Saturday, March 19, 2011

February in Colorado

I headed to Colorado back in February. My friend Suzanne wanted to check out the University of Denver’s grad school program so I decided to tag along to see the sights with her. We left from work on Thursday, February 17th and headed to DFW airport where we caught a 7:25 pm flight to the “Mile High” city of Denver. That night we stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel close to the airport.

Friday morning, February 18th, we took the shuttle to Enterprise, got a rental car (which turned out to be a minivan!), and headed to Hammond’s Candies. It was fun to tour the candy factory and see how candy is made. It reminded me of the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode where Lucy and Ethel get jobs for the day at a candy factory. I’ve always wanted to do that! ;)

We enjoyed the free samples and the candy shopping. They offer a variety of treats from chocolates to caramels, lollipops, candy canes, and more. I definitely recommend the homemade peanut butter cup and chocolate covered cherry. Delish!

After the tour, and going broke buying candy, we headed to the Colorado State Capitol where we went on a free historical tour. We saw several stained glass windows, Women’s Gold Tapestry, Presidential portraits, and the Senate and House of Representatives chambers.

We then did the 99-step climb to the interior observation area, which has 360-degree panoramic views of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

Next we hit up the Denver Art Museum. This museum consists of two buildings with galleries showcasing a world-famous American Indian art collection, Modern & Contemporary Art, and Photography, just to name a few.

Weird red art.
Afterward we stopped for some awesome salads at Mad Greens and then headed for the minivan. We found a Sport Authority so that I could buy some snow boots and Suzanne could grab some gloves, then it was off to check-in at the Holiday Inn Select - Cherry Creek. We changed clothes and then headed to the grad school’s meet & greet at DU. Suzanne chatted up some fellow grad schoolers and then we went to the DU hockey game. Go Pioneers! After we’d had our fill of hockey, and chatted with the other grad school crazies nearby, we headed back to the hotel for a quick change before a late dinner at the Argyll GastroPub where we had the MOST amazing Mac-n-Cheese. It had shrimp, mini-rigatoni, a five cheese sauce, braised shallots, crimini mushrooms, bacon, peas, and parmesan breadcrumbs. My mouth is watering right now as I describe it and I’m considering hoping a flight to Denver tonight just to have some! Yes, THAT good! I didn’t touch much of my Fish & Chips after munching on that. Suzanne ordered the Roast Chicken entrée, which had the weirdest bread pudding we’d ever seen. I wasted $10 on the nastiest Tequila Thyme Margarita. I don’t think I knew, or forgot what thyme was, and then after tasting it I was too embarrassed to send it back. Seriously had two sips. I sampled Suzanne’s Pimm’s Cup Up. I do NOT know how she choked it down. It had lavender simple syrup and chopped muddled ginger, as well as grapefruit bitters. More power to her! ;)

We ended the night listening to jazz at El Chapultepec where greats like Sinatra, Bennett, and Fitzgerald have performed.

Saturday morning, February 19th, I dropped Suzanne off at DU for more grad school sessions and went back to the hotel to get ready and packed. I picked her up around 11:30 and we headed into the mountains! The drive was crazy! The road was very, very curvy and mountains surrounded us on all sides. All of a sudden the sparsely snow covered mountains turned into full blown snow coverage. It was BEAUTIFUL! My pictures do not even do it justice. As we were driving along with saw a man climbing a frozen waterfall. Really? Who does that?! The roads weren’t bad at all, which we were super thankful about. We made it to Frisco (yes, I went from one Frisco to another) and had some awesome pizza at Peppino’s Pizza & Subs. Then we hopped in the mini and headed toward Breckenridge for dog sledding. It was 6+ miles off the main road and those roads definitely were snow covered and icy in some parts. The snow everywhere was amazing. This born and bred Texas girl had never seen anything like it! We got there just in time to throw our snow/ski gear on and do the dog sledding tour. Our guide introduced us to the Siberian Huskies, quickly explained the operations of the sled and how to handle the dogs, and we were off for a 6-mile relay tour through the Middle Fork of the Swan River. The 6 of us switched between running the dogs, riding in the dogsled, and riding in a small passenger sleigh with our guide. We stopped along the way for the groups to trade places. It was amazing! Definitely my most fave part of the trip. We were in the middle of snow covered woods dog sledding. How many times do you get the chance to do that?! I have to admit I was pretty scared at first. How was I going to be able to run dogs in this rickety sled?! Oh my! All three groups of us ended up wrecking, which made the rest of us feel better about our sled driving! When you are going downhill the dogs just take off and fly around corners. That’s how Suzanne and I ended up flying into the snow. You couldn’t help but laugh. We were thrown out and the dogs took off. Thankfully our guide knew we had become airborne and stopped the sleigh and the dogs. After that I was more comfortable knowing it was okay to bust it!

After the 1+ hour dog sled experience we then headed into the town of Breckenridge to do a Hot Chocolate Scenic Sleigh Ride. This was a 45-min ride on Peak 9. It had started snowing on our dog sled tour and by the time we were on the sleigh ride the snow was flying down in buckets. I had to put my goggles on to be able to see. Thank goodness for the blankets they provided. When the sleigh ride was over we found parking around Main St. and started walking around. It’s SO cute there! It seriously looks like those little Christmas villages people decorate with during the holidays. I LOVED IT!

We met up with my college friend, Audray, who now lives in CO, and had dinner at the Whale’s Tail. It was some yum seafood. We did a lot more walking around afterward, and checked out some souvenir shops. We popped into Celia’s Night Club for a bit, but being tired and still in my ski gear, I was not feeling the dance vibe! The drive back to our motel in Frisco was INSANE. It was snowing a LOT and I could barely see. I couldn’t even tell where the lanes were. Of course people were flying by me, which made it worse! We finally arrived at the Snowshoe Motel and got checked in. Audray spent the night so she wouldn’t have to drive back in the crazy weather, and so she could ski the next day.

Sunday, February 20th, Audray took off to cross country ski and Suzanne and I headed to Loveland to downhill ski. It had continued to snow, and snow, and snow all night. The view when walking out of the motel that morning was a sight to see. It also made the drive to Loveland pretty scary. Suzanne was driving this time but I could tell it was super stressful. The road was covered, it was hard to see, and one car was stuck in the middle of the highway. Commercial vehicles weren’t allowed to be without snow chains. It was crazy!

We finally made it though and got checked in for ski school. This was my first time to EVER ski so I definitely needed lessons. Suzanne had skied a few times before so she decided to do some intermediate lessons. We both did a half-day lesson, which turned out to be around 3 hours. Looking back, I probably should have done the full-day for 5 ½ hours. Skiing did NOT go well for me.

