We were up and ready in time for breakfast at the hotel and on the road about 10AM. Filled up the gas tank, washed the windshield, and hit the highway. We finally saw the golden wheat fields of Kansas. The green of the corn and soybean fields next to them really made them stand out. A little research taught us this appears to be Kansas winter wheat which is planted in the fall and harvested in late June to early July. What struck us most was that it was maybe knee high or so. We’d both envisioned it much taller and really blowing in the wind. I guess that’s a lesson for us not to think about the musicals we know and love for information…or perhaps it just grows taller in Oklahoma.
We were 60 miles or so outside Denver when we spotted what has now become known as “A Brown Sign.” These are our signal that there is some interesting historical site, something whimsical, or down right odd that we may want to check out. Today’s Brown Sign said “Scenic Route to Denver.” Well, it sounded better than more of I-70 to me, so off the freeway we went onto State Route 86 through Kiowa and Elizabeth. A beautiful drive through foothills, ranches and small towns. It was the first time I had seen cows lying flat on their side, legs outstretched, in the late morning sun. We connected with I-25 into Denver, past Mile High Stadium, and eventually back to I-70. (Sorry for my Broncos fans. I was driving, and the Rockies had a home game today so traffic was a bit heavy. No place or time to stop for a photo. And a good thing I didn’t check the Rockie’s schedule before writing this as the SF Giants were in town. I might have stopped for that game!)
As traffic was heavier than we expected, we opted not to stop at Red Rocks Park and Ampitheater. This has been added to the “Next time we drive through” list. The drive over the Rocky Mountains was breathtaking. Snow was still visible on many of the mountain tops, and it felt many times like we were on a roller coaster – just when you thought you had finished the climb to the top and were heading down, you’d climb some more. We stopped for lunch in Idaho Springs, and I reported to family members we were on the westside of the Rockies. If I’d looked at the atlas, I would have realized we’d just barely started our climb. We watched white water rafters getting started, others finishing their trip, passed ropes and zip-lining courses, drove through 8 tunnels (maybe more) and continued to climb higher. We were over 10,000 feet up, maybe even 13,000 feet before we started the first descent. 7% downhill grade for 7 miles. Kept the foot off the brake as much as possible as I was not planning to use the runaway truck lane if I didn’t have to! Unfortunately, the turn-offs we passed along the way came up suddenly, or were full, so I didn’t get a chance to get pictures. Photos on the internet, in movies or on TV do not do it justice. It is absolutely worth the drive.
We had a second 7% grade descent, but this only lasted 5 miles and led us eventually to Rabbits Ear Pass and the Continental Divide. Our third time crossing the divide in 5 years. Our next crossing will be eastbound in Canada. The landscape changed from dry, almost desert-like to more lush and green as we got closer to Steamboat Springs.
We pulled into our hotel about 4:30PM, unloaded what we needed for the night, and, despite the road buzz, opted to head into town for a nosh and beverage. We stumbled upon Table 79 which had a wonderful happy hour. We relaxed, ate, drank and soaked up some fresh air. The air is a bit thinner, and it’s a bit harder to take really deep breath. The view from our room patio makes it all worthwhile, though!
Tomorrow we are off to explore dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs.