Last weekend, I took a couple of vacation days and we headed to the great state of Colorado. The original purpose was to attend my hubby’s old work-friend’s wedding. But after my MIL passed away over the summer and my FIL expressed interest in going with us, it became a much bigger trip.
The hubs and I have already been to Colorado twice. Once for an anniversary trip to Denver, and another time to attend another friend’s wedding a couple of years ago. On the second trip, we spent a day in Colorado Springs to see the sites, but mostly stayed in Denver. This time, the wedding was in Colorado Springs, so we spent almost our entire time down there.
Something else I should mention. My FIL has never been on a plane. Ever. And he’s never been further west than Branson, MO. So he’s only seen the Rockies in pictures and on TV. He’s also never had the privilege of experiencing airport security. So as you can imagine, this was quite an event for someone over 60.
The flight itself was pretty uneventful, as most flights go. The weather was perfectly clear the entire way, but we were flying over the great, but very flat state, of Kansas. Flying over Kansas = very boring.
When we arrived, clouds were hanging around the mountains making it difficult to see the peaks and thus, their full beauty was masked making it a pretty anti-climactic moment. Baggage claim took forever, mostly because no one told us that our car seat was considered “oversized baggage” and thus was waiting for us in a different area. So imagine about 10 wasted minutes of panic thinking that the plane lost our car seat and we’d be stuck in the airport forever. But now we know. Car seats are considered “oversized bags” and are transported separate from all the other bags and suitcases. If you did not know this already, you just learned something new.
The temps were much cooler – around 50 degrees for the high – and it quickly became clear that I did not bring enough warm-weather clothes.
The first night, we just grabbed our rental car and a bite to eat at Saltgrass steakhouse in CO Springs. The next day, we got up, had breakfast at the hotel, checked out a little farmer’s market across the street, and explored the Garden of the Gods. If you’ve never been, it’s this gorgeous park of giant, jutting red rocks at the base of the mountains. Beautiful, even though my description clearly isn’t doing it justice.
Three generations at Garden of the Gods
Mommy and D at Garden of the Gods
Afterward, we explored the nearby town of Manitou Springs and stopped in a couple of places for food. Specifically Hell’s Kitchen Pizza (NY style pizza – very good) and Coquette’s Bistro for a coffee and cupcake. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. D spent some quality time with “Papaw” while we made it a mommy-daddy date night. The wedding itself was fairly small but beautiful and the reception location was unbeatable with a gorgeous view of both the mountains and the town. The only downside was that it was outdoors and only about 40 degrees, which we didn’t know until we got there so I only had a jean jacket in the car for warmth. I hadn’t intended on wearing denim to the reception, but oh well. I will sacrifice style for warmth any day. On the plus side, the venue had a few firepits throughout the property so just about everyone stayed huddled around those instead of at their assigned table seats. And even though we didn’t know a soul other than the happy couple, we had a great time and met some really nice people.
Our view from the reception. Ignore the denim.
Sunday was a big day as we had plans to go up to Pike’s Peak. We debated driving versus taking the cog rail, but after hearing it had snowed up there on Saturday, we decided not to take our chances with the roads and bought some last-minute tickets on the train. Jury is still out as to whether or not this was a good idea. For anyone that may find themselves in the same predicament, here’s what I can tell you. The cog rail takes an hour and 20 minutes to get there versus about an hour by car. And depending on where your seats are located on the train, you may be straining your back/core to stay upright if you’re facing downhill. If possible, try to get seats facing uphill and maybe bring a small pillow to tuck behind your back since the seats aren’t padded. On the other hand, while your seats may be more comfortable in a car, and you’re free to stop at various pull-off areas along the way, there is no guard rail on the road leading to the top. So for the driver, this isn’t exactly a fun trip. You’re driving up a steep incline around hairpin turns for at least an hour and then spending another hour riding your breaks around those same curves on the way back. Then there’s the issue of altitude sickness. On the train, we were advised to take small sips of water every so often, but even so, all 3 of us still experienced some dizziness and nausea at the top of the mountain. To make matters worse, it was CROWDED at the top of the mountain. And cold (about 20 degrees) with high speed winds knocking the breath out of you. And all any of us had on was a light jacket. No winter coats and gloves like some smart people. But still more prepared than anyone wearing just a t-shirt, which we saw plenty of during that trip. So if the driver is prone to altitude sickness, driving may not be the best idea. As far as cost, it’s $12 per person to drive and $35 per person to ride the train. D was excluded from any costs since he’s so little.
The best family shot we could get at the top of Pike’s Peak. So cold. So windy.
On the way to the top of Pike’s Peak!
