Below are the diary entries for September 17, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.
A difficult start today. Late yesterday afternoon we both noticed that the car made the sort of noise you’d expect it to make when you drive over a rough patch of asphalt, even when the asphalt was as smooth as glass (well, almost). The brakes worked just fine, but I had seen that the rear driver’s side tire was wearing unevenly, so I thought the wheels might have been knocked out of alignment by driving over rough roads recently or that the shock(s) were giving out. As it turned out, that tire was about to blow. Eric took the car to a Meineke close to the hotel (yay for Google!) while I took the time to do two loads of laundry. Good thing we took the time to get it looked at, because you definitely don’t want to drive over mountain roads with no guardrails to speak of when one of your tires blows up. The Meineke people immidiately sent Eric to a nearby tire place, with the warning that “It’ll probably hold out while you drive over there.” The place was just a couple of miles away.
Having had both rear tires replaced - it doesn’t do to replace just one, of course - we drove a little farther west on I-70 and then up Colorado state route 119 to a little town called Nederland. As I said on facebook the other day, the people who named the town Nederland do not have a proper understanding of the meaning of the word “Nederland,” which means low-lying land. Sure, the town is at a significantly lower elevation than the nearby town of Caribou, but 8,236 feet hardly qualifies as low-lying!
Nevertheless, it is a lovely, funky little town where we were delighted to spend some time. One of the ladies at the local geodes, fossils, crystals and gemstone store actually spoke Dutch, too, because her mother happens to be Dutch. We mailed a ton of postcards with “Greeting from Nederland, Colorado” while we waited for the food to arrive at the Pioneer Inn, another funky place (which also happens to serve excellent food!) and where one of the patrons had the longest dreadlocks I’ve ever seen on anyone. I’m sure if he sat on a regular chair his dreads would sweep the ground, but as it happened, he sat on a bar stool. His hair hung down way below the seat but didn’t touch the floor.
When I asked at the visitors’ center if there were any attractions in town that we shouldn’t miss, the lady pointed us to the Carousel of Happiness. A Vietnam vet by the name of Scott Harrison couldn’t bear to see a turn-of-the-20th-century carousel with a real Wurlitzer organ scrapped, so he rescued the carousel and with help from family and friends set about restoring it. It took him 22 years, but the result is spectacular. And you know what? It really does make you happy! When I rode it this afternoon, I felt just like a little kid again.
From Nederland we turned onto Colorado state route 72 toward Estes Park, near Rocky Mountain National Park, but we hadn’t gone more than a couple of miles when we came upon this spectacular vista. We are so lucky to be making our trip in September! I hadn’t realized the trees start turning here much earlier than we are used to in Maryland, because of the higher elevation. We met a couple who were trying to take their picture with the fall colors in the background. Rebecca told me she was from upstate New York, so no stranger to beautiful fall colors, but she was blown away by the panorama as well. I offered to take the picture for them, which improved it slightly, but Eric had of course gotten out his camera - Zachary definitely expressed camera envy :-) - and tripod, so I asked them if they’d like their picture taken with a Nikon D300 and we could email the pics to them or they could get them off our blog. One thing led to another, and Zachary was able to give us a couple of tips for the rest of our trip. We’ll be sure to check out the sites you mentioned tonight; thanks!
We continued on state route 72, but the scenery compelled us to make a couple more stops along the way, so we didn’t get to Estes Park until 5 p.m. Tomorrow we’ll be up bright and early to talk to a park ranger and see if we can figure out a way to hike in the Rocky Mountains without perishing in the attempt. We’re still adjusting to the altitude. It’s getting better, but it’s probably better to err on the side of caution in these mountains.
The day started out with car trouble. Yesterday we felt a rumbling while driving up I-25 to Denver, so we felt we had to have it checked out. While Nicoline stayed back at the hotel to do laundry, I drove to a Meineke to ask them to check out the wheels and tires. The mechanic didn't have to look far to notice that the left rear tire had the thread separating. So I drove (carefully!) to a nearby tire shop and got two new rear tires installed.
All of this meant we were off to a late start today, but around 11:30 we were on the road again. The goal today would be Estes Park, close to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, which we plan to explore more tomorrow. We're planning to drive up through the Rockies, not in front of them, by taking Colorado state routes 119, 72 and 7.
We start out on I-70 driving into the mountains. I've been to Denver twice before (once on a business trip, once on our 2007 around-the-US trip), looked at the mountains, and wondered how it would be to just into those mountains. Now I know. The Interstate starts out curving in front and then between some of the foothills, but before you know it you're really in the mountains.
Just before Idaho Springs we turn right onto US-6 to take us to Colorado 119. Now we're really going through mountains, passing Black Hawk, which I guess is an Native American reservation since it is filled to the brim with casinos. We continue on driving not too far from the continental divide up the Rockies until we reach our lunch destination.
We have lunch in a town called Nederland! We noticed this town name on the map and of course had to make sure we'd stop there! It turns out this town is named after a Dutch mining company that took over mining in the area, but now it seems to be a tourist stop for many Dutch tourists. We even ran into someone who speaks Dutch in one of the shops! We had lunch at the "Pioneer Inn" and took a ride n the "Carousel of Happiness," featuring (according to its website) 56 whimsical, hand-carved animals on a restored 1910 Looff carousel. Of course it rained when we were in Nederland...
After Nederland we went on and ran into a gorgeous spot on highway 72, where the combination of green pine trees, yellow-turning deciduous trees and blue sky made for some great pictures. Here we spoke to Zachary and Rebecca who were also taking pictures; they gave us some great ideas for Western Colorado.
After this stop we continued on to Estes Park, continuing to enjoy the sights along the road. In Estes Park, we had some trouble finding an affordable motel. The first ones we tries wanted to charge us $130 plus tax, but the third one, Americas Best Value Inn & Suites, had a room for under $90 including tax. Worth the trouble of looking around a bit...