High, snow covered mountains dotted with old mining towns. The most visited national park in the US and the journey thru the Great Plains – a vast grassland – with unlimited horizons and some views.
Salida, 6th May
Telluride. Definitely still more winter than spring. No wonder at nearly 2700m. At least this morning there’s bright sunshine. And 4°C. Thus, Prado is proud of showing all its resistance to start. It’s simply too cold with this American diesel not needing any additives for winter temperatures. Whatever, we’re hosts in this strange country so we should not complain. At least not on issues without too much importance. And anyway Prado starts after a few attempts and a lot praise’n’appreciation.
A look at the historic downtown, no drive further up in the mountains – there’s simply too much snow …
… later we drive towards Montrose. A last glimpse of the southern Rocky Mountains and we’re back in the flat land. A few hours later we arrive.
In this small town definitely not too much to do, except going to a roadside watering hole/eatery munching hamburgers and fish’n’chips diluted with Amber Ale.
Then next day the next adventure. To the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Well, it’s not really too adventurous, nor too fascinating. Definitely, the canyon is deep, the walls are steep and the rocks are black. So the park keeps its promises. Nevertheless, you cannot do too much, except short strolls to different viewpoints to look down into the canyon.
Waiting for us, Prado starts to act like a prima donna. What an idea – just because of the few stickers with all the countries it visited. And the poor photographer – an American senior citizen on his adventure trip thru Colorado. Surely he will have the hell a lot of trouble to recognize all the different flags. Poor guy.
We head on. Along some mountain lakes …
… and high up the Monarch Pass being the continental divide between the Pacific and the Atlantic.
Then we arrive in Salida. Unfortunately all motels are situated about 2km away from the historic center. Probably to avoid having any odd tourists admiring the town – or maybe there’s another American logic behind that. Who knows, we don’t discourage.
Salida – don’t think we crossed the border to the better side of Uncle Don’s Great Friendship Wall as salida means exit in Spanish. No Salida is just a small town in Colorado. But the 1 with the largest historic downtown – either the biggest 1 in the area, in Colorado or the world – we don’t remember. But definitely a place to explore.
After that an al fresco dinner on Main Street and we’re ready to drive back to our accommodation. Well, 1st of all we have to convince Prado to start the engine. Only 1 more time. Its starter seems to be pretty tired. Well, not a recent problem. We just ignored it for quite some time knowing that we have a spare. But finally Prado is on the road again.
Next morning: as today is Sunday we decide not to drive on, but to wait until a workshop opens Monday morning. The opportunity for a lazy day, some exploring of Salida’s surroundings and laundering.
Georgetown, 7th May
And then, on Monday to the car doctor. 2h later everything is fixed, we pay 100 bucks and Prado is the proud owner of a new starter.
Time to leave hospitable Salida. Now we’re on the way to the Rocky Mountain National Park. As we’ve decided to definitely not visit Denver we take the Top of the Rockies Byway. According to our information a very scenic road.
A small detour to St. Elmo. 1 of the largest ghost towns in Colorado. Long time ago a gold miner’s paradise with all imaginable amenities, nowadays just a sight for odd tourists and a hideaway for some hermits tired of their all-beloved American way of life.
Then on to Buena Vista. Another small town with some old buildings and the capital of white-water rafting – more appropriate in summer.
Later we arrive in Leadville. The highest town in the US at 3100m. Another old mining settlement. Despite its name they never had lead mines, but gold. Probably the old guys were slightly simple minded and not too clear in their phrasing. Maybe due to the altitude or simply a result of the consumption in their all-preferred watering hole: the Silver Dollar Saloon.
Times have changed. No more gold, but hoping for tourists. Nowadays they take extreme care of their visitors. Even if none are coming at that time of the year they have great offers to avoid all inconvenience due to the altitude of the place.
And once the poor tourist’s health is re-established by supplementary oxygen or more probable by appropriate watering methods there are some quite awesome historic buildings to admire.
We drive on to Georgetown. Not the 1 in Malaysia – the 1 in Colorado with its 1000 inhabitants. A journey on a high altitude plain (Mesa), …
… passing thru some ski resorts with not very impressive slopes for Swizzies …
… and finally a pretty high mountain pass.
Late afternoon, we arrive in tiny Georgetown. Lack of alternatives leads us to a pretty lousy motel. Think twice should you ever have the choice between Georgetown’s America’s Best Value Inn and nothing. It’s like current politics – better head for nothing.
Whatever. They have a compact, but nice historic downtown – somehow the CBD of the place.
Despite the careful restoration of these old buildings we discover some clear signs of the fading glory of the country. How sad to see that – but maybe it’s just an alternative view of reality.