After our big Pike’s Peak adventure, we stopped for lunch at a place called The Mason Jar which reminded me very much of a poor man’s Cracker Barrel. And I despise Cracker Barrel. (Long story as to why, but it basically reminds me of death.) After that, we toured the famous cliff dwellings and museum, which was neat but the entrance fee was a tad high, in my opinion. I think I’m spoiled by all the free attractions in St. Louis. By the time we finished sightseeing, it was 5pm and everything was closing, so we spent the rest of the evening at the hotel. We were exhausted!
Can you spot the baby in the cliff dwellings?
Monday morning was our last day, so we attempted to get up early so we could do a little sightseeing in Denver before our flight, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we made a quick stop in Golden, CO to do the (free) Coors Brewery Tour. I’m a little ashamed to admit that this was D’s first brewery tour and not the AB Brewery, but these things weren’t exactly planned. Anyway, we got there around 10:30am and while that may not seem like the best time to have a glass of beer, by the time we left an hour later, the parking lot was packed. On a Monday. Before noon. So apparently 10:30am IS the best time for a beer. The tour is self-guided, which already makes it not as cool as the AB tour, but it’s still pretty cool. And the tasting room feels like a pub. Not to mention the “tastings” are actually pretty big servings and everyone over 21 gets THREE glasses of beer. This would’ve been more exciting had I not been pregnant, so I only got to try the non-alcoholic beer, which was pretty darn good, actually. Even at 10:30am.
Family photo at Coors Brewery
After the brewery, we stopped for brunch at a little place called The Golden Skillet before making our way to the airport.
And now for some random observations:
1. We rented a 2013 Hyundai Sonata (not a hybrid), drove about 300 miles total during this trip, and only used half a tank of gas the entire time. Holy good gas mileage, Batman!
2. The Denver Airport is huge. We had to allow extra time for dropping off the rental car and riding the shuttle to the airport. I think this entire process took 30-45 minutes. Then we had to walk quite a ways to the Frontier ticket counter and then more walking just to get to the security line. SO MUCH WALKING. On top of that, the place was packed. I know it was technically a holiday weekend since it was Columbus Day, but you would’ve thought it was Thanksgiving or Christmas considering just how crowded it was.
3. The day you actually make sure you have enough time at the airport is the day your flight will be delayed at least 2 hours. Meaning you spend upwards of 4 hours just hanging out with a toddler in a VERY crowded terminal.
4. It’s been years since we’ve flown Frontier and I’ve always had a positive attitude about them. Until now. They now charge $25 for ANY checked back (except car seats/strollers) and they also charge for any beverage other than water. Not even complimentary peanuts. So whatever money we saved on tickets with Frontier versus someone else like Southwest, we ended up spending in baggage fees and drinks. Their flights to STL were also delayed much longer than the other airlines. The 3pm Southwest flight was only delayed until 3:15 while our 3:15 flight was delayed until 4:55. Not cool.
5. Our hotel of choice was The Embassy Suites. We learned early on that when traveling with a baby/toddler that space is a true luxury and it’s better to stay in a hotel room that has a separate living area for multiple reasons. For one, you’ll probably spend more time in your hotel room when you have a young child than you would if it’s an adults-only trip. There isn’t much kid-friendly nightlife and babies go to bed early, if you’re trying to keep them on any sort of schedule. So having a nice, spacious room with a couch or two and plenty of places to lay out all your stuff is a must. Even little things, like having access to a fridge for his milk, are features we never really had to think about pre-baby. Secondly, having that extra room with a door that separates the bedroom means that if your baby will sleep in a packnplay, you can put the little one to bed at the wonderfully early hour of 8pm and still stay up and watch TV, read, hang out with the hubby, etc. for a couple more hours without disturbing your sleeping angel. And lastly, a big complimentary buffet is a great perk that can save about $100 off your meal bill. I had free, made-to-order omelettes and pancakes every morning. So awesome.
6. Traveling is stressful. Traveling with extended family, particularly inlaws, is even more stressful. Fortunately, none of us had any moments of obvious frustration with each other, except for that time D fell asleep in the car and I told the hubs and his dad to go ahead and check out the balanced rock at Garden of the Gods for a few minutes. And because his phone was full, I let him take mine to snap photos. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER, they finally returned. After letting me sit there, in the car, with a sleeping baby, and no means of distraction or entertainment other than looking at the clock, thinking there was no way they’d let me sit there for more than 15 minutes. But they did, because they were “climbing rocks” and lost track of time. Let’s just say he’s still making it up to me. And payback WILL be a bitch.
Read Full Post »