Road Tripping in the Great American West

Mt. Crested Butte

Mt. Crested Butte

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

There’s nothing like a good, old fashioned road trip to give you a terrific sense of freedom. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that you go under your own steam–that you’re not reliant on a plane, train, bus or boat to get you to your destination. The fact that you’re the captain of your ship means that you can leave when you want, go where you want and stop at whatever strikes your fancy along the way. Maybe it’s liberating because if you take your own vehicle, it’s like bringing your personal living room on the road. Whatever the reason, road tripping is so damned much fun. And there’s no doubt that it’s even better in the great American West.

On the Road from Crested Butte to Gunnison, Colorado

On the Road from Crested Butte to Gunnison, Colorado

Sure, if you’re a sissy driver, you might not like it. Because here in the Rockies we have roads that force you to careen and undulate along some frighteningly steep cliffs. But seasoned drivers relish this kind of a ride and if you’re unafraid of heights, you’ll revel in some of the most stunning panoramas in the United States, if not the world.

Powering Up Behind Spectator Cyclists on McClure Pass Outside of Aspen

Powering Up Behind Spectator Cyclists on McClure Pass Outside of Aspen

At the Top of McClure

At the Top of McClure

Best of all, here in the West, you can delight in wildly curvy mountain byways or long, ribbons of routes, all scenic thoroughfares where you practically have the road to yourself. This is the land where spectacular, jaw-dropping-ly beautiful landscapes rate as the king of the road.

Me Singing Along to Loud Music in Misty

The Freedom of a Road Trip:  Me Singing Along to Loud Music

I go on a fair amount of road trips in and around Colorado, especially before the snow flies. There’s one, however, that has become a tradition these past three years: attending the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on my own. I usually hit a few different stages of this week-long bike race and I love that I do it on my own. Sure, I enjoy traveling with family, friends and my boyfriend, but this has become my time alone. I love the opportunities that traveling solo offers, including meeting lots of other people, the flexibility of doing what I want when I want and the thrill of having to deal with certain adventures, such as getting lost, on my own.

And since it’s a road trip, I love the time alone in my car, my old 1993 Subaru that I call Misty Dawn, just like the manufacturer’s name for her greyish-mauve hue. (Yes, Misty Dawn is also the name of a porn star.)

Road Tripping on the Range

Road Tripping on the Range

Misty, with some 243,587 miles on her odometer, and I had another spectacular trip together this past August, one in which you can see glimpses from in this post. We traveled from Telluride to Aspen, then Aspen to Crested Butte (the long way through Crawford), then CB to Gunnison roundtrip until I finally headed back to T-ride from CB. Usual road worries were exacerbated by the fact that I had not signed up for AAA the way I had planned before leaving and that due to the bike race, I ended up taking some out-of-the-way albeit breathtaking detours, which I hadn’t counted on embarking upon. Not surprisingly, those afforded some of the best views.

Rocky Mountain Rest Stop

Rocky Mountain Rest Stop

Just like in The Little Engine that Could, Misty and I used the power of positive thinking, chanting “I think I can, I think I can” together along the way in order to return safely home after our five-day journey.

Phew! Road trips are great but making it home is even better.

Now on our occasional jaunts in and around Telluride, the two of us like to reminisce about the freewheeling, fun times we shared this past summer.

Cowboy Friends

Cowboy Stiffs

GREAT ROAD TRIPS IN THE WEST

As the weather becomes cooler in the mountain towns, many people head down to nearby high desert destinations where fall can be especially nice. There’s nothing like autumn’s golden glow on the red rocks and visiting some of America’s most treasured sites without the throngs of summer tourists. It has cooled off enough, too, that outdoors activities such as hiking and biking may be enjoyed during the heat of the day as well.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Utah

This iconic destination is only about a four- to five-hour drive from southwestern Colorado. To truly embrace the history, Native American culture and western movie-making heritage of the area, stay at Goulding’s Lodge, the original landmark establishment that brought movie producer John Ford to this outpost back in the late forties. For more on Goulding’s, read On the Trail of Western Movie-Making in Utah and ColoradoThe Lone Ranger Showcases Monument Valley, Southwest Colorado and More and Telluride, Monument Valley and the Oscars.

