Our 2013 Road Trip: Part Two

I filled you in earlier this month on the first part of Keith's and my winter road trip, so today I decided to (finally) finish up with the second half recap. Prepare yourself for a lot of photos! After we left Chicago on December 28, we drove west toward Colorado through Iowa and Nebraska. On the way, we passed an exit for the "World's Largest Truck Stop" and had to stop. The gas station / gift shop was huge, had all sorts of semi-truck accessories, truck stop tee shirts, and a few antique semis that you could climb into.

Not the best photo, but too funny not to include.

Not the best photo, but too funny not to include.

Once we were done ogling the place, we continued on the road and stayed the night in Omaha, Nebraska. I have to say that city was surprisingly handsome, and much larger than I was expecting. We stayed in a common highway-side hotel (with good yelp reviews) and enjoyed driving through the downtown area on our way out of town the next morning. On the way to Denver, we drove by some really fun roadside attractions and made sure to stop and get plenty of pictures. Shortly after leaving Omaha, you drive under the Great Platte River Road Archway. We had heard about it in advance so we made sure to exit, check out the quirky interior of the visitor's shop and take lots of pictures.

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Once we got into Colorado, Keith insisted on stopping to take some panoramic shots. He's seriously obsessed with the panoramic photo option on the iPhone system update.

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We arrived at our Denver Bed & Breakfast, The Holiday Chalet, late on the evening of December 29. After settling into our room, we went for a walk and found a great restaurant and bar about a quarter-mile from our place, the Vine Street Pub & Brewery. They brew their own beers, have board games at the tables, and their spicy chili hit the spot after a cold walk. After a flight of their beers, a delicious meal and Keith creaming me at Scrabble, we headed back to our B&B. It was in a slightly sketchy part of town, but it actually felt similar to where we live in Austin, so we never felt unsafe or had any issues. There was apparently a slight mix-up on the rooms, and a little confusion on expectations, but in the end the bed was comfortable and we enjoyed our stay. As you can see from my photos, I had a difficult time with the lighting in the space. Their website has some great photos of the cute tea room we had breakfast in each morning and the outside of the beautiful old house.

The bedrooms weren't as cute as what was pictured on their site, but still comfortable.

The bedrooms weren't as cute as what was pictured on their site, but still comfortable.

I love Victorian wallpaper and space heaters!

I love Victorian wallpaper and space heaters!

Sitting area right outside our room

Sitting area right outside our room

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The morning of the 30th, we drove less than an hour to Boulder and spent most of the day exploring the historic downtown. This city is gorgeous, and as I'd only once before driven through it years ago, we both thoroughly enjoyed getting to see more of it.

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During our explorations, we ventured into an old-style candy shop and bought a bottle of root beer, made by a local brewery, and the weirdest candy we could find. We shared the chocolate-covered ants (crunchy and sweet) but neither of us has yet been brave enough to try the tequila-worm or watermelon-scorpion lollipops we also bought.

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After exploring and eating weird candy, we checked yelp for a good lunch spot and wound up at Walnut Brewery. As you can probably now guess, we drank a lot of beer while we were in Colorado. We shared another flight at Walnut but found a lot of their beers a little mild. The lunch was tasty though and it's a fun atmosphere, so I'd still recommend it. After lunch, in an attempt to start working off some of the beer, we drove to a pathway for the Colorado Foothills and spent almost two hours hiking.

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That hiking adventure made us want to buy a house in Boulder, by the foothills, immediately. As I typically do after any trip that we thoroughly enjoyed, I checked real estate when we got home again. Not as bad as checking Paris listings, but still not quite feasible for us. We made sure to wrap up hiking in time to make it to Avery Brewery's last tour of the day. Thank goodness for that because the tour was one of our favorites we've ever been on, and Avery is now at the top of our all-time favorite beer list. Seriously. Go there if you're ever in Colorado. There was not a single beer we didn't like - Keith even liked their sour, I even liked their IPAs, and we both are still pretty thinking about their mint-chocolate stout. Sadly they don't sell all their beers  by the bottle, but we bought a few and they managed to make it safely back to our house on the return drive.

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I made him take this photo. Hint: read the barrel name.

I made him take this photo. Hint: read the barrel name.

After an awesome tour and several more flights of beer, we headed back toward downtown Boulder for dinner and managed to get spots at the community table at The Kitchen. We were seated next to a really sweet couple that had just moved to Boulder from Alaska, and we had a wonderful time chatting with them while thoroughly enjoying the delicious meal. Afterwards, we made the short drive back to Denver and decided to end the evening with dessert from St. Mark's Coffee House.

