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Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 8

New Year’s Day we started with another free “continental” breakfast, and then Beth drove us down the icy mountain. I took over driving at Georgetown. I’d originally thought of going to Pappadeaux’ for Sunday brunch, but we were both anxious to get home and, frankly, a bit burned out on dining out (not to mention that we both gained 40 or 50 pounds from all the great food we had between Christmas and New Year’s). So we came home, stopping by Taco Bell for a cheap and small meal.

All told, we soaked in 7 hot springs in 6 days, and saw a lot of new places we’d never seen before. Hopefully Beth will write at least one travel article about the whole trip.

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Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 7

What else could we do on New Year’s Eve day but, you guessed it, find a hot springs. After our free continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, we drove to Buena Vista. I wanted to find the new housing development they’re making around the future water park. Last time we were in Buena Vista, we looked but couldn’t find any sign of development. This time it was much more obvious. Lots of rocks moved around, but no actual houses yet.

Then we drove up to Cottonwood Hot Springs in the canyon, and soaked a while. It was really windy that day, so windy that it was hard to stay warm in the hot springs. After soaking an hour or so, I got a massage from a nice massage therapist named Marie, while Beth went into the main building to read and stay warm.

Once I was done, we went back to town and had a good lunch at the Evergreen Cafe, which is my favorite place to eat in Buena Vista. After lunch, Beth drove us up the big hill to Leadville.

We checked into the historic Delaware Hotel, which is purported to be the highest hotel in the US. And I believe it. Leadville is at 10,200 feet above sea level, and the Delaware is the tallest hotel in town. In keeping with its historic roots, there’s no elevator, so toting our luggage up the steep stairs to our 3rd floor room in the thin air winded both of us. After settling in, we spent the afternoon just relaxing and reading at a cafe across the street from the hotel.

Once the sun went down, we drove up the road into the forest, where we went on a sleigh ride up the Tennessee Pass road. There was a sleigh before us that looked totally packed, but the one we went on had just the two of us, plus three people who worked there. There was enough room to lie down and watch the stars, which was nice. The ride lasted less than an hour, which is probably good since I was getting cold by the end.

Once we got back in town, we tried a new restaurant called Rosie’s Brewpub. It was very new, having just opened that day! And they were swamped. Service was appropriately slow, and the food was only so-so, I’m afraid. They definitely didn’t expect the crowd that showed up that evening. And our waiter had a French manicure.

My original plan had been for us to go to the Elk’s Club’s New Year’s Eve party, but I didn’t realize that we needed reservations for the steak and lobster dinner. And after we got relaxed in our hotel room, we decided we weren’t really in the mood to get dressed up and go out. By this time it was snowing, very dark, and cold. So I read more of my fantasy novel and Beth watched the ball drop on TV. It was a pretty boring way to ring in the new year, but a lot warmer than wandering around between bars in Leadville, which seems to be pretty popular.

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Travel

Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 6

After another great breakfast by Lara, we headed north. I made Beth drive because I’d been driving most of the trip. Plus, I knew this stretch of road was likely to be boring and I wanted to rest my eyes some. We had something of a lunch at a crappy diner called “Fawn’s” in Alamosa, and then visited the alligator farm. Most people probably don’t know that there is an alligator farm right here in Colorado. The gators (and the tilapia they raise there, also) are kept warm by – you guessed it – a hot spring in the San Luis Valley.

After touring the place for a couple hours, we went further north. Next stop was the UFO Watch Tower. I’d read about it before but never stopped there. Turns out the San Luis Valley is supposedly a hotbed of UFO activity, so someone built a tower. It was free to tour the grounds, including the rock garden where people have left UFO-themed trinkets. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think Beth was too impressed.

Next we drove to Joyful Journey Hot Springs, where we soaked a while. They have an awesome view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. And they have some very, very hot water in their pools. We soaked as long as we could stand it, and then headed further north to Salida.

We had dinner at a family restaurant called the Windmill, and then checked into the Holiday Inn Express. I was pretty worried when I found that the hotel was also temporary home to about 65 teenagers on a church group trip from Louisiana. They were pretty rowdy and loud all evening, but quieted right down around 10:15.

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Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 5

Thursday, we went to the Ojo Caliente hot springs and soaked in the morning. I liked their hot springs, but thought it was a bit overpriced and understaffed. There was a steady line of at least 5 parties waiting to get through the cashier into the hot springs all the time we were there. One unique thing about Ojo Caliente is that they have more than one water source, and they pipe them to different places. So, the water flowing into the “Soda Pool” is definitely than the “Iron Pool”.

After soaking a long while, we went to a little diner in town. I got Frito pie and Beth had a burger. She saw an ad on the wall for a local band and couldn’t pass up getting a copy of their CD for $5 from the waitress. The band is called “32 Fingers“. Good CD for five bucks!

We then drove into Taos, where we hung out in a historic hotel for an hour or so while I caught up on my email. There are a lot of places with free WiFi around the Taos plaza, so we decided to make ourselves comfortable and collapse into the comfy chairs near the fireplace in the hotel.

After leaving there, we went to a “New Mexican” restaurant that Lara (the B&B hostess) suggested, called Orlando’s. It was a long wait for a table, and since they don’t have a bar, everyone who was waiting with us gathered around an outdoor fire pit. The food was good but not outstanding, I thought. Nothing very creative from what I could tell.

