Colorado August 2016

Dates: August 16 - 22, 2016

People: Mark, Sarah


  • 8-16 (Travel Day)
  • 8-17 (La Plata)
  • 8-18 (Evans, Lake Dillon)
  • 8-19 (Pikes, Garden of the Gods)
  • 8-20 (Cheyenne Mt Zoo)
  • 8-21 (Pikes Marathon)
  • 8-22 (Travel Day)


Our trip began with a 4:45pm pickup by Bob A. from our house. We were thankful for the ride which would save us from having to park our vehicle at the airport all week. It was 5:20p when we got dropped off and this left us plenty of time for supper and to be early. This happened to be our anniversary and so after getting bags checked and heading through security we made our way to Ruby Tuesday's for an anniversary supper. They said about a 30 minute wait but it ended up being only 5 minutes. Sarah has been a huge fan of their Thai Phoon shrimp and so we had to give them a try. We also tried some beer and were quite unpleasantly surprised when we got our bill and found the beers, in the airport, were $9/each.

After supper we still had a little bit of time at the gate and we were surprised to see how many families with young kids were waiting there. Boarding took a little extra time because of all the families and a few pre-boarders. We were still able to depart roughly on time.

During the flight I used Southwest's TV service more than I ever have before to watch more of the Rio Olympics on NBC. I also read a little bit. We made it to Denver on time, got our bags and then headed out to the car rental. Dollar's customer service was quite odd. We went to counter and it started normal, but when he asked if I wanted their insurance coverage and I said no I didn't want any add-ons he quickly punched a bunch of stuff into the computer, gave me my rental agreement, had me sign something, and walked away before I even signed it. I mean I was glad the rep wasn't pushy, but he didn't even stick around to answer questions or stick around to wait for me to sign things and wrap up. I stood there in surprise long enough that another rep walked by and said "once you sign that you're good to go."

We researched a car in the "special class" which after some research seems to be a car of their choosing (likely a class of car they have too much of) and it happened to be at a good price for us. We were in the position to take just about anything. We ended up with a compact car, a Nissan Versa Note. It had 34,723 miles at start. We would learn it had two clear pros and cons. On the plus side it got great, really great, gas mileage. On the downside, the car had no horsepower whatsoever and really struggled to keep speed on the hills we would drive.

Indeed, we learned that the hardway as we were pushing up one of the hills leaving Denver on I70 the oil pressure light came on. This got our attention and I watched things very carefully the rest of the drive to Dillon. We got checked in to Comfort Suites and then went outside to check oil. I thought I checked it as low and we began to assume that was the issue. I called Dollar Roadside Assist, they said I could add more oil and they would reimburse. I opted for that. Otherwise it would have ruined my morning waiting for them to potentially send us a new car. I went to a nearby Shell station, bought some 5W-30 and added a quarter quart to start. Checked again and I could see there was now oil on the dipstick. I realized then there probably was oil on the first try it's just the oil was so new still and so lightly colored I barely saw it in the poor lighting I had. At any rate the indicator light went away and we believe it was a false alarm that that hill had contributed to.


It was a very early wakeup today. After having gotten to bed past 1am last night because of the car issues it was less than a 4 hour night as I was up at 5am today to get an early start. I made a quick gear grab and was out the door. I had looked ahead to see what would be open for breakfast and found a McDonald's to grab a sausage biscuit and OJ and then headed out of town for the Twin Lakes area and the La Plata TH. It was about an hour and 20 minute drive.

La Plata Aug 2016

I made it back to the hotel after the hike at 1:30pm, I was almost 2 hours ahead of schedule. On the way back I had called Sarah to see if she had done lunch yet and she hadn't and so she waited for me. When I got back we walked over to Qdoba for a nice tasty lunch. It began showering as we sat in there and ate and so I was the one who walked back up to the hotel, grabbed the car and then picked up Sarah.

We had discussed the idea of kayaking or doing something recreational on Lake Dillon but with the whether where it was we decided those ideas wouldn't work. Rather, we checked out the maps and decided we could drive around the Lake and find some places to sightsee. We began the drive over the Dam road and then on to the Frisco Marina. We wanted to drive the road out to Crown Point but found it closed. We drove on around to Sapphire Point. There we made it to the parking lot and then found that the Boys, who were with my parents in Washington DC wanted to facetime with Sarah for her birthday, so we did this in the parking lot for half an hour. After the facetime we hopped on the loop trail at Sapphire Point. It was a nice trail with a view good overlooks and plenty of chipmunks. The loop was about 0.7 miles long.

After our excursion around Lake Dillon we headed back to the hotel. Sarah napped while I watched more of the Olympics and followed the Cubs game. I was pretty tired too but never did make it to a nap. When Sarah finally woke back up we were both still a bit exhausted. We had planned to go to the Dillon Dam Brewery but opted instead for something simple. We hit Dickey's BBQ which was in the shopping center next to our hotel for carryout. We also hit City Market and the liquor store for snacks and drinks and headed back to the hotel to eat our supper. This first day really wore me out thanks to La Plata and I was probably down for the count around 9:50pm.