The following day, on the 31st, we spent the day exploring Denver. First, we woke early for a morning run (burn off the alcohol!) at a nice park just up the street from our B&B. It was chilly but not overly windy, and we got in a nice 4-mile loop.

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After cleaning up, Keith found out about an awesome bike rental system, the B-cycle (coming to Austin soon!), and we paid $16 to rent two bikes for the whole day. I'm convinced this was a big part of the reason we fell so completely in love with Denver. We didn't drive once the entire day. We rode our bikes everywhere, checked them at nearby solar-powered return racks, and walked for miles in between riding. We felt completely safe, no one ever honked at us, and we got to see a big city in a way that most don't bother to. The weather was beautiful and we agreed that Denver now tops our favorite city list after this visit.

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We had lunch and more beer flights at a brewery, friends of ours highly recommended, Wynkoop, downtown near the ballpark. The food was typical American, but the beer was interesting and delicious. The chile beer is definitely worth trying and their lager was tasty. Unfortunately, or maybe not, they were already sold out of their famous Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. It would have been a good brave act I suppose.

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After more walking and biking, we headed back to our B&B to get cleaned up and ready for New Years Eve dinner at Il Posto. It was walking distance from our B&B, a small restaurant with about 20 tables, and a festive cheery atmosphere. Keith got the meat option and I went vegetarian, and then we spent the evening trying each others multiple courses, paired with the perfect wines. Everything was absolutely delicious and we walked back full and quite tipsy.

On January 1, we woke early and got on the road to New Mexico. It was just a few hours drive to Taos and we enjoyed the change of scenery on the drive.

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We checked in at our hotel, the El Pueblo Lodge, and then drove thirty minutes into the mountains to see the Taos Ski Valley Resort before it got too dark. Taos itself is pretty small, and I don't find the town that interesting, but the ski slopes are gorgeous and fun to visit in the evening as everyone starts leaving the mountain.

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Before we left, Keith convinced me to take a tube ride down the slope they set up after the ski hills close. I was pretty nervous at first, but sucked it up as a brave act, and it turned out to be a blast! I'm definitely looking forward to more tubing on future snow-bound trips.

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We headed back to our hotel to clean-up then walked around the downtown square for a little while and got dinner at Orlando's New Mexican Cafe, just up the street from our hotel. My fish tacos were delicious and the decor was really fun!

Our fireplace at El Pueblo

Our fireplace at El Pueblo

Orlando's New Mexican Cafe

Orlando's New Mexican Cafe

After one night in Taos, we drove to Santa Fe on the 2nd and stayed at the Inn of the Governors for two nights. I almost wish we had stayed here longer because this was by far our favorite accommodation. Our room was beautifully decorated, the bed was super comfortable, Santa Fe was much less noisy than almost any other place we stayed, and we enjoyed what an easy town this is to navigate on foot.

The Inn of the Governors Lobby

The Inn of the Governors Lobby

Our room fireplace

Our room fireplace

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Is it strange that I want those doors, carpet and tile in my own house?

Is it strange that I want those doors, carpet and tile in my own house?

Adorable guest bath idea!

Adorable guest bath idea!

Stacks of fireplace for our room

Stacks of fireplace for our room

Halls of red doors and wooden beams

Halls of red doors and wooden beams

We spent our first day in Santa Fe exploring all the churches and shops in the downtown square. The weather was mild, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing tour guide since it was Keith's first time in the city. We had lunch and margaritas at our hotel's restaurant, as your reservation includes a $15 voucher, and after several more hours of exploring the city, we met up with friends of ours for dinner.

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After dinner, we went back to our hotel, changed into our swimsuits and spent almost two hours in our hotel's heated pool, all by ourselves! The next day we visited several museums around Santa Fe, including a modern one near the train station, Georgia O'Keefes, and a photography exhibit.

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French pastries in Santa Fe

French pastries in Santa Fe

A friend told me about this famous spa in Santa Fe called Ten Thousand Waves, so a few days before we were in Santa Fe, Keith called and made us massage appointments for our last evening. I'll tell you more about the spa in my next blog post (Hint: think brave act!), but I can say that it was a wonderful experience and perfect way to wrap up our trip. After our spa visit and massages, we had a dinner reservation at their on-site restaurant. They have a section where you can eat Japanese style on the floor, and I highly recommend this if you ever go. The meal was delicious and we loved getting to try a flight of sakes.

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Congratulations - you made it through all the photos and a two-week long trip recap! I'll just end by saying the trip was amazing and much needed. We don't get to spend nearly enough time together on a regular basis so this was so perfect. And fortunately after six years of togetherness and almost three of marriage, we still really really like (and love) each other. We never got sick of each other, and even with long hours in the car, we enjoyed every single minute. I'm already excitedly anticipating our next longer trip together!