Then we drove back to the B&B, which took about an hour, and took the opportunity to sit in their “hot pool”. They don’t have an actual hot springs onsite, but they take the artesian water from the local well and heat it up in a solar hot water system, then pipe it into a custom-built enclosed pool. We had it to ourselves, which was both romantic and spooky. With the lights off and the candles lit, the place was very dark and eerie.

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Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 4

Wednesday morning found us transferring our tons of luggage and other stuff back into the truck. We had a “continental breakfast” worthy of the Econo Lodge name and then went to soak in the pools at the Pagosa Springs Inn (or whatever the hell it’s currently called). We spent all morning there, and had a great time. I think we both enjoyed those hot springs pools (we tried about 8 of them, I think) more than any we’ve soaked in before. Beth had a facial at 11:00, and I took the opportunity to walk around town some. It was good to get a little exercise, plus I found the original Pagosa Spring, which is now cordoned off by a fence and no longer spills hot water over into the river.

Once Beth was finished having her face attended to, we grabbed a couple sandwiches at Subway and headed out of town. For the first time on the trip, we took a road I’d never been on. By late afternoon, we arrived at the Black Mesa B&B, near Ojo Caliente, New Mexico. After clearing up a little misunderstanding (I thought I’d made reservations for the 28th, but the proprietor thought they were for the 29th), we got settled in, did some laundry, rested a bit, read a bit, and just generally relaxed. Lara, our host, offered to cook a gourmet dinner for us, which we accepted. Boy, she makes a great meal! It was $60, but included wine and dessert and personalized service and fresh baked bread, so that seemed like a reasonable price.

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Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 3

The snowstorm from the night before only left about 2 or 3 inches of snow on our truck, but the road from Ouray to Silverton was pretty treacherous. It’s a dangerous road even when conditions are perfect, but the morning after a big snowstorm was especially nerve wracking. Traffic was very light, though! And when we started getting closer to Silverton, we picked up their local public radio station, which was playing some awesome commercial-free Motown music. We didn’t have time to stop in Silverton, because I had reserved a slot on a sleigh ride near Durango for 1:00 PM. So we drove on.

Despite all the snow up on the passes, the Animas River valley above Durango was very dry. After driving around a bit looking for a place to get a sandwich, we decided we’d have to settle for cheese and crackers and fruit. So, we pulled into the Rapp Corral and I asked if we could use their picnic table for lunch. The woman there (Anne Rapp, I suspect) said, “Didn’t you get my message? We had to cancel the sleigh rides due to lack of snow!” Unfortunately, I had not gotten her message. I later found out she’d just called earlier that morning, and we were far from cell phone coverage, up on a mountain in a snowstorm.

We made the best of it, though, and drove on to Durango, where we had lunch at a little restaurant in an old house that reminded me of Lucile’s in Boulder. After lunch, we drove onward to Pagosa Springs. There, we checked in to the Econo Lodge. Beth was in the mood for an exceptional dinner, as she felt like the past couple meals hadn’t been anything special. So she found the nicest place in town, and we went there. The food was indeed good, but it was very expensive and the service was just so-so. I think the place was called “JJ’s Upstream.”

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Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 2

Beth and I both got a somewhat better night’s rest. After packing our things and having another of Mom’s great breakfasts, we drove to Ridgeway. There, we had lunch at the True Grit, which is a restaurant decorated with pictures of John Wayne.

Then, we drove up the canyon to Ouray, and found the Wiesbaden hot springs, where we spent much of the afternoon. They have a vapor cave dug out under their hotel, and we alternated between that and the much more tolerable hot springs pool outside.

After we’d had enough soaking, we checked into the Spangler House B&B. We rested up a bit, then struck out on foot in search of supper, which we found at one of the many restaurants along Main Street.

After dinner, we gathered up our swimsuits and stuff and went to the public pool. Ouray Hot Springs has 3 pools, each with different temperature water. When we got there, a huge blizzard had rolled in and it was dark. So, everyone was huddled in the smallest, hottest pool. That’s where we stayed until we had once again had our fill of hot water. We ended up getting quite the deal on admission. We were able to get half price tickets through the B&B, so I bought 2 for $8. But then once we got to the pool, they told me they were doing a two for one deal, so we both got in for one $4 ticket! That’s the cheapest hot springs we’ve ever visited.

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Travel

Christmas Vacation 2005 – Part 1

Today was Christmas with the family. Beth and I drove to my parents’ place near Redstone, Colorado on Saturday the 24th. My brother Kent was already there. Unfortunately, Beth had just come down with a cold a few days before and I got it on the 23rd. Last night, neither Beth nor I slept very well, due to our colds. Beth eventually went upstairs the living room and I cought a couple hours of sleep, and then when she came back to bed around 6:00, I got up and went upstairs. She got a couple hours of sleep, too. We both needed a few naps to get through the day.

The family had breakfast of elk sausage and pancakes, and then we unwrapped Christmas gifts. Beth told me I didn’t look like I was having a very good time. If that’s true, it’s not because I didn’t enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but because I felt like crap.

My cousin Deb and her husband Rick arrived sometime after noon, while I was taking a nap. And then we made and ate a feast of all kinds of international dishes, mainly made with wild game. After they left, the rest of us watched “The Hobbit”, the original animated version from the early 70’s. After that, I sort of drifted out and eventually found my way to bed.