We have a plan!

Airline travel is no longer the luxurious comfortable method of travel that it once was, and one day our crotchety older selves will no longer be willing to put up with its inconveniences. But until that time, we have decided to explore as much of the world as we can (traveling beyond the borders of the United States of America)…once we have had enough of the cramped airline seats and bad connections, we will acquire a motorhome to become North American nomads exploring as much of the USA (and Canada) that our new “wheels” can conquer. We may also opt for a sailboat to further explore the world…

So, why did we just spend a week of precious vacation time in Colorado? Even the best of plans should be a bit flexible to allow spontaneous moments… And this deviation is all the fault of Frontier Airlines. They had a deal that we just couldn’t pass up. For both of us (and one checked bag), it was $126 round trip ATL to DEN!

We jumped on the flight deal without a single thing “to do/see” planned for the trip. With just a few short weeks to plan, we reached out to our friends on FB and the internet for ideas. And boy oh boy did we find out that there is no shortage of things to do in Colorado.

We had a very busy and awesome vacation, if you weren’t following us on FB here is a trip report. If you ever find yourself in Colorado, you may want to check out some of the awesome places we visited!

Friday, we stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Atlanta Airport South.  Doing this greatly reduces the chance that any Atlanta traffic will interfere with us getting to the airport on time.  And included in our hotel rate is a weeks worth of airport parking!

Saturday early am, we took a taxi to the ATL airport. The train to the gate was not working, so we had to walk all the way out to our gate in concourse D.

The Atlanta to Denver flight on Frontier Airlines was pretty uneventful…no frills, pay for everything, uncomfortable seats.

After sorting out our rental car (the first had a flat tire), we visited the National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs. Had a great docent-led history tour of their Westpac facility. And had an awesome talk/demonstration on a Link Trainer (aka “Blue box” or “Pilot Trainer”), a flight simulator produced between the early 1930s and early 1950s by the Link Aviation Devices, Inc.

National Museum of WWII Aviation

Link Trainer

Pete with a Lockheed P-38 Lightning

We had lunch at The Airplane Restaurant just down the road a bit from the museum. The food was better than expected and the service was great too.

1953 Boeing KC-97 Tanker


We spent a little time exploring Garden of the Gods (park), even doing a little hiking. The scenery is just gorgeous here.

After our hike, we checked into the Comfort Inn in Pueblo and cleaned up a bit to get ready for dinner out on the town. A little bit about the hotel: we were pleasantly surprised as it was very comfortable with good amenities and great staff.

Our friend Jo came by to pick us up for dinner tonight. She gave us a short little tour of Pueblo, taking us to an overlook of the reservoir. It would have been an awesome spot to view a sunset but the clouds blocked the suns descent.

We had a great dinner with Jo at Tocayo Mexican Grill & Cantina where her niece worked. The food was awesome, and of course the service was good, but even better was the margarita!

We all went for after dinner drinks to PDub Brewing Company, a local brewery and soda fountain. Pete had some tasty craft brews while Jo & Mary enjoyed some unique sodas…sarsaparilla anyone?

Sunday Morning, we went the Colorado State Fair to watch some of the NRCHA/AQHA Cow Horse Show. It wasn’t as exciting as we expected…so, we wandered the grounds taking in some of the other livestock events, like a goat show and long horned cattle show.

Soon, we were hungry for lunch. So we followed our noses into the fair grounds, finding some tasty grilled meats and corn on the cob. While enjoying our lunch, we were entertained by the Fiesta Day Free Entertainment.

Needing a break from the fair, we took Jo’s advice to go explore a local attraction, Bishop Castle. An amazing building and interesting owner who we were able to speak with a little bit.
We had an OK dinner at the Shamrock Brewing Co (they were out of a few things that we had wanted to order).

We returned to the State Fair to watch the Youth Freestyle Reining competition. The kids did great. And this was fun to watch, even tho Mary was distracted and “lured” (LOL) into dog training discussions…imagine running into Schutzhund people at a horse event!

Monday morning, we met Jo and her sister at a famous breakfast burrito restaurant, however it was closed for the holiday. Plan B was set into motion and we ventured to another great restaurant Musso’s for breakfast burritos that soon won’t be forgotten, yum!