I am the most nonathletic person on earth. I'm not coordinated, or graceful in the least, however, I wanted to take on the challenge of skiing. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would fall. I knew it would be a big workout. What I did not know is that it would very seriously be the most terrifying thing I had ever, ever, EVER done. I started my lesson out just fine. We practiced without skis and only poles. Then we practiced with one ski. Then we moved up to two skis. We went into the Kids Corral to ride up the people mover/conveyor belt they had in there that led up a little hill and then we skied down the little hill a few times. The conveyor belt was scary because you had to get on it while it was moving. Lucky for me the first time I got on it had been stopped for some reason so I didn't have any problems getting on, although it was really jerky when it took off again. Of course the second time I had to get on it while it was moving and I busted it hardcore. Yep, busted it in the Kids Corral with a line of people behind me. My instructor and some other helpers in that area tried to help me up but I was dead weight so I had to take my skis off, get them situated on the conveyor belt, and then get in them. I nearly fell again when it started back up but thankfully one of the workers in there kept me from doing so. The third time I nearly fell as well, however the workers remembered me and one guy seriously grabbed on so I didn't fall this time. I should have known this was only going to lead to worse things! :-P Next it was time for the ski lift. I was already worried about the lift because of things I had heard. We had an uneven number in our group of 5, so the instructor, knowing I was the worst in the group, joined me on the lift. Getting on was pretty scary, being up that high and looking down was a bit frightening, but skiing off the lift was horrific and I of course fell. And again, my instructor and the dude running the lift couldn't get my dead weight up so the skis came off again and I had to get back in them. The instructor asked me and another girl if we wanted to attempt the next little part of the mountain on our own or with him skiing backward and us holding on to his poles. We both said we would attempt it on our own; why I said that I don't know. I fell yet again. This time it hurt...BAD! He had told us to not fall backward. Lean forward on your boots and you won't fall. Yep, pretty much forgot all I'd learned when I started going out of control and fell backward right on my tailbone. It was at that point the tears welled up in my eyes. My instructor was able to get me up this time without having to take my skis off since I was on a slant and he said he'd hold on to me while we skied down the next part. Well, he was holding on but I still busted it, this time falling into him and on his skis. Awesome. I was way upset by this point and was having a super hard time holding back the tears that started rolling out. I was trying to talk to the instructor and my voice was cracking and shaky. He asked if I just wanted to take a break and sit for a bit to which I quickly replied yes. So I sat there in the snow while he talked to the other people in my ski class. I tried to calm down but just couldn't. By this point I had the WORST mental block about skiing and I honestly wanted the ski patrol to come get me because I was still halfway up the mountain. The others in my group had all taken off down the mountain when my instructor asked if I was ready to go down. I wasn't and he knew it. So he said he'd ski backward and I could hold on to our poles he'd be holding. It was still the scariest thing ever but we ended up making it down. The entire lesson he kept telling me to stop watching my feet and look where I was going. I was unable to do so. Of course I was supposed to be watching as he skied backward, but wasn't, and we skied into one of those little pole things you see the skiers skiing around on the Olympics. Then we were all tangled, so he had to push me backward a little to get out, which again, was SCARY. When we got down to the part we'd practiced on before he had me do it myself, and I finished fine. I couldn't wait to get out of my skis though. He did tell me that skiing is 90% mental and 10% in your head. Ha. Yup, I agree that it's all mental and I had the worst mental block ever after that lesson. The out of control, I'm flying down this mountain and can't stop, I'm going to die feeling would not leave me. He also made the comment along the way that kids that start out at 4 have a much easier time at it. He started back in the 40's when he was 4. Yup, starting at 31 wasn't the easiest. I headed to the lodge and met up with Suzanne for lunch. After lunch she went to ski again until the lift closed at 4, but I WAS DONE! I hung out with a random lady that we shared a table with, took pictures, snacked, and did attempt the skis once more but that scary 10 min attempt at the bottom of the mountain was enough and I turned my skis back in.

I'm honestly glad I tried it, even after all that. If I hadn't I would have never known. I'm also not saying I'll never try it again either. It might be better next time, who knows. But for now, I'm totally not a skier. :-P

We left Loveland and headed to Keystone to snow tube. That drive was crazy. The curves of the drive from Denver to Frisco was nothing compared to this. There were no shoulders, straight drop offs down the mountains, snow everywhere, and signs that said 'Avalanche Area'. Yeah, crazy. We did stop to take pictures because it was beautiful, but I was glad when we were off that road.

We got to Keystone but the snow tubing was booked. We were bummed, but there were lots of little shops and restaurants around Keystone so we shopped around and ate.

Monday, February 21st was time to head home. After breakfast in Frisco we headed back toward Denver, stopping to take pictures of course.

We stopped at Idaho Springs to do some gold panning at the Argo Gold Mine & Mill. It was windy and the water was freezing, but we did find some gold flakes we got to come home with. We also thought it was hilarious that the local sports team was called The Golddiggers!!!

It was a fun trip & I'm glad we went. It took awhile to recover from the bruises and tiredness, but the experience was great!

1 comment:

  1. I bet you had a really wonderful time during your trip in Colorado. Lovely photographs by the way.