Greetings from Colorado!

Hello everybody! I hope you enjoyed what was hopefully Old Man Winter’s last winter storm on Friday. And why does it seem that when I go out of town some big weather event happens?

I’ve been keeping a diary of my trip so far with the hope that you’ll learn about some of the great things to see and do in Colorado! Frontier Airlines is the third airline to offer non-stop service from Chicago-Rockford International to Denver in recent years and we need to make sure it’s successful! And this is the time to plan a trip because fares can be found cheap online and a vacation can be planned pretty easily!

On Wednesday, my good friend Lauren Williams and I flew out of RFD to DIA, arriving just in time for 13News at Ten. With new 4GLTE technology, we quickly hooked up a Skype connection to announce that Alex Soulke from Rockford won our $1,500 trip to Denver! Perhaps this can be a guide for him as well.

On Wednesday night, we stayed at the Curtis Hotel, a wonderful eclectic hotel right next to the Denver Performing Arts Center. The hotel is funky with a modern feel. Every floor of the hotel has a different theme and everyone who arrives is greeted with fresh cookies! Next door to the hotel is the Corner Office Restaurant and Bar, a great stop for a great meal on your first night. The restaurant and bar have an upscale feel but in a relaxed environment.

We checked out of our cool hotel in Denver on Thursday morning and drove south on I-25. Just a few turns out of downtown I got my first glimpses of the Rocky Mountains. I can’t believe I am 36 years old and have never seen them! On the hour trip south to Colorado Springs, they are on your right side the whole way. Once we got to “The Springs” as locals call it, our first stop was Garden of the Gods, an amazing set of rock formations. Everyone should see this in their lifetime. The rocks jut right out of the ground and are gray, orange, and red. The park is completely free and it’s an easy hike on paved walks around all of them. Look carefully and you’ll see rock climbers several hundred feet above your head. And while we were there, a deer ran right in front of us…so be sure to remain on the lookout for wildlife.

On Thursday night, we had the opportunity to meet A.J. Longhenry who went by the name Jay Fields on WREX about 8 years ago. He and his wife took us to the Colorado Mountain Brewery, a restaurant similar to the Stone Eagle in Rockford (only with several microbrews). It was great to catch up with friends and share stories. It made us feel right at home.

We stayed at the Towneplace Suites in Colorado Springs (because I got a super good deal on priceline) and met a man who was from Rockford! Very small world. On Friday morning, I called the Pikes Peak Cog Railway in nearby Manitou Springs (a smaller version of Galena). We arrived around noon for the 2 hour trip up the mountain. The cog railway has “teeth” as a center rail which allows the train to climb very steep grades. There are many boulders the size of large houses just hanging on the side of the mountain. And as we went up, it got snowier and snowier! By about 10,000 feet you rise above the tree-line. (Trees can’t grow at the very high elevations due to the wind. Simply put, the wind is so strong, it blows the seeds right over the mountain, onto the “lower” elevations. Due to the fact it is March, the train currently does not go to the summit. Our conductor, Mel, told us that they are working every day to clear the tracks in hopes of clearing all of the snow by April. The top of the mountain gets 15-30 feet of snow January through March so it’s impossible to keep the area clear. On the ride up, we drank plenty of water. As you breathe in, you are not receiving as much oxygen so it’s essential to drink as you ascend. We packed some chips and noticed near the top that the bags were inflated and about to explode! That’s due to the lower air pressure on the bags. It was an eerie thing to witness to be sure. I wondered what it would’ve been like to bring blown-up balloons up the mountain. There’s no need to be scared as Mel told us that no visitors have been injured or killed on the railroad since it was built in the late 1800s. I asked him why they built the railroad and he said “Just to take in the view.”

Friday afternoon we drove north on I-25 back to Denver. We checked into the Oxford Hotel in the heart of “Lo Do.” The hotel is one of Denver’s nicest, oldest hotels. The staff here is great! Even though it is a higher-end hotel, there is quite a sense of “come as you are.” It’s very friendly and comfortable. We are right in the middle of the entertainment district with tons of small pubs and eateries. One of which you have to try: Illegal Petes! It’s a great little bar with a kitchen specializing in quick Mexican food. The burritoes looked awesome! You’ve got to try this place.

This morning we got up and drove westbound on I-70. About 25 miles west of downtown you begin your ascent into the mountains and let me tell you, it’s intense! The highway is so steep, it’s hard to maintain your speed. (Okay, part of that is due to the fact that there are large cliffs on the sides of the highway and I was scared to go faster.) There are several little mining towns that are worth a quick stop on the way up. About 45 minutes into the trip we encountered some serious snow! We knew something was up because signs were flashing telling truckers to put on chains. Luckily, I’m from Rockford and know how to drive in snow. The temperature was about 13 degrees at the top of the mountain, even though it was about 50 degrees in Denver! Without much notice you enter the Eisenhower Tunnel which goes right through the mountain at the Continental Divide. The divide is along the highest mountain peaks where water on the east side flows toward the Atlantic and the water on the west side flows toward the Pacific. Look closely and you’ll see a small sign in the middle of the long tunnel marking it.

Once you exit the tunnel, it’s back to winter driving but this time you’re going down…and it doesn’t last long. And after a few small exits (and runaway truck ramps) we arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado. The town was very quaint and VERY snowy! In fact, the main road was completely snowcovered as well as the sidewalks. There was also a flurry of people walking to and fro because it’s the weekend and there are many skiers and snowboarders around. I need a little more practice at Cascade Mountain and Alpine Valley before I try them, but next time I will for sure! Right in Breckenridge you can see the ski resorts on the mountain making for a great photo-op. While there, we stopped at “Downstairs at Eric’s,” a lively restaurant and bar. For the kids there are plenty of arcade games and for the adults there is great food! And I have to admit, I spent some spending cash in the gift shop there.

After a few hours in “Breck,” we headed back to Denver and to our hotel. Tonight, we’re going to just randomly pick a restaurant and tomorrow we’re headed to some of Denver’s museums. I’ll post a few more pictures either Sunday night or Monday on the last part of the trip. I can see how a lot of people in our area take our direct flights to Las Vegas because of the glitz, glamour, and gambling. However, coming to Denver (and Colorado) is much more breathtaking and in my opinion easier on the wallet and full of friendlier people.

Have a great weekend and let me know if you want more information on this type of trip! I’m by no means a travel planner after one trip, but I can help steer you in the right direction. -ES

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Posted under aviation, cold blast, event, health, humor, news, safety, snow, weather, weather geek, wildlife, Wind, winter storm

This post was written by qni_it on March 3, 2012

2 Comments so far

  1. jason rowl March 3, 2012 8:12 PM

    WOW ERIC SOUNDS LIKE FUN HOPE YOU ARE ENJOYING YOUR SELF SEE YA WHEN YOU GET BACK !

  2. Nikki March 3, 2012 10:25 PM

    Pretty pictures of the mountain, never been to CO. Welcome back to snowy IL

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