Leaving Moab was bittersweet. It was bitter because it marked the end of the “major adventure” portion of our trip, as it meant we had only one more National Park on the agenda. Moab marked the culmination of over two weeks of hiking and exploration in some of the best parks our country has to offer. As gorgeous as Colorado is, the rest of the trip wouldn’t live up to the portion that ended as soon as we left Moab.
On the other hand, leaving Moab also meant we were about to hit some of the best driving roads we’ve seen since leaving Arizona. It also meant I was inching closer to the very important (to me) step of getting the new top installed on my Boxster (heretofore known as Silverback due to the prodigious amount of Gorilla tape required to keep things together). The thought of not worrying about water intrusion from my sketchy patch job or looking at the mass of black tape every day was extremely motivating.
The weather was gorgeous as we left, perfect convertible weather, of course. Driving an excellent convertible sports car in beautiful sunny weather and not being able to put the top down sucks. Even with the top up, the roads between Moab and Durango, Colorado, were beautiful and quite fun to drive.
We arrived in Durango late afternoon, which gave us a few hours of sunlight to explore the downtown surrounding our hotel. The Main Street of Durango is exactly what you would expect from a proper western railroad town. The old section is dominated by a few strategically placed hotels near the train station. The rest is a beautiful mix of old and new buildings, but thankfully even the new ones blend in nicely with the old to give the town a very vintage feel.
But don’t let the vintage vibe fool you; the choices for food and entertainment are very modern and delicious. We sampled treats from one of the oldest microbreweries in Colorado (great beer and excellent nachos), as well as upscale cuisine, and everything we had was excellent.
The plan for our stay in Durango was simple, spend a day driving north to Ouray to experience the famous Million Dollar Highway and then drive it back to Durango. Thankfully, the weather mostly cooperated for our planned driving day, and we set out to climb mountains, carve up some corners, and hopefully not fly off the face of a cliff.
High altitude plays havoc with internal combustion engines, sapping horsepower as the air thins, and we definitely felt it. With three mountain passes to summit and a peak elevation over 11,000 feet, this would be interesting. When you start with only 240 horsepower, any power reduction will be felt, and as I gunned the Boxster up the mountains and tried to power out of some of the steepest and tightest turns, it was obvious not all the horses showed up for work. Even the mighty, super-charged Z06 in my rearview mirror was feeling the effects. But when you start with 650 horsepower and torque, you can afford to lose a few and still move very, very quickly.
The road lived up to its name and hype as we were treated to stunning vistas of the surrounding mountain ranges. Not to mention the absurdity of driving on a road with an 11,000-foot elevation and having to look straight up to see the tops of the towering peaks above. All was not perfect as the temps dropped into the low thirties, trucks were encountered, and more than a few recently fallen rocks littered the lanes.
We managed to knife our way around the debris without cracking a splitter or puncturing a tire, which was nice. The scenery and sense of adventure driving this stretch of road are both worth every ounce of effort taken to get there. As with many fun mountain roads, the penalty for getting it wrong is swift and deadly, there are precious few guardrails anywhere, and often you approach a corner feeling as if you are going to drive into the ether whether you get it right or not. Then there are the avalanche areas, and there are a dozen at least. Thankfully we were driving fairly late in the season, but there were two sections where it was clear the avalanche trail that had completely covered the road before being cleared was fairly fresh.
Our reward for the drive was the crazy small and oddly charming town of Ouray, where our cars blended in perfectly parked on Main Street. I knew the town was small before we arrived, but I didn’t realize it is only about two miles long and a street or two in either direction of Main Street wide. To top off the town’s isolation, we arrived during the local spring break, so half the shops and restaurants were closed. We did manage to find a good spot for lunch before we hopped back in the cars and made our way south. Our second run through the Million Dollar Highway was even better than the first, with fewer slow-moving trucks, and someone had cleared the fallen rocks we saw on our way north, so we had smooth sailing.
After ticking that drive off my bucket list, we left Durango eastbound for Colorado Springs. This stop meant a lot for me as this is where the Boxster would receive its new roof! It was also a planned stop of luxury and relaxation with a fantastic room and spa day booked at the legendary Broadmoor hotel.
The Broadmoor is fascinating, with an epic collection of art adorning the walls throughout the property. After the initial chaos of parking and check-in subsided, it was time to explore the grounds. We walked along the grounds checking out the beautiful lake behind the main building while watching swans do swan things. The next morning we spent some time on a guided art/history tour of the main building, which I highly recommend if you stay there (it’s free).
