My friend Jill’s travel to Aspen continues… Here she provides some helpful tips for a multi-tasking traverse across the country – ticking off miles while savoring mini-adventures along the way. As most trips should be, this one was as much about the journey as it was about the destination! Thanks again Jill for sharing your experiences with all of us!
Our goal was to get to Aspen within a five day period, therefore the time we had outside the selected tourist towns was extremely limited. Scenery, e-books and even naps are good fodder for the brain, but our bodies craved and demanded the physical. That’s where the magic of google came in handy. With our handheld mini-computers we cast a net for secret swimming holes, natural water slides or short hiking paths that lead to refreshing waterfall visit’s along America’s “byways.” These mini-adventures allowed us to break free from the car for up to an hour here or there and return refreshed and ready to GO.
Meals also became one of our road trip diversions. We sought out interesting, tasty, locally sourced places for a good long lunch and/or dinner. Be it breakfast at the employee-run and owned collective, The Little Grill, in Harrisonburg, VA or our only “fast food” stop at a roadside meat-house in Arkansas where we picked up homemade jerky and shaved pickle ice – perfect fodder for re-energizing our car weary selves. Of course, Memphis barbecue was not to be missed! Mmmm… still thinking about that Memphis barbecue.
In western Oklahoma after a few missed turns we finally found the back road restaurant, White Dog Hill. Someone, sometime discovered the perfect spot to open a perfect restaurant (no dinner reservations available) in an old farm house (with a rumored sullied past) hidden in “plain” site atop a vast hill with never-ending prairie sunsets. It’s here we enjoyed a multicolored picture-perfect sunset to accompany our pile of never-ending brownie sundaes and Greek orange cakes.
Being that our drive was on or near a chunk of the original Route 66 a good part of the trip, our choices were that much more original. Not having a plan was a big part of the plan! Which is a plan I plan to embrace going forward in my future travels and in life.
After passing through the Texas panhandle (picture endless oil fields) and a tiny slice of New Mexico (everything closed on Sunday) our long journey culminated on a final stretch of glorious highway up through the magnificence that is southern Colorado. It was on this road that we discovered the diversion of all diversions, the beyond picturesque Great Sand Dunes National Park & Reserve.
The high winds and tall dunes (the TALLEST in N. America) made for an intense and thrilling stop. We had the place virtually to ourselves which made our visit that much more special and memorable. The kids and their pent up energy climbed the dunes with enthusiasm and found themselves airborne as they jumped their way back down again, and again, and again.
Our trip ended with one final dinner on the road in the sweet, much kept secret (sshh…), scenic town of Buena Vista. After passing through the Sawatch Mountain range amidst the rambling whitewaters of the Arkansas River, we stumbled on this lively valley wilderness oasis, bustling with hikers, rafters, and fisherpeople. With all of the family-filled charmingly modern restaurants, outfitters and speciality gift shops in the town, we briefly envisioned a different life for ourselves. Post dinner we even stopped to check a few real estate listings (prices are soaring along with the vista). Alas, onward we forged!
From here our route took us up through Independence Pass and across the Continental Divide for one last sunset among the magical, mystical and very, very high mountains of Colorado. We arrived in Aspen with our hearts, heads and stomachs full from the feasts of Americana and ready for the next part of our journey – an adventurous, relaxing week of summer mountain fun. But, that’s another story…