We were up at 6:15am today to get a quick start on driving up to Mt. Evans. The weather report for this morning was questionable and only getting worse near noon and so we wanted to maximize our chances. We got a quick breakfast at the hotel and hit the road just around 7am for Mt. Evans.

Mt. Evans from Summit Lake

It was 11:40am when we got back down to Summit Lake. We stopped again to give the car a break and I wanted to hop out and get some pictures. I walked down one of the use trails to the lake and hopped around on a few rocks at the edge. It was pleasing to see what good condition the tundra was in and it seems efforts to keep people on the trails were having some success.

We were wondering how the little compact rental car would do on this, the highest road in America, and it survived. We learned it could do uphill, just not at speeds above about 45. The Evans road wasn't too hard to drive, it was narrow at spots, and didn't have a center line in many areas, but most folks were taking it all pretty slow. We were surprised to see how many bikers there were on the road. On the rest of the drive out we made a stop at Echo Lake to grab some pictures and then we headed out to I70.

We were hungry now and so we hit the Taco Bell in Dumont. It had a very interesting decor inside, almost an engineers' paradise. As we sat eating the heavy rains really came down and we wondered how long we'd end up waiting there. We finally made a dash for the car and starting our way back onto I70. As we neared the tunnel the clouds cleared once more and I decided to take the drive over Loveland Pass to get some more sights. We stopped at the pass to walk around a bit.

As we headed down the pass the clouds thickened again and we got more rain as we drove through Keystone. We decided to head back to the hotel to rest up. Around 4pm we decided on doing a movie as the showers made our outdoor options limited. We took in a 4:40p show at the Skyline Theater seeing Suicide Squad.

After the movie we headed over to the Dillon Dam Brewery. I tried their Sweet George's Brown to drink and the fish and chips for meal. They were all just decent, nothing spectacular. I remarked that I had enjoyed the similar choices I had at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery back in June so much more.


We were up early again today, 6:30a or so, to once again attempt to beat the weather in the mountains. I was also up early because of anxiety I had about my sore quads from the La Plata hike. The realization that my ability to run on Pikes was in great jeopardy had me worried. Once Sarah was up we were also working on getting all of our stuffed packed up as this was our last night there at the Comfort Suites Summit County. We did breakfast at 7:50am and we on the road leaving Dillon at 8:17am.

We headed south to Frisco and then Breck and on to Fairplay. We drove the highway on over to Woodland Park. Along the way I gave Aunt Joyce a call to coordinate our plans for the evening. We then hit the Pikes road and began our drive up. At the main gate we paid the $22 ($12/person fee, minus a $2 coupon) and began the drive. They had nice mile markers along the way and made it an interesting drive.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the road was nicely paved all the way up to the summit now with good shoulders and even the occasional guardrail. We also encountered quite a number of bikers again, just like on Evans. It seemed some were even with groups that would be bused to the summit to then ride down.

It was fairly cool on the summit but the weather was otherwise holding for us. Clouds were rolling by and even up the sides of the mountain but no precipitation in sight. We headed inside to look around and even tried a pair of their fresh doughnuts. We walked around outside and took some good pics. I checked out the top of the Barr Trail and we could see evidence of them setting up for the Ascent and Marathon upcoming. Since this was also filling a goal of getting more high altitude time we tried to take our time up top and so we spent nearly an hour up there. It was around 12:15p when we started to head down.

We really tried to take our time on the descent and not ride the brakes. Our compact rental only had "D" and "Low" and so we worked in "Low" the whole way and that went well. About halfway down we hit the Brake Checkpoint at Glen Cove and they checked our brake temp and they were hot so we had to stop for 15 minutes. We went inside the Glen Cove Inn and shopped around to pass our time. Once we made our way onto the road we also made a stop at Crystal Reservoir and I found that my quads, especially going downhill were still pretty sore.

It was 1:45p when we finally got back out to the highway. We headed then into Manitou Springs to do my Marathon packet pickup. It was nearly impossible to find parking there so we found a spot on an uphill road near Memorial Park where we could at least pull over long enough for me to run to the Race Tents. We accomplished that and then headed to the main street in town and finally found a parking spot so we could walk around and get food. We ended up finding Baba's Burgers and Gyros where I tried their classic gyro. We also, upon their recommendation, tried the Greek fries. They were heavy on garlic and seasoning and reminded me of BG fries from Forest Park back by Concordia. We enjoyed the hole-in-the-wall place. While we ate more afternoon showers were hitting. We waited for them to stop and then walked around town a bit more.

We then headed back to the car to drive into Colorado Springs. We went first to a Verizon store where I wanted to look into the possibility of upgrading my phone to the brand new Galaxy Note 7. I was close to pulling the trigger til I realized that the Colorado tax was much higher and they weren't doing the 256gb microSD card promotion anymore. After the store we found we still had time to spare and so we drove over to Garden of the Gods and hit the first parking lot. We walked around on the paved path and stopped at a couple spots to watch some rock climbers. We only walked 3/4 of a mile and were out perhaps 30 minutes but it was enjoyable. It was nice it wasn't so hot as it usually is there. As the clouds darkened we headed for the car.

