Gaeddert Vacation May 2002 – Tour of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado,
USA. (Round trip 1880 miles).
Tony will ride in the 31st Annual Iron Horse Bike Race in the San Juan Mountains.
The tradition is to “race” the train from Durango, CO 47 miles north to Silverton, CO.
May 23rd, 2002 – Thursday
5:10am-Left home in OKC heading west to Durango, CO.
70degrees cloudy sky.
-Stopped at a Williams Center service station in Amarillo, TX. Tony showed me all the parts available for the truckers to buy, such as, lug nuts, tire gauges, hoses and then asked, “Why would there be novelty handcuffs in this section?” We laughed about that the rest of the day.
2:00pm-Arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico – 554 miles – 80 degrees, clear.
We watched the movie “Snow Dogs” on the laptop.
Walked through Old Town and had an ice cream cone.
We watched the movie “Life or Something Like It”. Very relaxing evening.
Nice view of the Sandia Mountains, 40 degrees at night.
May 24th, 2002 – Friday
9:45 – We left Albuquerque after we had breakfast at the Sandia Casino. Cheap, delicious
buffet and a beautiful building and settings on the desert. Sculptures of Pueblo Indians. An amphitheater outside the entrance. We gambled 50 cents!
12:30 – Arrived in Dura ngo at the Comfort Inn on Main Street. Too early to check-in so we visited downtown. Charming mountain community with the feel of the old west and mining country. Had lunch and checked-in at the motel at 3:00pm.
Rested and then went back to downtown to the train station to get my round-trip ticket to Silverton for Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the computers were down and our name was not on the printed list of reservations! So, begins our venture to get me on the train at least get me a ticket from Silverton back to Durango, because we decided I should drive up to Silverton and ride the train back using the free ticket Tony receives for being in the bike race. Our next stop was the Iron Horse Inn to get Tony’s race registration packet. Tony had to buy a license to ride for $5.00 in the race he wanted to go on called the Master Men 50 – 55+.
We had dinner and rested for the evening by watching the movie “The Sweetest Thing”.
May 25, 2002 – Saturday
6:00 – We woke up ready for the race excitement! Arrived at the race by 7:25. Tony prepared his bike and I pinned on the number 1305 to his pants.
8:10 – Highway 550 was closed to traffic and Tony’s race started! He was off with approximately 400 riders in the entire race, 50 in his group. I returned to the room and changed and went to the train museum in downtown. I ventured into a wonderful art gallery and bought a pair of earrings and two cross necklaces, all turquoise, made by the Zuni Indians of New Mexico.
12:00 - The road to Silverton opened and the drive from Durango to Silverton is very beautiful and filled with Aspen groves. I was driving up to meet Tony, hoping he was not waiting too long for me! When to my surprise I saw him at 25 miles. The race had been almost immediately uphill and challenging for Tony. On the 30-mile climb with an elevation gain of one mile to the first summit his legs felt like he was pedaling with the brakes on and he had to stop twice to check his wheels to make sure they were spinning!! Tony placed his bike in the truck and we drove to the second summit 7 miles for a beautiful vista of snowed topped peaks. He jumped back on his bike and was off downhill to Silverton. He maintained 45miles per hour and had to use his brakes to slow down for 10 more miles. He had a grand view of Silverton as he sped down the mountain road. I stopped for a picture and he whizzed by me, so I drove down to meet him at the end of the race by 1:15. Tony completed 37 miles!!! Great job!!!
