BOULDER, Colo. -- The plan was simple.
My wife, Lisa, and I would take our new Jeep on a road trip through Colorado's mountains to break it in properly. Seven days of travel. Some savings to finance lodging. Let's see if we can find some scenery to calm nerves battered from everyday life, recharge the spirit and fill the memory banks with colors blue and green.
The only scheduled stops were to visit my brother, Wayne, in Dolores and to see the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (where Stephen King received his inspiration for the book "The Shining"). Everything in between was to be spur-of-the-moment decisions based on whim.
Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks dwindled in the rear-view mirror as we set out on Highway 89 North to Highway 160 through Tuba City and Kayenta on the Navajo Nation on our way to Four Corners.
A brief stop at Four Corners National Monument afforded me the opportunity to walk through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah in four steps. Lisa, ever the shopper, took an interest in the Native American art and jewelry flanking the monument.
From there, we sped through the Ute Reservation to Cortez, spun left and headed into Dolores, where my brother lives. Total trip time to Dolores: About 5 hours.
Conversation ensued with Wayne and his four youngest kids. Next stop was a hotel my brother manages in Telluride, another hour or so away. They took us along the Dolores river, up through the mountains to the town, which is nestled in a canyon and surrounded by mountains on three sides. Snow, waterfalls and green peppered the site of the former mining town breathing beneath cloudless sky.
We took a gondola ride up the ski slopes to Mountain Village and marveled at how thin the air was at nearly 10,000 feet. We stayed overnight at the hotel, grabbed some grub, some coffee, saw the town and headed on down the road.
DAY 2 TELLURIDE TO OURAY TO SALIDA
Ouray is a small former mining town, also nestled among snow-capped peaks. A main-street town, Ouray boasts hot springs and lots of outdoor activities. The town has less than 1,000 folks, and as one merchant told us, lots of snow in the winter. But the road from Silverton to Montrose is regularly plowed and doesn't leave residents stranded.
"I could live here," Lisa told me. She ended up saying that often during the trip.
From Ouray, to Montrose, to Gunnison, we ended the day in Salida after going over several mountain passes. Salida, a bit bigger with more than 5,000 residents, has a wonderful downtown that ends along the Arkansas River. About a dozen peaks over 14,000 feet stand guard at Salida's western side. Comfort food and dog-tired slumber took the reins of life.
DAY 3 SALIDA TO BOULDER
Sunshine. Scenery of supersonic, velvety, Leprechaun green. Babbling brooks and creeks; roaring rivers engorged with snowmelt. A lone fisherman and brave groups of river rafters emerge into view and pass. Above the treeline, back into the pine and aspen, down into grassy field and prairie.
"I miss the green," Lisa remarked on more than one occasion.
"Arizona isn't known for its greenery," I would say back to her.
Then, the city emerged. The two-way highway merged into freeway. Northward ho to Boulder. University town. First stop, accommodations. Once accommodations were secured, Lisa wasted no time dragging me to the Pearl Street Mall. Shops faced outdoor throngs milling among performers, beggars and petitioners wanting help in a variety of political causes. Smells of culinary samplings from dozens of cultures fought for supremacy. Lisa shopped; I amused myself by watching people. The day passed as I embraced the joy of realizing I had nothing to do and nowhere to be.
DAY 4 BOULDER TO ESTES PARK TO BOULDER
Mountain grades to Xanadu thank you. More picture postcard views rocked the gray matter behind the eyes. Mission: Get a gander at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, where the master of the macabre invented a true story of terror. Having seen the movie based on the book, I was a bit taken aback that the hotel was not the one used in the movie. The hotel was old and spooky just the same. Regular -- and pricey -- tours are conducted giving the history of the place. We decided to wander instead.
Before leaving Estes Park, we ambled down the town center -- yet another look into Colorado mountain living at its finest.
DAY 5 BOULDER TO VAIL TO LEADVILLE TO DURANGO
Vail was too touristy for me. Leadville, where we ate lunch in an old hotel on the main drag, reminded me of the hard tack life of western settlers. At 10,200 feet, the town could have used some air, but it was beautiful just the same. Lisa asked a gal at a coffee shop how many folks the town had. Answer: About 800, with maybe 4,500 souls in the entire county.
"I could live here," Lisa said.
Bum-burning drive through some flatland and back into the mountains to Durango. We had decided to stay for a full day to alleviate some road weariness. Downtown accommodations. Sweet!
DAY 6 DURANGO, DURANGO, DURANGO
We awoke, ate breakfast and strolled the downtown area. I got a good look at the train that departs to Silverton and had a brisk walk along the Animas River while Lisa took in a yoga class.
After her class, she window-shopped and I people-watched. I also checked out the park, the courthouse, city hall (the library had moved) and other cool stuff. Lisa and I took another leisurely walk along the river later in the day to watch the rafters and kayakers hit the rapids. We also chuckled at a search and rescue crew doing some rapid boogeyboarding in between training exercises.
DAY 7 DURANGO TO FLAGSTAFF
We packed the Jeep, bid our farewell to Colorado and hit the road through pastoral green populated with farms, cows and the odd bison. With Cortez in our rear-view mirror, we set back through the reservation and home to the Peaks.
In all, Lisa and I put 1,500 miles on the new Jeep. Memory banks filled to the brim with blue skies, snow-capped peaks and green expanse. Hearts thumped slower; minds rested easier.
The daily grind awaited.
Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or email@example.com.