Texas Grandma and I drove to Durango, Colorado for our vacation a couple of weeks ago; we met our son J who flew from New York to meet us there.
It was a great vacation, but it was not without its hazards.
It took us two days to get there, staying at a motel on the way; and two days to get back the same way. That’s a lot of driving. We spent the night in Amarillo, both ways. From our home in East Texas, we drove more than 11 hours the first day, and were still in Texas. We did have adventures on the way, checking out portions of historic Route 66.
The second day, we arrived on target, checked in at the Caboose Motel, and picked up J at the local airport. The Caboose is an older motel that really was pretty nice; my only real complaint is that the towels are too small for a 260 pound adult. It felt like I was drying off with a hand towel.
Day 3, we went up to a resort where we rode the ski lifts, and what they call the Alpine Slide – think of a luge in a concrete track with a special skateboard. This was a lot of fun, and the scenery is awesome up there, for us flat-landers. We saw several deer, and some smaller critters (probably of the squirrel family), as well.
On the way back to the motel, we stopped at a roadside spring. That’s when the battery on our Caravan went kaput. Some very friendly and nice locals were riding by on bicycles, who stopped to help. We wound up having it towed to the local Firestone place, who installed a new battery and checked it out to make sure there wasn’t anything else wrong with the charging system. I do have to say that all the natives of Durango that we encountered seemed to be real nice folks.
Day 4, we went on the Mild to Wild Jeep / Train tour. They take you on a nice tour bus up to Silverton (rising in elevation from around 6,500 to 10,000 feet), where your group gets on one of several different types of off-road vehicles set up for multiple passengers. From here, you go on what they call “maintained roads” up above the tree line into the mountains, up to around 13,500 feet. “Maintained roads” by the way, are rock-paved trails that you will NOT get over in a two-wheel drive vehicle. Ours was a six-wheeled military vehicle of some type. This segment of the trip takes around three hours. I must say that you get to see things on the Jeep tour that you miss any other way. The view of the mountains, and many mines, and remains of old mine workings and buildings. It’s amazing that the miners were able to do these things considering mule transport, and harsh winters.
The views from there are awesome. You need to do this, at least once in your life. I’m the guy in the hat.
After you get back to Silverton, you have enough time to shop a bit or eat a meal, than you take the Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad back to Durango. It’s downhill all the way, a slow passage through mountains and over gorges, mostly following the Animas River. Beautiful scenery all the way, both above and below. Texas Grandma had taken 1017 photos and maxed out her camera’s memory, at this point.
Day 5, we drove to Four Corners, about 1 1/2 hours from Durango. This is where four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) meet at one point, so you can walk through four states in a few seconds. There’s really not much there except for a marker, and some local Indians who sell jewelry and things like that, but it was still fun.
I have a Texas concealed handgun license; it is interesting to think about the fact that I could pass through four different sets of laws just by walking in a circle. Of course I did review the relevant laws for all the states we would possibly enter, before going on this trip, and I was careful not to infringe the law. I do wish gun laws were uniform across the U.S. Just by walking into New York, for instance, I could wind up in jail for years, for doing something that was perfectly legal on this trip.
We marveled at how you can see storms coming across the desert. In East Texas, your line of site is usually limited by trees; up there, you can see stuff coming for miles. My hat got blown off.
Day 6, we shopped in the morning in downtown Durango, where I found a hotcake so big I couldn’t finish it; then we dropped J at the airport and departed for Texas. We got to Amarillo about midnight local time.
Bless his heart, J had a lot of trouble traveling. None of us will ever fly United again – ever. Incoming, his first flight out of New York was cancelled, and he had to scramble to a different airport at a personal cost of over $100 (cab fare) to catch an alternate flight to Denver where he caught his connecting flight to Durango. Then, on the way back, his flight out of Durango to Denver was cancelled. First they told him it was a mechanical problem with the plane, but they changed it to weather-related when they realized they’d have to pay for hotel rooms for the passengers if it was their fault. J didn’t get out until the next morning. It cost him around another $150 for a motel room. Two cancellations on the same trip, and a certain amount of dishonesty to boot. His out of pocket un-budgeted expenses directly due to United’s poor maintenance and service was over $250.
As for us, we were still about five hours from home on Day 7, when the engine light came on. Whee. But we did finally make it home. It’s about 1000 miles each way, not including side trips, etc. We were really glad to get home.
It was a good trip, and a lot of fun – but way too much driving.