2:00 - After finding out Tony had no ticket available for the train ride…from the husky gal (details later), I sped over to the ticket station to try to get the ticket again that was reserved on the Internet. The ticket master was an older gentleman…Santa Claus beard and little red nose…hmmm…anyway he was definitely a saint because after I told my long story of the computer problems and Tony not getting his free ticket he just kept looking at me and said you will get on this train…but tell me did you talk to the lady at the bike race about this first…yes sir! OK he said let’s get you a ticket ready…he had to compete everything in by hand and it was 1:40! Yikes I said now remember I need to get the car to my husband and get on the train. Don’t worry he said you have plenty of time…and I swear his eyes twinkled! But, he just had to ask me one more time are you sure you talked to the lady at the bike race tent…she’s a husky gal…right friendly…she’s our marketing manager you know? Cool, yes she is husky and friendly but hurry hurry hurry…There is magic in the air in Silverton…I had my ticket in hand and rushed over to Tony God Bless him, who was riding to me…he stuffed his bike in the car and jumped in…I turned around to the station and jumped out! I ran to the whistling train and they said go talk to the conductor you have a special ticket with no seat assignment!!!
Ugh! What next…the conductor was a sweet old guy also (were his shoes pointed?)…anyway he said jump on the first car that’s where the leftovers go. Excuse me sir…ok …now what side is best…doesn’t matter he said you can move back and forth since we ain’t got many leftovers today. Yippee, I jumped aboard and looked outside and waved to Tony and the train was on its’ way.
My train excursion took me through scenic mountains, valleys, gorges and pastures! The sound of the train the smell of mountain air and the most beautiful clear day made a great ride! Rolling along on the narrow gage rails…at times too narrow for me…I moved side to side capturing photos and images to my brain of colorful and majestic Colorado. The trip took around 3 and one-half hours to tour the mountains and we rolled in around 5:30pm. I stepped of the train with soot blackened hair and clothes to my handsome hubbie waiting for me. We ate dinner at the Meritage Restaurant on the patio with full view of the mountains in Durango. Lovely meal and yummy brews called Fat Tire a native CO. beer.
Back to rest and watch a movie called “Sorority Boys” (hysterical).
May 26, 2002 – Sunday
6:00am – Woke early and watched a move “About A Boy” with breakfast in bed.
9:00am – Off to the Mesa Verde National Park 50 miles north of Durango on hwy 160. The drive was really pretty through the mountains and into the mesas.
Arrived at the park around 10:00 am. The entrance had a long line of visitors but moved along fast and we dialed our radio to a designated channel for park information. As we drove into the park we were saddened by the amount of fire damage from a fire in 2001 that left the charred remains of trees, the flora and fauna has returned to green and helped make it an interesting ride with beautiful vistas and mesa formations. The tourist information center was packed with visitors so we being the adventurous souls we are decided to go on a self-tour. By the end of the day we were so glad we did…as we watched those poor souls get off and on a tour bus every 100feet to see a ruin…ugh! Our first stop was the Anatasis Indian Museum. The early tribes were the inhabitants of the wonderful cliff dwellings in the area, some 40 dwellings! We were able to see about 15 or so. The museum was very informative and interesting. I did not know before how much a person could make use of a yucca plant! We trekked our way down, down down and then up up up to a cliff dwelling by the museum. These dwelling contain Kivas, rooms for ceremonies, some were left unopened to climb into others were opened to see down into. The Indians lived on these cliffs and farmed on the top of the mesas above. The trees amaze me in Colorado, some must be 500 feet tall and they were everywhere in the Mesa Verde! The tour included Pueblo dwelling that were not on the cliffs but were dwellings dug into the earth in definite patterns of room arrangement and shapes, also with Kiva rooms. We made two different loops in the park to view each side of the mesas. The tour was 4 hours so by 2:30pm it was time to eat! We dined on the patio of the park restaurant for a nice meal. Beautiful weather, clear, warm but cool breezes in the shade…I love the mountains in Spring! We stopped at an overlook on our way out of the park and gave each other a kiss and said thanks for a lovely day!
May 27, 2002 – Monday, Memorial Day Holiday
We awoke early and ready for our adventure of the day – renting a jeep to ride up to 14,000 feet into the San Juan Mountains!! We drove to Silverton and arrived at 7:50, took a quick tour of the town (since remember I had to jump on a train on Saturday and didn’t see much of the town). The jeep rental place opened at 8:00.
