Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day Nine: Colorado

We have barely left Moab when we come upon the scene of a gruesome massacre. Corpses lie strewn across the road, tattered remains that the ravens gather around, cawing eagerly. Upon the centreline stands one of the few survivors, upright like a General surveying the carnage. Prairie dogs. The foolish little rodents must scamper across the tarmac at the early dawn, falling easy prey to the unforgiving iron predators. Others stand at the verge, as though wondering whether they should risk it. There are several on the Freeway's entry ramp, and Tim politely slows the car until they get their wits about them enough to move out of the way. It appears they have few wits to gather.

For a time, things are particularly dull. The landscape is flat and greyish-brown, with patches of dull green. There are few outcrops of rock, nothing but endless plains and fenceposts disappearing off into the far distance, where mountains rise their snow-capped heads. The only real spots of colour are the occasional yellow daisy. It is dull, and dry and dusty.

Things get marginally more interesting as we approach the little town of Fruita, just over the Colorado border. We stop at the Colorado Welcome Centre/Rest area and admire the helicopter opposite:

Here's a random note about Fruita - it was home to Mike the Headless Chicken.  And they have a festival to him every May. Dang, we missed it! Fruita could be an interesting town, but we don't stop long as we were planning to stop for morning tea/coffee at Grand Junction.

Here's a note for fellow travellers - don't stop at Grand Junction. We take the offramp, thinking we will find some sort of acceptable cafe near it, but find instead a giant sprawling mall complex, with a few outskirting fast food joints. We forgo McDs and Wendys (the one here has a limited menu, no smoothies) and decide to leave. Ending up on the business route which takes us along most of the length of Grand Junction before finally, blessedly, spitting us out on the Interstate again. It appears a very dreary city - or at least the business route is, with lots of shabby little businesses and nothing, nothing to recommend it. We should have grabbed coffees in Fruita.

Shortly after, the scenary improves as we continue our ascent and finally enter into the Rockies. The White River Forest is beautiful. The Freeway is divided in two, with the westbound traffic taking the high road balanced on great concrete pillars. To the right of the "low road", lies what must be one of the most scenic biking routes in America. Whilst Utah was stunning in its other-worldly-ness, Colorado is somewhat familiar, but on a far grander scale than anywhere "back home". As we rise in elevation, up to 10,000 feet above sea level, my ears pop multiple times and I feel decidedly light-headed. The White River cuts through the canyon with the cliffs rising steep and sheer alongside it, foliage clinging to any slope and crevice where it can find a foothold.

We continue, passing through ski villages where the buildings scream of wealth - this must be where all the rich kids come to spend their winter months. Some of the names look familiar too - Aspen lies off to the south here. We take in lunch at an Arbys on one of the many townships (possibly Silverthorne or Dillon, I forget) that lie across the route. They do a very scrummy pecan chicken salad sandwich - an actual sandwich with wholemeal bread, not a burger. The salad part is apple and some sort of dressing. It is messy, but delicious and the curly fries are good too. I enjoy dipping them in the various sauces. The horse radish has a good bite to it.

Up we go, to the highest point of the road and then down, into a tunnel. 

The little historic town of Georgetown is utterly charming - it looks almost as though someone has reconstructedthe old-time village especially for the viewing pleasure of those driving the Freeway. We pause to watch the train chug past:

In this photo, you can clearly see the red trees. They are infected with beetles, and are dead. Everywhere the forests were striped with green and red. They need a good fire to clean out the infestations, and not long after, many parts of Colorado suffer such a fire. Whilst wildfires are devastating and distressing, these trees do spring back quickly afterwards, and new growth is fast. But stay tuned for more evidence of that in a later instalment.

Coming into Denver we take a sidetrack up to the Wildlife Centre, where I do a spot of birdwatching (but only a little, for our friends are expecting our imminent arrival). As we descend the windy switchbacks, lightning splits the horizon in jagged forks. It is pretty spectacular. We must travel a long way down the freeway before arriving in Westminster, but the route is made rather more interesting by the lightshow in the sky. As we arrive at our destination, the clouds break and rain pelts down - forcing us to make a hasty unpacking. Within minutes it is over.

Tonight, and tomorrow, we are staying with Vania, Justin, their 4 year old daughter, Harley and their dog. The dog bears the name "Angie" which I am assured was the name her previous owners gave her. Harley is an outgoing and absolutely delightful young lady who insists that I entertain her for the evening by blowing bubbles (and throwing the ball for the dog) whilst her mother and my husband catch up on each other's news.

We have dinner at the rather dubiously named "Pasta Grill" - which produce good pasta and provide crayons so you can draw on the paper tablecloth, visit Target (where I purchase a new SD card and am shown many toys by a bubbly four year old) and watch the sun set over the Rockies:

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