My Father Marveling at the Grand Canyon

My Father Marveling at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Arizona

With the Grand Canyon as a destination, any excursion here sets you up for the ultimate road trip. It was number one on my father’s bucket list and I traveled here–and to Monument Valley– with him and my mother a while back and it surely ranks as tops on my road trip list. Read Touring the Southwest with My Parents, which also features Monument Valley.

Gateway Canyons

Gateway Canyons

Gateway, Colorado

Just over a two-hour drive from Telluride, you can soak up the pleasures of some of the finest red rock country in the West. Gateway Canyons Resort offers heaps of great outdoor activities including hiking, biking, climbing, swimming, rafting, horseback riding and more, all within a superlative setting. Check out Gateway Canyons:  One Big Discovery, which tells about one helluva road trip I did to this fine resort with a girlfriend.

Friends I Met Along the Way

Since I mentioned above that I always meet more people when I’m traveling solo on a road trip, I did, in fact, make many new acquaintances  on my most recent one. Some approached me while I was doing book events for my travel memoir,  A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France; others I connected with randomly when I was out having a bite to eat or a drink before turning in at the end of a long day. Here are some of the highlights.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin:  Two Renowned Cycling Commentators I Met at the Bike Race

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin: Two Renowned Cycling Commentators I Met at the Bike Race

The Terrific Bike Rental Team at D & E/Four Mountain Sports

The Terrific Bike Rental Team at D & E Retail/Four Mountain Sports

The Ink Coffee Ladies

The Ink Coffee Ladies

While doing a signing at D & E Retail/Four Mountain Sports and Ink Coffee, I chatted with lots of folks, including the staff of these two popular establishments in Aspen.

The Dynamic Mother/Daughter Team I Visited with at Victoria's

The Dynamic Mother/Daughter Team I Visited with at Victoria’s

I hit Victoria’s Espresso & Wine Bar, also in Aspen, a terrific address for good food and drink day and night.

At My Post at Townie's Books Crested Butte

At My Post at Townie Books Crested Butte

At Townie Books/Rumor’s Coffee House in Crested Butte, I traded travel stories with lots of people, however, above I’m pictured toute seule at my table awaiting the next round of Francophiles and travel enthusiasts to come my way.

My Slice from Stash-Sorry I Had to Dig in Before Taking the Photo

My Slice from Stash-Sorry I Had to Dig in Before Taking the Photo

I enjoyed the $15. Workingman Special at Stash Pizza that evening in Crested Butte, a bargain, consisting of a premium slice and draft, a small plate from their salad bar and a shot of Hornito’s or Jim Beam. I passed on the shot and asked for a second beer instead. It was super tasty and in my mind I’ve since dubbed it the Writer’s Special. There I chatted with a group of guys at the table next to me, two that ended up running out to buy my book down the street at Townie Books/Rumor’s and returned for me to sign it. Obviously I touted my tour during our conversation and suggested that they bring home something–such as a fun read–for their wives.

With Tommy Before the Party Started

With Tommy Before the Party Started

John Brown Brody

John Brown’s Body

Raucous Reggae with Tommy on the Drums in the Back

Raucous Reggae with Tommy on the Drums in the Back

So what’s the proper way to cap off a road trip? Go to a reggae concert in a popular local’s bar of course. I broke all my rules and stayed up late since Tommy Benedetti, a friend’s son, and his band, John Brown’s Body, were playing Crested Butte for one-night only at The Eldo, a legendary taproom/club that prides itself on being “a sunny place for shady people.” Arguably one of the best places to listen to music in town, the scene, filled with a packed house of sweaty, die-hard mountain enthusiasts/ardent music fans, was totally rad, man. Folks were enjoying their own road trips of sorts and I could tell the music was going to play on for hours.

Thankfully, as tired as we were from the late hours we were keeping and the hectic pace we were cutting during our short week, Misty and I made it back to T-ride just fine the next day.

Now she’s tucked away and limited to short trips in the area for this fall and winter.

Misty Laying Low Beneath the Autumn Light

Misty Laying Low Beneath the Autumn Light

Still, I’m silently planning my road trip for next August and I’m counting on both of us ‘ole gals to be up for the adventure in 2015. Like old beater cars, good traditions never die.

Yes, the Sticker on the Right Says that All the Freaky People Make the Beauty of the World

Yes, the Sticker on the Right Says that All the Freaky People Make the Beauty of the World

 
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