Whatever. We could also find some visible signs that it’s not that bad:
They still produce some beer and the guys definitely care for everyone in this town.
Nevertheless, considering our observations and to be on the safe side we prefer going to an eatery originating of the other side of the Great Friendship Wall.
Estes Park, 9th May
The next day we drive to the west entrance of the Rocky Mountains National Park. Some 80km away. Another pass of more than 3000m to cross, …
… some clear warnings not to go skiing. We suppose the guys exercise for some serious intervention in snowy North Korea or Iran. Who knows what ideas their boss develops.
Then we enter the national park. Visibly snow has not gone a long time ago.
Soon the end of the road. The Trail Ridge Road not yet being opened for the season we have to turn. We drive back, head on to Estes Park, the eastern gateway to the Rockies’ National Park.
Estes Park: a kind of village purely designed to satisfy odd tourists’ needs. Thus some accommodation, some RV/camping, some eateries and the hell a lot of souvenir shops. Fortunately at this time of the year pretty quiet, low level and low prized. So quite ok for poor overlanders.
And the Rocky Mountains National Park: Even if 1 of the most famous and most visited in the US it’s definitely more a sensation for Americans than for Europeans used to the Alps.
Definitely the Rockies are higher than the Alps. Still they remind us much more to hills than to real mountains. Of course, if in Colorado, most tourists still visit these high hills the locals call mountains.
Some short walks in the Bear Lake Area – the supposedly most scenic place of the park. Still there is quite some snow. So not too easy to hike high up in the mountains …
… and the lakes are still frozen.
On to the Trail Ridge Road – now from the north. Of course, also this side is closed at a certain altitude.
We drive up to nearly 3300m. Then heavy duty snow ploughs and a closed gate stop our journey by car. Anyway Prado again dreams of Tibetan Momos and the sulphur rich Chinese diesel. Especially after all this American ultra-low-sulphur diet.
Time to admire the view, …
… then of course, we don’t discourage. At least not completely. We walk further up. Obviously not to the top of the road at 3700m some 10km away. But at least a little bit up to nearly 3600m …
… even if there are some very severe warnings.
A glimpse at the high-alpine meadows’n’mountains …
… and we’re on our way back to Estes Park.
Scottsbluff, 11th May
We’ve seen what we have to see in Rocky Mountains National Park. So we drive north-eastwards towards the Great Plains. Some 150 km to Cheyenne, the proud capital of Wyoming. The road descends some 1000m. Very fast we’re out of the mountains – enter the Great Plains. A grass– and farmland stretching some 1000km to the east. Rolling hills, big horizons and few natural sights.
We cross the border to Wyoming – evident from the numerous advertising posters for fireworks. Interesting: each State in the US has its special feature. Wyoming fireworks, Utah not much beer, Washington DC a President, etc.
Arriving in Cheyenne is quite astonishing. No suburbs, no traffic jams, no signs of a great urban center; nevertheless it’s the capital of the State of Wyoming. As usual they have their Capitol – the seat of the State’s government. Currently it’s under renovation. As expected they are embellishing the dome. Afterwards, again it will shine in new golden splendour. A 1st step to make the town great again. Surely other measures will follow. Well, maybe.
We’re pretty sure the new Capitol will be inaugurated by Uncle Don personally. Nearby we found clear indications that this event will take place in a near future. And there’s endless hope that this will considerably improve to any presidential appearance.
A stroll thru Cheyenne’s small CBD with its historic buildings …
… and of course a visit to the famous Cheyenne Depot Brewery – now called Accomplice Beer Company.
The next day we head on. Direction of Rapid City in South Dakota. A drive on highways, main roads, sometimes gravel roads. A while we follow the historic Oregon Trail where some 170 years ago the old pioneers were sneaking thru the endless prairie in search of this excellent lobster they only could find at Oregon’s coastline to spend all their wealth from their fur trading business. As they had to be protected, the brave government installed a couple of army bases in the middle of nowhere. The most famous 1 is Fort Laramie. Astonishingly showing the striking difference of living standards between the superiors in the army and their poor underdogs.
Late afternoon we arrive in Scottsbluff. Never heard of it? – doesn’t matter. 1 of the most non-descript towns ever seen. Nevertheless, sometimes it must be a place with quite some action. At least according to the announcement in our accommodation.
Whatever. Time to go to the Mexican eatery. The only restaurant far’n’wide.
Rapid City, 13th May
The next morning: just bad weather. 8°, cloudy, foggy, drizzling. Don’t discourage; we move on to Rapid City some 300km to the north.
Landscape: same as yesterday. Grassland on the right, grassland on the left and …
… rarely a small village. Mostly places where America has not yet been made great again.