After breakfast, we visited Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. Had a great time with the volunteers there!

A space shuttle tire that has actually flown in space.

Pete with an F-104

For lunch we decided to try the Brues Ale House. What a great choice! Good food, great service and irresistible desserts.

Venturing back north towards Denver, we stopped for a brief visit to the US Air Force Academy Chapel. From the visitor center we strolled the one-third-mile paved nature trail walking to the Cadet Chapel that soars 150 feet into the Colorado sky. Our timing was awesome, after briefly visiting the inside of the chapel, we heard the sound of the bugle playing “Retreat”, followed by the playing of the National Anthem. Everyone outside, stopped what they were doing, faced the flag, and placed their right hand over their heart when the National Anthem began to play. Beautiful, yet a poignant reminder of the Airmen and other service members who came before us and the sacrifices they made so we can be where we are today.

Next we walked around the Honor Court, which contains bronze statues and aircraft memorials from various groups.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning (one-quarter scale)

We continued north checking into the Comfort Suites Lakewood/Denver arriving a little too late for the dinner that we had planned….plan b, grab a bite to eat at the next event we have scheduled. This Comfort Inn was also very nice, with good bath amenities and friendly staff.

We had very little time to get cleaned up before heading out for the Sammy Hagar and the Circle concert the at the one and only Red Rocks Amphitheater. The weather could not have been more perfect.  It was an awesome show at an amazing venue. The food at the venue was nothing special but it filled our bellies.

Sammy Hagar rockin’ at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Tuesday morning, we explored Dinosaur Ridge walking a paved road where alongside of it is evidence of ancient Colorado and the creatures that once lived here…dinosaur tracks!

We had planned to eat at Casa Bonita for dinner last night but ran out of time. So, we decided to fit it into today’s plan. Casa Bonita is more than a Mexican restaurant, it is a tourist destination that just about can’t be described..it must be experienced.

We drove thru the small town of Bailey (where a friend lives, but he was out of town today) on our way to South Park County.

We arrived into the town of Fairplay very late in the afternoon and checked into the Fairplay-Valiton Hotel. The original Fairplay Hotel was built in one of the boom times of the 1800s, and is the site of a number of legends, historical events and ghost stories.  Our room was just big enough to fit the king sized bed.  The bath amenities were pretty good and the staff was great.  The owner even told us a bit about the “spirits” of the hotel.

Briefly we walked Main Street, Front Street, and peered into the South Park City Museum. South Park City Museum, located at the west end of Front Street in the town of Fairplay in Park County, Colorado, is an open-air museum that represents a mining town between 1860 and 1900. Sadly, we did not have time to explore the museum before it closed for the day.

It was a short 2/10ths of a mile walk to South Park Brewing Company. We each got a four beer flight sampler, doing so we sampled almost all of their beers. For the most part we liked all of their offerings. Mary ordered a strange one, Imperial S’mores Stout, and yes it tasted just like we were sitting around a campfire. Since Mary doesn’t like stouts and Peter doesn’t like flavored beer, this was our least favorite, but you gotta give it to them on craftsmanship to be able to come up with such a beer. We had such a good time here; chatting with the locals, eating good food and getting a brewery tour…it was a little bit sad when closing time rolled around.

Wednesday morning, we walked on down the street to the Brown Burro Cafe for breakfast. Such a small town, guess who we ran into? The owners of the brewery having breakfast at the table next to us!

We checked out of the Fairplay-Valiton Hotel and drove off down the road to American Safari Ranch where we had a 2-hr horseback ride followed by a 1-hr ATV ride. We had a great time with Devon, our guide, on the horses. The weather was perfect and our horses (Gypsy for Mary, Breckenridge for Pete) were well behaved. After horseback riding, the ATV was a little anticlimactic.

Back to Fairplay for lunch. We took the recommendation that Devon gave us and ate at the Park Bar. We had a cold beer and a delicious wrap. …and guess who showed up at the bar while we were eating…the brewery owners!

It was getting late and we needed to head off back towards Colorado Springs…but first a little detour to drive through Breckenridge to see that tourist trap….wow, glad we didn’t stay long…too many people!

