Road Trip 4.4 – Birthday in Denver and back to the Salt Lake

Kirsty had researched a whole manner of places to explore in Denver for my birthday. We started out at the ‘Butcher’s Block Cafe’ for a traditional blue collar American breakfast. Kirsty had the Denver omelette and I had pancakes, bacon and eggs teamed with a cup of black coffee. A delicious way to start the day. It was a true American cafe just as you would imagine it. Booths or counter service with a whole range of food to choose from. We then checked into the Grand Hyatt hotel, a bit fancier than our usual stays but I guess it’s a special occasion. That being the case we also got a free upgrade and 6-pack of beer. Once checked in we ventured out into Denver and a whole raft of brewpubs to choose from.

Butcher's Block Cafe

My birthday breakfast treat – the Butcher’s Block Cafe

Denver Graffiti

Some muppets – Denver Graffiti

We were heading to a whisky distillery to start with but a bad storm closing in had us take shelter in a brewpub on the way (Black Sky Brewing). Once inside it started to hail and then an extreme tornado warning flashed up on the TV so there we stayed. Missing the distillery tour due to the weather we headed back into Downtown after taking a quick shelter in another bar – ‘Interstate’. They had bacon popcorn which of course tasted as good as it sounds. Once in Downtown we stopped for dinner at the Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen, having sausages, duck confit poutine and smoked duck breast. That too being delicious. A few beers under my belt we headed to the Great Divide, a non-profit bar where they do samples of 3 for $3 and generous samples too. We got chatting to some Texans there who we went to the next pub with (Falling Rock Taphouse). There they have over 80 beers on tap, the whole back wall covered with beer taps. After a couple there we called it a night and got a taxi back to our hotel knowing that we had only one night to enjoy it’s comfort being downgrading back to motels and hostels. I had a great day in a city that we had no preconceptions of. Denver as it turns out is a relaxed, fun place with a great nightlife set against a backdrop of mountain ranges. A great city to celebrate a birthday in, especially with Kirsty who planned the whole thing!

Downtown Denver

Is that a giant pencil in Downtown Denver? yes it is

Great Divide, Denver

One of the brewpubs w went to on my birthday – the Great Divide

It was a predictable slow start the next day before we hunted down some breakfast. Not easy after noon but we found somewhere, a diner called ‘Sam’s No.3’. After having another classic American breakfast of corn beef hash with biscuits and gravy (Kirsty had hers with tortillas), we picked up the car and drove West making our way towards Glenwood Springs. We were only a short way into our drive when we spotted a sign leading us to Buffalo Bills grave on Lookout Mountain so we detoured, took a few photos and continued on our way. Half way I stopped for a refreshing beer at the Beckenbridge Brewery, a brewery we failed to get to in Denver but this was where they make the stuff anyway so it turned out well. Once refreshed we drove on over another mountain pass and through the White River Canyon, another stunning drive through a canyon with sheer rock faces to the side of the road and a torrent of water flowing alongside.The mountain pass was also something to behold, being the highest and longest tunnel in the Interstate road network. At it’s highest, the Eisenhower tunnel is 11,158 feet and over 1.5 miles long.

The storms had made the water particularly ‘white’. Glenwood Springs is a nice looking town, seemingly a holiday getaway kind go place with hot springs to refresh the body and mind. The weather and price put us off however going into the spring complex though, and after a hearty Mexican dinner we retired for an early night at our motel, the Starlight Lodge, with a big day ahead of us tomorrow.

Buffalo Bill's Grave

Buffalo Bill’s Grave, on lookout mountain overlooking Denver

Eisenhower Tunnel Mountain Pass

The Eisenhower Tunnel Mountain Pass, 11,158 feet above sea level

On the penultimate day of our road trip we set off early after a quick look around Glenwood Springs as we were heading back to Salt Lake City with a stop at the National Dinosaur Monument on the way.  Along the way we passed and were passed by many motorcycles, seemingly out for a ride on the long weekend. One group through appearing in my rearview mirror seemed a little different. I commented that we were being chased by the ‘Son’s of Anarchy’ and wasn’t too far off, they were the ‘Sons of Silence’ out for a ride.

At the National Dinosaur Monument you can see a partially excavated wall of dinosaur fossils, one of the largest collection of bones found in one place, over 1,500. What makes this place so special is the fact that you can actually touch the fossils as they lie where they fell and rested all those millions of years ago. The towns around this of course use this attraction to their advantage with dinosaur themed motels and cafés and model dinosaurs decorating the towns. As well as dinosaur fossils in this Park we saw some cave paintings thought to be 1,000 years old in ‘Swelter Shelter’, an alcove once used by Paleo-Indian and Fremont people, so named by archeologists excavating the area because of the heat they felt.

Welcome to Utah

Welcome to Utah, the home of dinosaurs

National Dinosaur Monument

In the quarry exhibit hall, National Dinosaur Monument

We stopped for lunch in Vernal on the way from the dinosaurs to Salt Lake City. We had some typical diner food at JB’s, more of a dinner in portion size than a lunch really. It is Memorial Day weekend in America this weekend where all those that have lost their lives in battle are remembered. It seems as though most people have gone away for the weekend making all the place we drove through fairly quiet with not many people on the streets. We arrived into Salt Lake City in the evening and after checking into the Camelot Inn, out hostel for the night, we headed Downtown to check out the Temple Square, where all the Mormon buildings are, both for administration and worshipping in. We had a brief look around without being converted and made for our hostel for the night. The next day we fly to St. Louis in the afternoon so we have a morning in Salt Lake City to kill. It is Memorial Say weekend and a Sunday so we struggle to find a cafe but eventually succeeded, hooking into the free wifi for a couple of hours before dropping the car off and preparing ourselves for an American budget airline experience.

Salt Lake City

The HQ of the Mormon church, Temple Square, Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building (founder of the Mormon church), Temple Square


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