Late afternoon we arrive in Rapid City. It’s still drizzling. And still 8°C. A visit of the small historic CBD, …
… especially the famous Art Alley where everybody may develop the required creativity to become a world famous sprayer – provided all administrative requirements are fulfilled.
Of course, they also show how sophisticated and history-conscious they are. Every few meters they place the statue of an American president. None is too good or too bad to be part of Rapid City’s street art. Well, we couldn’t find the latest 1 – despite all rumours it could be that they have not yet had the time to cast the statue, particularly to model his overwhelmingly awesome head of hair. Whatever, at a junction we found Monika and Bill. How exciting. Fortunately, Hillary hasn’t seen it.
Later we even find a more appropriate place for Monika: the Firehouse Brewing Company.
The main reason to visit Rapid City is nearby Mount Rushmore. The place where some hardworking guys chiselled some presidential statues out of a granite hill. Nowadays it’s a national monument and the place to proof the value of America’s commitment to its patriotism.
Well, when we arrive the 4 presidents are rather intransparent. We can even not see them in the dense fog. Convinced that this is even slightly contradictory to their principles we decide to return on a clear day.
Anyway, as there are rumours that a 5ft presidential statue is being planned we also have to investigate this mysterious affair during our next visit.
We move on to the real sensations of South Dakota’s history. It’s not about presidents – as far as we know there’s none originating from this State. The guys always preferred to be cowboys in the prairie – not in the Capital.
Still South Dakota plays an important role in recent history: it’s the place where they installed these Minuteman missiles to fight terribly hostile Soviets, the nuke-addicted grandpa of current Kim in North Korea, revolutionary Fidel Castro, this guerrilla amorous Ho Chi Min and Uruguay’s Tupamaros. So the hell a lot of work for these few 1000 nukes the Americans installed in South Dakota’s innocent prairie. Until the 90ties they kept them ready to reach worldwide each and every place within 30’. This probably to defend everybody’s freedom – or McDonald’s BigMac and Paul Newman’s Gourmet Salad Sauce. Worldwide.
Fortunately, nobody ever has attacked one of these freedom symbols, or the missiles did not work when required. Anyway, in 1991 the Soviets and the Americans agreed to stop this waste of money. Consequently the missiles were scrapped – at least a few of them and some silos for the missiles were equipped with plastic Minutemen for the odd tourist to visit them.
Thus, a former strategic set-up incredibly important for the survival of the free world becomes a simple tourist attraction. Probably a little bit like the Coliseum in Rome and in future the Great Mexican Friendship Wall.
So we have to admire the silo with the plastic missile. And we see how easy it has been to blow up the whole world. But also how carefully protected the whole installation was. It was completely fenced. At the gate these army guys were even clearly reminded to close the door immediately after them to avoid any invasion of cows. Imagine they start a missile with a ruminating cow on top. What would the rulers of the Kremlin think if 30’ later they discover this cow-covered missile shortly before smashing Moscow’s Red Square?
Then we make a tour in an underground command center. Well, only 1 of us. Because the number of participants is strictly limited and it’s pretty booked. Even when it becomes clear that one participant will not show up we could not fill in the gap – American logics.
Interesting to learn that there’s no red button to start nukes. All about the red button is absolute fake. Thus a reason to scrap all old James Bond movies. Definitely nobody could ever start a missile by pressing a red button. To do so you need a key and you have to turn it. The sole purpose of the red button has always been for the poor holder of the nuke key to alert the command center’s cook when he’s hungry. Thus the need of another lousy hamburger.
We move on to more delightful issues: the nearby Badlands National Park. A moonscape of sandstone and clay.
Back to the village of Wall. To digest all these nukes’n’Badlands.
Well, we still have a chance to munch a steak. When present politics make the village great again, everything will change: rumours claim that a contract with a Chinese contractor has already been signed. Of course, after greatification the village od Wall will be renamed to Great Wall. And the saloons will serve Tsingtao Beel and Sliced Dog in Sweet’n’Soul Soy Sauce with lice. Gleat isn’t it?
Mount Rushmore, 15th May
The next morning: bright sunshine. Thus, the ultimate opportunity to visit Mount Rushmore again. Now in full transparency.
Remains the rumour about the 5th president’s statue that may honour Mt. Rushmore. As far as we could understand they already organise a countrywide collection for gold. Contrary to the other presidents the planed statue evidently has to be golden. Nevertheless, they’re still on a test phase. Particularly on the hair. Probably they have to develop completely new technologies for that. Something with hair setting spray or silicon. Whatever, 1st models already exist.
Well, so far our adventures in the Land of the Free and the Brave.
Cu soon, the next post may even increase ur jealousy.