After the abject terror of the drive down Highway 6 in the pouring rain the day before, Day 7 of the trip greeted us in Green River with beautiful, clear skies. We set out bright and early and started the long journey East on the legendary Interstate 70. According to Wikipedia, I-70 was the first interstate highway project, and is considered an engineering marvel based on the mountain passes and tunnels in Colorado. I can honestly say that while there were some pretty scary, stressful portions (more on that later), if I had to point to the 5 most stunning views of our trip, at least 3 were laid out before us on Day 7 in Utah and Colorado.
We'd barely gone 50 miles when nature called, and we made our way to a rest area. On a completely separate note, I wish I had tracked exactly how often we stopped due to "nature". I'll just say that the TM drinks a TON of water.
Anyway, I digress...
This rest area was easily the coolest one of our trip. The one near Mt. Shasta was pretty sweet because the river was right there (and the skunk), but for sheer impressiveness there's not even a close second to this rest area in Utah.
Facing North again:
Facing South again:
I mean... I don't want to go all hyperbolic about things, but I could seriously just set up a tent and live at this place. I loved it. I could have spent all day there.
I used to think about the kinds of places I'd love to go if I didn't have to worry about money and could just live somewhere and write and think and do art and whatnot, and I always imagined my back yard as looking a lot like this place. Not just the rest area, but this particular brand of Rocky Mountains. I absolutely love it.
After we left the rest area, we made our way into Colorado, and decided to stop in Grand Junction for gas and Starbucks. Grand Junction is just about the last flat(ish) area on I-70 before entering into the intense moutainy area, and we felt like having a full tank of gas might be a good decision.
It was in Grand Junction that we had the only real Piano-Related scare of the drive. I'd gone into the gas station to buy a shot glass, and the TM was going to drive over to Starbucks to meet me. As she circled past some parked cars, and waved at me, we heard a big bang. Keep in mind... I am not in the truck, but rather 25 feet away. She hits the brakes, and the dude whose truck she passed nearly had a heart attack checking the condition of his ride. All was fine, we found a good out-of-the-way spot to park, and opened the back of the truck. Terrified. Turns out it was just the board that goes between your knees and the strings that fell off... So we strapped that down and continued on our way.
It doesn't sound scary, but it was pretty effing traumatic at the time.
Our next stop was in Rifle (another "Nature" stop) and it wasn't particularly eventful, but we did see some really, really dirty hitchers get picked up. These people were true hippy hitchhikers. Down to their lack of shoes and their surplus of hair.
We continued on, through Western Colorado, enjoying the scenery. It was really beautiful. I mean, I know this isn't the most interesting post when all I talk about is how pretty it all was, but there it is.
We eventually stopped again, but this time for lunch. I'd really been interested to see Eagle, Colorado, because it plays such a big part in my job on a day to day basis, so we stopped there. Eagle was nice enough, but I don't really get the fuss. I guess it's because Eagle is close to Vail, and that's where all the good skiing is, but still...Eagle just seemed kind of blah to me. Except for the downtown area, which I loved. It was full of personality. We had lunch at a place called The Red Canyon Cafe, and then we stopped into this antique store, where the TM picked up some owl book-ends.
You'll note that starting this day, I'll talk about us stopping at antique stores a lot. We decided that it would be a waste of this giant-ass truck we were driving around mostly empty if we didn't at least LOOK at the antique stores for things that we normally wouldn't be able to get on a vacation.
After lunch, we made the final push toward Denver for the day. We were only about 100 miles away, but we had the scariest portion of the mountains left to drive. I was pretty stunned at the majesty of the mountains we drove toward. It sounds so cheesy, but it's true.
As we drove toward the fabled Eisenhower Tunnel (the highest point in the Interstate Highway system at over 11,000 feet), the mountains grew taller and more snow-topped.
We made another stop at the rest area at Vail Pass. Partly to answer "Nature's Call" but also to enjoy the amazing scenery. The weather wasn't really cooperating with us. When we left the hotel that morning it was 70 degrees. When we ate lunch in Eagle, it was 70 degrees. I'd be amazed if it was higher than 40 degrees at Vail Pass. Oh... and below is a picture of Vail Pass when we got there:
And here is a picture from the exact same spot 5 minutes later. This has not been doctored in any way. Obviously, this didn't fill my soul with quiet since we were driving straight that direction.
I don't have any more photos of the drive into Denver. The reason? Because right after we left Vail Pass we were plunged into a winter storm. That's right.. It was October 8th and we found ourselves in a driving rain/sleet/hail/snow storm as we climbed to the very top of the mountain. Needless to say I was fucking petrified again, and needless to say I was too busy gripping anything I could to take a lot of pictures. It wouldn't have done any good anyway. Here's a re-enactment photo:
Yeah... The TM even had be bust out the video camera again. Clearly I'm like a penguin with a flashlight. I just get distracted enough to ignore my pending doom. In the end, we did survive, and the snow stopped and dried as we descended into the Denver area.
Oh... I should also mention that I am now 2 for 2 in experiencing driving snow on a non-winter cross country road trip. Seems crazy. The last time was May in Wyoming.
We'd planned to meet up with my Aunt Barb, Uncle Lane, and my cousin (and reader) Abbey for dinner the night we arrived into Denver, and because there was no Triple D Restaurant in Denver, we left the location up to Abbey.
She recommended a crazy burger restaurant called the Cherry Cricket which, as it turns out, was featured on 2 other TV shows. Aaron Sanchez recommended it on "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and they also had it on "Man vs. Food", so the place does have some TV credits. Let me tell you... While the Squeeze Inn had all the build-up and anticipation, the Cherry Cricket served the best burger I've ever eaten. It was delicious. The gimmick is that you get a burger, and then choose the toppings a la carte. I had herbed cream cheese, bacon, and green chiles on my burger, and it was fucking delicious.
The TM had some super good, super spicy green chili. Both of our meals are pictures below, along with an order of "Frings" (Fries and Rings):
The bowl of chili really was that size. The TM ended up saving it in a quart container, and finishing it at home a few days later. I can tell you that this was a completely un-anticipated meal, because we didn't even know where we were going until that day, but it was awesome. I'd go there again in a heart beat.
In the end, Day 7 was a pretty great day. We had took a spectacular drive through some of the most beautiful land in America. We saw the best rest area, drove the highest point, and ate the tastiest burger. We saw family, we revisited Denver (one of my 2 favorite cities), and started the longest stretch our our journey along America's first interstate.
It was, indeed, a pretty great day.
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