Saturday 28th May 2011
The day started very early, the alarm set for 6am but we both up and showered by 5.30. A quick breakfast followed and we were off to Central station for the 45 minute trip by Skytrain to the airport. This train is run by private enterprise and it cost us nearly twice as much as the 3 hour trip from Nambour!
No problems checking in, the Qantas check-in very helpful and booking our seats right through to Denver, although we do have to collect our bags in Dallas to go through Customs. Once in Sydney we made our way through the security and Customs etc and after getting our Duty Free stuff went straight to the plane. Rags prefers to sit as far forward as possible but somehow we managed to get to the second last seat from the rear! There was a consolation in that of the 4 seats we had 1 empty one next to us where we could stow extra things.
The flight wasn't as bad as expected although 15 hours was right on the limit of endurance, especially as we had some turbulent weather for at least 5 hours. Being
in the rear seemed to accentuate the movement of the plane and at one stage Judy started feeling the effect. Luckily a ginger ale followed by a champagne seemed to quell her stomach.
We arrived in Dallas about 35 minutes before we left Australia, making Saturday a very long day indeed! One thing we noticed was that the officials in the airport seemed friendlier than the last time we came through here and the lines of passengers were efficiently processed in a reasonable time.
The next 5 hours, whilst waiting for our flight to Denver, seemed to drag, we both suffering from lack of sleep and had forgotten to put in the adapter for the power so Judy was unable to use her laptop to mark her unit essays. We had lunch in the terminal at “Fuddruckers”, the name appealing to us more than the food! Our ex-Prime Minister was mentioned.
By the time we reached Denver at 8.30pm we had been traveling for 37 hours without much sleep, but Ed & Cathy were there to meet us as arranged and we were soon at their beautiful home in the suburb of Englewood. This is a gated community
with about 60 homes in it.
A refreshing shower followed by a bit of food and a taste of the Double Black JW scotch we brought for Ed made us feel both felt much better and ready for our first night of sleep in the US. Sunday 29th May 2011
Judy woke Rags as she was leaving the bedroom at 6.30am and as he too felt awake he joined the 3 earlybirds downstairs. Tea and coffee were the go until Ed went off and returned with fresh bananas ($1.60/kg), strawberries, raspberries, bagels etc and we all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.
The rest of the morning was spent reading papers, talking, catching up on the blog, as well as Ed and Rags going for a walk around the area in the crisp (about 13 Celsius) air. The area was alive with prairie dogs and rabbits, Rags intends to return with Judy to take some photos.
Late in the afternoon we went with Ed and Cathy to the nearby town of Port Collins, about 100kms away for a graduation party. These parties are held here to celebrate the graduation from high school. This party was for
These live in open spaces near the residential areas.
Zaid, the son of an Iraqi couple, friends of Ed and Cathy. Even though we weren't friends of the family we were made very welcome. After a short speech and a PowerPoint show on Zaid's childhood, we enjoyed a delicious buffet of Iraqi food.
The hostess started off the traditional dancing and after watching for a while Judy couldn't sit still any longer. This was noticed and she was taken in amongst the group, much to her, and the other's delight. All in all a most enjoyable and interesting evening. Monday 30th May 2011
Today is Memorial Day, the day remembering the fallen servicemen, similar to our ANZAC day,and most houses in the area had the Stars & Stripes flying. We joined Ed and Cathy in preparing for visitors this afternoon, most of the effort being left for the ladies but the guys looking after the ice and drinks. Ed and Rags went to the local liquor store and Rags couldn't believe the pricing of drinks here, they being lower than Australian duty free prices.
Four other couples joined us during the late afternoon and stayed for the evening cookout. The bbq caused a
little drama at the end by suddenly flaring up and burning off the accumulated grease. Lovely meal where we sat around and talked, meeting different people including the Mayor of a nearby city and a cardiologist and his wife, learning more about how they had met and where they had been.
After coffee most of the guests had to leave, some having to drive up to 120kms to their homes. The four of us sat back with our final drinks, reflecting on the day. Tuesday 31st May 2011
For some reason Rags didn't feel too well this morning but he felt a little better when he observed that Ed didn't look too healthy either! Must have been something they ate as there was nothing wrong with the red wine and single malt whisky they drank yesterday.