We had a nice leisurely ride, passing pasture land that occasionally had small herds of antelope on our way to Colorado Springs.

After checking into the Drury Hotel in Colorado Springs. We were a little disappointed with the bathroom  amenities at the Drury Hotel… not fond of the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers (even tho they are more environmentally friendly), the quality of the provided soaps seemed poor.  …there was no hand lotion, face wash, or other extras that were available at our other hotels.  And they absolutely had the worse bath towels…way to rough!

We had a nice dinner at the Phantom Canyon Brewing.

Thursday morning, we had an appointment to get base passes to visit the Peterson Air & Space Museum. The volunteer museum docents were waiting on us. They knew we were coming and we’re excited to show us around. And once they found out who Pete works for, well we were given the VIP tour. The base pass is only good for a short time and we had other things planned for the afternoon or we would’ve stayed longer.

Lockheed Super Constellation

Lockheed Super Constellation

F-104 (on a stick)

We had a quick lunch at Paravicini’s Italian Bistro, the first of many restaurants this trip to be featured on the tv show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (DDD).

Next on the schedule was a train ride on the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak. Since 1891, millions of passengers have enjoyed a high-altitude adventure on The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest train in the United States and highest cog train in the world. Departing from historic Manitou Springs, the railroad climbs to 14,115 feet. The tracks wind through boulder-strewn canyons and forests of pine and aspen before ending high above timberline where vistas of the Great Plains and the Continental Divide unfold. On top of Pikes Peak is the only time/place this vacation that we felt we wanted to wear our jackets.

After our Pikes Peak adventure, we drove to Denver having dinner at Dae Gee Korean BBQ, another DDD restaurant. The food was quite tasty and the service was great. It is a “pig out” all you can eat restaurant…the first serving was large enough for us that we didn’t need seconds.

We checked into the Drury Inn & Suites Denver Stapleton.  This Drury did not improve the disappointing bathroom  amenities we experienced at the last Drury… it had the same shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers and the quality of these also seemed poor.  Again there wasn’t any lotion, face wash, or other extras that were available at our other hotels.  And they too had the worse bath towels…also being way to rough!

Friday morning, we went to the Denver Zoo. It’s a nice zoo, although some of the enclosures did seem a little small. Mary was happy to see a few animals that she hadn’t seen before (African wild dogs and Przewalski’s Horse).

Amur Leopard

African Wild Dog

Golden Lion Tamarin

Bongo (antelope)

We had lunch at the Atomic Cowboy.  Yup another DDD restaurant.

After lunch, we met up with Andrew, a friend from the Starfighters air show team, at Wings Over The Rockies Air Museum. Pete and Andrew spent a lot of time checking out the museums F-104. Mary was much more interested in the 3/4 scale “Star Wars” X-wing fighter.

We stopped back by at our hotel, the Drury Inn & Suites Denver Stapleton, to take part in their 5:30-7:00 snacks and drinks. Tonight’s snacks (pasta and meatballs, salad, chips and nacho cheese) were more than enough for dinner.

Well, sadly, we have come to the last scheduled event in this awesome vacation adventure. Tonight the Wings Over The Rockies Air Museum is having a special movie premiere of the new Tom Hanks movie Sully. The movie is based off the real life event of US Airways Pilot Sullenberger when he was forced to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese. Miraculously or perhaps due to the incredible skill of the crew and rescue workers, all of the 155 passengers and crew survived. After the movie, a panel of aviation experts were on hand to answer questions and discuss what had been sensationalized for Hollywood and what were actual events.

It was still early after the movie and we weren’t ready for this vacation to be over….so we stopped into Station 26 Brewing (nearby the hotel) for a one last Colorado craft brewed beer.

Saturday, we checked out of the Drury Inn & Suites Denver Stapleton and had another uneventful Frontier Airlines flight from Denver to Atlanta.

———————

What an absolutely amazing vacation! The weather cooperated everyday.  Everywhere we went the people we met were truly gracious hosts.  Believe it or not, there were quite a few things that we couldn’t fit into our schedule this time.  Colorado we will be back!

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