The couple was so friendly and gave us lots of tips and information to guide us on our adventure. We packed the 2002 bright yellow hard top Jeep Wrangler (62 miles on the mileage gage) with snacks, water and jackets. Tony started the drive around 9:00am after some 4-wheel driving tips from the owner. We passed through town on up into the mountains passing old mills and old mines just outside of town. It was 2-wheel drive for a while and then Tony kicked it into 4-w as we vertically climbed. Tony impressed me with his driving especially when I looked down 12000 feet below into the gorges filled with rocks and waterfalls! It was so breathtaking and I sometimes could hardly focus my eyes it was so high and thinner air!! The ride was comfortable in the jeep with 4-wheel drive, big tires, air conditioning, cushioned seats and even a cd player! (Darn didn’t notice until we had cruised awhile).
Tony just maneuvered us right on up to over 12,000 feet to the view of snow dotted mountains and Alpine tundra growing everywhere. We jumped out to stand tall and soak up the air and vistas…what a vista!!! Just amazing quiet and majestic…God lives here. Tony 4-wheeled down to the town of Lake City passing a beautiful crystal clear lake created by a landslide that damned the streams creating a natural clear lake, ready for recreation. We were surprised at how few visitors were on the trails and areas since it was a holiday, good time to visit!
We ate lunch at a lovely little spot on the main road with mountain views all around in Lake City. The “hippie” couple were so cute and the place was quirky with little gnomes outside and wind chimes in the trees and Neil Young playing on the stereo…pleasant little town and restful spot to lunch. After lunch it was my turn to take the jeep challenge…and I did! From the first moment I started to touch the shifter and switch to 4-wheel drive I was in LOVE!!! My love affair grew and grew with each climb into those gloriously beautiful mountain trails!! The pathways were filled with boulders, Aspen trees, cliffs, waterfalls, streams, rivers and little critters such as marmots and chip monks and beautiful birds in the pastures below the mountains. The homes hanging on the sides of cliffs were picturesque and filled with very lucky owners! We traveled by old ghost towns and abandoned mines, with streams of rust running down the mountainsides from the old structures. Up and down, up and down, switch back after switch back I learned to 4-wheel drive with Tony’s gentle guidance to power the new love of mine through the San Juan’s’! I had no idea I could get such an adrenaline rush from a jeep! I’m hooked. So, Tony let me drive the rest of the way back to Silverton. The loop we drove was called the Alpine Loop totaling 90 miles and topping 14,000 feet. We stepped out into Engineers Pass at 13,650 feet and met four guys preparing to snowboard at that altitude! We couldn’t believe it…they even had a couple of dogs with them. They said they just hit each snow patch as they go! Amazing! It was such a privilege to ride through these peaks at the head, belly and feet of such beauty. (Sorry, the artistic reference side comes out now and then…). I saw a painting at every turn. Quietly I drove back to Silverton and stepped out of quite an experience. The Rockies by jeep in Spring, it was the best. Back to Durango, it seemed like such a long drive after a full day of 4-wheelin’. We crashed into bed for a doze and then watched the movie “The Rookie” before we slumbered for the night.
May 28, 2002 – Tuesday
8:30am – Packed up our car and headed home by way of Pagosa Springs, CO. on 160 east. We ate lunch on the patio and I bought some Colorado souvenirs. Beautiful drive but some construction that slowed our pace a few times. I actually sketched out the window once.
3:30pm- Rolled into Santa Fe, New Mexico. Toured downtown by foot and Tony pointed out the restaurant in the town square we ate at before…darn he won…I thought it was in Albuquerque’s town square. (I know the heartburn from the hot chili peppers carried into Albuquerque!) Watched the movies “Changing Lanes” and “Panic Room” in the motel and crashed after a full day of driving.
May 29, 2002 – Wednesday
9:00 – Headed out on hwy 285 south…once we found it! OKC here we come!