Shopping was on the agenda and we drove past several shopping centres which looked much more attractive than the ones at home. This was because there are height restrictions in place and very little of the gaudy advertising boards we have. Instead, they are built to fit into the surrounds and have much greenery planted around them. Granted that
Judy holding a non-venomous snake found in the garden.
at this time of the year the vegetation is lush, in winter the trees would be bare.
A shoe and bag store found Judy, Ed and Rags leaving with new Sketchers shoes, for us this seems to be the norm wherever this brand is sold. Judy also picked up a new handbag and would quite happily have stayed and bought more as there was a sale on and the exchange rate is so favourable. Rags can see another suitcase being bought on this trip to bring home all the purchases.
Our buying continued at the next store, the Micro Centre. This store had all sorts of computing equipment for sale, all of it well displayed and at tempting prices. At the Microsoft Store (one of only a handful in USA) we ended up buying a "Broadband to go" so that all of our phones and laptops can be connected simultaneously. This will be a necessity when we go into the mountains as Judy will need to be in touch with her uni students. At $50 for a month of unlimited downloads with Virgin this will make it possible.
As it took the Microsoft staff over an hour
to get the modem authenticated and to get the credit put on the account, Judy insisting they do this. The problems we had in Russia and Greece pre-warned us of the difficulties that occur. The Microsoft staff were very apologetic and they learned from the experience as well. We think they were a little embarrassed at the delay, supplying us with Coke, as they gave us a couple of Microsoft bags as well as 3 T shirts to make up for the time we had to wait.
After a Greek lunch in the Food Mall, Ed and Rags returned to the house, leaving the two ladies to window-shop at their leisure. They had a lovely time browsing the shops without the men hanging around. They eventually returned, Judy unsurprisingly with another pair of shoes, capris jeans and a couple of tops.
We both took Bingo, the dog, for a walk to the open area behind the community, sneaking up on the Prairie Dogs which have many burrows here, getting several good photos. A baby rabbit was also photographed, this sitting at the entrance to the burrow, letting us come within a metre or so from it before bolting
Heading up to Trail Ridge Road
As no-one was particularly hungry we had a filling meal of some of yesterday's leftovers before retiring to our laptops to book a hire vehicle for next week as well as the return flight to Dallas. We intend staying in Dallas for a couple of nights, giving us enough time to check out the sights before we go. Coloradians feel their state has more to offer than Texas, Ed telling us not to waste our time there! Wednesday 1st June 2011
After our compulsory morning coffee (for Ed and Rags at least) we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant where we had burritos for breakfast. A delicious way to start the day.
From here we drove on to Estes Park, set on the edge of The Rocky Mountain National Park
and visited the Stanley Hotel. This was opened in 1909 and catered to the rich and famous. It was here that Stephen King got the idea for his third novel “The Shining”. The movie was made elsewhere, but King returned in 1996 and filmed the 6 hour mini-series there.
Estes Park itself has many holiday chalets set overlooking a lake and the mountains,
Where the film "Shining" was written. The series was also filmed here.
these being used mainly as summer stays as the temperatures rise on the lower plains below. The main street was lined with quaint shops catering for the tourists.
We followed Trail Ridge Road winding its way through the mountains until we reached a point where the road was blocked. We posed in front of a wall of snow fronting the road, it towering over us. This would have been even higher at its peak, and right across the road!
Judy and Rags continued up the road for some distance thinking to find the road covered in snow but the bitter wind turned them back. They also found it interesting to note that they were both short of breathe and puffing - must be the altitude.
A late lunch was had at the Trail Ridge Cafe attached to a Visitors Centre, this being memorable firstly for the humming birds which came in onto a feeder near our table and also by the fact that both Judy and Cathy had an 'elk burger'. Fancy eating one of the lovely animals we saw on the way in!! Rags chose a burger not made from one seen today, a buffalo burger. Thursday 2nd June 2011
Today was the day of the shops, even if we didn't buy much. We checked out the Micro Centre store again where we could easily spend several hours browsing if we had the chance. As it was we spent very little, but Ed did buy a new wireless router to improve his home network.
