When you were still a peanut in my tummy, Mummy and Daddy bought a second "family car" for our wild adventures in America. Some called it a Ford Expedition; a huge near 3 ton V8 with leather interior, sun roof and a bunch of other modern conveniences that your Dad loves (!) - I called it the big blue car.
For our very first long weekend together as a family in Denver, we decided to go on a road trip with the big blue car. We took off on Friday afternoon with hope of making Canon City - about 180km down the road. Lucky for me, we HAD to drive passed the outlet shopping centre, so we picked up a few "supplies" on the way. We also took the opportunity to drive through the Garden of the Gods national park in Colorado Springs - unusual enormous red rock formations in the middle of the rocky mountains - it looked like the outback had moved across the world. The big blue car took the opportunity to test its breaks when a few deer bounced out in front of the car and we drove on to be geeky and check out the US Air Force Academy. There were so many professional sporting fields on the campus, you felt like you were driving through an Olympic village. While an impressive campus.... well, at least your Dad got to take some photos of aircraft. The big blue car drove on and made it to Canon City just on dark.
The next morning, we woke up early and caught a train along the length of the Royal Gorge. We were in the Executive carriage, so we had a glass roof to look out of to see the spectacular views of the gorge. Your Dad braved the freezing morning to ride in the open air carriage a few times to take some photos, but I stayed huddled up inside. After the train, we drove the big blue car to the Royal Gorge Bridge. There was patchy snow along the side on the mountains which was very pretty. After wondering around the park for a little while, the big blue car drove over the bridge, and we made our way through the mountains on our way west.
The further we drove west, the more snow that appeared. We drove around, through and near over a few of Colorado's 14,000 ft mountains. Having never seen snow piled up on the sides of mountains, trees crying icicles, and the world layered in white before, I thought it was beautiful. Your Dad enjoyed being able to put the car into all-wheel-drive to drive along some the of the more slippery portions of the road, and winding down his window to take photos of the spectacular scenery. We actually got to drive past one of the premiere snow fields in the state, Wolf Creek. Famous for its seemingly endless supply of powder, the park received 3 ft of snow that weekend and was the first field to open. Finally, after hours of driving (with no bathroom stops!!) we arrived in Durango.
The next morning, we had another early start as we left the big blue car to rest in the hotel car park and took
a bus to the historic village of Silverton. The bus ride was as fantastic as the car drive the day before. Up over 10,000 ft passes, down through sleepy valleys, and past more and more (and more) snow, with the occasional hint of autumn colours on the side. We arrived just before the old steam train chugged into town. Seeing it arrive, you could really get a sense of how the old miners of yore trundled into town from the "city" for supplies before setting out to seek their fortunes. We had lunch in a local brewery, in which your Dad sampled widely, and wondered in the dirt street of this little village. While none of the shops were particularly appealing, it was barely 2C outside, and despite wearing our winter coats, it was much too cold to dally outside for too long. I believe that it was the very first time I had EVER heard your Dad say that he wished he had some gloves!
After a few hours wondering around like homeless vagabonds, we climbed aboard the steam train for our adventure back to Durango. While this sounded like a romantic trip, it was actually 3.5 hours of freezing cold on hard seats. Nursing a hot chocolate, I'm not sure that I moved that entire time - but I did get the occasional nap in along the way home. Similar to the Royal Gorge trip, we followed beside a meandering stream for the duration of the ride. There were some spectacular near frozen waterfalls, a drop off where the train only narrowly fit on the track beside a sheer cliff, and scenery that felt out of this world. But it was so terribly cold (!) and such a long trip (!) that I'm not sure that I made the most of it. Your Dad even got bored of taking photos and I suspect had a little nap on the way back.
That night we had a lovely three course meal at one of the local restaurants in Durango (best meal to date in the US), and went to bed early as we needed to track back over 650km to make it home the next day.
We did a bit of back tracking in the big blue car the next day, passing Wolf Creek and the spectacular mountains that reached the sky, but did get to visit a few more little towns along the San Louis Valley. While it was still very cold that morning, the heated seats of the big blue car made it very toasty.
In the top north east corner of the valley was the strangest natural phenomenon that you could imagine - sand dunes piled high beside the snow capped peaks of the rocky mountain. These are the tallest dunes in Northern America, and can reach up to 10,000 ft. Because of the winter like conditions, there was snow along the peaks of the dunes - it was like looking at something off a science fiction movie. Your Dad and I started to climb to make it to the top of the tallest peak together, but the altitude, my general lack of fitness, (and you!) meant that I sat down half way as your Dad sprinted up the tall sloops like a rabbit. As I sat, I saw families playing with their pets, riding sleds down the sides of the dunes, and children rolling down the sand without a care in the world. It was like time was in a happy bubble in this place, where only laughter and happiness existed. It was very peaceful. After 20 minutes or so, your Dad bounded back down the dunes, and held my hand as I made the slippery decent.
Then the big blue car drove us home. After a bit of dinner, and some bad tv it was time for bed.
And that is the story of the big blue car's first road trip.
Love Mum and Dad