We drove on out and got onto I25 to head north. As we drove storm clouds really hit and we found ourselves in the midst of one heavy thunderstorm. Rain was strong and then the hail came. The hail was at least nickel-sized and we wondered if the car was getting dented. At a few of the overpasses there were cars lined up several rows deep trying to get out of the weather. As we neared Monument the rain finally began to lighten up.

We had supper with my Aunt & Uncle and she cooked a wonderful lasagna for us. We also had bread with oil and spice dip which is always tasty. She also made an angel food birthday cake to celebrate Sarah's birthday. We enjoyed visiting after supper and even had a chance to sit down and watch more of the Olympics until the time grew late.


We enjoyed sleeping in a bit today at my Aunt and Uncle's home. It was nearly 8am when I made my way down stairs to a very beautiful Colorado morning. We had sun and nearly clear skies near us and noticed there were low-hanging clouds in the Pikes Peak area. That must have made for beautiful views for those Ascent runners as they made it above the cloud deck. I enjoyed listening to my Uncle's HAM radio as he was getting all of the comm for the Pikes Ascent. We could hear them chat from aid station to base and give reports on the lead runners passing.

My aunt made us some fantastic onion and cheese filled scrambled eggs with pancakes. A tasty breakfast to get us going for the day. We had breakfast as we got going and then spent some more time visiting. My legs were slightly improved from yesterday but still had a ways to go before racing in 24 hours. We left their house about 10:45am.

We drove on down to Colorado Springs and on towards Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We were surprised when we got near the zoo and passed a sign that said "Parking is hour wait from here." We were able to drive passed but it wasn't for long that we ended up at the back end of a line of cars around the 45 minutes away sign. Disappointing, but we didn't know what else we wanted to do for the day so we waited it out. It was really close to 45 minutes before we made our way up to the main zoo lot and were directed to a parking space.

We got our tickets for the zoo for the day and also paid the extra $4/person to ride the chair lift to the upper part of the zoo. The gal recommended we do that first thing. After getting our sun tan lotion we did so. The chair lift ride itself was great and had nice views over several exhibits. The top however was a real letdown. No animals to see up there. An asian yurt was there to walk through and a circular room that had rock climbing/bouldering holds you could climb around on and that was about it. The views of the Springs were nice and the chair lift ride down added to that, but otherwise it wasn't the sort of thing we would pay for again.

The rest of the zoo was great. They had excellent exhibits for the grizzly bears, giraffes, and elephants. We were able to watch a grizzly bear feeding time where they set out a number of treats for the bears to come in and discover. Sarah was pleased they also had a decent penguin exhibit. We stuck around at the zoo til 4:45pm when we finally took off.

We drove on up to Manitou Springs and got checked in at the Rodeway Inn. We weren't quite hungry yet so we found Tangled was on TV and watched that to its end. By then it was around 7p and we decided to order carryout pizza from Pizza Hut. We drove down the road to pick that up and also hit a Walgreens to pick up some snacks and food for my breakfast in the morning. As usual, we spent the rest of the evening taking in the Olympics before bedtime.


Pikes Peak Marathon 2016

We left Manitou Springs about 3:20pm to make the drive up to Denver. Sarah was good enough to drive so I could just rest, physically and mentally. We made it to the Comfort Suites around 4:50pm At check-in we were surprised to find that this hotel offered a dinner for Choice Privileges members. It ran from like 5:30p to 7p. Being pretty tired from the race this worked out great so we didn't have to drive around and sit anywhere. We hit the dinner at 5:30p and it was basically a dinner version of a continental breakfast. They had chicken, hot dogs, tortilla chips, baked potatoes, nacho cheese, salads and some fruit. A decent enough meal for free. We spent the rest of the evening watching the Rio Olympics closing ceremonies and getting packed up for our flight out in the morning.


We got up and did breakfast at the hotel and were out the door a little after 8am. We found really bad traffic on I70 so we took 56th Avenue all the way to Pena Blvd. We filled the car up with gas on Tower Rd and then hit the rental car return. The time was about 8:50a when we finally finished the return and we were starting to get a little nervous timewise. We got dropped off and checked our bags using their new Kiosks method and that went well. At security however we found a big mess. The south end which we usually hit looked typically busy and full. Signs said the north end was much quicker. We walked down there and found it not only full but the line was tripled up down the hallway and even curling back into baggage claim. Sarah hopped in that line while I walked back to the south end and found it much better. I texted her to join me there and we did it. It moved along well enough and we were through with no further trouble. It was about 10am when we finally got to our gate for our 10:25am flight. They were just starting to board the "A" group and we were B29 and 30 so we made it. We got out of Denver ontime and had a nice flight back home. Mom and our boys were there to pick us up.

The End.