September 15th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

After a decent night’s sleep I woke up with no alarm (except for this pesky dog). After a filling brunch at Taco John’s – a taco burger, a hardshell and a softshell taco and Potato Olés. It was delicious – I haven’t eaten at a TJ in a few years and it was just as I remember.

The road beckons, but beckons wheezing through a respirator as it is a little smoky this morning. Last night I decided I might to try to head towards Rocky Mountain NP but you now have to reserve an admission time and they are fully booked for over a week out so I am not sure what I will do now. The AirNow website shows some mild smoke in the mountains today but better air quality tomorrow so I may have to do a little planning.

I ended up heading for Estes Park on US 34 out of Loveland anyway. I have not been that way in a few decades so it was mostly new again but there were definitely familiar sights from all those years ago. I used to come here often in the early 80’s. Estes Park was actually fairly busy but I parked to get out for a quick errand – I wanted to pick up my favorite cheese popcorn at a little red-fronted shop I always stop at that has been there for many years. Unfortunately they were closed.

I also stopped at the RMNP Visitor’s Center just to ask about the national park entry reservations. You MUST have a permit that is purchased online at recreation.gov to get in the park between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m (outside those hours it’s open without the permits). The passes allow you in at a certain time only. Today was booked solid and the guy said there may be a few spots open tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. but with the late entry and the smoke I think it will not be worth it. I want to spend the day and come back before dark to avoid animals on the roads. I bet there are other national parks doing this too so be sure to check ahead.

It’s definitely smokier from the wildfires here at the trailer this afternoon than it was this morning. I have been debating on staying here another day because the air is not bad and I have definitely enjoyed sitting outside when it cools down some. I don’t really smell smoke right now so it is pleasant out. I would really love to push on and go west, but it would be a lot of extra driving on short notice and some of it in places I don’t want to go, like back up over Teton Pass again or driving north through Salt Lake City. If I had left here today and went on that would have been better but I would like a different route next time as opposed to backtracking. With the fires I am finding that many roads are closed so its a great time for evaluating your travel plan flexibility. I wanted to go to the Buddhist temple Shambhala in the gorgeous setting of the Rockies but the roads are closed in that area. A second thing I wanted to do that I couldn’t (the first being I couldn’t get into RMNP).

Oh well; at least I did get out for a drive and it brought back so many 40-year-old memories. All those trips from KS to CO I took where I left after work and drove all night to the now-closed Deer Lodge rest area and slept in the car a few hours before pushing on into Denver at sunrise to head into the mountains. Some stretches of I-70 had one radio station on the AM side, and that was for several hours of your drive back in the early 80s.

I would have a bunch of mac & cheese, ramen, canned fruit, and a loaf of bread and Underwood Deviled Chicken Spread loaded in the car, a few clothes and any other basic necessities like a Sterno stove, hot dogs, and a cheap Walmart tent and Coleman sleeping bag. The total trip budget each time, including fuel, was $50-$70 for nine days total and sometimes I even came back with money!

Man, those were such fun and interesting trips and everyone should try it a few times in their lives. There was the trip I locked myself out of my car not once, but twice – one of those times I was in Nederland, Colorado in cut-off Levi’s and no shirt on and it started to sleet. I went and sat in the bar and had a few beverages then I went out into the new sunshine since I figured out a way to take the side rear window out so I could reach the door handle. Another time I was in a truck that rolled on a rough mountain road, teaching me to wear seatbelts and not ride with people drunk or high (at least not them). And who could ever forget Frozen Dead Guy Days? I have slept next to my car on the shoulder of a back road, under my Jeep, in my Jeep, woke up in a rest area with the car running, heat on full blast, and the door wide open…Oh so many, many interesting and fun memories.

So now I need to figure out what to do tomorrow, but more than likely I will just stay here tomorrow night too.

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