Pete & Lorna Go
in the Mountain Time Zone
May 20 through June 17, 2017

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Day 1, Saturday, May 20, 2017:
Portland, Maine -> Denver, Colorado -> Colorado Springs, Colorado

It's hard to believe that it has been 5 years since Lorna and I toured Historic Route 66 from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA in 2012. The adventure was truly the trip of a lifetime, one that will be hard to top. There is hardly a week that passes when I don't see a news story or program that references someplace we visited on that trip. For 2 nights after getting home I had dreams that were on Route 66. I was visiting places that I had never been to but were spot on in content and spirit, all created in dreamland. That trip was blogged heavily though the blog still needs final editing and an epilogue. I'm still processing that experience!

Fast forward to 2017. Our first thoughts were to repeat the Route 66 tour but these extended times off are precious and something more original seemed in order. The 2012 trip left 2 big opportunities on the table. First, Route 66 was realigned numerous times over the years and especially in the New Mexico and Arizona area we needed to pick which alignment to travel, leaving many locations unvisited. Second, on that trip we soon realized that we'd need the 25 nights to do justice to 66 and we needed to drive past the likes of Branson MO, Roswell NM, The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas NV. We set out to plot a trip mainly in the Mountain Time Zone that absorbed the 2 opportunities and beyond.

We decided to couple those objectives with places like Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone and if time allowed sweeping up as far as Montana and the Dakotas. After plotting many routings we decided to fly in and out of Denver, Colorado. We'd travel south, sweep down and over to Las Vegas, NV and see how far north we could go before needing to plot a route back to Denver. Where the 66 tour had a defined route with a beginning and end this trip would be more fluid. We had almost endless miles we could cover but could be flexible in letting it end where fate took us.

The alarm went off and we were out of the house at 5:00 AM. Daughter Amanda and Grandson Liam took us the Portland International Jetport and we were on our way. Other than a last minute change to a distant gate we got to Denver with a meager 12 minute delay and the bags made it too. In the world of air travel that was close enough to call perfect. I haven't flown on United Airlines in a while but in the shadow of recent events there seemed to be an elevated sense of courtesy in the air, pun intended.

My only prior visits to Denver Colorado were a handful of layovers in the early 1980's and I remember at least a few of them being under heavy cloud cover and even snowfall. This time we had clear skies and Rocky Mountains were aglow with snowy peaks as we approached the airport.

The next hurdle was the Emerald Aisle at National Car Rental. We needed a midsize SUV to call home for a month and there is always the chance that none will be there to take. I could have reserved what we needed but I cheaped out with the Emerald option. As things went we had at least half a dozen options. After sizing them up for things like the number of USB ports and "lighter" outlets and rejecting one that smelled like a humidor we settled on a Nissan Rogue with 6883 miles on the odometer. Before we rolled the GPS was programmed for our Hotel in Colorado Springs and the new GoPro got hung from the windshield. It took some fussing to get it hanging right but we got it. The plan is to keep it going in time lapse mode with a 10 second interval. Voice commands can also having it take video or shoot a burst of still frames to catch targets on the go. It will even take a snapshot if I ask! That was the last hurdle to clear and we were on the road.

There was a paper in the car about renting a toll device but decided that the rental was prohibitive and we would barely be in and out of the area. Paying at the tollbooth made more sense. What we soon learned was that the road we were taking was exclusively electronic tolls! The toll stations said to keep moving, a bill will be mailed. What remains to be seen is the National surcharge for being a renegade toll runner. I'm feeling like a fugitive cowboy already. I still need to figure out how to get the car back to the airport without adding insult to injury.

We had no intentions of spending any time in Denver, we were after the open road. Chilling in Denver is an option we're holding open for the end of the trip. Driving down the highway we stopped a few times to get pictures of the unfamiliar mountains that were bolder and closer than we usually see at home. Castle Rock was one of the cooler features we got pictures of. We were weary after rising early and a day of air travel. The day's objective was accomplished and we had very low expectations for this drive. I'm writing this almost a week late but it was a chilly day, maybe more so than home in Maine for the date. I did find a medley of John Denver songs rolling though my head. A PBS biography I caught this winter is partly responsible for making that connection.

We got to the Fairfield Inn as planned and our mailed ahead carton of maps and guidebooks was waiting for us. The room was fine, we were tired and hungry. Lorna was craving a nice steak. The desk clerk had offered the suggestion of a highly rated steakhouse. We figured we weren't going to waltz in at 6:00 on a Saturday night and get seated and didn't have the appetite to wait, another pun. We opted for an Old Chicago Pizza restaurant that was nearby. The Italian Grinder deep dish pizza we split after salads was everything I ever hoped to get at Pizzeria Uno.

We found the energy to go to the Target store across the way to get a cooler and other supplies like bottled water, glass cleaner and paper towels for the windshield and bulkier toiletries that were easier to buy than fly with. We rejiggered the layout in the car to make it all fit, stumbled into the hotel dazed and crashed for the night.

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Created May 14, 2017