Friday, August 17, 2012

Denver, Boulder, and a Heat Wave

by James Walker

Day 5 - Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

There were fires all over Colorado, and even Utah. During our trip it seemed like we were bringing bad luck with us. Everywhere we went seemed to be affected by fires. Later on in our trip, driving from Yellowstone to Salt Lake City, there were fires behind us, one popped up to the east as we were driving, and there were a few more in southern Utah that were threatening to close the road ahead of us. We did our best to avoid them, but we had to make a few major changes to our plan. Initially, we were going to be staying inside Rocky Mountain National Park, camping there for two days after our night in Denver. But there was a massive fire just east of the park, so we stayed an extra day in Denver and added another day to Salt Lake City. It all worked out quite nicely.

So that Saturday we awoke in our hotel, ready for another day in the mile-high city. We headed downtown to see the Capitol Building and City Hall, but quickly realized they were closed for the weekend. The buildings were beautiful and were built in that same neoclassic American style that many federal buildings are built in. The Capitol has a large, gold dome at its top and faces a long, green park with City Hall at the other end. While we were walking to City Hall to look around, we ran into some hobos who were a bit feisty for 10 in the morning, so we didn't stay long. We decided to head to Boulder.

Boulder, CO is a beautiful city with a very cool downtown area featuring the Pearl Street Mall and Central Park which runs along Boulder Creek. Pearl Street Mall is a pedestrian mall with lots of trees, mini parks for kids, sculptures, and lots of local shops and restaurants. About halfway down, there was a big street fair with lots of shops, a big tent full of dancing people, and tasty smelling food. One thing I love about street fairs and farmers markets is that there's always someone selling beef jerky and they're always giving away free samples. Don't mind if I do, sir! Well, we walked up and down, checked out a few shops, bought a frisbee, and finally got a gluten-free pizza, this time at BJ's Brewhouse! At BJ's we picked up a map of the local area and used it to find somewhere else to go. This is how we found Central Park and Boulder Creek.

Central Park is a long strip of land with lots of trees, hidden pathways, Boulder Creek running down the middle, and a big library at the end. People were everywhere that day, no doubt trying to get some relief from the heat by jumping in the creek. Despite my hope that we would be able to enjoy cooler climes as we drove north, we were in the middle of a heat wave and Colorado was pushing above 100 degrees while we were there. Everyone at Central Park was either splashing around on the banks of the creek or riding down on inner-tubes. The library sits on the south side of the creek, but has an indoor bridge that connects it to an art gallery on the north side. The bridge had windows along its entire length with chairs and tables where you could sit and enjoy the view. It was a very nice library. They had a self-checkout! On the way back to our car, we took a secret-looking path along the creek, got a little lost and ended up a bit past our car, but we made it out safely. We popped a few postcards in a nearby mailbox, and drove back to Denver.

We made a quick stop at our hotel for that night, a TownePlace Suites in Aurora. After staying at the Burnsley the night before, we hadn't anticipated having another nice hotel, but this one was pretty great. The Burnsley might have been swankier, but the TownePlace Suites was much more appropriate for our needs. The Burnsley was more like a luxurious studio apartment, whereas TownePlace was the perfect hotel room. Whenever I'm in a hotel room that's too big, I always feel like I'm wasting my money. "Look at all this space!  We could fit four more people in here," I think to myself. But this hotel was nice, clean, comfortable, and exactly the amount of space we needed. I think I liked it better than the swanky Burnsley. Anyway, we threw our bags in the room and went to 16th Street, downtown Denver.

It was yet another pedestrian mall, but on a massive scale. It's about 1.25 miles, but feels even longer than that. There are hundreds of shops and restaurants, big and small, and there's a free shuttle that runs the span of it. I still haven't gotten the hang of finding parking in big cities like this. It's always a challenge and this time I managed to turn the wrong way down a one-way street in search of proper parking. Thank goodness the cars were still far away! I quickly turned down another street. Well, we eventually paid way too much for parking and began walking. The whole place has lots of character with big old buildings and tons of local restaurants. There were street performers here and there and some guy dressed up sort of like Iron Man with a giant afro. About every hundred yards there was an upright piano it seemed like anyone could use if they wanted to and usually someone was on there playing pop songs or rocking out on Rachmaninoff. I started getting a bit cranky from the heat and it was getting late, so we jumped on a shuttle and took it to a park at the bottom of the mall. It was a beautiful area with a big green field and lots of expensive apartments around it. In the distance, you could see the tops of the rollercoasters in Elitch Gardens Theme Park just a mile away.

We were always torn between wanting to see everything and wanting to enjoy the few things that we could realistically see. I was usually the one pushing for more and Erinn was the one keeping us balanced. There are so many different neighborhoods I wanted to check out, but we limited ourselves to 16th Street. Even then, there's way too much to see. Before leaving downtown, we stopped at Larimer Square, which is just off of 16th street, accessible from one of the shuttle stops. It's a very pretty street, this time with cars running down it, but also with strings of lights hung across the street giving it a cozy feel. It's a bit upscale and the cafes and restaurants were definitely out of our price range, so we just got a drink from Starbucks and went back to our car.

For dinner we found a Chipotle near our hotel and took it back to the room. We rented Thor from the hotel lobby and settled in for the night. It had been a very hot day and we were both pretty worn out, but we had a lot of fun and were dreaming of a time when we could live in a place like this.

Our route:

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1 comment:

  1. I am very much enjoying your travelogue. Better than a "Rick Steves" show!