Ed and Cathy had a few jobs to do so they dropped us at Park Meadows shopping mall where we again visited the Microsoft store, where we checked out and decided against buying a Windows tablet, they not matching anywhere near the performance of the iPad. A pity, as Rags would be happy to have one.
Some intimate apparel was then tried on and purchased by Judy in Macy's while Rags waited patiently.
Meeting up again we adjourned for lunch at the Wahoo Fish Taco place, where we had fish tacos. Very tasty. From here we visited the Home Depot, a hardware store where we all made small purchases and finally the supermarket. All of us were quite happy to call it a day after this and on returning home Judy and Ed started to install the
MMm.. Lovely buffet lunch.
new router. This did not go according to plan, Rags replacing Ed for some time, still with no success. As a last resort the Help Desk was called, all going ok for some time, Cathy, replacing Rags after he 'spat the dummy', with Judy had the problem solved.
Dinner was a stir fry cooked by Rags with Judy's help, enjoyed even if a little too much chilli had been added. After some table talk we all retired to our rooms, where we caught up on our blog and Judy continuing some uni marking. Friday 3rd June 2011
We set off at about 9.30am to spend some time at Ed and Cathy's condo in the mountains, a town named Silverthorne, about 90 kms west of Denver and at an elevation of 8,730 feet
The trip was uneventful, with a stop in Central City for a walk and a few photos. Ed with Rags in tow popped into one of it's traditional style casinos whilst the girls were browsing in a shop and while there managed to win a large bucket of quarters and some cash, Rags wisely just watched.. This city, just out of Idaho Springs, has
Ed ate a quick lunch and left us ti try his luck at the machines. Before we'd finished lunch he was back with his luck!
been resurrected from two old mining towns. They are so close that it's hard to tell where the town of Black Hawk, the more modern city, starts. Central City retains the old buildings and had the first casinos in Colorado.
Lunch was at the Isle of Capri Casino in Black Hawk where we enjoyed a filling buffet lunch. Ed, once again, slipped off after a quick bite and by the time we left he had amassed quite a few winning vouchers. Judy was tempted to invest a small amount but needless to say saw no more of it! By the time we arrived at the condo in Silverthorne it was quite late.
This didn't stop the ladies from visiting some of the outlet stores in town. All of the stores had sales on as the snow season had finished and the summer rush had still not started. Several items were purchased but as only a few of the many stores had been visited this was set as another excursion for tomorrow.
Because of the big and late lunch no-one except Ed was hungry. After a couple of pre-dinner drinks however, we all went to The Mint, a
steakhouse, where we enjoyed an Australian Rosemount Shiraz with our appetiser of a steamed artichoke. Both delicious! Rags had a well aged, New York steak which he stated was the tastiest and most tender steak he has had since the one he had in Mendoza, Argentina, in 2002! Saturday 4th June 2011
Everyone was up by just after 7am, the sun rising early and setting late in these parts. Ed had already been to the store and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee pervaded the house. Bananas, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries covered in Greek yoghurt, followed by bagels with cream cheese, washed down with orange juice was a wonderful way to start the day.
After packing all the gear and tidying the house we returned to the outlet stores, these being in three groups, blue, green and red shopping centres some distance apart. Ed & Rags resigned themselves to waiting, plonking themselves on a bench, watching the world go by. After a while they did walk to the furthest group, Judy having seen a wallet there that she thought Rags may like, the day before. Rags did buy this plus a new hat, Ed a new leather
jacket. The guys spent the most today, but they were bargains!!
Lunch was at Chipotle, a food chain which has been most successful in the US. The food was healthy with good salads, lean meats and lots of delicious beans. This trip will certainly be remembered for the variety of foods we have eaten. Ed and Cathy eat out a lot and they have chosen their favourite places to take us. Each one a different dining experience.
Rather than driving through the long Eisenhower tunnel as we did when we came, we took the back road over the top, through what is known as Loveland Pass. We stopped several times to enjoy the views, especially overlooking some of the ski slopes which were still operating at the 12 000 foot altitude mark. It got cooler as we reached the summit of the Rockies but it was still quite comfortable until you were in the wind.
