival in Denver, my body was fine - until I stood up from the driver's seat. At that precise moment, the combination of four hours without relief, lots of Coca-Cola, and possibly altitude effects caught up with me. I tried to make it to the hotel, but I couldn't even walk that one block. So I had to resort to something that got me through several in-port watches on the submarine - I found an empty Gatorade bottle, sat back down in my car, and let fly. I also broke out the jacket and long sleeves - quite a contrast between the late-afternoon lower 50s in the Mile High City and sweating my nuts off forty-eight hours prior in Kansas City.

Once I'd checked in I headed for the 16th Street Mall, which is a giant section of the street closed to normal vehicular traffic. It does have free buses running in both directions. I took dinner at the ESPN Zone, getting to watch some of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final as well. Then I headed back to the hotel to change. I tried out Lower Downtown (or "LoDo"), but there wasn't much happening there. I thus headed for another supposedly hot section - Colfax Avenue. It was the same story, and on a couple of occasions, I had to accelerate to prevent being tailed by panhandlers. I never actually feared for my safety, but I still didn't desire the harassment. On the way back, I stopped off at a store and purchased some beer, a couple of which I drank back at the hotel.

I awoke kind of early the next day and spent a couple of hours before lunch getting to various sites. I hit the Colorado State Capitol, Pepsi Center, Invesco Field at Mile High, and Coors Field. (Yeah, I like sports stadiums.) After lunch I returned to the hotel and took a mid-afternoon nap - a welcome change from the driving on the previous days of the trip. That night's dinner was at the Wynkoop Brewery - it was there that I saw a waterless urinal for the first time. I took another loop around LoDo, but it was pretty similar to the night before. Not wanting to take another run down Colfax, I packed it in and headed back. I was neither surprised nor disappointed, given the early-week nature of my visit.

One thing I wanted to do but couldn't was check out the Coors brewery. It's open for tours Thursday through Monday. I also didn't make it to City Park in the northeast corner, but I don't consider that a huge loss. I came away from Denver generally impressed with its feel, and it's too bad I didn't get to see it jump a little more, but c'est la vie...

Pictures: Day 8 | Day 9

PNR, day 10: awfully pretty up here...

That's a snow angel...on June 4!
Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River.
The San Rafael Swell, in the middle of nowhere - literally.

...but you can't spend too much time admiring, because you have to drive.

Leaving Denver and heading westward on Interstate 70, I briefly detoured to go up Loveland Pass, which stands nearly twelve thousand feet above sea level. The pressure difference caused a bag of potato chips I'd been carrying to burst from the pressure difference (I bought the bag in Missouri, at a much lower elevation). I was fortunate to get excellent cloud conditions at the top. I stepped in snow...on June 4. Then I hiked up to the top of another hill, at which time the Garmin put my elevation at 12,213 feet. It was here that I decided I wanted to make a snow angel. My first attempt led to my right leg being submerged in a foot and a half of snow. Once I came down off that hill, I found some shallower snow, and got it done. I spent a total of about forty-five minutes at Loveland Pass, and it felt great and produced some spectacular photos.

From there, I went back down the mountain and through the Eisenhower Tunnel, and got raped on gas in Colorado ski country. I stopped for a brief respite in Eagle County; that seemed familiar, but not for another few minutes did I recognize why; it was where the whole Kobe Bryant drama played out back in 2003. My next major stop was Glenwood Canyon, the last piece of the Interstate Highway System to open. The road itself is an amazing piece of engineering; because of its winding nature, speed is limited to fifty miles per hour. The natural scenery is also gorgeous, with beautiful vistas of both the Colorado River and the surrounding mountains. After leaving the canyon, I continued west into Utah, stopping just over the border at a place called Harley's Dome. I noticed many such domes in eastern Utah. This stop was during a fifty-six stretch with no roadside services. That reminded me of similar, longer such distances on the Alaska Highway - but I had no idea what was to come.

I fueled at the first chance in Utah at Thompson Springs, and ate in Green River. Looking at the atlas as I prepared to leave, I noted that there didn't appear to be anything for about a hundred miles, so I expected a long haul. Once I returned to I-70, that was proven correct - there was literally nothing along the highway for 106 miles. It's the longest such run of interstate in America. The trip takes one across the San Rafael Swell and Wasatch Range. I did stop to admire some lovely colored rocks in the Swell; little has disturbed the geological evidence of the passage of millions of years. This piece of highway was just as bad as the crossing of the Rockies - the extremes weren't as bad, but there was a lot of up and down.

Once I emerged back into civilization, it was near sunset, and I didn't head too much further. I called it quits in Richfield, the biggest town in the area - and at about 6,500 people, that isn't saying much. With little else to do there, I simply relaxed in the room - and besides, I needed to gain and conserve strength for what lay ahead at the weekend.

Pictures: Day 10 (Western Colorado and Eastern Utah)