09/25/2001: Tuesday 9/25/01
We woke around 7, as usual. We showered and packed, and were almost ready to go when the maid knocked on the door at 8, to ask if we were ready to have our room done. This has been quite a weird stay.
We drove west on Cedar Street to Huckleberry's, a cappuccino and ice cream joint. It was a couple of blocks from the address which we'd been given for a jade store. We had a nice coffee and croissanwich breakfast. The barista had lived in the Rocky Mountains, and added his 2 cents about how we should drive down there. We also met a 67 year old gent who still kept up with his boxing regimen.
After coffee, at about 9:30, we tried to find the jade mine address. The whole block of the address was a Chevy dealership. After a bit of driving around, we stopped at a gas station to fill up, and try calling the number. I hadn't called the night before, since we got in so late. I hadn't called yesterday or before, since we had no idea when or if we would reach Rawlins. The phone number yielded a synthetic "Leave a Message" message. I hung up. We drove on.
A brief, yet slow, drive east on I-80 under construction, and then south on WY 130 to Saratoga. Last night, Karen had read about another free thermal bath in Saratoga, WY. So we found the place, after almost missing it completely.
The Hobo Bath of Saratoga is not the posh, state managed affair of Themopolis. A concrete shower house overlooks a concrete walled pool, which has a circle of rocks around the hottest upwelling. The water was quite hot outside the circle, and sulphur and heat bubbled up from the sandy bottom of the pool. A park bench sat on the bottom at the north end. I only went in standing up, leaving my legs red after a few minutes. Karen delved deeper. Then, we tried the stream into which the pool drained. There, Karen had what she really wanted: Hot and cold mixing in eddys. There were other hot spots in the stream itself. We saw a weasel/otter/? on the side of the stream. A mallard sat across from us for a while. I showered off my sulphurous legs, dressed, and sat in the shade while Karen enjoyed for another hour.
After the bath, we lunched in the car as I drove over the Snowy Range Pass (10,847') by Medicine Bow Peak and on to Laramie, WY. Laramie, aside from being the parody of Marlboro on the Simpson's, is a college town.
We drove down Grand for a cappuccino. In detail, we found the Wyoming University area off of Grand Ave, Parked, got a pass and a map, and walked across campus to the Geology building. They have a good dinosaur museum in the geology department. After browsing the big-boned ancients for a while, we picked up coffee at the Student Union, and then decided to take the interstate down to the Rocky Mountains, to probably stay in Estes Park.
I-80 East from Laramie toward Cheyenne. The high point of I-80 (aka Wyoming's Lincoln Highway) is at the top of Sherman Hill, at elevation 8,640 feet. A giant bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln gazes down on the interstate from a rest area at the summit. The rest area where US 30 met I-80 had a full map of that trail, with points of interest marked and described. We saw several pieces of the Oregon trail.
We turned South at Cheyenne onto I-25 a couple of miles, and, stop.
Solid parking. This was not just the rush hour from Cheyenne. Karen was driving (well, sitting behind the wheel), and urged me to go ask a trucker what was up. When another gent from a pickup pulling a trailer with a small tractor on it did the same, I joined him.
I dashed barefoot along the interstate, and stepped up on the metal step of the Tractor. The trucker said that there was an accident about 5 miles ahead. Solid stop. Mr. PickUp said that he's only going to Estes. I said, so was I. Then Karen came up with a map, and they discussed what our best option was. The two of them were stuck. We, in our little Mazda Protege, could unlawfully u-turn across the grass median, and head back to I-80, go east to US 85, south to Ault, then West on CO 14 to I-85 again (for the welcome center) and on down to the Rockies.
US 85 was fast, once we got away from the interstate. The sun was shining hotly in my right ear. We got to see a little (compared to So Cal I-10) wind farm from this road. There were about 21 turbines (14 MW). I'd wondered if anyone was making use of the winds up here on the high plains. We got to the welcome center at Fort Collins at 6:00. They closed at 5:00. We didn't feel welcome. So we drove a couple of miles south to the next rest area. Karen was almost floating. As we came out of the rest area, who should address me but Mr. Pickup, with "How'd you get here?"
He'd just made it, himself. We chatted, and he offered to put us up in his Estes Park home, which had once been a Rocky Mtn Ntl Forest V.I.P. cabin, moved out when the Nat'l Park removed such things. Rumor had it that JFK had slept there.
So, we followed him down I-25, and west on US 34 through the canyons into Estes Park, and up the steep drive to his house. It was dark by the time we got there. Karen unloaded our stuff all over his rambling cabin, and I helped him unload his 2 heavy traveling cats. We chatted as he defrosted some jambalaya for dinner. He was an IBM engineer, then manager. Retired 3 years ago. His wife is on sabbatical from a similar job, and was away visiting family. Max was returning home from helping the widow of his recently deceased best friend do some road and property work. We got to bed in his spare room with a tall bent-maple framed bed at about 11:00.