On returning 'home', with a stop at the supermarket to get some food and for Judy to replenish her lipsticks etc, we unpacked and spent time reading emails, continuing uni marking, typing this blog, or preparing the evening meal as applicable. Sunday 5th June 2011
The smell of fresh muffins woke us up, Cathy was preparing them for breakfast. This made Rags think of the Bikeboyz with whom he always has a muffin for breakfast when he goes on a Sunday ride and Lucy who cooks us muffins when we visit after the markets
After spending some time reading the Sunday papers Ed left to go to pick up his daughter, Amanda, to be with her when she puts in an offer on a condo, in nearby Boulder. We went with Cathy to downtown Denver. “Downtown” is the American term for what we call the business or city centre. For a while Rags thought the term meant the part of town which was a little poorer than the rest or the seedier part.
Denver is an attractively set out city with many trees and green areas dispersed amongst the buildings. The city named the “mile high city”, the second top step of the city hall being at an altitude of 5280 feet. Many tongue in cheek references are made in the advertising of events here.
Today was the last day of the “Peoples Fair”, this consisting of
Another delicious meal
several different areas where bands performed, as well as displays of arts & crafts for sale, plus numerous different food outlets. It was similar, though much larger, than some we have seen in the suburbs and rural areas at home.
We spent several interesting hours there, wandering around just enjoying the stalls and the people participating.
Throughout the fair items and food for sale could only be purchased by ticket tokens, these purchased in several areas spread around the displays. Good idea as it made for more security at each individual stall and eliminated the search for the correct change. We didn't buy any until lunchtime, having our own drinks with us. Even then, because of all the free samples none of us were very hungry. The ladies did have a small Indian meal and Rags had to try one of the monster barbecued turkey legs on sale. These are a bit of a tradition here and Ed had warned him of them. Very tasty, but he struggled to get through it all.
The late afternoon was spent with Cathy preparing dinner, Rags suggesting a bbq as he had just repaired the one they thought was damaged and
This 1989 Corvette was by the road in Silverton. Looked to be in excellent condition and they were asking $6K!
were going to replace, Judy was occupied with her continuing uni work.
We met Amanda, who came in with Ed, all excited because she had put in her offer, and worried on whether or not it would be accepted. Great experience for a 22year old. She is a lovely girl and obviously her parent's pride and joy.
The bbq was not the small, simple meal Rags was expecting, home made guacamole for starters, followed by salad, then the bbq'd hamburgers, corn on the cob, fried okra and finished off with blackberry and peach cobbler.
The evening continued on the deck, the weather being perfect, warm during the day (mid 30s) and still pleasant in the evenings. Monday 6th June 2011
This morning we went to downtown Denver, getting in just after midday. Ed & Cathy took us to the
BD Mongolian BBQ. This was an interesting place where we were given a bowl which we then proceeded to fill with noodles(not many), then a selection of meats such as pork, beef, chicken, shrimp,squid, scollops, topped with a variety of vegetables. Another bowl was then filled with sauces, each choosing the degree of spice heat one
Advertising local wine in casks. Rags attracted by the lady's eyes!!
This selection was then taken to the cooking area, a circular hotplate of about a 3 metre diameter, where two chefs cooked the food with great flourish. When cooked, they scooped our respective portions on a dish which we then took to our table to eat with rice and flatbread. A most entertaining and delicious way to have a meal!
16th St Mall runs through near where we had lunch and, after taking one of the free shuttle buses which run up and down the mall for a few blocks, alighted to be met by the sight of many individual shops. Whilst Judy & Cathy spent nearly 2 hours roaming through some of these, Ed & Rags found a seat in the mall and watched the many different types of people passing by.
We eventually found each other again, the ladies both with several new blouses in their possession.
The strength of the Australian dollar has a lot to answer for in Rags' opinion, Judy and Cathy taking several hours during the afternoon to "buy a chicken" and returning with more clothes etc. Looks as if the need to buy another suitcase before we go home is
nearing reality! Tuesday 7th June 2011
Today was a day for preparing to go to Key West tomorrow, Ed & Cathy having a share in a condo down there. We are looking forward to going there as we only had a short stop there in 2002.
After the necessary washing and packing, we had a quick lunch before going to the Imax theatre in Denver to see "Under the Sea". This included sections of the Great Barrier Reef and was enjoyed by all.
An easy afternoon and evening planned as we need to leave just after 4am to catch our flight in the morning.
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