October 10th, Tuesday – We left our nightly pit stop in the Utah Welcome Center and headed for Colorado. We stopped in Fruita, CO at their recreation center and library for a much needed shower and some WIFI. The rec center was really awesome. I had the chance to talk to a woman in the locker room that was retired and living in Fruita. She told me how great it was – weather etc. She also told me about the Grand Mesa drive (which we ended up taking).
After showers and library time we headed to the food coop for some groceries and found a nice spot to make our lunch and figure out our travel plans through Colorado.
We decided to head to the Grand Mesa drive and then across I70 to Denver to spend the night.
The Grand Mesa drive was wonderful. We had some snow and a quick bought of flurries, but it was a great drive. I70 on the other hand was horrible. Very narrow and very windy and up and down in terms of altitude. The drive was really exhausting with all the semi-traffic. We also both had some altitude fatigue from Utah, now Colorado, so we were feeling not in peak form.
We finally made it to Denver and our “TA truck stop” for the night. I really hate the truck stops for the night but we did not have a choice and it was dark. We ended up parked in the middle of several other car campers. Some seemed a little sketchy (one very old woman was in a car with a large pit bull, she seemed to be talking to herself quite a lot). We got ourselves settled in and watched a movie. Both of us slept pretty well considering. the advantage of the truck stop is you have a bathroom 24/7 and in the morning you can get your coffee and hot water. Not making our morning coffee is a luxury since we want to get on the road.
October 11th, Wednesday – we headed to Estes Park, CO, hoping to see some elk, and then to Rocky Mountain National Park. We had to get an entrance time to the park – this. is a real pain in the neck and we were in and out of cell service, but I finally got it for 9-10 am. We arrived in Estes Park just after 9:00, time enough to stop in the visitors center and do a little hunting around for the elk heard… we saw NO elk. This is my curse. Whenever I have gone on an “Elk ride” I have seen NO elk!! In Yellowstone Mamoth Hot Springs where elk are everywhere – I saw NO elk!! And I saw NO elk in Estes Park or on the ride through Rocky Mountain National Park!!
The ride on Rte 34 through the park was beautiful but very scary. The road was narrow and often had a cliff on at least one side. It was crazy how they even built the road in some places as the cliff fell off on both sides right against the paved lane. We stopped at most of the pull-offs, the vistas were spectacular. Each stop it seemed to get colder and colder. We were both still struggling with the altitude issues and here we climbed to 12,183 feet! We were both feeling it!
I hoped to see some moose on the back side of the park but, again, I saw NO moose!
Once we exited the park we headed back to I70 via I40. I40 took us through Tabernash, Fraser, and Winterpark another extremely windy road. It was on I40 that the weather took a turn and we ended up in almost whiteout conditions. 4 lanes, switchbacks, steep inclines, lots of semis, drop-off with no guard rails and now a blizzard out of nowhere!!
Finally, back on I70 we were ever so happy when we passed Denver and had straight roads – and boy were they straight compared to what we just passed through.
We grabbed some dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant in Byers and headed on to Burlington for the night. We stayed in another travel plaza – this one was a “Love’s Truck stop” and a little better than the TA truckstop in Denver. We were able to park pretty far away from the main entrance of the truck stop and closer to the Fairfield Hotel. We were exhausted from the white-knuckle driving so we had no problem sleeping!
Sunrise was beautiful and we grabbed coffee and headed east on I70.