Friday, July 8, 2011

Colorado for Coffee

“Where’s the nearest Dutch Bros. Coffee?” That question got my attention.

“Lemme look,” I replied. Jim was surprised that I didn’t have it memorized. We had both got hooked on their coffee while we were in Oregon last year. A large blended Caramelizer sounded good.

Colorado Springs seemed to be their closest store with two located there. “Colorado for Coffee” – it had a nice ring to it. I couldn’t get Jim to commit. He kept telling me it would be an unplanned trip. We both took off some extra time on the Fourth of July weekend. I picked up Daddy and we headed to Jim’s.

We left the Nashville, TN area around 7:00 pm CDT on Thursday, June 30 with the trip meter set at zero. We stopped and got supper then took I-24 westbound through Kentucky. Jim played the music on his phone through the car’s radio and we sang until I got hoarse. We entered Illinois at 9:53 pm. We took I-57 northward and stopped in Marion to get a motel room but none were available. The Miss Illinois beauty pageant was being held there that weekend. We continued on to Mount Vernon where we stopped for the night. It was 11:45 pm and there were 252.5 miles on the meter.

We left Mount Vernon, IL at 8:05 am CDT on Friday, July 1. We took I-64 westbound to St. Louis and then got on I-70. We ate lunch at 87 Diner in Boonville. We bypassed Kansas City on I-435 and then took I-29 northbound. Extreme flooding of the Missouri River had caused closure of I-29, US-136, and IA/NE-2. We had to detour onto US-136 eastbound and then took US-59 northward into Iowa. We got back on I-29 and then took I-80 westbound through Omaha. We stopped for supper at Runza just east of Lincoln. We do like our “regional favorites” and no trip through Nebraska is complete without a Runza. We continued westward until we reached Gothenburg. It was 11:28 pm and the trip meter read 1,030.3.

We left Gothenburg, NE at 8:40 am CDT on Saturday, July 2 on I-80 westbound. We ran into rain near North Platte and it continued to rain off and on for several miles. We hit the Mountain Time zone at 9:54 am at the Keith County line. Near Big Springs, we exited onto I-76. We entered Colorado at 9:36 am MDT. We exited onto US-34 and stopped in Greeley for lunch at JB’s Drive-In, a classic from the 1950s. We continued on US-34 through Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park where we arrived at the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance at 3:00 pm. We drove across the Rockies via US-34 which is also known as Trail Ridge Road. The scenery was amazing but I sure felt the effects of the altitude. We exited the park near Granby where we got on US-40 which took us to I-70. Daddy wanted to see Denver so we drove up I-25 and then down Colorado Blvd through town. Back on I-25 southbound, we stopped in Castle Rock for supper at Red Robin. We spent the night in Colorado Springs after driving 563.2 miles.

We left Colorado Springs, CO at 8:54 am MDT on Sunday, July 3. I had overslept – that was 10:54 my time! Our first stop was at Dutch Bros. Coffee. We had driven over 1,600 miles and it was well worth it. We took US-24 toward Manitou Springs and started up the Pikes Peak road. There was construction and traffic was backed up so Jim turned around at the North Pole (a tourist attraction). We had attempted to go to the summit of Pikes Peak in February 1977 but were stopped then because the road was closed due to snow. I am determined to try again in another 34 years, if Jim will take me. We went to Garden of the Gods and enjoyed the splendor of the red rock formations. After leaving there, we drove through Old Colorado City and back to the second Dutch Bros. location for another coffee. Jim and I had drunk coffee all the way from Tennessee. By this time, I was in caffeine overload. I could only take a few drinks and had to throw away the rest of it.

We took I-25 southbound to Pueblo and exited onto US-50 through La Junta. After lunch at Carl’s Jr, we stopped at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. Jim and I both collect National Park Service passport stamps and neither of us had this one. We continued on US-50 and entered Kansas at 4:16 pm MDT. We hit the Central Time zone at 4:45 pm at the Kearny County line. Before reaching Garden City, we stopped for photos of the Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts. It began to rain near Dodge City but we still stopped at Boot Hill for some photographs of the famous Front Street. We got supper at Taco Tico then took US-400 eastward through Pratt. We could see their fireworks display for several miles and it was rather impressive for a small town. We reached Wichita around 11:30 pm CDT and the trip meter read 2,108.0.

We left Wichita, KS at 8:45 am CDT on Monday, July 4. We took I-35 northbound until we came to the exit to the Flint Hills Scenic Byway. “There’s stuff to see in daylight. We can stay on the interstate after dark” was Jim’s way of thinking. We drove on KS-177 past gentle rolling hills and entered the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. To our surprise, there was a visitor center – with an NPS passport stamp! After getting our stamp and photos, we continued to Council Grove where we took US-56 eastward to I-335 and Topeka. From there, I-70 eastbound brought us through Kansas City and back into Missouri. Jim and I decided we were going to have a late lunch / early supper at Lion’s Choice, which is only available in the St. Louis area, so we got Daddy a hot dog in Oak Grove and we just snacked until we got to O’Fallon. We retraced our route to Mount Vernon, IL through Paducah, KY and into Tennessee. We arrived at Jim’s house at 11:25 pm. The trip meter showed we had driven 2,885.3 miles to Colorado and back. Not counting the partial day on Thursday, we averaged 658.2 miles and approximately 14.75 hours per day.

Some – actually many – people tell me they couldn't travel like this. They question why I take Daddy on these trips. The truth is I wouldn't want to travel any other way and Daddy wants to go any time the wheels are rolling. Give us about six weeks and we'll be on the road again.