We planned to relax for a day and then spend a day driving the road to the top of Pike’s Peak and exploring the beautiful Garden of the Gods park. Things did not go as planned as we were presented with a medical issue that would essentially bring our trip to a shorter than planned ending. Crystal had been bothered by an eye that would not stop watering for a while; during our stay in Colorado Springs, the condition deteriorated, and we found ourselves in an emergency room. Her eye had suddenly swollen, almost completely shut. The doctor determined that she had a bacterial infection that required some powerful antibiotics, to which she has a history of having negative reactions.
Crystal was forced to spend the rest of our time at the Broadmoor in the room trying to sleep, waking only to have a small amount of food required to take her medicine. When we reached our check-out date, we decided to continue the trip and head to our next destination while the medicine ran its course. Since I had already arranged for the Boxster to be in the repair shop, I also had a rental car for the next leg, Estes Park, Colorado. This came in even handier than I imagined, as the hotel was nice enough to allow Crystal’s car to stay in their parking garage while we went north. Crystal was certainly in no shape to drive, so the Z06 remained protected underground, and we both took the rental car north.
Our intent for staying in Estes Park was to use it as a base camp for hiking adventures in the Rocky Mountain National Park, but with Crystal recovering, that plan was scrapped. It’s probably just as well as Mother Nature decided to deliver eight to ten inches of snow the second day of our stay. We decided to take our chances by staying at the legendary (infamous to some), The Stanley Hotel. You know the one, it’s where Stephen King stayed, had nightmares, and was inspired to write a little tome called The Shining. On a lighter note, it was also used to film several scenes from Dumb and Dumber, so we had that going for us, which was nice.
The hotel was going through some renovations in preparation for the summer season, so it wasn’t very crowded. The place is pretty cool, and coming directly from The Broadmoor gave us an interesting comparison of two iconic hotels, each over 100 years old. It was clear The Stanley Hotel operates on a much different financial plane than The Broadmoor, but that doesn’t take anything away from its charms.
After another day of rest, Crystal felt well enough to explore the town a bit with a walk around the lake and a cruise through the downtown shops. Estes Park is a neat mountain town with a lot to offer. The downtown has a great mix of unique shops and standard tourist kitsch, with some excellent stops for food and beverages. We also procured a spot on the 9 pm, guests-only tour of the Stanley. These tours are conducted every day, but the evening tours tend to focus less on the physical history of the hotel, and more on the spiritual history, aka ghost tour.
Our tour guide led us through some of the “hot spots” of the hotel grounds where people have long reported seeing, hearing, and feeling ghosts. We saw photos captured by people on tours and people who work at the hotel, which appear to show the presence of people long gone. Much to my joy, we did not encounter anything on our tour, nor did the ghost reported to occasionally bother guests on the second floor visit us during our stay. Regardless of what we saw or didn’t see, the place has an interesting history that takes little imagination to understand why it could be home to spiritual activity; if you believe in that sort of thing.
With Crystal on the mend, it was time to make our way back to Colorado Springs to pick up our cars and get on with our journey. We decided to curtail our travel plan and start making our way home just in case Crystal didn’t heal right away. Not directly, of course, we still had some friends to visit along the way, and we weren’t going to miss that chance.
The fantastic crew at Big Mission Automotive did an awesome job installing a new, factory Porsche top on the Boxster. They saved the day for me because if I had tried to make it home without getting a new top, the wet snow we saw in Estes Park would’ve torn my tape repairs and caused a lot of damage. The results of their work got an immediate test as it rained all day long as we drove east. Thankfully, there were no leaks, and the new top proved to be much quieter than the old one.
We made our way through eastern Colorado and into Kansas, although only the road signs let you know there was any difference between the two. It’s easy to think of Colorado only for the idyllic Rocky Mountain scenery, but eastern Colorado is very much like Kansas and Nebraska; flat, windy, and not a lot of fun to travel through. My playlist rather fittingly picked the right moment to play Robert Earl Keen’s classic The Road Goes on Forever as the ribbon of highway in front of me extended straight through the horizon as far as the eye could see.
Crystal felt better each day, but not nearly as quickly as she would like. We still managed to stay with some old friends in Nebraska for a few days, which was great. From there, we slowly made our way back to Tennessee.
While the trip didn’t end in quite the fashion we planned, you can’t mess around when it comes to your health. Crystal is getting better each day, and we have a lot of memories to cherish from this adventure. I’m still working on my thoughts of the trip as a whole, which I will cover in another post once I have it all sorted.